Wood vs Composite Decking: Which Is Better?
Not sure which is better, wood vs. composite decking? After this, you’ll be a composite decking fan.
Sure, I can build you a wooden deck, and it will look amazing when it’s done. There’s a certain nostalgia to wood, after all. If you had a deck growing up, it was almost certainly made of wood. For the past century wood has been the go-to choice for decks and porches. So why question something that has withstood the test of time? Is composite decking really better than wood decking?
First, a little about the history of treated-wood products. The pressure-treated lumber as we know it got its start after the great depression. The chemical of choice was CCA (chromated copper arsenate). This way of treating lumber worked well especially with south yellow pine which is the majority of treated lumber in the eastern part of the U.S. The “arsenate” in the compound means it had arsenic in the mix. At the turn of the century the EPA discontinued the use of this compound in the treatment of wood products for residential use. Since then the wood treating industry has been trying to figure out how to produce something that worked as well as the original formula.
The way the lumber is harvested has also changed over the years. It used to be that a tree would grow naturally in a forest and then be cut down by a logging operation. The mills would log an area and then let it recover. Today it’s more common for timber farms to grow and harvest at a much faster pace. We see this with most wood species, including redwood and cedar. The quality of the wood is just not the same as it was before. For a long time, there was no choice. You either would either build a lumber deck or some kind of concrete patio. Now, with the many choices in composite decking, you have more choices to make.
All of which brings us to the point of this post: How do wood decks vs composite decks compare?
A wood deck is going to look the best that first day that construction finishes. After that, the wooden decking boards begin to ever-so-slowly deteriorate. I’ve yet to see a wood deck that looks awesome 10 years later – decent, maybe, but probably not great.
Composite decking material, by comparison, is much more stable – it doesn’t degrade the way that wood decking boards do. With composite decking, unlike wood decking, you can have a great-looking deck 10 years later. All you have to do is clean it occasionally. Besides its stability, composite decking is also known for its low maintenance, color retention, and durability. And it looks great! The composite materials that we use now have come a long way from when they first came to market. There are lots of composite products to choose at all sorts of price points. Many manufacturers even offer fade and stain warranties in addition to their structural warranties.
I have been building decks since 2000, and have seen all kinds of decks made from every possible decking material. I would choose composite decking every time. As a matter of fact, I did. My own personal deck was built with composite boards, and I love how little maintenance I have to do.
Learn more about the top three brands of composite decking – AZEK, TimberTech, and Trex -- and learn the strengths of each in my blog series: