Composite Decking vs. Wooden Decking: Pros and Cons

Composite and wooden decking are both popular options when it comes to new decking. But which one is best for you? We explore the pros and cons of each.
Composite and wooden decking

Jump too

One of the most common decking materials in use today is composite decking.

Composite decking has been around for many years, but it has only recently become a more popular option because of its increased affordability and durability.

Wooden decking, on the other hand, continues to be an attractive option due to its natural beauty. In this article we will discuss some pros and cons that each type of material offers so you can make a better-informed decision about which type is best for your needs.

For context, there are various types of composite and wooden decking available.

The higher end wooden decking such as hardwoods have very different properties than the more common softwood decking. This article compares the mid range standard versions of both wood and composite decking.

See this helpful article for a more in depth look at composite decking

See this article for a breakdown of the common types of wooden decking and their properties.

What is composite decking?

Composite decking is a new and innovative outdoor flooring solution.

It’s engineered to better withstand the damaging effects of weather like bug infestation, sun damage, moisture exposure, rot and warping.

Composite decks are made from recycled plastic that blends with natural wood fibres into an eco-friendly product which provides excellent resistance against these threats as well!

People sometimes use the names composite decking and PVC decking to refer to the same product but they are very different. Here is a helpful breakdown of the differences between composite and PVC decking.

Comparison of wooden and composite decking

Now we will look at the things to consider when buying decking. Composite and wooden decks have some differences which are important to note.

Variety

If you are looking for a certain style there can be no clear winner between wood and composite decking because the styles of both types vary so much.

Composite decking is more likely to be available in a range of different colours and patterns making it a good option if you are looking for something other than the traditional wood look.

The variety available in composite decks is one of the many benefits that this type has over traditional wood decking.

Wooden decks, on the other hand tend to have a much smaller variety of colours and patterns available. That being said, wooden decking can be shaped and also painted in ways which are impossible with composite decks.

Winner: Composite decking, for its wide variety of colours and textures.

Maintenance

Decking is often bought as a low maintenance surface and a place to socialise, relax and enjoy.

There are, however, some maintenance tasks that need to be done periodically which is why it’s important to know what you’re getting into when buying decking materials.

Composite decking requires very little maintenance and is easier to clean because it doesn’t have any grooves and pours like wooden decking.

Composite decks also need less maintenance than wood in the sense that they don’t require regular oil treatments, staining or sanding.

Wooden decking on the other hand can become slippery due to build up algae, dirt and debris in the grooves and pours.

These are all relatively easy to remove, but if you don’t keep up with it, they can be a nuisance.

Wooden decking often requires an annual sanding or staining treatment of some kind as well as regular oil treatments for protection against rainwater penetration which is not required for composite decking.

Winner: Composite decking requires a lot less maintenance

Durability of composite vs wooden decking

Your new decking needs to be able to stand the test of time so its durability really matters.

Composite decking is more durable than the soft wood that you find on composite decking. Composite decking can last for decades without any problems, whereas wooden decks are subject to cracking and splitting as they weather over time.

Of course this will depend on how well you look after your wooden decking but there is good reason that composite decking usually comes with long guarantees and wood doesn’t.

Winner: Composite decking

Life span

Old cracked wooden decking

To clarify what is meant by life span, this is the length of time before it starts looking old, cracking and fading. Decking can be safe for many years after this point but that will depend on how the frame is built.

Wooden decking, when looked after properly can last for upwards of 10 years but weathering will take its toll on the surface.

Composite decking has a longer lifespan span of about 20 years before it starts to look old and damaged, but as long as you don’t scratch the surface with your furniture or pets then this will extend the lifespan considerably.

A point worth noting is that there are two types of composite decking and both have very different life spans. Capped composite decking usually has a lifespan of around 25 years. Uncapped composite decking is sometimes as low as 5 years and can be out performed by wooden decking.

Check out our comparison of capped and uncapped composite decking

Winner: Composite decking (as long as its capped)

Safety

Wooden decking covered in algae, making it slippery

Safety may not be an aspect many consider with decking but it should be, especially if you have anyone unstable on their feet walking on it.

There are two main safety concerns with decking 1) slip resistance, 2) structural soundness.

Most decking will generally be slip resistant however wooden decking can become very slippery.

This means that it will no longer provide any safety against slipping or tripping on a wet surface, to keep its anti-slip properties you will need clean and seal it regularly.

Structural soundness is another important point of consideration when considering your new decking as this ensures the planks will stay fixed in place and nobody’s foot will end up through the boards. This happens when the boards degrade to the point where they lift off the frame or become too weak to support weight.

Weakness of boards seems to be more a feature in wooden decking but this can be mitigated with proper care and purchasing good quality wooden decking boards.

Winner: Composite decking

Cost

It would be easy here to say that wooden decking is cheaper but that would be to oversimplify the answer.

The cost of composite decking is dependent on the type you choose, but generally it will be higher than wood for the initial upfront cost.

Wooden decks tend to have a lower upfront price tag in comparison but over time they require regular maintenance and replacing more often so the answer to the the question “which type of decking is cheaper” really depends on your situation.

Winner: Wooden decking for under 10 years, Composite decking for over 10 years

Environmental impact

Recycling sign made from bottles

The environmental impact of wood vs composite decking is hard to compute which I found surprising as it seems obvious that something made from plastic would be worse for the environment.

There are many environmental benefits to installing composite decking, for example after installation there is no need to seal or stain it annually.

This reduces the toxic chemicals that have an impact on our environment and we can use this type of product without worry.

Some types of composite decking cannot be recycled at the end which might make some customers hesitant when choosing a material but with the longer life span this can still mean replacing your decking far less often than with a wooden option.

Winner: Draw

Which type of decking is best for pets?

One major concern of every dog owner is incorporating composite decking into their house design for the safety of their dogs.

Dogs are generally playful and can ravage any object that comes there way, but luckily, composite decks provide a firm surface against canine paws while letting you have some fun in your own yard too!

Composite also offers many advantages over wood like being resistant to abrasion and scratches as well as resisting heat absorption which makes it perfect for lounging around with our furry friends anytime we want without worrying about ruining the look or feel.

Clean up after those stinky little pups is easier than ever before on this material cause they don’t absorb doggy odours either leaving them smelling clean just like new at all times

Winner: Composite decking, generally more resistant and safer for pets

Replacing boards

Occasionally decking boards get damaged when things are dropped on them or they are not looked after. If this happens you will need to replace them.

One of the issues that we have experienced with composite decking is actually caused by its huge variety.

Because of the number of different types and variations between batches of composite decking, it is sometimes almost impossible to find a replacement.

Wooden decks will not suffer from the same issue because they are only made of one type of material and so replacements should be easier to come by.

Winner: Wooden decking

Conclusion

The type of decking you go for should depend on your situation, personality and taste but generally speaking composite decking takes the crown as the best type of decking.

This article compared composite and wooden decking and found that composite decking is best for durability, ease of maintenance, lifespan and variety where as wooden decked was cheaper and easier to replace.

We hope by now we’ve given you plenty to think about in terms of what kind of material is right for you. If there’s anything else we can help with don’t hesitate to get in touch!

As Amazon associates we earn from qualifying purchases