Adding a deck or patio to your home is a smart way to add value while also getting to enjoy your backyard. You can host summer barbecues with your family and friends, throw children’s birthday parties, or even sunbathe at home. The question is, which material should you use to build your outdoor space—concrete or composite decking? Is composite decking cheaper than concrete?
After calculating both the cost of materials and the cost of installation, you’ll find that concrete is typically cheaper than composite decking. Depending on where you live and who does the installation, concrete can be as much as half the price of composite decking. However, concrete may not pay off in the same way that a composite deck will.
In this guide, we’ll explore what makes these two patio materials different, explain which is better for your needs, and dive into why one costs more than the other. So, before you start working on an outdoor patio, give this walkthrough a read.
What is Composite Decking?
Composite decking is an artificial material created by combining wood particles with plastic and other artificial bonding materials. The mixture of wood and plastic is then heated and poured into a mould to create a plank. The final product is often designed to look like wood decking without requiring the same upkeep as a standard wooden deck.
Composite decks are less prone to wood rot and invasive insects thanks to their plastic content, allowing them to withstand harsh sunlight, damp winters, and even ice. Additionally, you don’t have to seal, stain, or even paint composite wood since it’s manufactured to your desire.
Other benefits include:
- Composite boards are far less absorbent than regular wood, meaning they’re less of a slipping hazard. Use them around a swimming pool, jacuzzi, or any other water feature. Deckorators mineral-based composite is one of the least water absorbent, but even Trex is amazing compared to wood decking.
- Since they can withstand the environment better than regular wood, you can expect to get anywhere from 25 to 50 years of use from a composite deck. Fiberon’s Concordia line is even warrantied for 50 years. Twice the time of Trex and many other composite deck boards.
- Composite boards come in two varieties—capped and uncapped—giving you the option of a less expensive board. Uncapped was the original offering of composite decking, but most companies now exclusively offer capped for its superior performance. Except MoistureShield, with their Vantage line
- Wide range of choices of decking colours and sizes. Fiberon has 31 different colours, for example. But the options are many among composite deck brands.
Compared to all other decking and patio materials, though, composite decking is more expensive. Some quality composite costs as little as $4 a square foot, but most are more in the range of $6-12.
It can be installed the same way as standard wood, meaning the installation will cost you about the same. However, some modern varieties of composite wood are made with pre-formed grooves that speed up the installation process with hidden fasteners. Greatly improves the look but will add to the cost of installation. Hidden fasteners are not cheap.
Looking at it from a long-term perspective, though, you could potentially save money by using composite decking. Since it requires less maintenance, you won’t have to pay for repairs, staining, or any other type of restoration.
Simply wash it is all the maintenance generally required. In as little as a day, your composite deck will look brand new again.
To be fair, though, concrete will need roughly the same. A scrub every once in a while to get the dirt off.
What is a Concrete Patio?
Concrete is quite different from composite decking. In look, feel and construction.
Unlike composite decking, which you can build raised decks, concrete needs a flat area. Often used in level backyards for outdoor furniture and appliances. Concrete also has to be mixed and poured into large forms, often requiring several hours or even days to completely dry before use.
The greater challenge is the limited time to place concrete. Unlike a composite deck where you can stop to help your daughter, concrete must be finished on its timeline. Which can be only a few hours.
Because of the speed of set up, it is often beneficial to have multiple skilled people involved is placing. Again, the opposite of a deck. Concrete is not a DIY project learn as you go. It’s either done right or forever hate it.
The exception to pour concrete for a patio is concrete pavers. Concrete pavers being already formed give you more flexibility for time. And redo of it didn’t quite work out the first time. A lot of work but doable.
However, concrete does have its benefits:
- Concrete patios are versatile. You can design them into just about any shape you want as long as you have enough space.
- Concrete patios can be built using stamped pavers to create a rustic Mediterranean vibe. There are numerous colours, shapes and sizes available.
- Concrete pavement is highly durable and won’t rot or become infested with termites. Making it similar to composite.
- Concrete decks work well around swimming pools since it’s non-slip
- Safe to use for wood-burning fire pits.
Best of all, concrete is the least expensive patio/decking material. The greatest expense is paying for installation since you’ll likely need to rent a cement mixer and a team of concrete finishers to help cover the entire area evenly. You’ll also have to pay to have your yard levelled. This can take time whereas decking is often finished within a few days.
Is Composite Decking Cheaper than a Concrete Patio?
Since we’re comparing the two materials, which is cheaper composite decking or concrete. Costs including both the price of purchasing the materials and installing them. What would the final expense be for your outdoor room?
A side-by-side price comparison, you could expect to pay $10 to $20 per square foot of concrete patio, whereas composite decking would cost as much as $30 to $40 per square foot. This makes it almost twice as expensive to build a deck as a concrete patio.
In fact, many composite decks material will cost as much as a finished concrete patio. The cost of a deck is that much more.
If considering the cost of installation, concrete is still cheaper than composite decking. It might take more equipment and labour to mix, pour, and then level concrete, but the length of time of construction will often be less. I have rarely built a deck in 4 hours. Put placing concrete will often be limited to 4 hours or less. Excavating and setting up forms will add to this time but the actual placing of concrete and finishing is short. If you add it all up, a broom concrete labour will be less than a composite deck.
Comparing the costs of maintenance, concrete paving is far less expensive. Concrete is a highly durable stone-like material that can withstand heat, rain, snow, ice, wind, and just about any other form of weather. It won’t break under normal physical damage or rot over time. And best of all, you can pressure wash it clean in just a few minutes.
Composite decks can be pressure washed, but care must be taken not to use too high of pressure. Or cutting into the composite decking by placing the nozzle too close to the decking.
Should You Install Concrete Patio or Build a Composite Deck?
A concrete patio might be cheaper than composite decking but it’s not always the best choice. That being said, decks aren’t always ideal either. Before picking your preferred material, consider the following:
- Concrete has a lower resale value, generally 50%. Composite decking is closer to 70%. But with a higher initial price.
- Although concrete is highly durable but can crack if the land shifts below it. This is especially problematic in areas with a high water table.
- Composite decks can be built high above the ground to protect from floods, but they’re not such a good idea if you live in a tornado-prone area. A tornado can rip your composite deck right off your house, whereas it won’t touch a concrete patio.
- A composite deck raises your outdoor area to the level of the house’s floor. Giving you easier access.
- Composite decks are more versatile in application. Concrete must be place on a level area. Where a deck can be built on a sloped yard. In fact, it often is the ideal location.
- Concrete patios are ideal for ground-level decks. There are ways to build a ground-level deck as to limit rot, but concrete is more robust in contact with dirt.
- Concrete patios are more private than decks. Since they are built low to the ground, you can easily add a privacy fence, whereas a deck extends out for the whole neighbourhood to see.
That is just a few things to consider when considering between a composite deck and a concrete patio.
Concrete will be cheaper, but will it serve your dreams as well as a composite deck. But money is not the only thing to consider.
What size of space do you want to add to your house?
How do you want to use the space?
What is the landscaping around your home like? Sloped, flat?
Is privacy a concern?
Once you figure out which one is best then see how to make it fit the budget. An alternative at a lower cost is pressure-treated decking compared to composite. But it will require plenty of maintenance, where concrete and composite won’t.
Which everyone you build. I hope you enjoy your outdoor living space for years to come. Just make you build it the right size for enjoying.