The Pros and Cons of Composite vs. Wood Decking
You’ve decided it's time to replace your outdoor deck and you’re ready to take it on as a DIY project, or you’ve decided to work with a licensed and bonded contractor for the heavy lifting. Before you start on such a critical project, it’s important to know that decking options have grown over the last several years, bringing new choices in composite plastic and wood products from which to construct your deck.
While they often cost more than wood, composite materials offer the promise of greater durability and less maintenance. Wood is still the most common choice for deck material,1 but it doesn't last forever. Composites may be more durable, but they might lack the natural look and color you are looking for.
In June 2016, CBS News reported that while wood products still have a command on the market, composites are growing in popularity. Synthetic wood commands about 16 percent of the $7 billion-per-year deck market and appear to be gaining some traction.2
From cost to maintenance and durability to look, there are many things to think about as you decide between composite or wood for your next deck. Here are some pros and cons to consider before you decide which product to buy.
Pros of Composite Decking
- There's less maintenance. Consumers must decide if the look and feel of natural wood is worth the work that goes into periodic staining, painting and replacing sections that have begun to decay. If you'd rather spend your time doing something else, composites are your choice.
- Composites come in a variety of colors. Unlike wood, composites don't need to be painted or stained to match your home's exterior.
- You can use recycled materials. Some composite companies are using recycled materials. This means your synthetic deck can be environmentally friendly.
- The technology is improving. Some manufacturers now produce decking with a hard plastic shell bonded to composite boards to improve durability. According to Popular Mechanics, this makes the surface less prone to staining, fading, scratching and mold.3
Cons of Composite Decking
- A pricey alternative to wood. Durability comes at a cost, as composite decking is more expensive than wood. It could cost 15 to 20 percent more for composite material than pressure-treated pine.4
- Composites aren't natural. No matter how much effort goes into making composites look like wood, they're not. The only way to get the full beauty of a wood deck is to use the real thing.
- Composite decks aren't completely maintenance free. Like wood decks, they still require you to sweep up leaves and other debris, and wash them down periodically.
- You'll need to comparison shop. Because there are a variety of composite manufacturers, it's important to compare prices and ask questions about durability. Many composites now come with stain and fade warranties, so be sure to check that the material you select has a warranty.5
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