The Pros and Cons of Composite Decking

Adding a deck to your home’s outside area can be an excellent way to use your outdoor space. However, deciding which type of decking to install can be challenging with the wide range of materials and products available.

Out of the numerous options like wood, lumber, and plastic, composite decking is a popular choice for homeowners due to its low-maintenance requirements, durability, and fade-resistant nature. It is manufactured using a blend of waste wood fibers and plastic, resulting in a material that offers the best of both worlds.

If you have been considering installing composite deck boards but are still unsure, keep reading this article and learn more about their pros and cons to help you decide if it’s the right choice for your home.

Pros:

The three pros of this type of decking are:

1. Low-Maintenance and Durable

Composite decking is incredibly low-maintenance, requiring minimal effort to keep it looking its best. Unlike wood or lumber decking, which needs to be stained, painted, or sealed regularly, you can simply sweep or hose off to remove debris.

Another advantage is its high durability. Composite deck boards can withstand various weather conditions, including harsh winters and hot summers. Since it contains a combination of wood fibers and plastic, the composite material is resistant to rot, mold, mildew, warping, and splintering, meaning the decking will last many years without needing replacement.

2. Fade and Stain Resistant

Composite deck boards are fade-resistant, unlike wood decking, which can lose its color over time due to exposure to sunlight. Capped composite decking usually has a protective plastic layer that ensures the material keeps its color, meaning your deck will retain its vibrant appearance for many years.

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Modern composite deck boards have a PVC coating that makes them non-porous and resistant to stains. It makes cleaning up spills much more effortless and prevents the accumulation of dirt and grime without harsh chemicals or power washers. Simply wipe spills with a damp cloth, mild soap, and water solution.

3. Environment Friendly

Many manufacturers make composite decking products from a significant amount of recycled materials, like wood fibers, plastic waste, and even post-consumer recycled materials. Using recycled materials helps reduce the demand for virgin wood and plastic, conserves natural resources, and minimizes the environmental impact of manufacturing.

Additionally, the manufacturing process of the composite material generally utilizes less energy than wood decking production, contributing to a lower carbon footprint. Some brands also source their wood fibers from responsibly managed forests, ensuring they harvest timber sustainably and minimize environmental damage.

Cons:

The three cons of composite decking are:

1. Heat Retention

Plastic generally has a higher thermal conductivity than wood, meaning it absorbs and transfers heat more efficiently. Since composite deck boards’ composition consists of a mixture of plastic and wood, they can retain more heat than wood decking, particularly in direct sunlight. This can make the surface feel hotter during hot summer days. Choosing lighter-colored composite boards can help mitigate this issue.

2. Susceptibility to Scratches

Even though composite decking is highly durable, the plastic component of the deck boards is much softer than wood, making it more susceptible to scratches from pet claws or heavy furniture. Some products also have a protective surface layer that can be easily scraped away, revealing the underlying material and making it more susceptible to further damage. Regular sweeping or using protective mats can help prevent this issue.

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3. Higher Upfront Costs

Composite decking is generally more expensive than traditional wood decking, mainly due to the higher production costs, and you should expect to pay almost 10% to 15% more for composite deck boards up front. However, the long-term savings on maintenance and replacement make it a worthwhile investment for many homeowners. 

Endnote

Composites are a popular decking material choice for many homeowners. Composite deck boards offer excellent resistance to staining and fading and are low-maintenance and highly durable. However, the softer plastic material in the composition makes composite deck boards easier to scratch, and plastic’s greater thermal conductivity increases the decking’s temperature significantly during summer. They also cost more than traditional wooden deck boards. If you want to install composite decking in your home’s outdoor space, it’s essential that you carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages before making your choice.