Deciding on Decking: A Straightforward Comparison of Composite Deck vs Wood

Table of Contents

Are you planning to build a deck and wondering which material to choose? The decision between composite and wood decking can be challenging, as both materials offer unique benefits and drawbacks. In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the composite deck vs wood debate, discussing their differences, durability and maintenance, cost factors, aesthetic appeal, and environmental impact. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of the options available to help you make the best choice for your outdoor living space.

Key Takeaways

Understanding Composite and Wood Decking

Composite and wood decking materials comparison

Composite and wood decking materials differ in their composition and properties. Composite deck boards are made of wood fibers, plastic, and other materials, offering minimal upkeep and enhanced durability compared to natural wood decking. On the other hand, wood decking materials encompass various types of natural wood, each with unique characteristics and maintenance needs.

Before we discuss the specifics of each material, remember to consider four key elements while choosing between composite and wood deck materials:

  1. Material type
  2. Cost
  3. Upkeep
  4. Environmental impact

Now, we’ll detail the specifics of composite and wood decking materials.

Composite Decking Materials

Composite decking is composed of wood fibers, plastic, and other materials, providing low-maintenance and long-lasting options. There are various composite decking materials available, such as wood plastic composite (WPC) and PVC decking. The benefits of composite decking include increased strength and stability, waterproofing, and the ability to replicate wood effects with color and texture. However, drawbacks include reduced weather-resistance compared to other non-wood decking materials and a lower environmental friendliness.

Maintenance for composite decking is minimal, requiring only an annual soap-and-water cleaning. Following the manufacturer’s fastening instructions is necessary, as the warranty often depends on using the recommended fasteners.

Wood Decking Materials

In the United States, popular wood species for decking include redwood, cedar, and pressure-treated wood. Other options, such as Cumaru, offer superior resistance to decay and a beautiful golden and warm reddish-brown hue, making it a cost-effective and attractive choice. However, wood decking can lose its warm tone and become a dull gray if not properly maintained.

Some wood decking materials, like Mahogany and Ipe, have raised concerns due to their high cost and potential negative environmental impacts, including logging and shipping practices. Pressure-treated lumber, on the other hand, is more cost-effective compared to other wood species.

Durability and Maintenance

Composite decking durability

Composite and wood decking exhibit distinct differences in durability and maintenance. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Composite decking is generally more durable and requires less upkeep than wood decking.
  • Wood decking can last between 10 to 20 years with proper care.
  • Composite decking can last up to 25 to 30 years.

Environmental factors like water and insect damage, coupled with the material’s increased fragility, mean wood decking requires more maintenance. In contrast, composite decking requires very little maintenance, making it more cost-effective in the long run.

Composite Decking Durability

Composite decking is more resistant to UV and water damage than traditional wooden materials, making it a much more durable product. This protects it from fading, splitting, and splintering, giving homeowners added peace of mind. The durability of composite decking depends on its quality, with high-grade composite decking being more resilient to damage from external sources, such as pests, abrasion, warping, splintering, discoloration, and ultraviolet radiation.

Renowned for its durability and weather-resistant shells, composite decking can last for decades. The improved durability appeals to many homeowners seeking a low-maintenance decking solution.

Wood Decking Durability

Wood decking, when properly maintained, can be enduring, with a lifespan of 15 years or longer. However, it requires more maintenance than composite decking. The durability of wood decking depends on factors such as:

  • Maintenance
  • Moisture
  • Exposure to the elements
  • Type of wood employed

Wood decking mandates annual maintenance, including cleaning, staining, and sealing to protect it from environmental factors and maintain its appearance. Choosing the right wood species and performing regular upkeep can significantly impact the longevity and durability of a wood deck.

Cost Considerations

Comparing initial costs of composite and wood decking

While deciding between composite and wood decking, cost plays a pivotal role. Composite decking generally has a higher initial cost than wood decking but offers long-term savings. Wood decking, although cheaper upfront, may lead to significant long-term maintenance expenses.

Over a 10-year period, taking into account the initial investment and long-term maintenance costs, composite decking is estimated to be over a thousand dollars cheaper than pressure-treated pine. This cost difference can be a deciding factor for many homeowners when choosing between composite and wood decking materials.

Initial Costs

Composite decking is more expensive upfront than wood decking due to its increased manufacturing time and premium status for its durability and minimal maintenance requirements. Prices for composite decking range from $15 to $36 per square foot, while wood decking costs between $4 and $25 per square foot.

Considering reliable sources for purchasing composite decking materials is necessary, as prices may vary. Some sources to consider are:

  • TimberTech
  • CALI Bamboo
  • DuraLife by Barrette Outdoor Living
  • CertainTeed

When calculating the initial costs, also consider the tools necessary for installation, as these can add to the overall expenses.

Long-Term Costs

While wood decking may have lower initial costs, long-term maintenance expenses can add up. The annual maintenance costs for wood decking can vary from $5,620 to $12,500 over a 10-year period, depending on exposure to harsh weather and sun.

In comparison, composite decking generally requires minimal maintenance, with occasional cleaning being the main requirement. This can lead to cost savings over time, making composite decking a more economical choice for homeowners who prioritize long-term value and reduced maintenance costs.

Aesthetic Appeal

Aesthetic appeal of composite and wood decking

When comparing composite decking vs wood decking, they differ in aesthetic appeal. Composite decking offers a variety of colors and textures that often mimic natural wood. Wood decking offers an authentic, natural look preferred by some homeowners. The selection of color, grain pattern, size, and shape allows for creative design options with both materials. This range of choices makes designs truly unique.

Ultimately, the choice between composite and wood decking in terms of aesthetics will depend on individual preferences and the desired look for the outdoor living space. We’ll now inspect the aesthetic options of both materials.

Composite Decking Appearance

Composite decking, made from composite materials, offers a variety of colors and textures, often mimicking the appearance of natural wood. Advanced manufacturing techniques enable composite decking to replicate the look and feel of real wood grains, using color pigments, texture patterns, and embossing to simulate the natural variations and textures found in wood. With composite decks, homeowners can enjoy the beauty of natural wood without the maintenance hassles.

Top-rated brands for composite decking with wood-like appearances include:

  • TimberTech
  • CALI Bamboo
  • DuraLife by Barrette Outdoor Living
  • CertainTeed
  • Trex
  • Envision Outdoor Living
  • MoistureShield
  • Lumberock

The wide range of color and texture options allows homeowners to enjoy the aesthetic appeal of wood decking without the maintenance and durability issues associated with it.

Wood Decking Appearance

Wood decking provides an authentic, natural aesthetic that some homeowners appreciate. Popular wood species for decking, such as cedar, redwood, and ipe, offer unique grain patterns and textures, providing a warm and cozy atmosphere for outdoor spaces. Real wood decking can be customized with various stains and finishes to enhance its appearance, making wood decks a popular choice.

When considering wood decking, it’s essential to select the right type of wood for both durability and visual appeal. Some sustainable and visually appealing wood choices for decking include:

  • Cedar
  • Tropical hardwoods
  • Southern cypress
  • Black locust
  • Reclaimed hardwoods

Environmental Impact

Environmental impact of decking materials

Many homeowners consider the environmental impact of composite and wood decking materials significant. Composite decking is generally more environmentally friendly, as it uses recycled materials and requires less maintenance. However, the sustainability of wood decking depends on the type of wood used and the chemicals necessary for upkeep.

Both materials come with their environmental implications. Therefore, one must weigh the pros and cons of each material based on personal preferences and priorities. We’ll now examine further the environmental impact of composite and wood decking materials.

Composite Decking Sustainability

Composite decking can be more eco-friendly due to the use of recycled materials in its production process. Some of these materials include:

  • Natural hardwood powder
  • Synthetic thermoplastics
  • Sawdust
  • Wood chips
  • Wood fiber pieces

This makes composite decking a more sustainable option in comparison to traditional wood decking. For example, Trex composite decking is composed of 95 percent recycled and reclaimed materials.

While there are currently no recognized eco-standards for composite decking, the growing market for sustainable decking options and increased consumer demand for eco-friendly products might drive the development of such standards in the future.

Wood Decking Sustainability

The sustainability of wood decking depends on the type of wood used and the chemicals required for maintenance. Some more sustainable options include:

  • Redwood
  • Western red cedar
  • Nootka cypress
  • Pine
  • Douglas fir
  • Bamboo

On the other hand, pressure-treated wood, which typically contains toxins and requires chemical cleaners, stains, and sealers for maintenance, is frequently used for decking but is less eco-friendly.

If wood decking is under consideration, choosing sustainable wood options and adhering to responsible maintenance practices to minimize environmental impact is necessary. The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) provides certification for sustainable production, ensuring responsible practices in the harvesting of wood for decking.

Installation and Customization

Comparison of installation and customization options for composite and wood decking is significant in deciding the best option for your outdoor living space. Installing composite decking is typically simpler and offers more uniform board sizes, though customization options may be limited.

Wood decking may be more difficult to install but provides more customization possibilities. Understanding the installation process and customization options for both materials will help you make an informed decision about which decking material is best suited for your needs and preferences.

Composite Decking Installation

Composite decking installation is generally easier and offers more uniform board sizes, but may have limited customization options. Typically, installing composite decking takes about 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the deck’s size and complexity. The tools necessary for composite decking installation include:

  • Chalk line
  • Circular saw
  • Corded drill
  • Drill/driver (cordless)
  • Miter saw
  • Power plane

Potential challenges associated with composite decking installation may include:

  • Insufficient expansion gaps
  • Heat retention
  • Scratching
  • Production errors
  • Improper screws
  • Wide joist spacing
  • Weak deck framing
  • Inadequate ventilation

Adhering to the manufacturer’s instructions during the installation process is necessary for a successful and durable composite deck.

Wood Decking Installation

Wood decking installation can be more challenging, with a typical duration ranging from one to four weeks. The tools necessary for wood decking installation include:

  • Circular saw
  • Hand saw
  • Chalk line
  • Tape measure
  • Carpenter’s level
  • Power drill
  • Appropriate hardware

A jigsaw may be necessary for more intricate areas, such as the deck’s staircase railing.

Common challenges during wood decking installation include:

  • Wood rot
  • Insect infestation
  • Water damage
  • Warping and gaps
  • General wear and tear

Choosing the right wood species and performing regular maintenance will significantly impact the longevity and durability of a wood deck.


In conclusion, both composite and wood decking materials offer unique benefits and drawbacks, with factors such as durability, maintenance, cost, aesthetics, and environmental impact playing significant roles in the decision-making process. Composite decking provides low-maintenance, durability, and a variety of colors and textures, while wood decking offers an authentic, natural look with greater customization possibilities. Ultimately, the choice between composite and wood decking will depend on individual preferences, priorities, and the desired outcome for your outdoor living space.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are composite decks better than wood?

Composite decks are generally more durable and require less maintenance than wood decks, making them a cost-effective, long-term option. They are also less susceptible to fading and water damage, as well as eco-friendly, requiring fewer chemicals and sealers over time.

What are the disadvantages of composite decking?

Wood composite decking lacks strength, gets hot in the sun, can contract and expand leading to damage, and is susceptible to mold. Alternatives such as PVC may be a better option for some homeowners.

Should I replace my wood deck with composite?

Composite decking is more cost-effective to install than a full replacement and can actually add value to your home. It is also more resistant to moisture, insects, and splintering, and can last longer than wood boards with less maintenance required. Consider replacing your wood deck with composite to save time and money in the long run.

What is the life expectancy of composite decking?

The lifespan of modern composite decks can range from 30-50 years, depending on installation and care.

What are the initial costs associated with composite and wood decking?

Composite decking has a higher initial cost compared to wood decking, which usually has lower upfront costs.

Elias Abadi

Elias Abadi

Elias, the founder of CoMo Premium Exteriors, has steered the company to become a leading exterior renovation firm in Mid-Missouri, emphasizing quality and customer-centric values. A Columbia resident since age 10, he is an ardent Mizzou athletics supporter. Outside of work, Elias enjoys family time, attending his three sons' sports activities, and engaging in outdoor pursuits like hiking, fishing, gardening, and hunting.

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Thanks for allowing us to serve you. ★★★★★ We had a great experience with CoMo Premium Exteriors! We solicited bids for screening in our existing deck. After careful consideration, we decided that they were the best overall value. The sales rep that was assigned to us was very attentive and responsive. All personnel that worked with us were extremely professional and helpful. The quality of the product is amazing and the installation/finished product was flawless! The owner also came out to ensure the job was done right after completion, which was really appreciated. This extra touch is wonderful! Highly recommend!Response from the ownerTina, thank you. It was our pleasure to serve you and we greatly appreciate you taking time to leave us this wonderful review. ★★★★★ Replaced soffits and facia. Wrapped front porch.Response from the ownerAngela, thanks for the nice review. We enjoyed working with you. Thanks for allowing us to serve you. ★★★★★ Excellent window installation.Response from the ownerDonna, thank you so much for leaving us a review. We appreciate you letting us serve you. ★★★★★ Excellent service and response. When I called the first question Elizabeth asked was if we were all OK. That was enough for me. Kody was very responsive and supportive from the initial assessment, through the repairs, and with follow up after everything was done. Their communications were excellent. I received phone calls, texts, and emails throughout the entire process. Estimating and repairs happened while I was out of town. William kept me updated with calls, texts, and pictures from start to finish. Call CoMo Premium Exteriors first!Response from the ownerThank you so much! We really appreciate you letting us know how you were treated throughout the process. Our team really does care about our customers and in doing the right thing, so thank you for allowing us to serve you. ★★★★★ Everyone involved was great, and the installation crew was not only professional but also friendly and very experienced. I would recommend this company to anyone needing a new roof.Response from the ownerDaniel we really appreciate this kind review. Thank you for allowing us to serve you. ★★★★★ We used Como for new siding, soffits, gutters, and a sliding glass door. The installation was great. Some materials were taking a while to get (like how most things are these days) and I was kept up to date about timelines. My installation was just recently completed but product seems quality. I would recommend them.Response from the ownerKatie thank you so much for taking time to leave us this review. We are humbled by your compliments, and want to say we appreciate your patience while we waited on materials. Thank you for being our customer. ★★★★★ Very professional and quick to complete the new roof installation!Response from the ownerChristy, thank you for taking the time to leave us this review. We appreciate it tremendously. We also thank you for allowing us to serve you. ★★★★★ Como did a great job replacing my roof and gutters. I recommend them for the quality and workmanship .Norry ShahangianResponse from the ownerWe're glad you had a great experience with us. ★★★★★ Was very pleased with gutter replacement work. Russ, project manager, was very professional, kept us abreast of scheduling, was present during installation and ensured complete satisfaction of conducted work. Will recommend CoMo to others.Response from the ownerWe appreciate the kind note! ★★★★★ Incredibly happy with the quality of work and professionalism provided. Roof looks amazing and Russ was awesome to work withResponse from the ownerWow – thanks for your kind remarks! We thrive on this type of feedback, so I’ll be sure to pass this review off to the team. ★★★★★ After severe hail storm Randy came to give estimate. My husband was not there but I felt at ease while he looked at the damage. He spoke in a professional, straightforward manner that was understandable. I asked if he had brochures and immediately he went to vehicle and gave me one. He answered all our questions and would stop by our house if we had any questions. I liked working with this company and personally recommended them to family and friends. They liked them as much as I did.Response from the ownerThank you for taking the time to review us - we appreciate it! ★★★★★ Randy was great!!! Hard worker and made sure everything was done on time and professional! Highly recommend Randy Eppenauer for your home and businessResponse from the ownerThank you for your kind feedback. ★★★★★ We were selling our home and right before the closing date, a hail storm hit. CoMo Premium Exteriors took such good care of us in a timely manner and did a great job.Response from the ownerThank you so much, I'm glad we were able to meet your expectations! ★★★★★ We had to get our roof replaced due to hail damage. Being fairly new homeowners, and never going through a roof replacement before, CoMo Premium Exteriors went above and beyond to help us through the process. We are very pleased with our new roof and gutters, but even more so with the customer service we received. We will definitely be using CoMo Premium Exteriors in the future.Response from the ownerThank you. It was a pleasure serving you and we hope you enjoy your new roof! ★★★★★ Our roof, gutters and more were damaged significantly after a major hail storm in March.CoMo Premium Exteriors surveyed the damage and helped guide us through the insurance claim process. Wes, our project manager was knowledgeable and helpful throughout the project. He responded promptly to calls. Our roof was installed in one day. Due to the lines of our home the gutters were tricky but installers worked hard and did a great job. We are quite pleased with the quality of work and will recommend CoMo to others.Response from the ownerWe truly appreciate your business. Thank you for trusting us with your roofing and gutters project! ★★★★★ Response from the ownerThank you! ★★★★★ Response from the ownerThank you for taking the time to review us - we appreciate it! ★★★★★ Response from the ownerThank you for taking the time to review us - we appreciate it! js_loader

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