There was a point in time when building a deck meant you would buy pressure-treated lumber planks and not give it a second thought. How times have changed! Since the development of composite decking, adding a deck to your home has become more complicated. Today’s homeowners not only have to decide between lumber and composite decking, but which grade of either of these products they prefer. Both wood and composite materials are available in low-, mid-, and high-grades.
Unfortunately for people who like black and white answers, there is no clear-cut response to whether wood or composite decking is the better choice. In the Carolinas, where humidity tends to be high, some homeowners prefer composite materials because they largely resist mold and mildew. Others, though, like the smell of real lumber when they walk outside. In short, only you can decide which decking option is right for your household. The rest of this guide is meant to help you make the best choice for you.
Composite decking, which is usually made from recycled plastic and pressed sawdust, is more expensive than pressure-treated lumber in almost all cases. The only exception is if you intend to buy some sort of exotic wood. Generally, composite decking, which is available in a wide range of hues, runs from $45.00 per 16-foot board to $90.00 per 16-foot board.
If these prices seem out of your budget at first glance, pressure-treated lumber might be a better solution for you at this time. Generally, 16-foot wood boards cost between $15.00 and $25.00, depending on grade. Again, exotic woods are significantly more expensive, typically ranging from $60.00 per 16-foot board to well over $100.00 per 16-foot board.
While composite decking was once advertised as being completely maintenance-free, it is now considered a low-maintenance material instead. You will not have to do much to keep your composite decking looking great. Simply wipe it down or spray it with a hose when you notice grime and pressure-wash it once every year or so to keep it looking new. If mold develops, spraying it with a solution of bleach and vinegar should kill it; try this in a hidden spot first, just in case the bleach discolors your decking.
It bears noting that the color of your composite decking is the color it will stay. Painting or staining it could disrupt the protective outer shell, causing the boards to warp or crack. If you do manage to paint or stain this type of material, it may void whatever warranties your manufacturer offers.
Pressure-treated wood decking is more high-maintenance than composite options, but can certainly be cared for without a great deal of trouble. You will probably need to restain and reseal your wood boards once every year or two. Furthermore, wood is more susceptible to cracking and splintering than composite materials are. However, this usually doesn’t happen for years, so it isn’t typically a major concern for homeowners who are planning to put-up new decks.
If you’re still struggling to decide whether wood or composite decking is right for your project, talking to a professional contractor is the best thing you can do. At Hatch Homes, we have years of experience building decks for Carolinians who live in a variety of climates and regions. No matter what decisions you are trying to make, our skilled team will be able to assist you and, ultimately, create an outdoor space that is sure to serve as a haven for your friends and family for years into the future.