Composite Decking VS Wood Decking
Composite wood decking was developed during the late 1980s and is comprised of wood fibres that are encased in plastic so is sometimes also referred to as “composite wood decking”. It has many advantages over traditional wood decking and this high-performance product soon became a popular product available at home and garden stores.
Whilst traditional wooden decking remains the choice for some due to its availability and seemingly cheap pricing in the long term it can often cause more problems. Issues such as splinters, rot and comparatively high maintenance can often lead buyers to wish they had chosen composite decking in the first place. Composite decking is much easier to maintain and due to advances in the manufacturing process now more accurately than ever rival the natural, rich look of wood without many of the problems that plague wood.
Modern composite decking is available where each panel has its own slight variations in colour and texture almost perfectly replicating that real wood effect. A randomised embossed grain ensures that no two boards are exactly alike.
One of the primary issues with traditional wood decking is the ease with which it absorbs water. To combat this one must regularly apply stains, sealers or paints. This can also lead to traditional boards warping. As these boards age, they become susceptible to issues such as splintering, cracking and rotting. Composite decking, on the other hand, does not suffer from these issues and high-performance composite decking such as those available from Trex are fully moisture-resistant allowing them to be used in very high moisture conditions without the fear of decay. Trex offers fade and stain warranty on their high-performance products.
Whilst wood decking owners perform regular maintenance to extend its lifespan in the face of water, composite decking owners only need to sweep and wash their boards to keep them looking in top condition.
Over time, all wood decking will eventually start to splinter. This is not true of composite decking which is made with small wood fibres that are encased in plastic. This offers benefits when walking barefoot and is safer for pets and children whose feet can be more sensitive. Modern composite decking has also been designed with temperature in mind. Timber has traditionally held an advantage over composite decking when it comes to heat absorption but modern materials have significantly decreased this advantage.
One area where composite decking does not seem to be able to compete with traditional wooden decking is cost. A quick look at the initial purchase cost shows that wood decking is significantly cheaper than composite decking. This is more true of softwood than hardwood and also as composite decking is not a structural material it means that joist will need to be placed closer together to support the decking and prevent sagging and breaking. When all of these factors have been taken into account the additional requirements the initial cost of composite decking can be around double the cost of a traditional wood-based deck.
However, this is not the whole picture. When looking at the total cost of wooden decking vs composite decking we need to take into account both the upkeep cost and the expected lifespan of the project. It is commonly accepted that only a few years into owning decking the cost of maintaining traditional wooden decking will significantly erode those initial cost benefits. By the end of the deckings life if you look at the total cost you will see that the composite decking has worked out cheaper than its traditional counterpart.
Modern composite decking has a lifespan of over 25 years. However, it cannot be sanded down and it is more difficult to repair superficial issues such as scratches as you cannot simply sand it down and re-stain it. It is cheaper and easier to repair a timber board and if maintained properly a hardwood timber deck can last a lifetime.
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