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Composite Deck or Wood Deck: Weighing Your Options for the Perfect Outdoor Oasis

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Composite Deck or Wood Deck: Weighing Your Options for the Perfect Outdoor Oasis

February 9, 2024 Eliad Cohen Comments Off

Whether you’re embarking on a new deck construction or considering replacing old, worn boards, the decking market offers a plethora of options, with wood and composite standing out as the primary contenders. In this article, we’ll navigate through the maze of choices, exploring various types of wood decking, from pressure-treated wood to exotic species like Ipe and Cumaru, and delve into the world of composite decking, including PVC, Wood Plastic Composite (WPC), and the newest player, Mineral-Based Composite (MBC). Our journey will cover essential considerations, such as cost, design options, and maintenance, to help you make an informed decision that aligns with your preferences and lifestyle.

Types of Wood Decking

Wood decking exudes natural beauty and often comes with a more budget-friendly price tag than its composite counterpart. However, the type of wood you choose can significantly impact its appearance, durability, and maintenance requirements.

Pressure Treated Wood

  • Treated with chemicals under pressure for rot and insect resistance.
  • Available in various tones, with a characteristic green tint from copper treatments.
  • Requires careful handling, with respirators recommended during sanding or cutting.
  • Regular maintenance includes treating cut ends with an exterior sealer and ensuring thorough drying before applying stains or finishes.

Cedar Wood

  • Naturally resistant to rot and insects.
  • Features a bright tone and is easily stainable.
  • Long-lasting and easy to work with, making it a popular choice for decking.

Exotic Wood: Ipe, Cumaru

  • High-end look with natural resistance to rot and insects.
  • Labor-intensive installation due to the dense and heavy nature of the boards.
  • Available with or without grooved edges for hidden fasteners.

Composite Decking Options

Composite decking has gained popularity for its low maintenance and durability. Here, we’ll explore different types of composite decking, including PVC, Wood Plastic Composite (WPC), and the newer entrant, Mineral-Based Composite (MBC).

PVC Decking

  • All-plastic decking with a lightweight, porous core capped like other composites.
  • Resistant to rot, mold, and swelling, with a 20-plus-year warranty against staining and fading.
  • Can be bent for curved designs but may stain with exposure to certain rubber products.
  • Higher cost compared to other options, ranging from $4.40 to $7.50 per linear foot.

Wood Plastic Composite Decking

  • Made with up to 95 percent recycled plastic encapsulating wood fibers.
  • Strong and low-maintenance, resistant to cracking and splintering.
  • Heavier than wood, with some variations requiring shorter joist spans.
  • Price ranges from $2.90 to $6 per linear foot.

Mineral-Based Composite

  • Lightweight like PVC but twice as strong, with a 25-year stain and fade warranty.
  • Highly resistant to moisture, minimal temperature-induced shrinking or swelling.
  • More rigid than WPC and PVC, suitable for longer joist spans.
  • Priced comparably to WPC, ranging from $4 to $6 per linear foot.

Capped Vs. Uncapped Decking

Modern decking often features a hard plastic cap for enhanced protection against UV rays, weathering, scratches, and dents. While capped decking offers color variations and textured wood grain, uncapped decking has its own advantages, being more budget-friendly and uniform throughout.

Cost Considerations

Decking costs can vary significantly based on the type of material chosen. For a typical deck (16 x 20 ft.) covering about 350 sq. ft., material costs alone can range from $450 to $2,700. It’s crucial to consider not only the initial investment but also the long-term maintenance expenses associated with each type of decking material.

Design Options

Modern decking allows homeowners to achieve a wide range of looks, considering factors such as grain pattern, color, and temperature resistance.

Deck Grain Pattern

  • Natural wood boasts a unique grain pattern for each board.
  • Composite decking mimics real wood but with a repeating grain pattern.
  • Deeper grain patterns can enhance grip, important for slippery conditions.

Color

  • Composite decking offers a spectrum of wood tones and stained wood options.
  • Some higher-end composites replicate the natural colors of wood through realistic color streaking.
  • Consider the heat retention of darker-colored decks if your deck gets full sun.

Temperature

  • Composite decking can become hot in direct sunlight.
  • Lighter-colored deck boards or specialized heat-resistant options can mitigate heat retention.

Common Deck Profiles

The profile and cross-section of deck boards may seem insignificant, but they impact the construction and aesthetics of your deck.

Square Edge

  • Conceals cut ends or serves as a pattern board.
  • Fasteners are typically driven through the face of the boards, but some systems allow hidden fastening.

Grooved Edge

  • Used in the middle of the deck where the edge isn’t visible.
  • Accommodates hidden fasteners for a cleaner look.

Scalloped Bottom

  • Lighter-weight and less expensive due to scalloped undersides.
  • Face-screwing scalloped boards may pose challenges.

Non-Standard Board Width

  • Wide boards offer a different aesthetic and open up design possibilities.
  • Different widths, from three inches to almost 12 inches, cater to various design preferences.

Follow Fastener Recommendations and Matching Skirt Boards

Regardless of the decking material chosen, following the manufacturer’s fastening instructions is crucial for maintaining warranty integrity. Additionally, many manufacturers offer a 1/2-inch-thick version of decking for use as skirt boards and stair risers, providing a cohesive look.

Conclusion

In the ongoing debate between composite and wood decks, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Your choice will depend on a combination of factors, including budget, aesthetics, maintenance preferences, and intended use. 

Whether you opt for the timeless allure of wood or the low-maintenance benefits of composite, ensuring a well-designed and well-constructed deck will enhance your outdoor living experience for years to come. Evaluate the pros and cons of each material, weigh your priorities, and embark on the journey to create the perfect outdoor oasis that suits your unique style and needs.