This post is the second in a series about the differences of wood and composite decking. (Previous post: Wood Decking.)
Composite decking typically consists of some type of plastic material, such as polyethylene or polyvinyl chloride and wood particles. The plastic may be from recycled products, like milk jugs and soda bottles or it may be made of virgin plastic. Boards may be hollow or solid.
Hollow boards are cheaper than solid boards and don’t tend to expand and contract as often. However, when they do shift, they tend to do so in only one area. Additionally, hollow boards are not as sturdy and can hold water internally, which in turn can lead to warping and decomposition. While solid boards expand and contract more than hollow boards, they are stronger and tend to look more like real wood than hollow composites.
Unlike wood decks, composite decks require very little upkeep. Whereas wood requires periodic re-sealing and re-staining, composite boards require only periodic cleaning or pressure-washing. They are, unfortunately, susceptible to fading over time from sun exposure.
From a cost perspective, comparing composite to wood decking is highly subjective. As with most things in life, both wood and composite materials come in low, mid and high end quality. Better grade materials run a bit more in cost but tend to require less maintenance and have a longer lifespan than those on the lower end of the spectrum. This holds true for both wood and composite decking materials. So in terms of “which is better,” it comes down to an aesthetic preference, combined with the level of periodic maintenance you’re willing to invest.
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