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Composite Decking vs. Wood Decking: A Comprehensive Comparison

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Are you in the market for the perfect deck? It's a bit like choosing between a trusty old pickup truck and a slick new SUV, isn't it? We get it. In this article, we're going to dive into the world of composite and wood decking, giving you the lowdown on what works and what doesn't.


Composite Deck: Timbertech Pro Legacy in Tigerwood
Composite Deck: Timbertech Pro Legacy in Tigerwood

Composite Decking: The Low-Maintenance Alternative


Composite decking is the superstar of low-maintenance. It scoffs at issues like rot, insects, and the dreaded decay. There's no need to fuss over staining or sealing - a simple cleaning with water, maybe a bit of soap and a brush if things get rowdy, will do the trick. And here's a nifty tip - while composite decking is generally on the pricier side, the most trusted and largest composite decking manufacturer (Trex and Timbertech-Azek) has recently introduced more budget-friendly lines that are worth checking out. You get the look of real wood without the real wood fuss. Plus, it's got longevity in its genes, boasting warranties that often stretch beyond 20 years.


Budget-Friendly Composite Deck: Trex Enhance in Rocky Harbor
Budget-Friendly Composite Deck: Trex Enhance in Rocky Harbor

Wood Decking: Hardwood vs. Softwood


Now, onto wood decking, where we have hardwood and softwood playing their parts. Hardwood is the heavyweight champ, shrugging off decay, insects, and rot like it's a walk in the park. It's the go-to for casual backyard gatherings or sophisticated garden parties.

Hardwood Deck: Mangaris/Kayu Batu in Golden Balau

And the aesthetics? They're off the charts. It's like owning a piece of art, with a rich, elegant appearance and grain patterns that age like fine wine. Our favorites in this hardwood category include Ipe, Mangaris/Kayu Batu in Red Balau, or Golden Balau. But, there's a catch - it's the fancy sports car that needs regular care, with sanding and oiling to keep it looking its best.




Hardwood Deck: Ipe
Hardwood Deck: Ipe

On the flip side, softwood is like your friendly neighbor next door. It's easy on the wallet and easy to find at the local lumberyard. We particularly like working with Redwood, as it's one of the densest softwood materials out there. When considering Redwood, you'll come across different grades, each with its own cost, longevity, and appearance. These grades range from clear heartwood, which is the highest quality and often the most costly, to lower grades with some knots but still solid. The choice of grade affects not only the cost but also the overall longevity and appearance of your deck.


Redwood Deck
Redwood Deck

For a quick summary of these materials, check out the helpful spreadsheet below that breaks down the key aspects of composite and wood decking. Deck on!







Composite Decking

Hardwood Decking

Softwood Decking

Examples

(Trex, Timbertech)

(Ipe, Mangaris)

(Redwood, Cedar)

Affordability

  • ​Higher initial cost compared to wood.

  • Budget-friendly composite decking lines are available.

  • May balance out over time due to no maintenance costs.

  • Typically higher cost compared to softwood.

  • Hiring a professional for annual maintenance can lead to accumulating costs over time for homeowners.

  • More budget-friendly than hardwood or composite materials.

  • Hiring a professional for annual maintenance can lead to accumulating costs over time for homeowners.

Maintenance

  • Resists rot, insects, and decay.

  • No regular staining or sealing needed.

  • Easy clean-up using water and soap.

  • Regular maintenance including sanding and oiling is recommended.

  • Requires more maintenance, including sanding and staining using water-based stain and sealer.

Longevity

  • Often comes with extended warranties (20 years or more).

  • Ensures a long-lasting investment.

  • Long-lasting, but may require maintenance to maintain its appearance.

  • Requires more maintenance to prevent decay and insect infestations.

  • Shorter life span than hardwood.

  • Doesn't age as gracefully as hardwood.

Aesthetics

  • Offers a wide range of attractive designs and colors.

  • Can mimic real wood without the upkeep.

  • Offers a rich, elegant appearance with unique grain patterns and colors that age beautifully.

  • Can be stained and painted but generally lacks the natural beauty of hardwood.

Sustainability

  • Many composite options incorporate recycled materials, making them an eco-friendly choice.

  • Varies based on the source; sustainable hardwood options are available.

  • May not be as eco-friendly as composite or hardwood decking if not sourced responsibly.


In the end, the choice between composite and wood decking comes down to your preferences, budget, and willingness to maintain it. Composite decking offers an easy, low-maintenance option with a range of styles. Wood decking, whether hardwood or softwood, brings a natural, timeless feel with varying levels of care and cost. It's your outdoor space, and the decision is all yours. Choose wisely and enjoy your deck!

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