Buying a deck can be an exciting process, and it’s a surefire way to add new life to any outdoor area. It can also be daunting for any homeowner as knowing what type of decking you want is just half the battle. There are a number of things you’ll want to consider before settling on a type of decking or even choosing a shade which is why we’ve put together this handy buying guide for decking.

PVC Decking

Fiberon Paramount® PVC Decking in Sandstone

Fiberon Paramount® PVC Decking in Sandstone

The first alternative decking material is PVC or plastic planks, which are sturdier than they sound. While they can’t hold a candle to wood in that regard, they offer some interesting advantages that make it an excellent choice for homeowners. Like most decking, there are a several styles of PVC decking available, but the main thing you will need to remember is capped vs. uncapped considering capped boards offer an extra layer of protection.

Capped decking products can keep your decks from fading for several decades. Uncapped boards handle UV rays better than wood as well, but the former tends to offer better slip resistance. As there are no organic materials in PVC boards, they won’t rot, splinter or split and they will never need to be refinished or stained. Scratch-resistance is top-notch, but again, capped products are a better choice in that regard as well.

PVC Decking Cons

Aside from the price, the biggest disadvantage to PVC decking is the fact it can sag or feel spongy under your feet. It can’t handle weight like other materials, and while textured caps help, it does not resemble wood. It can also get very hot in the summertime compared to wood, can be slippery and is harder to work with and install than other styles of decking.

Best suited for…

Do you have large dogs? If so, PVC decking is a great choice due to its scratch and stain resistance. You won’t have to worry about accidents on your deck, and their nails aren’t going to gouge or beat up the plastic. PVC decking is best for wet areas as it can come in contact with water, but you’ll want to keep slippage in mind. It’s also the perfect choice for consumers that deal with a lot of UV rays and want something that is extremely easy to clean. 

Composite Decking

Trex Transcend® In Island Mist

Trex Transcend® In Island Mist

Things are pretty clear cut when you are dealing with PVC decking, but composites tend to complicate things. A composite deck board is largely made of plastic but uses real wood by-products in the mix including sawdust. That means there is a small amount of organic material in this style of decking, so it looks and feels more like wood than capped PVC.

Advantages of composite decking far outweigh the negatives as it doesn’t need to be refinished and can be cleaned and maintained easier than regular wood. It has some weight to it which means you will get more stability from these boards, and newer generations of this product have excellent warranties that can run between 25 – 50 years.

Composite decking comes in more colors than PVC, and there are multiple price points ranging from premium to the budget class. Regular boards resist stain and UV rays well, but a capped product that’s covered on all sides increases its resiliency considerably. Alternatively, a scalloped 3-sided board is extremely cheap which makes composites an attractive option when your budget is tight.

You can work with composite decking just like traditional wood. Slip resistance is solid with premium textured boards, and you can find finishing techniques similar to what you’ll see with hardwood flooring.

Composite Decking Cons

Boards made from a mix of wood and plastic are heavier than pine or cedar planks and will cost a bit more as well regardless of the grade. Similar to PVC, with most products, you’re stuck with the original color, so you can’t strip and change the color of your decking like you can with wood.

Best suited for…

This versatile decking option can be used in almost any climate where the weather can take a toll on wooden decking. You don’t have to spend a lot of time or effort keeping these decks clean, and it’s the closest thing you can get to real wood without the serious drawbacks.

Wood

Lowes Severe Weather Premium Treated Deck Board

Pressure Treated Deck Board

When you want something traditional, wood is the only option that should be on your radar. It was the top option for decades before composites came along, and is still a great all-around choice today as well. It offers consumers more variety in terms of species and colors than any other deck and is the only form that allows you to switch up your style on a whim.

Whether you’ve dreamed of a wooden deck that looks like Ebony or prefer Pink, you can have it if you choose wood. Wood can be stained or painted to match any color in the rainbow, or you can simply coat it with some clear protection and enjoy its natural luster. Pressure-treated Pine is extremely cheap compared to PVC and nothing can replicate the feel and warmth it adds to your home.

Wood Decking Cons

As much as we love wood, the weather can be hard on it. Sun will fade it, and moisture can get into the planks and cause them to swell or crack. Have you ever gotten a splinter in your foot? Well, that’s bound to happen with a wood deck eventually unless you keep it in tip-top shape. 

The overall cost of maintaining a wooden deck is higher than any other type of decking material, and you may spend a lot of time cleaning your decking of the course of its 20 – 50 years lifespan. As it’s organic, some species can quickly rot or become fodder for insects if not properly treated.

Best suited for….

We feel wood is best suited for people that don’t mind maintenance and want something that brings depth and warmth to the outdoors. Simply put, there is no material that looks more natural than a wooden deck, and the ability to change the color is a huge bonus most consumers overlook.

To see a more in depth comparison of wood versus composite decking, check our next page .

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