Menu Close

Should I Choose Natural Wood or Composite Materials for My Outdoor Deck?

It’s summertime, and for many homeowners, that means spending time outside on the deck. If you’ve got deck-envy and are considering adding a new outdoor deck (or deck resurfacing for your existing deck), one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is what material you want to use. The choices are seemingly endless, but they generally fall into two categories: Natural wood or composite. So which one should you choose?

Pros and Cons of Natural Wood

Natural wood decks provide a classic look and guaranteed longevity if they are installed right. The price of a wood deck varies greatly depending on which type wood you choose. Pressure treated (PT) lumber is the most affordable, particularly varieties like pine. Tropical hard woods such as ipe and mahogany represent the high end of the natural wood spectrum for outdoor decks.

close up of a new deck material
Cedar is often considered a middle-of-the-road option between these two extremes, at least where price is concerned.

The most obvious downside to a natural wood deck is that they require more upkeep. Natural wood will need to be sealed every few years to keep it from chipping and splintering. Additionally, wooden decks should never be cleaned with a pressure hose, as it can strip the wood. Instead, they should be washed by hand with a soft bristled brush and a mild detergent. Over time, wooden boards can warp, and may require additional treatment.

Pros and Cons of Composite Materials

A composite deck is made from modern materials that contain some combination of plastic material and wood particles. The most important advantage of a composite deck is the lack of required maintenance and upkeep compared to natural wood decks. You’re likely to need to spray or scrub down a composite deck once or twice a year — but other than that there isn’t much work involved.

The fact that they don’t require much maintenance doesn’t mean that composite decks will look new forever. Although the material is strong, it can scratch and fade over time. If your deck will be in direct sunlight for most of the day, or if you have pets that will use your deck, you may want to consider paying a bit extra for UV protected or scratchproof boards.

Starting at about $7 per square foot, a composite deck can be a relatively budget friendly considering how long it can last. Just like with wooden decks, composites can be prone to warping with changes in weather. This is especially true of composite decks made from hollow boards that collect water. For this reason, it’s recommended to have a professional build or resurface your composite deck to ensure the boards are properly spaced.

Finding a Qualified Deck Specialist

If you’re not sure which type of deck makes the most sense for you and your family, consulting a qualified a deck specialist for advice is always a wise decision. Whether you’re building new or resurfacing, an outdoor deck is no small investment — so it’s worth the extra time and effort to find the most qualified and skilled deck specialist out there.