Composite Decking VS Traditional Wood Decking

There are few things in the world more relaxing than an outdoor deck where you can enjoy the summer sun and breeze. Generally, two main materials can be used for a new deck: wood or composite decking material. Each material is different and has its own advantages and disadvantages.

This guide will introduce you to the pros and cons of composite decking and wood decking so you can choose the best deck for summer fun and relaxation.

Composite Decks vs. Wood Decks Costs at a Glance

Type of DeckWoodComposite Decking
Average Material Cost$12 per square foot$11 per square foot
Average Installation Cost$11 per square foot$18 per square foot
Maintenance RequirementsResealing, refinishing, restaining and repairingOccasional repair
Lifespan10 – 30 years15 – 25 years

Types of Composite Decking

Composite decking is made from a mixture of natural and man-made materials such as plastics and chemical additives. Composite decking material, PVC decking, and mineral-based decking are the most popular types of composite material.

Composite Decking Materials

Recyclable plastics are mixed with wood fibers to make wood-plastic composites (WPC). When producing composite decking boards, manufacturers use recyclable plastics, so producing this decorative material is good for the environment. When composite decking boards reach the end of their useful life, it is ground up and used to make new products. This makes composite decking materials sustainable.

Compared to solid wood, composite decking materials have more color variations to choose from. composite decking materials can be painted to change the color just like wood panels. Do you want to give your house a different color? With composite decking boards, you can make sure that the color of your deck coordinates with everything else.

Composite decking boards can also be cut with a saw, poked with a drill, nailed, or screwed in place. That said, you can use common carpentry tools to handle composite decking.

PVC Decking

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a man-made material with a thick honeycomb cellular structure to its boards. Unlike wood where pests may invade. PVC will not rot, leak, or attract bugs and rodents. Most PVC decking surfaces possess a grain pattern that mimics solid wood, making them look like real wood. Like composite decking, PVC decking has a solid wood grain added during the manufacturing process.

Although PVC decking is not made from natural fibers, it has a better environmental impact than chemicals made from petroleum. Such as propylene, butylene, ethylene, benzene, toluene and xylene. Since PVC decking is made of plastic, it can be recycled after damage.

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Mineral-Based Composite Decking

Mineral-based composite (MBC) decking is both strong and stable because it uses minerals instead of wood fibers. It can handle changes in temperature and water, and because of the way it’s manufactured, bugs can’t penetrate it. Mineral-based composite decking won’t bend or warp, so it lasts longer. The MBC method is one of the newest ways to build decks.

In the manufacturing process, mineral-based composite decking is made by heating a mixture of different minerals and plastics and then molding it under a lot of pressure. Mineral-based composite is very strong, but does not contain any organic materials. Therefore, it is not as environmentally friendly as composite decking made from wood fibers. However, manufacturers can make it look like wood by adding effects such as roughness and color.

Advantages of Composite Decking

  • Long service life
  • Low maintenance
  • Comes in many different colors
  • Some companies use recycled products
  • The new composite material is very strong and won’t stain, scratch, or fade

Disadvantages of Composite Decking

  • More expensive to install than wood decking
  • Doesn’t look as nice as wood
  • Temperatures can be high
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Different Types of Wood Decking

Redwood, cedar, and pressure-treated lumber from various species such as spruce, fir, and pine are the three main types of wood used to build decks. You can also buy imported lumber such as redwood, cumquat, ipe, and teak, but they cost more than lumber grown in the United States.

Pressure-Treated Lumber

Many people still choose pressure-treated (PT) lumber for their decks. Pressure-treated lumber is available in stores across the country. Over time, pressure-treated lumber wears out. That’s why many deck builders need to perform regular maintenance and upkeep work on it.

One of the biggest advantages of pressure-treated wood is that it is cheap. This makes this type of lumber a good choice for families on a tight budget.

So how is pressure-treated wood made? During the manufacturing process, workers use vacuum technology and high pressure to add chemical preservatives to common woods like pine, fir, and spruce. The preservative adheres to the wood, making it stronger. Preservatives also keep bugs out, which makes the wood less susceptible to rot, decay, mold, and insects.

When it comes to pressure-treated wood, less expensive woods such as pine can warp, shrink, and lose their shape, so be sure to choose premium pressure-treated wood. Like other woods, pressure-treated wood can crack and fade. When cutting or sawing pressure-treated wood, wear a mask and gloves to protect yourself from the dangerous chemicals in it.

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Cedar

Cedar is a high-quality softwood that prevents decks from rotting in the sun, rain, and temperature changes. Cedar is a beautiful wood that comes in a variety of colors and grains. For a beautiful finish, cedar can be sawn, sanded, and painted. Cedar starts out reddish brown and, like teak, turns a light gray over time. Painting the deck with a penetrating color will make it look better and last longer.

Cedar comes in a variety of grades, colors, and sizes. Because cedar does not contain any resins or asphalt, it tolerates dyes well. It is important to note that because cedar is a softwood, it is more susceptible to scratches than hardwoods.

Buying cedar is more expensive than buying cheap treated boards. People who care about the environment will love the fact that cedar is a sustainable, biodegradable, reusable building material that does not release any greenhouse gases. In addition, cedar grows in sustainable and responsibly managed forests, which ensures that the trees are sustainable.

Redwood

Redwood is a great natural decking material. Like cedar, it doesn’t contain any resins, so the wood stains and finishes well. There are no additives and the wood will not warp, rot, or become infested with insects. The tree only grows in the western United States and is not found much in other parts of the country, so it can be more expensive.

Redwood is reddish in color and will turn silver-gray over time if not cleaned. When sanded, redwood absorbs stains well. Do-it-yourselfers may need to drill holes in the ends of the deck boards ahead of time to prevent the boards from breaking. Redwood is one of the roofing woods that is less likely to catch fire.

When properly maintained, this wood can last up to 30 years. Applying a finish that won’t let water in, a fungicide that kills mold, and a sealer that blocks UV rays can make the wood last even longer.

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Imported wood

Imported woods such as mahogany, ipe, and cumaru are very strong and can last a long time. However, because these woods are imported into the U.S. from other countries, they are much more expensive than U.S.-grown wood. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of foreign woods.

Mahogany

Mahogany is an excellent wood for outdoor decks. This is because it can last for a long time and will not be damaged by the weather. It is considered one of the best hardwoods on the market and is known for being very stable. This unusual wood grows mainly in Mexico and South America.

Mahogany has an open grain and does not usually shrink when dry. But the wood is very expensive, even though it looks beautiful and lasts a long time. U.S. environmentalists have also questioned the responsibility and legality of the way mahogany is cut and transported.

Ipe

Ipe, sometimes called “Brazilian walnut,” is a rare species of tree that grows in South America. People say the wood, pronounced “EE-pay,” is one of the hardest woods in the world. People have been using this wood on the beaches of Coney Island in New York City for 70 years. This foreign hardwood comes in a variety of colors including dark brown, reddish brown, olive, and tan. It will not get damp, moldy, or buggy. Ipe will not crack because this wood has a coarse grain.

The problem with teak is that the wood is often unfairly overcutted around the world. Teak grows in the tropical jungles of South America and is part of the richest ecosystem in the world. It makes me wonder if cutting down trees to produce teak is exacerbating the loss of forests.

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Cumaru

Cumaru is sometimes referred to as Brazilian teak. It is a hardwood with an interlocking grain pattern. The wood is very dense and therefore very difficult to rot. Cumaru trees live up to 50 years and have a beautiful golden color and warm reddish brown that looks great on decks. It is readily available in the U.S. and is less expensive than ipe.

On the other hand, this wood contains a lot of grease, which can make installation more difficult. In addition, dishonest stores sometimes sell Brazilian teak as regular teak, which is harder to find and more popular than Brazilian teak.

Advantages of Wooden Decks

  • Looks warm and natural
  • Some types, such as redwood and cedar, won’t warp, crack, or be damaged by the weather
  • Not as hot as composite decking
  • There are inexpensive options

Is a material that can be reused and recycled over and over again

Disadvantages of Wood Decks

  • May crack if not maintained annually
  • Needs to be painted, stained, and sealed annually
  • Some types are more prone to cracking, breaking, warping, and splitting
  • Durable wood is expensive
  • Not as durable as composite decking
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Price of Composite Decking

The price of laying 200 square feet of composite decking ranges from $5,300 to $11,300. The average cost of 200 square feet of composite decking is about $4,150.

The exact cost of composite decking depends on many factors. Such as the cost of materials, the cost of transportation, the size and design of the deck, and what the builder charges in your area. This is because building costs are higher in cities than in rural areas. The cost of tunnels and permits is also important. Composite decking is cheaper to maintain than wood decks because they don’t require as much work.

What Is the Cost of a Wood Deck?

A 200 square foot wood deck can cost anywhere from $3,050 to $7,650. Nationally, the average cost of a wood deck is about $5,350. Prices vary depending on a number of factors. House lumber such as pine, fir, and spruce are less expensive than cedar or redwood. The grade of the wood also affects the price of pressure-treated lumber. Some pressure-treated lumber is expensive, and the best pressure-treated lumber costs more.

If it is a foreign wood such as mahogany or ipe, you will have to pay a higher price. The price also depends on the cost of the foundation, the size and shape of the deck, the location, any excavation work that needs to be done, and any permits that are required. Wood needs to be maintained every year, which is why wooden decks cost more.

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Summary

In the perennial debate of composite decking versus traditional wood decking, the choice ultimately boils down to a blend of aesthetics, maintenance preferences, and long-term value. Traditional wood exudes a timeless charm and is often favored for its natural look. But it demands more maintenance to combat issues like rot and insect infestation.

On the other hand, composite decking, with its low-maintenance appeal, durability, and eco-friendly attributes, presents a modern solution to the challenges posed by traditional wood.

As you weigh the pros and cons, consider your lifestyle, desired aesthetics, and commitment to upkeep. Whether you lean towards the warmth of wood or the innovation of composite materials. The best choice is one that aligns seamlessly with your vision for an enduring and beautiful outdoor living space.

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