Trex vs Cedar, Which Decking is Right for You?


When choosing between composite Trex and Cedar wood decking, there are several things to consider. Things like appearance, durability, price, maintenance and warranty.

Cedar has a beautiful natural wood look that Trex cannot compete with.  For durability, maintenance and warranty at a similar price. Trex is better than cedar.

That being said, we should delve into the details a little more to determine whether Fiberon or Trex decking is right for you.

Starting with an introduction to the companies, getting to know Fiberon and Trex a little better.  Who are they, and where did they come from?

A Brief Introduction to Trex

Trex was one of the first innovators of composite decking, inventing and manufacturing their first board in 1996. This single colour board was patent in 1998, and they have since developed four lines and 20 colours of decking. One of their original big pushes was to take material that was otherwise headed to the landfill and innovate a useful product. They are still a huge player in the recycling industry.

“To enhance the lives of people by engineering what’s next in outdoor living.”

Trex

The primary benefit of their decking is its long life and low maintenance compared to traditional wood decking.

A Brief Introduction to Cedar

CedarOpens in a new tab. has long been the wood of choice for decking with its natural beauty and resistance to rot. Recently its rot resistance has come into question, with much of the old-growth trees already having been cut down and the younger Cedar tress having less resins. Resins takes time to develop; therefore, the younger the trees are less rot resistant.

Still, cedar is an excellent wood to work with and can be stained to minimize UV and moisture damage while still enjoying the wood’s natural beauty.

One of the greatest appeals of wood decking but cedar in particular over composite is its natural look. Composite has come a long way with capping to improve its appearance, but it still has a plastic look and feel. Even the higher-end Trex line, Transcend still looks and feels like plastic.

But appearance is only one of many things to consider when deciding between cedar and Trex decking. Let’s go through a few considering the appearance, durability, maintenance and cost of each.

Trex vs Cedar– Appearance

Trex has 20 colours which can be grouped into blonde, red, brown and grey. Giving you some options in the look of your decking. 

Trex Decking LineNumber of ColoursDecking Profile
TranscendOpens in a new tab.8Solid
SelectOpens in a new tab.5Solid
Enhance NaturalOpens in a new tab.4Scalloped
Enhance BasicsOpens in a new tab.3Scalloped

Trex composite decking is arranged into Best [Transcend], Better [Select, Enhance Natural] and Good [Enhance Basic]. With the same core and capping, the main difference is the aesthetic appearance of the cap.

The Enhance Basic has a more subdued appearance with solid colours. The higher-end lines have more colour variation and streaking. Giving the decking a more natural appearance.

Trex’s Select is embossed with a cathedral wood grain pattern. Both increasing tractionOpens in a new tab. and appearance.

Transcend has a more natural-looking wood pattern with more distinct grains and distinct colouring. Also, the more durable and scratch-resistant of Trex’s decking.

Transcend decking’s deep wood-grain pattern and luxury colors create a premium, ageless look that leave other composites in the dust.”

TrexOpens in a new tab.

Regardless of the decking line, they all are made from 95% recycled material, equal in warranty.

Cedar has been chosen for years because of its grain pattern. With natural variation in colour. Wood grains radiating out from tree knots. With no two boards the same.   

Often left to “grey” cedars still has a natural beauty.

Cedar can also easily be stained, transforming the decking colour while accenting the wood grain pattern. Allowing cedar decking to be an open canvas that can be transformed with the next spring staining. Going from a red colour to a more subdued brown. Whichever colour is reflecting you at the moment.

Trex vs Western Red Cedar – Durability

Decks are built to be enjoyed, not just to be seen. Durable decking is valuable decking. Decking that wears well under constant foot traffic, the occasional pulling of chairs and spilling of ketchup, grease and beer on the deck. Not that you intend to, but accidents happen. The decking must hold up against all life throws at or drops on it.

Decking Staining Comparison

For the accidental spills, Trex’s polymer cap protects like few other things. Making spills easily wiped up without staining or damaging the deck.

Cedar, on the other hand, is very receptive to staining. Both intentional and accidental. From accidental grease drippings to splashes from your wine glass.  It will all stain a cedar decking.

Cedar can be sanding and re-stained to minimize accidental staining, but it can leave a permanent mark. With no remedy except for replacement. Cedar staining to its very core.

Another difference between cedar and Trex is making from shoes to chairs.

Comparing Decking Hardness

The harder the material, the less it will be indented.

 Hardness Test
Trex TranscendOpens in a new tab.3.8 Kn
Western Red CedarOpens in a new tab.1.56 Kn

Trex is not consistent in resisting scratches, but all Trex decking is more scratch-resistant than cedar. Transcend has the most resistant cap, but even Basic is better than cedar.

I love the look of a new cedar decking but always hate the care that must be taken while installing. The simple act of setting your impact driver with the clip down on the decking can scratch it.

Trex decking will also scratch but much less than cedar.

Being more resistant to scratching and staining are two reasons why composite is better for dogs than cedar.Opens in a new tab. Dog claws and accidents can damage decking, but Trex decking is more resilient with pets. 

Decking Breakability

On the rare occasion, you will actually test the decking’s ability not to break. With both, it will take a lot of force to break the boards, especially when supported with joist at 16″ o.c., which is required.

But how much can you pack unto the deck before the boards break under the weight? How heavy of furniture is too much?

But to give us a number to compare, we will turn to Modulus of Elasticity (MOE).

Modulus of Elasticity (MOE)
Trex TranscendOpens in a new tab.2 980 MPa
Western Red CedarOpens in a new tab.7 653 MPa

One of the weaknesses of composite decking is strength.Almost every installation instruction warns that composite decking is not structural. Every end board needs blocking.

This is clear when comparing the stiffness of Cedar and Trex. How much pressure can be applied before they snap?

Cedar may scratch easily but will take twice as much force to break. It is that much stiffer than Trex.

Decking Resistance to Becoming Deformed

How much pressure can the decking withstand before becoming deformed?

Kn ratingLbs per sqft
Trex [TranscendOpens in a new tab.]3.88872
Western Red CedarOpens in a new tab.20.28 4 560

Not only is cedar stiffer than Trex, but it also takes more to deform. There is a little difference between cedar and Trex for deforming. With cedar, we are looking to see how much weight will crush the wood fibres. Destroying their cohesion.

Wherewith Trex being plastic base we are testing have much pressure will deform the decking. How much weight can be applied before the decking will not bounce back to its original shape.

Slightly different in testing but revealing how much stronger cedar is. Cedar decking will take five times the weight before becoming crushed than Trex.

Trex vs Cedar – Pricing

Pricing is always a tricky one, constantly changing from region to region, fluctuating with the season. In fact, just crossing the street at times can save you a few hundred on a deck. But this should give you a sense of the cost of Cedar and Trex decking. At least in comparison to each other.

Cedar Decking LineLineal Price
5/4×6 [7/8×5.5”]$2.00-4.00

Similar to Trex decking, not all cedar is equal. Hence why the large price spread. You can buy “construction” grade cedar from a big box store saving money, but most of us would prefer the better-quality cedar. Cedar that will last longer, with tighter knots and distinct grain pattern and colour variations, but it will cost more.

Trex Decking LinesLineal Price
Transcend$4.15 – 4.50
Select$2.65 – 3.10
Enhance Natural$2.05 – 2.50
Enhance Basics$1.85 – $2.20

Trex’s premier line, Transcend, is under $5 a lineal foot, but the cost quickly drops from there. Till reaching Enhance Basics, one of the lowest price composites deckingOpens in a new tab. with a 25-year warranty.

In many ways’ cedar and Trex decking are priced the same. The nicer the appearance, the more you will pay for it. Transcend, the nicest looking Trex decking, is priced similar in quality cedar decking.

In price, one advantage with Trex is you know exactly what you’re paying for. Each line has a level of colour and appearance distinctly different from the other lines. If you pay more, you will get better-looking decking.

Yes, upgrading the grade of cedar will increase the chances of installing better-looking decking. But I worked at a lumberyard for years and will testify, every lift is different. It may say appearance grade, but ripping the tarp off will reveal variety. No two cedar trees are alike, nor are decking boards. Often grading has more to do with structural strength than the quality of grain patterns.

Trex vs Cedar – Maintenance

This is probably the determining line between Trex and Cedar, Maintenance. It is the reason that Trex was invented and the most distinguishing difference between the two.

With Trex, there is minimal maintenance. Largely cleaning, especially removing gunk between boards. This can be down either with a bucket and broom or a power washer set low enough not to damage the decking. Both ways will make short work of maintaining a Trex deck. Returning the vibrant colours and looks you first installed. 

Cedar decking must be cleaned, along with annual staining and repairs of any damaged decking. That said, except for scratching, Cedar is less likely to be damaged than Trex. And scratches can be annually sanded out before staining the decking.

Not only is more annual work involved with maintaining a cedar deck it will cost you more than a Trex. Depending on if you do the work or hire someone else to.

Hiring someone to stain your cedar deck can cost you as much as installing the decking in the first place. With the average cost to stain a deck being between $2-4 a square foot.

Doing the work yourself will reduce cost a little, ranging between $50 and hundreds depending on your deck’s size. But remember that you will need to schedule time on a warm but not too hot day to do the work.

The trouble with cedar is that if you get behind and it goes gray, it is almost impossible to return it to its original beauty. Even after sanding, the decking will have lost some of its vibrancy. Forever after being slightly duller in colour.

If you love working on your deck, Cedar is great. If not, low-maintenance Trex may be a better option. 

Trex vs Cedar – Warranty

Trex is warrantiedOpens in a new tab. for 25-years. A universal 25 years on all their decking line from Transcend to Enhance Basic. It doesn’t matter what you pay for it. It is covered for 25-years.

Trex decking is all pro-rated.  The first 10-years are fully covered, with 100% replacement for the failure of the product. Then diminishing by 10% every three years.  

Trex is not only warrantied for 25 years but includes labour for a portion of the time.

Labour Warranty

This is a new development in composite decking warranties. The labour to install decking is often as much or more than the cost for the material. Covering labour makes sure you are not on the hook for labour if the decking fails. Increasing the value of the warranty substantially.

Trex steps their warranty based on the contractor doing the work.

  • TrexPro 1 Year
  • TrexPro Gold 3 Years
  • TrexPro Platinum 5 Years

Trex goes into much more detail of what differs the companies. Simply put, the better the company, the more training and experienced the installer, the longer the warranty.

As a deck contractor, I like the idea of offering a 5-year warranty, supporting Trex’s approach. It just makes sense to have more faith in a more established company than one just starting out. A company with a good track record will do a better job, reducing the chances of failure.

Cedar decking has no warranty. No promises that the decking will not fail. No covering of the cost to re-install new decking. It is all on you. If you select cedar right, take care of it will last. But it could also need to be replaced tomorrow, but that’s on you.

Trex with a warranty. Cedar without one. Clearly showing Trex has better coverage than cedar decking.

Trex vs Cedar – Which is Better for You?

Now for the hard part, choosing which decking will be right for you for the next 25 or more years. Wow, that’s a long time!

Comparing Trex vs Cedar for

  • Appearance
  • Durability
  • Price
  • Maintenance
  • Warranty

There are few things that compete with the beauty of wood. Or at least in my eyes. There are some great-looking composite decking, including Trex. But when it comes to the beauty of natural wood, cedar is in a class to itself.

But beyond appearance, Trex is more resistant to scratching, is more consistent in looks and quality. It takes way less work to maintain than cedar and is guaranteed to last for 25 years. 

Unlike pressure-treated wood that is cheaper than Trex decking, cedar is not. If you are buying quality cedar, you will be paying almost as much as Trex. Which with regular maintenance will only increase. A cedar deck will save you no more than a Trex deck, which in time will be cheaper.

Which leaves to decision to appearance.

If you love the look of cedar, all the other benefits of TrexOpens in a new tab. will not matter. You want a deck you will enjoy being on.

But if it’s just a matter of performance. A quality outdoor space that does not increase demands on your time. Trex may be for you. Durable with little additional work to enjoy. 

Ryan Nickel

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

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