Spring time fires-up our desire to “get outside” and for most folks in this neck of the woods, that means hitting the deck. If you’re planning to build a new deck or re-do the deck you have, you’ve likely asked the question: which is best – composite or wood? Well, since all decks are built on a structure of treated lumber, all you really need to consider is what you’ll use for the deck surface and railings. Natural or man-made?
Pressure-treated lumber is pine that has been chemically conditioned to resist the elements and fungus. It is the most commonly used decking material for homes as it is the cheapest option. Some homeowners prefer woods, like redwood and cedar, that don’t have to be treated with chemicals. Tropical hardwoods are also being used for decking, like Ipe, Brazilian cherry, tigerwood and cumaru. These chemical-free woods provide better durability and natural resistance to rotting but can cost twice to three times as much as pressure treated lumber. The majority of decks built today are surfaced in wood. The main reason people choose wood is for the initial cost savings.
Things to consider: Wood decks require more maintenance. To keep your wood deck in good repair it will need to be stained or weather-sealed every two years. About 6 years in you’ll need to replace some boards, strip and sand it then re-stain or weather-coat it again. Even if you have completed all of this maintenance you’ll likely need to replace your wood decking and railings around year 11-12. Since wood is natural, no matter how you treat it, it has the natural tendency to decompose. So factor that into your decision as well. Is the investment and labour worth about 12 years of enjoyment?
The most popular man-made deck surfacing materials are composites, but wood/plastic blends, aluminum and synthetics mixed with mineral compounds are also becoming popular. These decking products come from manufacturers such as TimberTech, Fiberon, Lumberock and our own Van Dolder’s Aluminum decking. The main reasons people choose man-made deck material are: low maintenance requirements, wide variety of colours and surface coatings, splinter-free safety for bare foot summer enjoyment, and ability to withstand even the harshest climates without warping or cracking.
Things to consider: Most homebuilding companies will recommend man-made decking material. The upfront cost is much higher than pressure-treated lumber surfacing and about the same as the cost of rare tropical hardwoods. Man-Made decking and railings look great for many years (20 + years), they increase the resale value of your home and require little to no maintenance. Most man-made decking is waterproof and extreme weather changes have little impact on it. It’s the best choice for busy families who have little time for maintenance and is as easy to clean as the floors in your home.
Natural or Man-made? You need to decide for yourself what fits best for your home and situation. The best way to do that is to talk with a knowledgeable deck building professional that can ask you the right questions and help you make the best decision. Just be honest with yourself from the start about whether you’re going to do the maintenance yourself.