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Say No to Wood Decking & Yes to Composite: Know The Truth!


Composite Decking Warner's Decking of Naperville

Terren McDaniels

6/6/24


For decades, homeowners have favored traditional wood for decking, drawn by its natural beauty and classic appeal. Yet, as demands for durability and low maintenance rise, many are choosing innovative composite decking materials.


Composite decks offer a blend of recycled plastic and wood fibers, presenting an eco-friendly alternative that withstands environmental impacts. While wood decks have shaped countless dream outdoor spaces, the shift towards composites suggests it's time to embrace new, sustainable options.


This article explores these two prominent decking choices, helping homeowners decide which material best suits their outdoor living space.


Understanding the Basics of Popular Decking Materials


Wood Decking

Traditional wood decking remains a popular choice due to its aesthetic appeal and versatility. The most common types of wood used include pressure-treated lumber, known for its affordability and resistance to decay. Exotic hardwoods like teak and ipe, are prized for their rich color and superior durability.


Wood decks are celebrated for their natural beauty, with unique grain patterns and the warm feel that only authentic wood can offer. However, homeowners must consider factors such as regular maintenance, susceptibility to insect damage, and the environmental impact of sourcing natural wood.


Composite Decking

Composite decking materials represent a significant advancement in outdoor living space design. Composed of recycled plastic and wood fibers, these decks are an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional wood.


Composite deck boards are lauded for their minimal maintenance requirements and resistance to fading, staining, and insect infestations. The use of recycled materials in composites reduces the environmental impact and offers a durable option that withstands the rigors of outdoor conditions without the need for annual maintenance tasks.


The Case Against Wood Decking

While wood decking has been a cornerstone in building beautiful outdoor spaces, it comes with drawbacks. Here, we examine the challenges that might make homeowners reconsider its use.


Maintenance Challenges

Wood decks need significant upkeep to maintain their appearance and durability. Homeowners need to engage in regular maintenance, including sanding, staining, and sealing, to protect the wood from the elements. This not only adds to annual maintenance costs but also to the time invested in upkeep.


Moreover, wood is naturally susceptible to water damage and insect attacks, such as termites and other pests. Over time, these can compromise the structural integrity and aesthetics of the deck.


Environmental and Durability Concerns

The environmental impact of using real wood for decking is considerable. Harvesting natural wood contributes to deforestation and loss of biodiversity. These woods, while beautiful and durable, often come from sensitive ecological zones.


In terms of durability, natural wood decks can suffer from issues related to longevity, including susceptibility to weathering, cracking, and insect-related structural damage. These can diminish their lifespan and aesthetic value over time.


Cost Implications

The initial cost of a wood deck might seem affordable compared to composite options, especially when considering materials like pressure-treated lumber. However, the long-term costs paint a different picture. Ongoing maintenance expenses, combined with potential repairs due to water damage or insect infestations, can add up.


Additionally, fluctuations in lumber prices can affect the cost, making wood decking a less predictable and often more expensive option in the long run.


The Advantages of Composite Decking

Composite decking offers benefits that address many of the shortcomings of traditional wood decking. Below are the advantages that make composite materials an attractive option for many homeowners.


Enhanced Durability and Maintenance

Composite decking is renowned for its superior durability and minimal maintenance requirements. Made from a robust blend of recycled plastic and wood fibers, composite materials are designed to resist fading, staining, and scratching. Unlike natural wood, composite deck boards do not require sanding, staining, or sealing, which reduces ongoing maintenance costs and effort.


Additionally, these materials are termite resistant and do not succumb to other common wood infestations. This characteristic guarantees a longer lifespan and maintaining their aesthetic appeal over time.


Environmental Benefits

One of the standout features of composite decking is its environmental advantage. The use of recycled materials in the manufacturing process helps reduce waste and lessens the demand for virgin wood, thereby mitigating deforestation and the associated ecological impact.


Furthermore, composite decks have a reduced carbon footprint compared to traditional wood decks. They require less maintenance and have a longer lifespan, minimizing their environmental impact over time.


Economic Considerations

From an economic perspective, composite decking presents significant long-term cost benefits. Although the initial investment might be higher than that of natural wood, the minimal maintenance requirements translate to lower ongoing costs. Homeowners do not need to spend money annually on wood treatments or repairs from damage caused by elements or insects.


Many manufacturers offer extensive warranties on composite decking products. These can cover everything from staining and fading to structural integrity, providing further financial security for the investment.


Wooden Decks vs. Composite Decks: A Detailed Comparison


To assist homeowners in making an informed decision about their decking material, a comprehensive comparison of wood and composite decking is presented below.


Feature

Wood Decking

Composite Decking

Aesthetics and Design Options

Natural wood offers unique grain patterns and a warm aesthetic. 

Limited color options; requires staining to alter appearance. 

Design flexibility is high, but shapes and curves may require complex carpentry skills.

Comes in a variety of colors and textures, often mimicking natural wood. 

Uniform grain patterns. 

High design flexibility with easier handling of curves and edges due to material consistency.

Installation

Installation can be labor-intensive; may require pre-drilling for fasteners.

Traditional fasteners are visible, which can detract from the aesthetic.

Generally easier and quicker to install due to consistent board sizes. 

Hidden fasteners create a cleaner look without visible screws or nails.

Maintenance

Requires annual maintenance including sanding, staining, and sealing to prevent water damage and fading.

Susceptible to insect damage and rot, requiring additional treatments.

Minimal maintenance; no need for staining, sealing, or sanding. 

Resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage, reducing long-term upkeep costs.

Performance and Longevity

Vulnerable to weathering; can warp, crack, or swell. Susceptible to UV damage; can fade and deteriorate over time. 

Lifespan varies but generally shorter without rigorous maintenance.

Superior resistance to weather conditions; does not warp, crack, or swell. 

High resistance to UV damage, maintaining color and integrity for longer.

Generally longer lifespan with better durability under various environmental conditions.


Composite decking emerges as the superior choice for many reasons. It represents a practical long-term investment with reduced environmental impact. It also gives homeowners more time to enjoy their outdoor space without the hassle of constant upkeep.


Conclusion

While traditional wood decking has its charm, composite decking surpasses it with superior durability, minimal maintenance, and robust environmental benefits. It’s the clear choice for homeowners looking for a cost-effective, long-lasting outdoor space.


Considering upgrading to composite decking? Contact Warner's Decking for professional installation services to enhance your home’s outdoor living space.


Frequently Asked Questions


Does a composite deck add more value than a wood deck?

Yes, a composite deck generally adds more value to a home than a wood deck. This is due to its longer lifespan and lower maintenance requirements, which are appealing for homebuyers. The modern aesthetics and durability of composite decking can also enhance the appeal of outdoor living spaces.


Is composite decking slippery when wet?

Composite decking can be slippery when wet, similar to wood and other smooth surfaces. However, many composite decking manufacturers incorporate textured finishes to improve traction under wet conditions. Homeowners can now invest in composite deck boards with textured finishes if slip resistance is a concern.


What ruins composite decking?

Harsh chemicals and extreme heat can damage composite decking. Harsh solvents can discolor and break down the composite material, while excessive heat, such as from outdoor grills, can cause warping or melting. To avoid these issues, use manufacturer-approved cleaning products and use protective barriers when using heat sources on the deck.


Does composite decking get hotter than wood?

Composite decking can get hotter than wood when exposed to direct sunlight. This is due to the plastic materials within composite decking, which absorb more heat than natural wood. However, lighter colors of composite decking will reflect more sunlight and retain less heat. This creates a cooler surface compared to darker woods.


Can I pressure-wash composite decking?

Yes, you can pressure wash composite decking, but it should be done carefully and at a low setting. High-pressure settings can damage the surface of composite decking, stripping away its protective layer and leaving it vulnerable to staining and weathering. Follow the decking manufacturer’s guidelines for pressure washing to ensure the decking is not damaged.


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