Deck Materials: Pros and Cons of Wood vs. Composite Decking

One of the first questions your professional handyman will ask as part of the deck-designing process is: What type of material do you want to use? Your first thought might be wood, but composite lumber also has its benefits. Never heard of composite lumber? Let's take a look at the pros and cons of both decking materials to help you choose what will work best for your particular deck design.

Cedar and pressure-treated woods are your options in this area. Cedar, with its deep red, looks the most natural and proves rot resistant. It also doesn't absorb moisture. The same holds true for pressure-treated woods, but they come in a wide range of grades. If you do opt for pressure-treated wood, choose from the higher grades, which often are kiln-dried before and after being pressure treated.

Composite Lumber
This material most often features a composite of recycled plastic and bamboo fibers, wood chips or sawdust. It also resists rotting and warping due to moisture. AZEK, CaliBamboo, DuraLife, EverGrain, Fiberon, Guardeck, Latitudes, TimberTech and Trex are among the more popular manufacturers.

Pressure-treated wood costs the least, with cedar just above it, with how much above it depending on the grade of pressure-treated wood purchased. Composite lumber costs the most, and many consider it well worth the investment.

Cedar requires pressure washing and resealing every one to two years, but no matter how well you maintain cedar, it will fade. It also requires somewhat delicate use, as cedar is a soft wood that gets easily dinged. Pressure-treated wood, on the other hand, cleans easily and holds up well to abuse. Again, opt for the higher-grade pressure-treated woods for the best results. Composite decking requires the least amount of maintenance, as it can be cleaned with a regular hose and sprayer. You can even stain composite decking if you desire. Consider deck repair services if your wood decking becomes damaged.

A cedar deck will last 15 to 20 years, with decks built close to the ground or in the shade coming in at the bottom of that range. Certain pressure-treated decking products come with a limited lifetime warranty, and composite lumber decking products typically offer a limited 20-year warranty. EverGrain, for example, comes with a 20-year warranty against rotting, splitting, splintering and termite damage.

When choosing a decking material, keep in mind the climate in your area of the country, how much maintenance you will have time and resources for, and the desired look. Your professional handyman will offer an opinion in each of these areas and help you make the right decision. He also can help with upkeep from year to year, from pressure washing to staining to repair if necessary.

One final thought: If you strive to use only eco-friendly products in your life, a composite lumber will best suit your style. For example, the previously mentioned CaliBamboo uses 30 percent recycled bamboo fibers and 70 percent recycled plastics in its product. It holds certification from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a voluntary rating system for green building performance in the U.S., Canada and other countries around the world.

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