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Wood Vs. Composite Decking - The Pros & Cons
Many homeowners choose wood decking because it is familiar, readily available and affordable. At the same time, wood decking problems like splinters, rot and high maintenance cause many headaches. Although composite wood decking is easier to maintain, some homeowners worry that composites won’t look as nice as wood. However, manufacturing advances have led to composites that emulate the rich, natural look of wood without the hassles of maintaining a wood deck.
When evaluating wood vs. composite decking, here are key issues to consider:
While early-generation composite decking tended to look artificial and plastic-y, some modern composites are available with a variegated appearance, and randomized embossed grain pattern so no two boards are alike. The result is composites that more closely resemble wood deck boards, like MoistureShield’s Vision decking line.
A key wood decking problem is that boards readily absorb water. Without the regular application of stains, sealers or paint, wood decking is susceptible to warping, splintering, cracking and rotting. In contrast, composite decking brands like MoistureShield and ChoiceDek are fully moisture-resistant to the core, which allows them to be installed in high moisture conditions without decaying.
To extend the life of a wood deck, homeowners must regularly paint, stain or seal the decking to defend against moisture. Composites, on the other hand, only require sweeping or washing to keep the boards looking good.
Unlike most wood decking, composite decking is not prone to damage from termites and other wood-destroying insects.
While all-wood decking will eventually splinter, composite decking is made with small wood fibers encased in plastic, so it won’t splinter. This is especially important for walking on the deck barefoot, and for children and pets, whose feet are sensitive.
Among wood decking’s pros and cons, affordability is a decided benefit. Typically, wood decking is lower cost to purchase than composites, especially in the initial purchase. However, although the initial cost of wood is less, composite usually ends up paying for itself within 2-3 years when including the cost of annual maintenance. The price differential also depends on the wood species chosen versus the brand of composite decking, and local market conditions.
Easy to use online tools can also help you estimate the costs whether you use wood or composite wood decking.
Both wood and composites are easy to cut and fasten using common tools most homeowners have. One area where composites come out ahead is they can more easily be bent (by heating them) to form curved deck sections.
Wood decking has historically had an advantage over composites when it comes to summer weather, as composites can become uncomfortably hot in direct sun, give their density. However, new manufacturing capabilities, like CoolDeck® technology from MoistureShield, reduce heat absorption up to 35% compared to conventional capped composites in similar colors, so your deck stays more comfortable on hot days. Did you know feet can begin to blister at temperatures as low as 109 degrees Fahrenheit? Showing that 35% difference can be crucial, especially in the peak of summer heat.