Whether you're proudly admiring the fruit of your labor or enjoying the backyard with friends, chances are we'll find you on your deck. But coming out of hibernation tends to remind us that our once prized centerpiece has become a warped version of itself. If you're planning on redoing your deck this year, I know what's on your mind: wood or composite?
Wood is best for some people and composite is the best choice for others. Knowing their pros and cons will help you make the right decision specifically for you.
One issue that is far more significant than others is the actual location of the deck. Yes, it is attached to the house, and probably in the back yard, but is it in the full sun? Shade? Mix of both? This matters for a few reasons. Decks in the full sun are exposed to a lot of heat and can be uncomfortable when barefoot, as well as prone to warping or fading because of that heat. While decks in the shade can be prone to the development of mold, stains, and require more than one annual cleaning.
The severity of any of those issues actually varies by material. Composites, made from recycled sawdust and recycled plastic are amazingly resistant to staining, warping, and rotting. But darker colored composites may not be ideal in full sun scenarios where they can become too hot for barefoot walking or begin to fade from the rich color you specifically chose.
Wooden decking is usually cedar, pine, or redwood. Most are pressure treated to resist rot, but can warp, stain, or splinter. When left a lighter color, they don't absorb much solar heat, but the darker the color of a wood deck, the more heat it can gather.
All decks, whether wood or composite deserve at least one good annual cleaning. In addition to spring cleaning, wood decks will need to be properly prepped and re-stained every 2 – 3 years, maintenance that is typically the driving deterrent for composite owners. This might not a major issue if the deck is a reasonable size, but it can become a huge hassle if it is a large deck with substantial furnishings, planters and other décor.
Also consider that wood decks require an annual application of a finish of some sort if you want to eliminate risk of fading. Though many types of decking are fine if left alone, it is important to consider if the material you are considering has that higher maintenance requirement.
This is a big one and you may not be all that surprised to learn that composite decking is typically a far pricier initial investment than wooden decking. This has to do with the materials themselves in addition to the added structural support that composites require.
While wood is easier and less expensive to install initially, the ongoing maintenance over the long run adds up to make the overall pricing pretty comparable. It may be worth considering how long you plan to stay at the house. If you see yourself moving in a few years, the wooden decking will undoubtedly save you money. However, if you're living in your forever home, composite will not only save maintenance costs but its durability will prevent needing to be replaced down the road.
Carpenter bees are destructive pests that cannot only ruin a little relaxation with a sting, but can drill 1/4" holes into your beautiful wooden deck. Although pressure treated wood is protected against insects that eat wood, these pests aren't deterred from drilling into wood to create their nests.
If carpenter bees are a concern, you'll find peace knowing that the tough and finished composite decking is impenetrable for these and other pests that rely on wood for nesting and eating.
This is the most subjective of all factors, a tomato-tomahto sort of thing. Do you prefer the look of natural wood to something that has a more obviously "finished" appearance? Does the very idea of a blend of wood and plastic make you shudder or does it appeal to your low-maintenance and "greener" side? We can't give you the answers, but do consider how you feel about the choices because, at the end of the day, if you don't like the look of composite, it's not the right choice for you.