Wood Decking vs Composite Decking: Which is Best?

a composite deck on the exterior of a property underneath a wood deck veranda

Wood decking has been around for decades. It’s long since been a popular choice to install outside a property to boost aesthetics and create an outdoor seating area in the yard. Wood decks can be used at the front of properties (to host a porch), at the side, or at the rear of the property for private use in the backyard.

Composite decking is a more modern solution to decking. Like wood decks, they can be used anywhere outside a property to create a pleasant entertainment area. However, there are some key differences between wood decking vs composite decking. Such differences are important to consider before deciding which is best to install on your property.

Keep reading to learn the pros and cons of wood decking vs composite decking to learn which is best for your home.

Benefits of Composite Decks

a person installing and drilling into a composite deck

1. Less Maintenance

One of the major benefits of composite decking is the lack of maintenance that it needs. Wood decking requires frequent treatments to prevent rot, decay, and fading of the exterior. According to Seal Smart, the average wood deck should be re-treated at least every three years.

The opposite is true of composite decking. Once installed, a composite deck doesn’t require any additional treatments to protect the surface. Because composite is a plastic-type material, it can withstand all weather without compromising structural integrity.

The only maintenance required for a composite deck is normal cleaning. This can be done via a soft brush and soapy water. It’s not recommended to pressure wash a composite deck. This can etch the surface and negatively impact how long it lasts.

2. Greater Durability

Because composite decks are made from a blend of plastics, additives, and wood, it is more durable and long-lasting than traditional wood decking. According to Bob Vila, composite decks can last up to three times longer than wood decks.

The average wooden deck lasts between 10 to 20 years (with good care and maintenance). While the average composite deck lasts between 25 to 30 years. Depending on how well it’s maintained, a composite deck can last up to 50 years, sometimes longer.

3. Good Value For Money

Composite decking generally costs more than wood decking, around $5 to $25 more per square foot. According to Decks.com, the average cost of composite decking is between $30 to $60 per square foot. While a wood deck costs around $23 to $42 per square foot, on average. The exact prices vary depending on the style, color, and finish applied to the decking.

However, despite needing to spend more upfront on composite decking, it can be a more cost-effective solution long term. Because less money is needed to maintain a composite deck, and it lasts significantly longer, maintenance and replacement costs are lower long term. Therefore, choosing a composite deck vs wooden deck can save money in the long run.

Disadvantages of Composite Decks

a raised composite deck

1. Higher Upfront Cost

A disadvantage of composite decking vs wood decking is that it requires a higher upfront cost. Because the cost per square foot is higher for composite vs wood, it is more expensive in the short term. As stated earlier, wood decking can be between $5 to $25 cheaper compared with composite decking.

However, it’s important to remember that composite decking lasts longer and requires less maintenance. So, despite the higher upfront costs, the long-term costs are lower for composite decking.

Benefits of Wood Decks

a person painting a wood deck

1. Lower Upfront Cost

Because wood decking is cheaper than composite decking, the upfront cost is lower. Most wood decking can be picked up between $23 to $42 per square foot, which is between 20% to 30% lower than the cost of composite decks.

The lower upfront costs mean that wood decks are better for when you’re flipping a property and need a cheaper solution for the short term. It can also be beneficial for rental properties when you only plan on keeping the property for a couple of years. This is because the maintenance is skipped and the long-term gains of composite decking are not realized.

2. Offers an Authentic Look

Another benefit of wood decking is the natural appearance it offers. Being made of wood (with clear grains, knots, and figures), it has a rustic look and feel that complements a natural garden aesthetic.

Many homeowners choose a wood deck due to its authenticity and aesthetics. Some people think wood looks a lot better and they believe the higher maintenance costs are worth it due to the aesthetics that it offers.

Disadvantages of Wood Decks

a close up of square panels of wood decking

1. Less Durable

On the flip side, a disadvantage of wood decks is that they don’t hold up to exposure to the elements or the same wear and tear compared with composite decking. While it can be sealed and treated regularly to protect it, puddles left on the surface for prolonged periods can cause the wood to rot. The deck can also be prone to scapes and chips from moving garden furniture around or animals on the surface (like dogs, cats, and raccoons).

However, there are ways to enhance a wood deck’s durability. You can use treated lumber or opt for a weather-resistant wood that holds up a lot better against harsh elements. Cedar is an example of this kind of wood. But, it will still not hold up for as long as a composite deck will, since the surface is made of a more robust plastic material.

2. Higher Maintenance Requirements

Another downside to wood decking compared with composite decking is the maintenance it needs. Wood decking needs resealing and retreating regularly to protect the surface from insects and water damage.

Pools of water should be swept off the surface as quickly as possible. The surface should also be kept clear of plant pots with drainage holes, as these can rot the deck beneath. Failing to keep up with routine treatments will lead the deck to rot from moisture damage and insect infestations (which will eat through the wood, making it unsightly and unstructured).

Summary: Wood Decking vs Composite Decking

Overall, there are advantages and disadvantages of wood decking vs composite decking. Which one works best for your property depends on your budget, preferred aesthetics, and maintenance requirements. Wood decking is generally best for when you’re flipping a property (read our guide on how to flip a house) or keeping a rental property short-term due to the nominal upfront investment required.

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