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What Is Composite Decking

And the next question is composite decks vs wood decks

When you are planning your dream deck, one of the most important decisions you will have to make is the choice of decking boards. Two of the most common options are wood (timber) and wood-plastic composites. This article will highlight the aspects to consider when comparing timber versus composite decking, whether you want to work yourself or employ a contractor. 

Timber decking vs Composite decking material

Timber decking boards are solid and traditional and can easily be the best choice. There is a wide selection of rich, vibrant wood species to choose from. Natural wood has a beautiful appearance, but each type of wood has its unique problems. Whichever wood you choose, it will deteriorate over time. See our article on which timber decking to choose.

That’s why people are increasingly switching to wood-plastic composite decking made from recycled wood powder and high-density polyethylene. Composite decking boards offer the same beautiful look like real wood while extending the life of the entire deck. 

In the end, you are the one to choose the material for your deck’s surface.

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Wood vs. Composite decking – The Pros and Cons

Both have unique advantages and disadvantages, and you must decide which choice is better for you depending on your budget, specifications, and overall preferences. If you’re not sure what actually the difference between composite and wood decking is, there are a few factors you can keep in your head when searching for the perfect material for your dream deck.

1. Appearance

Differences in look and feel

When choosing a decking material, one of the biggest fears is that composites won’t look as nice as wood. However, recent advancements in composites manufacturing have allowed them to approximate the natural beauty of wood. So while composite decking boards looked artificial, they have advanced to the point where they can replicate the wood grain, making them more similar to natural wood.

2. Maintenance 

When comparing a composite deck to a timber deck, consider the maintenance and upkeep required for each material.
A deck is an investment, and as the focal point of your yard, you want to ensure it lasts as long as possible.

In addition to ongoing maintenance, the following upkeep is required for timber decking.

  • Sanding: Every 2 to 5 years, sanding is required. Experts recommend sanding your deck after pressure washing it, before staining and sealing it, and removing any elevated fibres or materials that could create splinters regularly.
  • Sealing: It requires sealing every 2 to 5 years. A wood deck’s sealing is necessary to protect the surface from environmental elements such as heat, rain, snow etc.
  • Staining: It is required every 2 to 5 years. Staining waterproofs the deck and protects the colour and wood from warping and damage caused by weather and other environmental factors. The total amount of time depends on the size of your deck.
  • Painting: It is required every 2 to 5 years. Repainting is necessary to keep your deck looking new and protect the paint from wear and tear.
  • Cleaning: It’s recommended every six months. Sweeping and washing your deck carefully.

Although you should also clean and inspect your composite deck regularly, this wood alternative is a hassle-free way to build a beautiful deck with minimal maintenance.
Unlike timber, composite decking boards don’t require as much expensive and time-consuming maintenance to keep your deck’s structure stable and maintain its beautiful appearance for years to come.
Read more about deck restoration here.

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3. Moisture

A major problem with timber decking is that the boards absorb water readily. Without regular staining, sealing or painting, wood decking boards are prone to warping, splintering, cracking and rotting. In contrast, composite decking boards are moisture-resistant down to the core, so they can be installed in high humidity without rotting.

4. Durability 

When choosing a material for your deck, pay attention to how long it will last and which material can best withstand general wear and tear and harsh weather conditions. While wood decks look fantastic, over time, wood can warp due to weathering, form dangerous, unsightly splinters, rot and erode due to weathering.

Other elements that can reduce the life of wood decking include:

  • scratching
  • chipping
  • stains
  • fading/UV resistance

Composite decking boards are less susceptible to these environmental issues. With proper care, your composite decking can last up to 20 years, while the life expectancy of a timber deck is between 10 and 15 years.

5. Safety

Over time, all wood decking ages and eventually splinters, a potential safety issue. This can be an important factor for people with small children, pets, or, depending on how the deck is used, those who plan to use the deck primarily barefoot.

6. Surface temperature

One advantage of wood decking is that it is much more heat resistant than composites. While composites can get hot in direct sunlight, wood stays relatively cool.

However, new advances in manufacturing and technology have made it possible to reduce the heat absorption of composite decking boards and improve UV stabilization. If you live in a place where summer temperatures are high, this is an important factor to consider.

7. Cost difference

There is a difference between the wood and composite decking cost. Composite decking boards cost about $22 to $165 per square foot, including installation costs. Wood decking boards are just below that, at $80 to AUD 90 per square meter. While wood decking boards cost less to purchase, the cost adds up when you factor in the associated maintenance.

For example, it is recommended to stain a wood deck every two to five years—the cost of staining a deck averages AUD 35 per square meter.
Composite decking may be more expensive up front, but you will save in the long run by avoiding costly repairs and the time and expense associated with maintaining a wood deck.

*****Please note that pricing and material availability is constantly changing!

7. Workability

Both wood and composites are easy to cut and fasten with common tools that most homeowners own.
However, one area where composites come out ahead is that they can be more easily bent (by heating) to form curved decking pieces.

8. Environmentally friendly choice

There is varying information about whether composite or timber decking is better for the environment?

Wood is a renewable resource. In Australia, natural wood is sourced from plantations or newly growing forests. Trees naturally take in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their wood. The CO2 remains sequestered in the wood even when harvested and processed into wood products such as decking boards. As a result, the manufacturing process (harvesting, milling and transporting) is more energy-efficient than composite wood manufacturing.

Composite decking comprises plastics and wood fibres from waste products (such as sawdust). Manufacturers of composite decking claim that their product is more environmentally friendly than wood for two reasons.

1. the need for new wood decreases, so less wood needs to be cut.
2. composite products are made of 95 per cent recycled wood and plastic. 

9. Pest infestation

Unlike most timber decking, composite decking is not susceptible to damage from termites and other wood-destroying insects.

Make Your Decking Choice

Which deck material you want depends entirely on your preferences and budget. If you love the look of natural wood and don’t mind spending more time and money on maintenance, a traditional timber deck may be a good choice. Whereas if it does not fit your taste, install a composite deck.

Have you decided which one to get?
Contact Local Deck Builders for more information. Local Deck Builders are skilled builders in Brisbane who love to build decks. 

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