When it comes to decking material, cedar has always gotten the gold star. But advances in durable composite decking, a low-maintenance material made from wood fibers encased in plastic, have made it increasingly popular among homeowners. For many consumers, choosing between the two can be difficult.
- Wood decks have a natural, earthy appearance that blends in well with any outdoor surrounding.
- Composite decks have smooth even surfaces, but since they’re derived from plastic they don’t have the same appeal as wood. However, some composite decks come in faux wood finishes that mimic wood surfaces.
Natural vs. recycled materials
- Wood decks are built from natural components and can be pure or pressure-treated. Many types of wood are used for building decks, with cedar being the premiere decking material.
- Composite decks are built from a combination of recycled materials. It’s common for composite decking boards to be made of 50% recycled wood and 50% recycled plastic, though the percentages may vary depending on the manufacturer.
- Wood decks require a protective stain coating in order to safely handle constant outdoor exposure. Protect your wood deck with a semi-transparent deck stain derived from a natural oil for maximum absorption into the wood. Make sure your stain includes a UV protectant to guard against the sun’s rays.
- Composite decks don’t require any special protection, since the outer layer is a protective plastic coating. Unlike wood, the plastic surface can’t be refinished or resurfaced, so any nicks, scratches or sharp signs of wear will most likely be there to stay.
- Wood decks need fresh coats of stain at regular intervals over the years, depending on the weather, type of wood and type of stain initially used. Any cracking or failing components should be replaced immediately to maintain the integrity of the foundation, so it pays to regularly inspect your deck for any defects.
- Composite decks are relatively easy to maintain. Simply keep your deck clean of dirt, hose it down twice a year and tend to accidental stains as soon as possible with household cleaners.
- Wood decks have a less expensive up-front cost than composite decking options, but this isn’t factoring in extra expenses such as stain, stain application materials and possible replacement costs.
- Composite decks are more expensive than wood decks at the outset, but since there are fewer maintenance costs, you may come out even or ahead over buying a wood deck.
The truth is, neither material is better than the other; both have their pros and cons. Your deck design and your needs as a homeowner will determine which is the superior choice for you.