How to Select Composite Decking (13) Insightful Questions


There are over 10 major brands composite decking brands to select from. Among them with over 50 collections, with multiply boards within those collections to select from. I bet there are over 200 to select from.

But don’t worry.

I have 13 questions that will help you select the best composite decking for you and your deck.

Questions that will help you narrow down which composite decking is right for you.

Pushing aside the decking that will not work for your deck.

These are hard questions but helpful questions for selecting the best composite deckingOpens in a new tab..

The first is money.

1. What is in your Composite Deck Budget?

This is always the most awkward question but the most important.

How much are you willing to spend on your deck?

I have had countless people sidestep this question when discussing the best deck for them. Look the other way or say they don’t know but would love an estimate.

Which is all meaningless. With so many composite deck boards on the market, the budget can quickly guide the conversation to the best decking for you.

Trex is helpful, and they divide their boards into three price categories, Good, Better and Best.

I like to go one step further with 4 in my fuller article about Composite Decking Costs.Opens in a new tab.

  • Most Economical Under $2.50 a lineal foot
  • Budget Decking $2.50- 3.00 a lineal foot
  • Mid-Range $3 – 6 a lineal foot
  • High End $6 – 9 a lineal foot

Click the link to see all the boards in each category, but the price will narrow down the decking option quicker than anything else.

If you have only $2.50 to spend on decking you are limited to 4 brands with 7 boards.

Trex, UltraDeck, Deckorators and TimberTech.

Quality brands but limited selection in that price range.

If you have a little more to spend, say $6 a lineal foot.

In that price range, you have the most options. 19 to choose between with the many benefits. Including PVC, which has some serious advantages over composite deckingOpens in a new tab..

There will be extras, but we will get to that later.

Budget is so important in selecting composite decking?

Find your budget, and you are almost halfway there in selecting your composite decking.

2. How Important is the Wood Look?

Next to price is appearance.

If you don’t enjoy being on your deck. The aesthetics of the decking. Enjoying glancing at it through the corner of your eye. Price matters little in selecting your composite decking.

There is much variation between boards in appearance from colour, streaking, embossing, to name a few.

But often, it all boils down to how close to the look of wood are you looking for?

Most composite has “wood grains” embossed on them. Trex’s are deep and more pronounced. On the opposite side of the spectrum is TimberTech, with its wire brush finish.

TimberTech Azek’s Vintage collection is one of the better ones for looking like wood.

Zuri, also a PVC, has the appearance of hardwood flooring on your deck. Drawing very strongly from the look of wood.

What separates these other deckings from these is how “plasticky” the others look. More important than colouring and woodgrain is the decking sheen. Regardless of colouring, the less it looks like plastic, the better.

3. Will the Decking Get Wet? In Contact with the Ground?

If you are building a dock or deck around a pool, water resistance is critical. Along with traction when wet but we will get to that more later.

If water is a concern, MoistureShield and Deckorators mineral-based composites are two of the best.

MoistureShield prides itself as to be imperator by water. Claiming you could build a deck underwater.

Deckorators’ Voyage, Vault and Frontier all can be installed in or in contact with water. Without any organic material, they will not rot regardless of how much water you soak them in.

Two brands to take a look at if your deck is going to be close to water or the ground.

4. Does Your Deck Have Lots of Sun Exposure?

Next to moisture sun will do the most damage to decking. If your deck is south facing or will get a lot of sun you want to install decking that can hold up to its UV.

On top of durability is cool deck boards.

There is much debate about which boards are coolest, but Azek and MoistureShield both claim to have cooler boards.

Often this is more an issue of colour but worth checking them out for your full sun deck. The lighter the colour the cooler the decking.

Not very common in North America yet, but Fortress developed in South Africa is one of the more durable for full sun. You decks can check out why along with Azek and MoistureShield at Best Composite Decking for a Full Sun DeckOpens in a new tab..

5. What Type of Fasteners Do You Prefer?

There are multiple types of hidden fasteners for composite decking on the market. When selecting composite, you should consider the impact of fasteners. Both in cost and how hidden they are.

The least visible at the lowest cost is probably Wolf which uses Camo edge screws.

Easiest to install, but the most visible would be Trex. With a visible clip with a straight drive screw from the top. Making adjustments and installation a breeze. But there is nothing hidden about them. The clips are easily seen between the gaps.

The most hidden but also the more costly and harder to install would be Cortex plugs. Which are face screwed and then hidden with a matching composite plug. A keen eye can see the plug, but it is the most hidden fastener on the market.

For most leading brands, you can buy Cortex, which is great for finishing up picture frames and transition borders.

The biggest drawback next to price is the decking must have enough material to hold the screw and the plug. Eliminating many lower-priced scalloped boards.  The big exception is Fiberon. Even Fiberon’s lower-cost boards have enough material above the scallops allowing for Cortex plugs.

If the budget is tight, but you still want the best-hidden fasteners, consider Fiberon when selecting composite decking.

6. Does it Meet Code?

Most composite deckingOpens in a new tab. does meet building g code both in Canada and United States. Most noticeability designed for joists framing at 16″ (400mm) on centre.

That being said many PVC boards like Paramount are better installed with joists at 12″ (300mm) on centre.

More importantly, is documentation. 

In Calgary, where I build deck’s all composite decking permit applications must include a CCMC report. Which not all boards have.

Confirm what is required in your jurisdiction before selecting composite decking. The choice may be made for you already.

7. What is all required to Finish the Composite Decking?

Like fasteners, not all composite decking requires the same material to finish. 

This can include end caps, fascia boards, skirting, railing etc.

What is required to finish the decking can add to the cost and time to construct.

Plus, I have found little extras like ends caps are often the first thing to break with decking.

Choose closely with your eyes wide open.

8. Does it Compliment Your House?

Similar to appearance but look greater than just the deck but the house it’s attached to.

Will the colour and design match the house?

Most composite decking includes the standard variations of Brown, Grey, Blonde and Red, but not all will look good on every house.

For example, I am a big fan of the amazing look of Zuri’s hardwood decking but with most generic house. No offence. It will not compliment the house. It’s just a little too much. The beautiful hardwood finish needs a house to match.

If you are looking for greys and browns for your house, Fiberon has 31 different greys and browns to choose from. Including some very realistic wood looking ones.

9. Do You Want Planters on Your Deck?

Decks are beautiful spaces for outdoor gardens. Often with the addition of a deck planterOpens in a new tab., life and colour are brought to the deck.

But if you plan to include a planter on your composite decking, you need to select decking that will not be damaged by water and cleans off easily. You will spill water while watering the plants.  And dirt will get on the decking.

Consider how the decking will work with planters on it.

10. How Much Traction Do You Need?

Another great question that will limit which composite decking you buy is traction.

Many have very more traction ratings.

If you don’t want to slip and slide on your deck, you will need to check out Composite Decking with the Best Traction.Opens in a new tab. Where I have gathered together 12 popular decking options with their traction ratings.

PVC decking are among the top performers for traction. Trex’s Transcend is one of the better performing composites.

Deckorators Mineral-Based is phenomenal in the field. I have walked on few decks that grip as well, but surprisingly, it is not the best in the lab.

11. Who are you Building Your Deck For?

Not the least, but when all things are being considered, who are you selecting the decking for?

Seniors, kids and dogs all have different needs and elements to consider when selecting decking.

When selecting composite decking, take a moment to ponder the who.

Who will be using the deck the most?

If kids check out kid friendly deckingOpens in a new tab..

If someone older, consider senior deck designOpens in a new tab..

Or someone with four legs, like your best friend, there are many reasons to select composite decking for dogs.Opens in a new tab.

Regardless of who it is. Consider who you will be sharing the deck with. Select accordingly.

12. How Do You Want to Use Your Deck?

Closely related to who in selecting composite decking is how. How do you want to use your deck?

Decks are very versatile outdoor spaces. Allowing many options for use.

Three of the most common are lounging, dining and grillingOpens in a new tab.. And, of course, a combination. You can click the link to learn better about deck sizing for use. 

How you will use the deck will determine the type and design of furniture. Which will often impact decking selection.

Also, if you plan to do a lot of grilling or dining, selecting composite decking that will not stain is important. Hate to ruin your deck with dripping from your burger.

The bare minimum, easy to clean.  

13. Construction Considerations?

Lastly is construction considerations.

Will the expansion and contraction affect your decking pattern?

If so, stay away from PVC decking and consider Deckorators mineral-based composite with minimal expansion and contraction.

If you are building it yourself, consider Trex one of the most DIY-friendly composite decking.

Some brands, including Deckorators and Azek, have wider planks. Giving you many more decking designs options. 

Ryan Nickel

A Red Seal carpenter, passionate about building decks to be enjoyed.

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