Considering composite decking for your new deck instead of wood decking? Wondering about composite decking pros and cons? Know the facts before you commit to materials for your home improvement project!
Composite decking is quickly becoming more widely used for new decks. Still, there are pros and cons to consider when it comes to choosing if composite is right for you and your deck.
Premium products like composite boards offer attractive, low-maintenance performance but it is still important to consider the pros and cons of the use of composite deck boards for your new deck before you finalize your ideal outdoor living space.
We have gathered the pros and cons for you!
There are many pros of composite decking material that you could consider in your search. Composite decking offers things like hidden fasteners, great durability, no chance of rot, and a warranty for composites is the longest available.
Manufacturers for decking composite use recycled materials in their planks
The greatest benefit when it comes to composite decking is the longevity of the product. Composite deck materials can survive and withstand severe weather conditions for decades to come without additional added treatment or protection.
Most companies have a 20-year guarantee warranty with some going up to 50 years for composites. On average a composite deck would last you 20-30 years.
Composite deck boards are more durable than wood composite. Water and moisture are the sources of moulds, fungus and mildew, and this is the biggest concern when it comes to hardwood decks, especially if you live in an area that wet weather conditions are common. And this also makes composites less susceptible to stain and rot!
The composition (and especially if you have capped composite) of composite materials makes it water and weather-resistant as it is impervious to water. Composite wood will not bulge, rot, warp, split or crack when exposed to the elements like wood composite is known to do. Their colour will also last longer than a stained wooden deck that requires re-staining annually and the planks are resistant to surface stains.
Composite decks don’t require being stained, painted, or treated like ones made of wood. Pressure-treated wood decks require annual or even bi-annual staining, treatment and care. Wood will fade, crack and split as it dries in the sun and heat over time, unlike composite materials.
Composite decking requires no to low maintenance to keep it looking its best, unlike wood that has to be stained every one to two years to upkeep its looks. Composite products maintain a consistent and brilliant appearance for years before needing any maintenance. Composite pieces also need to be replaced less than wood as they are more durable, saving you time.
Keeping your deck free of debris is the only regular maintenance required!
Composite deck products come in all kinds of colours. From rich browns to reds and greys and any shade in between, you have choices when it comes to composite decking colours. This allows you to get the guaranteed perfect colour you’re looking for unlike the results guessing game that can come with stain and paint.
There are even installation style patterns for composites that you can enhance and incorporate into your deck. By mixing board colours you can select a more vibrant and a muted colour to create multi-coloured patterns like borders or even use different colour inserts. There are not only colour options but texture options, with some composite closely resembling all wood types and textures.
Our contractors have great ideas when it comes to incorporating patterns into your deck’s design, contact us to hear about what we can do to make your deck a beautiful work of art that you can enjoy.
Some earlier and older generations of composite that came uncapped would mould and become slippery, thus creating the myth that composite decking is slippery. New and improved capped decking now greatly minimizes mould development along with providing additional traction.
Other pros include: composite has no possibility for slivers, making it safer for walking on with bare feet and the use of hidden fasteners prevent the catching of socks or feet on a protruding nail or screw heads.
More Design Options
When building a deck with composite boards there are more styles and sizes available to you. Bending boards for modern-looking curved composite decks is limited when using lumber. But a skilled composite deck builder can add curves or curving inserts and patterns to your composite deck, taking its appearance and creativity to a whole new level.
Composite decking also can have boards available as long as 20 feet (or 6 meters). This eliminates the need for most butt joints and the longer boards will allow you to build wider decks without butt joints or borders. Without these, you can improve your deck’s appearance by making it look sleeker and minimizing complications with butt joints.
Varying by manufacturers or companies, almost all composite decking uses recycled materials in the production process and contributes less to deforestation than lumber. When choosing composite decking you are also diverting some materials away from landfills and contributing less to deforestation.
The company and manufacturer Trex holds the highest use of recycled materials in their decking at over 95%. Trex claims that for more than two decades they have not cut down one tree to make their decking, but instead focused on repurposing waste materials from other sources.
The biggest disadvantage of composite products is the price. The initial cost for building a deck using composite can cost you 50% to 100% more than standard treated lumber. The average cost per square foot of installed composite decking is $30-$45. Homeowners tend to choose pressure-treated lumber for their outdoor home improvement projects because it is more affordable. Quality woods like cedar have a price that can fall in the middle of treated lumber and composite product prices, so many go that route.
Unfortunately, when it comes to selling your home many buyers don’t appraise composite as honestly as they do wood. If you were to sell your home, you would only get a fraction of the money back that you would pay for your composite deck with a 70% average return for a composite deck, 5% below the average return for a wood deck at 75%.
The issue is that when a potential buyer sees a home, decks tend to be glossed over when it comes to proper assessments and the pros of the composite are not taken into account as composite decks are worth more, will last longer with the house and not all buyers are aware of that resulting in your lower return on your investment into a composite deck.
Is it Worth the Money?
Weight of It All
The average weight of composite decking is twice that of treated pine and about three times the weight of cedar. This does not affect or play a large role in your deck once it is built, but during construction, decking weight can have a negative effect.
To compare the weights: a 12-foot length of 5/4 by 6 of treated pine weighs an average of 14 pounds, while a 12-foot length of 5/4 by 6 of Trex composite decking weighs 27.5 pounds. The weight of wood decking can vary as density varies but even at its heaviest, composite is still much heavier. This affects support plans and construction time as you can only carry half the amount of composite boards than you would normally carry of wood.
Needs More Support
Lumber is Unavoidable
Composite decking has less structural strength, requiring that everything done with composite requires wood support. All composite decks have to be built on a treated wood frame to have stability and durability. Treated lumber has to be used for the posts, beams, joists, and stair stringers. Contractors have to rely on the strength of lumber while installing to build a stable framework for composite decking features like boards, trim and railing components to be only added after. If a large reason you were considering composite materials was for environmental reasons it’s good to be aware that a significant amount of lumber is still used to build any composite deck.
Additionally, not having its own structural strength adds other challenges when installing those 20-foot boards as they cannot be carried by one person. The ends will droop and drag on the ground unlike long pieces of wood decking that can be easily carried with considerably less sag.
Composite retains more heat from the sun and the surface can become very hot to touch compared to wood in the summer temperature. This can influence your choice of materials if your deck will be a sunny focal point in your yard, as your use will be limited if your deck gets too hot to use.
As composite is composed of mostly plastic or plastic products you can also be in trouble if you are not careful; spilling hot oil or coal while barbecuing could lead to the possibility that your deck will melt. You will have to closely monitor and make sure all heat sources are safe for or removed from your deck.
Among the many pros and cons of composite decking, one of the greatest cons of composite for some homeowners is that it just doesn’t look as natural. Composite decking’s appearance has changed and improved vastly over the last 20 years, but it is still more plastic and not natural wood. Regardless of what composite you choose and how closely it resembles wood, it is still not wood. It will not look or feel exactly like wood because it just is not that.
If you deeply appreciate the look and feel of wood decking, then composite is not the right choice for you. Composite decking can look and feel amazing, but it cannot be appreciated if you want it to be wood. Choosing composite if you feel that way will leave you forever disappointed
Everything exposed to the UV rays from the sun will fade in colour, therefore all decking fades. But when it comes time for repairs, fading and composite decking can become a bother.
This will have the greatest negative impact when it comes to repairing your deck. If a board becomes damaged and is in need of replacement and even if you can get the same exact board to replace the old one, it will not match your deck. That new, replaced board will forever be more vibrant in colour than the rest of the boards in your deck.
Something you will have to consider is if that is something you can be okay with. Many companies have this fact of fading in their warranty, keep in mind that this is only slightly but still noticeably a little different.
So … Ready To Make A Decision?
In your search for the right material to use for your deck, it’s important to know the pros and cons of composite decking. There are many pros of composite decking, like the use of recycled material by the manufacturer, or the durability of the planks. But decking composite materials also have some cons that some cannot overlook.
Check out our other related posts about composite decking on our site or call us, we can answer any questions you might still have! Contact us for a free consultation about your deck!