What is Wood Plastic Composite Decking [WPC]?

What is wood-based composite decking?

Composite decking started hitting the market in the late 1980s with brands like Trex, MoistureShield and TimberTech.

Now there are many different composite decking brandsOpens in a new tab. made from various materials. But here, we will focus on composite made from wood and plastic.

What is Wood Plastic Composite decking made off?

Wood-plastic composite is a blend of thermoplastic and wood fibres. There are 3 common plastics used in composite decking.

  • High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
  • Low-density Polyethylene (LDPE)
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

The plastic used varies by manufactures.

High-Density Polyethylene is used to make MoistureShield and Fiberon composite decking.

Trex is made from Low-density polyethylene.

TimberTech Azek is a pure Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) containing no wood fibres, but Fortress Apex is PVC blended with bamboo fibresOpens in a new tab..

Just to name a few.

The wood fibres are generally sourced from lumber mill waste. The type of tree will vary, but hardwoods like red oak are often used for their high durability.

Most of the material in composite decking is recycled content. On the lower end is TimberTech, with 80% recycled content. Armadillo is 100% recycled content, but that is rare. Most are like Trex and Fiberon, with 95% recycled content.

How is Wood Plastic Composite decking made?

There are 3 ways of forming wood plastic composite decking.

  • Extrusion
  • Injection Molding
  • Press Molded

The most common method is extrusion, used by most brands of wood composite decking.

Envision is one of the few companies that make press or compression moulded composite decking. Creating a genuinely unique composite decking both in feel and appearance.

Which companies make Wood Plastic Composite decking?

Many companies make wood-plastic composite decking. The most well know is Trex. Which has become synonyms with composite decking.

But Trex is only one of many, below are a few others.  

  • Armadillo
  • ChoiceDek
  • Deckorators
  • DuraLife
  • EkoDeck
  • Envision
  • EP Decking
  • Fiberon
  • HD Deck
  • MoistureShield
  • NeoTimber
  • Timbertech.
  • Trex
  • TruNorth
  • Veranda®
  • Ultradeck (Mernards)

These are only a few of the ever-growing list of wood composite decking companies.

Pros and Cons of Wood Composite Decking

There are many advantages of wood composite decking, along with many drawbacks. Here are 3 of the top ones for an even bigger list of Pros and Cons of compositesOpens in a new tab.. Click the link.

Top 3 Pros of Composite Decking

  • Maintenance
  • Hidden Fasteners
  • Consistent Decking Dimensions

The amount of maintenance or the lack of is the number one reason for installing composite decking. It is so much better to spend your evenings enjoying your deck instead of repairing it. Simply clean and enjoy. Could it get much better than that?

I also love that the decking face is free of screw heads collecting dirt. Almost all composite decking is designed to be installed without ugly nails or screws ruining the appearance of the decking, with clips designed to hold the decking down from premanufactured grooves on the edge of the boards.

Again, an appearance advantage that helps during construction. Compared to wood decking, the size of the planks are consistent. Requiring minimal gapping adjustment to keep the decking in line. 

Top 3 Cons of Composite Decking

  • Cost
  • Decking Movement
  • Hot on Bare Feet

But all those pros come at a price. Depending on the composite but expect to pay more to enjoy the pros of wood composite decking. Often less than other composite decking but almost always more than wood decking.

Wood decking expands and contractions with the weather, requiring gaps between boards to allow movement. Which can be unsightly at times.

Decking gets hot in the sun, especially wood composites. Some brands like MoistureShield promise to be cooler, but generally, this is just cooler than the others. They are still hot in the sun.

Advantages of Wood Plastic Composite Compared to Treated Wood Decking

The biggest advantage of wood composite over wood decking is maintenance. Spend a few days sanding and re-staining your pressure-treated decking, and you will wish you had built with composite.

Hire someone to do the work for you?

After two or three times paying someone to stain your deck, you paid more for maintenance than if you had installed composite decking in the first place.

The durability of wood composite is also superior to treated wood decking. Weathering without fading or rotting. AKA, looking like new for the life of your deck. The little it does fade is almost unnoticeable after 25 years.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Difference Between Composite Decking and Pressure-Treated Wood?

The biggest difference between composite decking and pressure-treated wood is maintenance. With pressure-treated, you will need to regularly sand and stain. With composite decking, cleaning is all that is required.

What is Heavier Wood or Composite Decking?

On average composite decking is 45% heavier than pressure-treated wood.

Of course, the weight will vary by brand and design. For a more thorough discussion of composite decking weightOpens in a new tab., click the link.

What is More Expensive Wood or Composite Decking?

Initially, composite decking will cost more than woodOpens in a new tab. decking, generally in the range of 3 to 6 times compared to pressure-treated decking. Over the life of your deck, composite decking has lower maintenance costs, and longevity makes it a more cost-effective long-term option.

How Long Will Composite Decking Last?

Quality composite decking will last a minimum of 25+ years. But many composite decking will last even longer than that. Like Fiberon and MoistureShield who are warrantiedOpens in a new tab. to last 50 years.

Is a composite deck worth the money?

The cost of composite decking is worth the moneyOpens in a new tab. with minimal maintenance, being barefoot-friendly, durability and longevity.  Composite decking is not worth it if you plan to move soon.

Is Composite Wood Waterproof?

Composite decking is not waterproofOpens in a new tab. but is water-resistant. Composite decking will absorb water if submerged or rained on for an extended period. The volume of water absorbed by composite decking and how much it swells vary by manufacture.

Is Composite Wood Stronger Than Solid Wood?

Wood is stronger than composite deckingOpens in a new tab.. Wood decking is sturdier than most composite decking on the market. Withstanding multiple times, the level of stress that will damage composite.

Is Composite Board Slippery When Wet?

Most composite decking is slippery compared to wood decking when wet. The polymer cap of the decking repels the water, creating potential slipping hazards. There are some composite decking exceptions which provide excellent tractionOpens in a new tab. both when wet and dry. Click the link to see some of the top-rated slip resistance decking.

Types of Composite Decking Board?

There are 2 common composite decking types, capped and uncapped.

But there are also 3 types of profiles.

  • Solid
  • Scalloped
  • Hollow

Along with multiple composite blends.

  • Bamboo
  • Mineral
  • PVC
  • Rice Hulls
  • Wood

Click the link for a fuller discussion of types of composite decking.Opens in a new tab.