Choosing the Right Type of Decking

If you’re planning on constructing a deck or renovating and upgrading an old one, it’s important to choose the right type of decking for you. There are a few factors to consider, including your budget, how often you’re willing to maintain your deck, and of course, your personal preference. There are six common types of decking materials, namely cedar, redwood, Ipe, pressure-treated wood, vinyl and composite decking, but you can narrow your options to wood decking and composite decking.

The competition between composite and wood decking materials has been around for decades and the results and feedback are altering as composite decking materials improve and prices become more competitive. Composite decking has become a practical choice when it comes to design versatility, durability and maintenance, and while it’s pricier compared to cedar and pressure-treated decking, it’s not as expensive as the South American hardwood, Ipe decking.

Before we jump to a conclusion, let’s go over more details and the pros and cons of wood and composite decking.

Wood Decking

Not all wood decking materials are the same. Wood decking that is made using high-quality materials, such as the darker-coloured heartwood, can last between 20 and 40 years, if properly maintained. However, wood decking made of cheap materials, such as the cream-coloured sapwood, has a higher tendency to warp, chip, crack and fade in a shorter span of time. Moreover, soft and inexpensive wood has a higher chance of getting infested with pests. While it’s true that pressure-treated wood decking is treated against insects, pests such as carpenter bees are not deterred from drilling into the wood to create their nests. At times, even expensive, high-grade hardwood decking is susceptible to these pests.

People are often under the impression that wood decking is cheaper than composite decking. However, the cost varies depending on the durability of the wood, from softwood to hardwood. The standard on the durability of wood and wood-based products is categorised into five classes, ranging from Class I (High Durability) to Class V (No Durability). Wood classified under Class I typically lasts over 25 years while wood ranked Class V will not last more than five years. While Class V wood decking materials are definitely cheaper, keep in mind that your decking will require a substantial amount of maintenance to keep it in good condition. Class I timber such as Aspen, European Birch, Sycamore, Teak and Willow are more durable, but they are not cheap. Regardless if you choose softwood or hardwood, remember that maintenance is necessary if you want your wood decking to last.

Composite Decking

Composite decking is made of composite lumber which contains wood particles, wood fibre, plastic and binding agents. The wood particles can come from sawdust and wood chips and the plastic can be recycled or composed of virgin plastic materials. The combination of these materials makes composite decking durable and stain-resistant, allowing it to hold up well in harsh weather. Unlike a natural wood decking, composite decking does not splinter or rot. It is also less susceptible to insect damage, so you don’t have to worry about those carpenter bees too much.

However, there is a common misconception that composite decking is maintenance-free. This is not true, but it does require only low maintenance, especially when compared to wood decking. Additionally, while sealing your composite decking is not necessary, it will make maintenance even simpler and less frequent. Regardless if you choose to seal your composite decking or not, you only need to clean it once or twice a year. Cleaning is also very simple with just soapy water and a soft bristle brush or a low power washer if you have one. On rare occasions, you may need to use a specialized composite deck cleaner if you see mold on the boards. Other than that, it is a lot easier and simpler to maintain composite decking compared to wooden decking.

Furthermore, UV-resistance is inherent in most composite decking materials. There is less likelihood of its colour fading over time compared to natural wood. Still, if you notice your composite decking has started fading because of direct exposure to sunlight over a long period, it would be a simple task to stain, seal or paint it to make it look brand new once again.

Lastly, composite decking comes in a range of colours and designs. You can choose from several wood grain patterns and rich colours, as well as tropically inspired boards with the look of exotic hardwoods. Aside from the aesthetics, there’s also a varied selection of composite accessories from railings to furniture to help you design your outdoor space.

So, is composite decking better than natural wood?

People presume that the primary downside of composite decking over wood decking is its price; however, Class V hardwood or Ipe are more expensive than composite decking. If you opt to go with the cheaper softwood, you should expect to spend and work more to maintain your wooden decking. Due to the advantages associated with composite decking such as its durability, low maintenance and design versatility, the cost of composite decking will save you money in the long run. Unless you want to upgrade your decking every few years, composite decking is a better and more practical choice, saving you money, time and energy you would otherwise spend on maintaining wooden decking.