Pressure Treated Decking Will Cost You More Than Composite!


When comparing decking cost, there are two primary options to choose between, pressure-treated and composite decking. But it’s not as simple as how much each board costs. The cost of the decking board is just one cost of many involved when comparing decking costs. On top of the initial decking cost, consideration needs to be given to the decking’s lifetime cost. For a full picture of decking costOpens in a new tab. both when building your deck and enjoying it for years to come.

When comparing the cost of decking, composite vs pressure treated decking, on average, composite decking will cost three to four times more than pressure-treated, except in maintenance. Over the lifetime of the deck, though, pressure-treated decking will cost multiple times more than composite.

There are a number of factors to consider when comparing the cost of decking. Not all composite decking is the same. Even the fasteners used to install them vary in price.

There is also variation in cost among composite decking. . Not even composite boards all cost the same.

Generally, with composite decking, the higher the level of finish, the more you will pay for the decking. With price differences between brands, multiplied by different costing decking lines within the brands.  Take Trex, for example. They have four decking lines. The difference in price between their Enhance® Basics and Transcend® line is over $3 a lineal foot. A significant difference in the overall cost of the decking.

The difference in cost with pressure-treated decking is smaller and more straightforward, with fewer options. The most common pressure-treated decking options are 5/4 and 2×6.

When you buy treat wood will greatly impact the price. The cost of lumber is very volatile. Not always reflected at your local building supplied store, but it is not unusual to pay twice as much in the summer for lumber as in winter. Supply and demand. Everyone else is wanting to build their deck when it’s warm too.

Comparing Treated Decking Board Costs with Composite

Decking MaterialDecking Lineal CostDecking Square Foot Cost
5/4 treated decking$1.00-2.00$2.00-4.00
2×6 treated decking$1.75-3.50$3.80-7.60
Good composite decking$1.75-2.50$3.50-5.00
Better composite Decking$3.00-4.00$6.00-8.00
Best Composite Decking$4.00-6.00$8.00-12.00

Before getting into the nitty gritting of decking, especially composite. A quick comparison of cost shows that pressure-treated decking is considerably cheaper than composite decking. One clear exception is Trex’s Enhance Basic decking, which is competitively priced to treated decking. With 2×6 pressure-treated decking generally costing more than Trex’s Basic line.

“Priced to put the pressure on treated lumber.”

TrexOpens in a new tab.

Trex working really hard to make composite decking comparable with pressure-treated in price. Low maintenance decking lasting 25 years but similar to pressure-treated without needing to be stained regularly. Trex BasicOpens in a new tab. is an amazing deal. Great value at a competitive price.

But not all composite decking is priced as closed to pressure-treated decking. To better compare, let’s use Trex’s divisions of decking for grouping of cost, Good, Better and Best. These categories are not hard and fast definitions. With individual price categories difference in design.

For example, all of Trex’s decking is only capped on three sides but priced in all three categories. But TimberTech, which fully caps most of their boards, does not offer any decking in the lowest price range.  Brands do not determine price points, but often brands will favour a price point.

Three Price Points of Composite Decking

Trex’s Enhance Basic line is competitive in price to treated decking, put quickly climbing in price. Trex is not the only composite deckingOpens in a new tab. with budget-priced composite decking. Fiberon also offers Good LifeOpens in a new tab. composite decking priced similar to Trex’s Enhance decking but still costing more than 5/4 treated decking. Along with ArmourGuard composite deckingOpens in a new tab., which is exclusively offered through Home Depot.

Grouped as “Better” is the mid-range costing composite decking. Trex’s offers SELECT®Opens in a new tab. decking in the middle price range. More expensive than both 5/4 and 2×6 pressure-treated decking, roughly three to four times in price but can be as little as twice. Depending on your local store and season. With pressure-treated decking increasing more in price in summer than composite decking.

TimberTech lowest costing decking starts at the mid-range point. Their lowest costing decking line TIMBERTECH EDGE® Opens in a new tab. priced similar to Trex’s “Better” boards. TimberTech Edge decking is similar to Trex with its three-sided cap and 25-year Warranty, but with fewer decking colours. Created for price, not design. Still a quality composite deck board but with less design options.

FiberonOpens in a new tab. also has a mid-range costing composite decking. Jatabo Opens in a new tab.which is also sold through Home Depot, can be bought for around $4 a lineal foot, but with even few colour options. Actually, Jatabo is the only colour. Its three-sided PermaTech cap is Multi-tonal in colour with bold, high-texture wood grain replicate the look of real wood. Similar to hardwood, with considerable colour variation. One board being considerably darker than the other, and even shade variations within boards. Unlike pressure-treated decking, which is generally uniform in chemical dye colour.

Not consistent as noted with Trex but often the lower the price the less capping. Polymer cap is expensive. To cut costs, companies often reduce the amount of polymer used.

On the top end for price, Trex’s TranscendOpens in a new tab., “Best” composite decking is two to six times more expensive than 5/4 pressure-treated decking.

Quality composite decking is much easier to make within the higher price bracket increasing the options to choose from. When comparing wood and composite decking costs, this is the default group that I compare to.

“That Composite decking will cost three times more than pressure-treated.”

Of course, as we have gone over, there are more economical composite decking options.  Composite decking that is competitively priced to pressure treated, even 5/4. But the greatest number of composite deck boards is in the $4-6 a lineal foot price range. Making this my default setting.

Also, the higher costing composite deck boardsOpens in a new tab. are much richer in appearance. TimberTech  Harvest Collection® has a beautiful cathedral arch wood grain pattern. Priced on the lower end of the highest end bracket. Definitely costing more than pressure-treated, but with its beautiful wood grain pattern would be better compared with hardwood and other exotic wood deck boards.

Also, from TimberTech, the Azek Vintage collection has a better rating for slip resistanceOpens in a new tab., both wet or dry, than most composite decking. Both safety and beauty.

If slipping is a major concern for you, Fiberon’s Paramount line is rated even higher than Vintage. It could very well be the least slippery synthetic decking currently on the market.

Most PVC decking is priced in the higher bracket but comes with a much longer life expectancy. Both Azek Vintage and Paramount decking come with a 50-year warranty. Something that pressure-treated cannot compete with. Few treated decks will last more than 25 years. Even with regular care, 50 is very unlikely.

Comparing Pressure Treated and Composite Decking Fasteners Cost

It doesn’t matter which decking you choose; it will need to be fastened to the joist. Those fasteners will add to the cost of the decking. How much you will pay depends on whether you install composite or wood decking.

Fastener TypeFastener Cost per Sq’Cost for 16’x12’=192sq’ Deck
3” Polymer Coated Screws$0.21$42
Camo Screws 17/8”$0.33$63
Composite face screws$0.31$60
Universal [Trex]$0.73$140
Hidden Clips[Fortress]$0.86$165
Stow Away [Deckorators]$0.91$172
ArmorGuard [Fiberon]$.098$188
Cortex Plug Screws$1.48$284
CONCEALoc [TimberTech]$1.30$250

As the chart shows, the range of cost for deck fasteners is broad. Costing less than a quarter a square foot with polymer-coated deck screws to well over a dollar for ConcealLoc hidden fasteners for TimberTech decking. For a basic 16′ wide deck by 12′ deep (4.8×3.6m), the difference is over $200. Not small change to sneeze at.

But I would never recommend after spending the additional money for composite decking to cut cost by using wood deck screws. No, always use the correct fasteners for the appropriate decking.

At check out, the price will vary but for quick math and comparison of cost.

$0.25 a square foot for Wood Decking Fasteners

$1.00 a square foot Composite Decking Hidden Fasteners

Composite decking fasteners will cost 4 times more than wood.

Not quite apples to apples comparison but fitting for the type of decking. I would argue fairly strongly that Camo edge screwing is better for wood decking. Especially with 5/4 treated decking.

You can install composite decking using face screws, which are comparable in cost as Camo wood screws but, the appearance of composite decking is greatly improved using hidden fasteners installed between the decking boards. A lovely clean decking finish without screw heads. Yes, more costly but worth the extra money.

“Any fastener driven through the edge of a TimberTech PRO, TimberTech EDGE, Reliaboard, TwinFinish, or Docksider board, should not be used to avoid splitting of the board. CAMO® Edge Deck Fastener is an examples of this type of fastener. The use of this type of fastener voids any warranty provided with TimberTech Decking.”

TimberTech Installation GuideOpens in a new tab.

But as TemberTech points out, you cannot use Camo edge screws on their composite decking, limiting you to hidden fasteners that allow their to decking to expand and contract.

On the other hand, DeckoratorsOpens in a new tab. actually recommends CAMO® edge fasteners as an option for edge fasteners.

Always check the warranty and installation instructions before buying fastener. With some composite decking allowing CAMO® fasteners saving you money. With others, it will cost you the decking warranty.

Whichever way you decide to fasten your decking, the chances are pretty good that it will cost more with composite decking than wood. How much more, depends on the composite brand, but all will cost you more than wood decking.

Joist Membrane Under Composite Decking Increases the Cost Compared to Pressure Treated

Joist membrane is not mandatory for composite decking, and you can install it under treated decking. But because of the increased life expectancy of composite decking, additional steps should be taken to ensure the joist will last as long as the decking. Hate to replace your deck because the joists are rotted out, but the decking is still good.  

Therefore, my default setting is to protect joists under composite decking with joist membrane. A small additional price for many more years of worry-free enjoyment.

Butyl Joist Tape is the more economical option, costing a little under $1 a square foot of deck. For PVC decking and an easier tape to work with, I recommend Nichigo G-TAPE. The Butyl has a negavtive reaction with the PVC material.Butease of work and superior performance will cost you, often costing around $1.25 a square foot of deck. And it’s not as easy to purchase.

Either way, expect an additional cost of $1 a square foot when installing composite decking.

With composite decking, another option for longer lasting and better joists, you could use lightweight steel joists. Trex makes Elevations steel substructure, which cost about 35% more than treated lumber. Lightweight steel will last longer and provide more consistent support for composite decking.

Steel joist systems have not yet become standard with composite decking. Therefore it is a potential extra cost but not usually part of the calculation when comparing decking options.

Finally, one area where composite decking is cheaper than pressure treated decking, maintenance.

Comparing the Cost of Maintenance between Composite and Pressure Treated Decking

The biggest difference between composite and treated wood decking is maintenance. Composite decking is designed to need little more than washing when it gets dirty. Cleaning off mud from the decking and preventing build-up of grime between boards. Earning composite decking the title of low-maintenance decking.

Treated wood decking is not low maintenance. Yes, you could build it and forget it. But you will be paying to replace your deck sooner than you think. With rot quickly developing, especially in high moisture areas, pressure-treated wood is not protected against water, only fungi.

The required maintenance of pressure-treated decking will cost you.

Over the years, the cost adding up compared to composite decking, which only needs to be washed.

How much more will depend on who sands and stains your deck and how often.

Home AdvisorOpens in a new tab. estimates staining a wood deck costing between $2-4 a square foot, with the average deck being just over $700.

If you want your treated deck to last as long as composite, it should be done yearly. Being part of your regular spring or fall cleaning. Ensuring the decking is always sealed and protectedOpens in a new tab. from water.

If the average deck costs $700 to stain, in 25 years, a pressure treated deck will cost an additional $17 500 to maintain compared to composite.

Or another way to compare. If we use the cheapest wood decking and fastener and compare it to the highest costing composite decking fasteners. Say a 5/4 treated deck with face screws to an Azek PVC Vintage Collection® with hidden fasteners.

16’x12′ DeckInitial Decking CostMaintenance Cost For 25yrsTotal Cost of Decking after 25yrs
5/4 Treated Decking$426$9 600$10 026
Azek PVC Vintage Collection®$2 794$0$2 794

Yes, I have not included the cost of washing a composite deck, which will add to the cost. But cleaning will need to be done with a wood deck also. Even if not, it will only have a minimal impact on expenses over 25 years.

In short, after hiring someone only seven times to stain your pressure-treated deck, at the low end of $2 a square foot, which is unlikely. You will pay more for a pressure treated deck than a composite deck. More likely, it will only take three times, with the average deck costing $700 to stain, especially with a smaller deck, which cost more per foot to stain.

You can reduce the cost of staining a pressure treated deck by doing the work yourself. This can cost about the same over 25 years as the initial price of buying composite decking. But that will include 25 weekends on your knees, sanding and staining your deck. Something you will not need to do with composite decking.

And this is precisely why composite decking was invented and is sold.

Maintenance!

In everything else, composite decking will cost you more than pressure-treated except with maintenance.

The cost of maintenance is the game changer between wood and composite decking.

With budget-priced composite decking options, the difference in deck lifetime cost is magnified. Staining a pressure treated deck just once now makes it more expensive than installing Trex’s Basic composite decking. 

Trex’s Basic promising 25 years of use. Without staining, pressure-treated decking will need to be replaced at least once in that time. Making the cost of material alone more costly than composite deckingOpens in a new tab.. Not to mention the time and cost of rebuilding the deck.

But if you do the maintenance yourself, it remains competitive. And I think that is the crux of the matter when comparing pressure treatedOpens in a new tab. and composite decking.

Are you willing to spend the next 25 years staining your deck?

Yes, then pressure treated decking could save you money.

No, composite decking will be cheaper in the long run.

Ryan Nickel

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

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