Composite Decking Versus Wood?

Q. We are thinking about replacing our deck off the back of our house, how does composite decking compare to wood?

A. Different from pure plastic lumber, composite decking is a wood-based product. Plastic is added to improve its durability. In the creation of composite decking usually wood sawdust and plastic are heated and mixed together, then formed into the desired shape.

Composite decking has some unique advantages. It requires much less maintenance than wood. It is more resistant to weather and insect damage and can last much longer before it needs replacing.

Below is a point by point comparison showing how composite and wood decking differ:

Maintenance

Wood Decking requires regular coats of stain or sealant throughout its lifetime to remain protected from moisture and sunlight.

Composite Decking never needs to be sanded, painted, stained or sealed. It will occasionally need cleaning.

Weathering

Wood Decking absorbs moisture and it’s susceptible to mold, mildew and rot.

Composite Decking The plastic adds resistance to moisture and rot. The mold inhibitors can prevent growth of mold.

Longevity

Wood Decking It will eventually rot because it’s an organic material.

Composite Decking It can last 2-3 times longer than wood.

Pests

Wood Decking It is vulnerable to insect and termite damage.

Composite Decking Highly resistant to insects and termites.

Warping

Wood Decking High dimensional stability and is more rigid than plastic, but is prone to warping and splintering.

Composite Decking More dimensional stability than pure plastic, but may deform slightly under extreme heat. Usually available in a variety of colors, but cannot be painted.

Appearance

Wood Decking Has a natural look if left unpainted. Can be stained or painted for a wide variety of styles.

Composite Decking Varies from a plastic-like look to simulated wood grain. Usually available in a variety of colors, but cannot be painted.

Environmental Impact

Wood Decking Uses virgin natural resources, which requires the harvesting of lumber.

Composite Decking Both the wood and the plastic in a composite deck can come from recycled sources.

Cost

Wood Decking Costs less than composite initially, but requires regular maintenance cost for the life of the deck.

Composite Decking Costs more than wood initially, but makes up for it in savings from maintenance costs.

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