Composite Decking vs. Wood Decking: Best Bang for Your Buck

Composite decking vs wood decking

Things to consider when deciding what decking material to use when building a deck include budget and the amount of maintenance required.

Building an outdoor deck can be one of the best ways to increase the resale value of a home, typically resulting in at least an 80 percent return on investment at time of resale, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Gone are the days of when pressure-treated lumber was the only option when building a deck. Current products include composite materials made from recycled wood products to synthetic planks with the look of natural wood.

Green Decks: Composite Decking From Recycled Products

Composite decking with lighting

The number of available decking materials continues to grow. Currently, there are several green-minded composite products made from both recycled plastic and wood scrap.

Composite deck boards are boards made from wood fiber and plastic which typically require less maintenance than natural wood, as well as have a longer lifespan.

While the initial cost is more than that of the treated wood typically used for outdoor decks, the longer lifespan of such products may negate the need to replace either part or all of the deck in the future, ultimately resulting in a more cost effective product.

There are essentially two main types of composite decking: solid and hollow. David Koenig states in his Building Products Digest article, “Composite Decking Debate: Solid vs. Hollow,” that “solid profile decking better simulates the shape of real wood, while hollow profile decking often has an engineered look.” Hollow composites require less product to make and can be significantly lighter than their solid composite counterparts. According to Koenig, “whether solid or voided [hollow] makes for a stronger board is up for debate.”

Benefits of Composite Decking

While the initial cost of composite materials may be higher, the long-term benefits of composite decking over traditional wood decking can make the investment a good one. Such benefits include:

  • No splintering or rotting
  • No warping
  • No need to sand, stain or seal year after year to maintain it
  • Typically only requires an occasional cleaning

Also, because composite decking is typically at least 40 percent wood product, it is important to make sure that the decking is treated. This will ensure that the investment is a good one, and that the homeowner will reap all the benefits of a composite deck.

Wood Decking Options

Wood decking

Standard natural wood decks are typically either made from pressure-treated yellow pine (the least expensive option) or from cedar or redwood.

Natural wood decks can provide a lasting and beautiful product at a reasonable cost if maintained properly. Such decks require yearly or semi-annual cleaning, replacing of any protruding nails, sanding of any splintering boards, and the applying of a sealant.

When considering the cost of building a deck, it may be necessary to consider not only the initial outlay, but also the continued cost of yearly maintenance. Whether a homeowner chooses the low maintenance of composite decking or the look of natural wood, one thing is for sure: an outdoor deck can be an excellent addition and investment for any home.

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