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Are All Composite Decking Materials the Same? How Do I Choose?

takusporch5Homeowners used to ask outdoor deck specialists what type of wood they would recommend. The answers would usually be the same—and for good reason. While virtually any type of wood can be pressure-treated and used for outdoor decking, there have always been a few outstanding woods—Cedar and Redwood, for example—that naturally stand up to weather and insects.

The homeowner’s decision would depend on the look and feel they’re hoping to achieve. It would also depend on budget concerns, and the availability of the wood. In certain areas of the country, a specific lumber like Redwood might not be available due to a shortage, or local suppliers being temporarily out of stock. Perhaps the wood that is available is not milled correctly for your project.

All of these questions and scenarios still come into play; but these days, homeowners are asking a whole new set of questions.

First thing you should know: What is composite decking?

In addition to natural wood for outdoor decks (which is still a very popular material), there is now a whole range of modern composite materials which look and often feel like natural wood—but are actually a “composite” of wood, wood byproducts, and synthetic plastic materials.

Second thing you should know: Why would anybody want that?

Natural wood is beautiful, versatile and plentiful. Why would anybody pass on a perfectly good natural resource, opting instead for a composite material that is effectively part wood, part synthetic?

As it turns out, composite decking material looks and feels surprisingly like natural wood. Especially when it’s professionally installed and treated. But that’s not the only reason why so many outdoor deck specialists, homeowners, designers and building planners are going for composite decking materials.

The other reason is lifespan and maintenance. The synthetic aspect of the material can drastically lengthen the lifespan of an outdoor deck, while lowering its maintenance requirements significantly.

Third thing you should know: How do I find a good quality composite decking material?

Although natural wood has been a mainstay of outdoor decking for generations, it’s always been true that wood comes in different qualities. The same is true for composite decking products. Trusted brands include Trex and Fiberon, and there are others. In general, it’s a good idea to talk to an outdoor deck builder (or two, or three) in your area and find out what type of composite decking they would recommend. If the pros use it, and the brand’s reputation is backed by many positive reviews and testimonials, you can be reasonably sure you’ve found a material that will work well for your outdoor deck.

Of course, the story doesn’t end there. Once you choose a material, there’s the whole question of finalizing the design and layout of your deck, and either seeking local permission to build the deck yourself or hiring a professional to install your deck for you. In either case, the goal is to achieve a final result that is professional, totally safe, and aesthetically pleasing.

Best of luck in your decking projects! Feel free to leave comments right here.