-Defining Factors of Composite & Wood Deck
-Composite Cost & Maintenance
-Wood Cost & Maintenance
Which is Better?
The real questions to ask is “is one better than the other?” We hope to provide enough informative details about each product so that you can make an educated decision as to which is better for you. Both composite and wood deck have their pros and cons. If comparing, you should make sure you compare apples to apples. Wood and composite are each available in low, mid, and high-end quality. As with most products, the durability and lifespan is reflective of the quality you choose. If considering composite decking, are the boards hallow or solid? Similarly, when analyzing the value of a wooden deck, is the pressure treated white pine or mahogany?
What is composite decking exactly? When professionals mention a blend of materials, they are referring to polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, and wood particles. The composite boards are designed to mimic wooden boards and even take on some similar characteristics of movement after installed. Hallow composite boards may shift around, but will not shrink and expand the way solid boards do. However, the solid boards are more durable for weight and withstanding precipitation.
If you are reading this article, you probably already know that composite is more expensive than a wood deck. The price can range based on the quality selected, as well as the features. Composite offers options for UV resistant and scratch resistant products. As a minimum, expect the cost to start at $6-$10 per square foot. When price comparing installation by a professional company, you can anticipate spending $25+ per square foot. The range varies depending on the specific design, grade of material, and difficulty of your decking structure.
If you are thinking composite decking is maintenance free, you are mistaken. This is a common misconception. While composite requires less maintenance than wood, it is still susceptible to damage from mold, sun discoloration, and even warping much like wood. Painting your composite is out of the question. To clean stains, we recommend regular power washing, scrubbing with brushes and the use of composite specific cleaning solutions. Overall, the maintenance is much more affordable and much less labor-intensive than what wood decking demands.
Many people enjoy the natural appeal of a wood deck. Traditional wooden decks, when professionally installed and regularly maintained, can withstand over 15 years of nature’s elements and daily use. When designing your wooden deck, the quality of wood you choose will determine the lifespan. Exotic wood lasts longer and has a richer appearance. It’s also less susceptible to cracking and splitting over time.
The price of lumber is more expensive than you think. Even when considering the basic white pine, you can expect to spend $3-4 per square foot for new boards, depending on length and width of deck boards. Building a new deck is a sizeable investment. A 200 SFT rectangular deck with railings and a few steps can cost $10-$15,000. Mid and high grade wood like cedar and ipe respectively are even more expensive. Like anything else, quality and durability come with a higher price. Even so, when comparing wood to the cost of composite, wood is a substantially more economical alternative.
There are many challenges to face with wooden decks that require constant maintenance. Unless you opt for the premium exotic wood, average decks require sealing, sanding, and staining to restore and preserve the boards. Sun and water exposure threaten the integrity of the wood over time. Boards can splinter, bow, rot and crack causing an unattractive deck. With proper care, you can avoid these issues in a preventative manner.
You should always cover the wood with a protective stain. Bare wood cracks and ages a lot faster without a coating to protect against water and sun damage. Check the warranty on the stain product you use and make sure to sand and reapply when necessary. If you notice cracks in the boards, there are Apoxy Polymer sealants that can repair fractures in the wood. Avoid power washing. This may seem like an easy way to clean your deck and strip old stain, but it could actually cause more harm than good. Abrasive pressure washing can push dirt particles and moisture further into the wood. If you have to remove an aging coat of paint or stain, the best practice is to sand it off. This also exposes a fresh layer of wood surface that will allow the new stain to penetrate the pours.
If your deck is severely aged and in need of restoration, we recommend having a specialized company take on the project to ensure the repairs are executed professionally. Be prepared to invest in the upkeep of your wooden deck over the course of its lifespan. Would you like to know the cost to restore a deck?
Click here to read DIY Deck Repair vs Hiring a Professional.