Two popular decking options are wood, often treated and composite decking. Composite will cost more than wood initially but is it worth it?
Most of the time, yes, composite decking is worth it. Composite decks provide several practical benefits in longevity and upkeep over wooden decks. Composite decks have lost their artificial look and feel within the past several years and gained a textured, realistic appearance. Composite decks traditionally cost more than wooden decks, but recently elevated lumber costs have shortened the price gap.
This article will explore the advantages and disadvantages of composite decking, compare those advantages to wood decking, consider alternatives to both composite and wood decking, and provide an overview of composite decking prices and options.
How Composite Decking is Worth It?
Composite decking provides advantages in durability, maintenance, environmental considerations, customization options, and safety.
Composite decking gets its name from the varying materials that compose its structure. This combination of wood and plastic materials has greater durability than either wood or plastic alone. Which is beneficial on a deck with constant foot traffic, moving furniture and grills, and pets.
Composite decking does not rot like wood, nor will it attract termites or carpenter bees. Increasing how long your deck will last. Meaning many more summers sitting out on the deck enjoying the sun
Composite decking provides a place that you can “forget” easily. Composite decking requires no staining or painting for its entire existence as your deck. Anyone who has stained their own deck knows what a serious advantage this is.
Composite decking does not require fresh lumber like a wood deck does. With composite decking, not a single tree needs to be cut down. The wood found in the composite material is all recycled content.
Composite decking provides more customization options due to the nature of the material. You can only cut wood in so many ways, and you can find only so many different grains of available lumber. Composite decking provides a tremendous variety of colours, streaking textures, and profiles.
Composite decking will never splinter. No matter how well you take care of your wood deck, wood inevitably splinters. Imagine never needing to grab the tweezers to pull a nasty splinter out of your daughter’s hand again!
When is Composite Decking Not Worth It?
Composite decking comes with the disadvantages of a large upfront cost, scratches, weight, and permanency of colour.
Composite decking comes with a large initial cost compared to most wood decks. Even with the rising costs of lumber, you will still pay more on the front end for a composite deck than a wood one.
Composite decking might never splinter, but it can get scratches. You cannot simply sand away the scratches on composite boards; you will need replacements. Replacement boards will need storage, and…
Composite decking can be quite heavy. In fact, the average composite deck board will weigh 45% more than pressure-treated decking.
An option is hollow composite decking. The disadvantage of hollow decking is it can break easier. When you drop something on the deck. Or like recently, I was hired to replace a deck in which the hollow decking had been damaged by hail. Many hollow deck boards just don’t have enough material to withstand blunt force.
I have not found this to be the same with scalloped boards. Most entry-level composite boards like Trex Enhance or Fiberon GoodLife have scalloped bottoms reducing weight and cost without reducing durability.
Scallop composite decking has almost become standard, with most composite decking brands having at least one line of scalloped composite decking.
If you are the sort of person to change your mind about your home décor every week, pay special attention to this final disadvantage of composite decking. Your choice of colour for your composite decking is permanent. If you tire of your choice, you will need to invest in a whole new deck.
I feel like I am just getting started. In fact, I wrote a much more extensive list of pros and cons of composite decking. Check it out. It is an extensive list.
Compared to the Advantages and Disadvantages of Wood Decking?
The advantages of wood decking involve the variety of options, possible lower starting cost, and the ability to self-maintain and alter. The disadvantages of wood decking are the cost and time for maintenance, eventual replacement, and environmental cost.
You will never run out of options with wood decking between types of wood, stains, paints, and shapes. If you decide you no longer enjoy your choice, you can change it much easier than composite decking.
You have the opportunity with wood decking to purchase cheap options. However, if you go with a cheap option, you will likely need to replace a deck made of cheap timber in five to ten years. If you go with a treated decking 15-20 years.
Depending on the climate. The wetter, the shorter time wood decking will last. Rot is a thing.
If you consider yourself the type of person to do their own remodelling, you might enjoy the freedom you will have to maintain, repair, and rebuild your own wood decking. You can maintain your deck quite well with your own sander, stain, paint, wood, and saw.
The previous advantage reveals the greatest disadvantage of wood decking: upkeep. You will spend a lot of money and time keeping your wooden deck looking good.
It is not just about the looks either; it will rot if you let your deck go.
No matter how well you take care of your wooden deck, it will eventually need replacement. A well-maintained deck of high-quality wood can last upwards of 50 years, but according to the Chicago Tribune, hundreds of people face injury from wooden deck collapse each year.
On the flip side, Fiberon Concordia is warrantied to last 50 years with minimal maintenance.
As covered in the advantages of composite decking and its use of recycled material, wood decking requires fresh lumber. Requires tress to be cut down for every time you replace the wood decking.
Not only is the price of lumber currently quite high, but it can have an environmental impact.
What are the Alternatives to Both Composite and Wood Decking?
If you decide you want neither composite or wood decking, you have three options: plastic, aluminum, and concrete patio.
Plastic decking certainly will be one of the cheaper options for you. It is also almost entirely maintenance-free. However, you will get what you pay for as plastic decks look cheaper than wood or composite decks. Hollow plastic can easily be damaged by hail.
Aluminum decks are another alternative to wood or composite decking. Aluminum is exceptionally resistant to all weather, but you will find that it is a bit loud to walk on, and it does get slippery when wet. Aluminum also has that industrial look to it, unlike the soft feel and look of both wood and composite decking.
For a low ground-level area, a patio is an option. A concrete patio has some advantages over a deck but also disadvantages.
Two of the advantages of a patio are increased durability compared to many decking options. Plus, with a level yard, most concrete patios are cheaper than a deck.
How Much Money Will Composite Decking Cost?
You have many options when it comes to the quality and, therefore, the price of your composite decking. The price can range anywhere from $30-$60 per square foot, including installation. This adds up to about $10,000-$20,000 for a typically sized deck.
The low-end options include Trex Enhance Basics at $1.83 per linear foot and Deckorators Tropics and Distress at $2.25 per linear foot. Midrange options include UltraDeck Fusion and Armadillo, both at $2.90 a linear foot. The more expensive options will run up to $4.70 per linear foot for Trex Transcend and $7.75 per linear foot for Zuri PVC.
You have many other options in addition to the ones listed above. For a fuller list of brands and collection of composite decking costs, click the link. A wide range of over 30 popular composite decking options. I was surprised how the list and prices have changed over the years.
Is Composite Decking Worth it for You?
The worth of composite decking comes down to maintenance and performance. Everything else pales compared to these. Composite decking will last longer than wood decking and will require less time and money to maintain.
What is the extra time that composite frees up worth?
Is the extra money now worth the extra time over the years that you enjoy your deck?
If Yes, enjoy your low-maintenance composite deck.
If No, enjoy your wood deck, maintenance and all.