Wood Vs Composite Decking – Which Works Best?

Even though composite decking has been around for some time, lots of people haven’t heard of this material before. We are often asked, what is composite decking and why is it so different from traditional wood decking?

Over the years there has been real uncertainty between wood decking and composite decking materials, always leaving mixed feelings and results. Mostly, wood decking has been the clear winner of the last 10 years, the composite decking material is becoming more and more popular due to it’s improved immensely in the structure, durability and safety. Nowaday’s deciding between wood or composite decking simply comes down to your own personal preferences and budget.

However, as we get asked the question about the differences between wood and composite deckings let’s examine them in detail and ultimately give you an overview on which one is best for your terrace or garden.

Here at RZT Ltd Contractors will talk about the following in this blog:

  • The differences and similarities between wood and composite deck platforms.
  • The cost factor and maintenance efforts put into both types of decking.
  • What’s next after you make your choice

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What is Wood Decking?

Wood decking made from high-quality, natural and treated materials is considered as a good investment. In that case, how long does a cedar deck actually last on average? It ranges from 20 to 40 years depending on how well you maintain the decking. This principle applies to other types of wood such as redwood or pretreated wood. Maintaining your decking is very important if you want the wood to last it’s estimated life span.

Let’s Talk About Wood Decking Costs

You will find there is a surprisingly big jump in cost between softwood and hardwood.

If you were to choose softwood timber according to affordability, colour and installation method. No pre-drilling is necessary, neither any kind of budget-soaring hidden fastening installations.

Pine softwood decks cost between £120 to £140 pounds per square metre.

Cedar also happens to be a softwood but it’s out of the cheap range of products. It ranges from 160 to 180 pounds per square metre. Make sure that the screws are made of stainless steel – otherwise, other metals might react in an unpleasant way with the cedar and leave black spots.

Don’t expect any cheap options when it comes to hardwood decking. In the UK, Ipe is one of the most common decking materials, as it is durable, but there are other options, such as Elondo, Teak, Merbau, Belinga, Kebony, Iroko, Cumaru, Kurupay and Massaranduba. Most of those come from South America and South-East Asia with their own specific traits, colour and grain differences.

The British standard for wood and wood-based products durability (BS EN 350-1) consists of 5 classes:

  • I – high durability
  • II – durability
  • III – moderate durability
  • IV –  low durability
  • V – no durability

A hardwood decking should have class 1 – otherwise, it’s not worth the money and its maintenance costs will very soon outpass the initial investment.

With installation methods varying, the most popular one is using pre-drilled boards. One of the cheapest hardwood materials, pre-drilled and with a basic design, will cost anywhere between £190 and £220 per square meter.

Maintenance of Wood Decking

Wood decks of lower quality such as pine can withstand climate changes more easily, unlike ipe and mahogany.

If the wood absorbs moisture quickly, then it will need to be sealed and stained. You can check if that’s the case by pouring a bit of water on top. If it remains on the surface, you can still postpone. Seal and stain the wood deck once every couple of years. If the surface gets dirty in the middle of this time, then use a non-abrasive cleaner to polish the wood but nothing too harsh. You can always refer to a pro with enough experience to handle this troublesome task.

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What is Composite Decking?

Aluminium composite decking panels which contain wooden starch and plastic (polypropylene). This material is well-established in practice as it looks stylish – it’s not easy to distinguish between composite and natural wood at first sight. This is due to the fact that the better part of the composite mixture (around 60 to 80%) is made of pieces of wood. The rest of it is reserved for compounds, such as polyethylene, UV-stabilisers, pigments and so on. Therefore, this type of material is also known as WPC – wood polymer composite.

How long do composite decks last? Anywhere from 25 to 30 years without maintenance. If you prefer to save yourself the trouble of oiling your deck, then go with composite materials.

Expenses

The price of the decking heavily depends on the different manufacturer, as well as the material, shape and complexity. Anywhere between £180 and £240 – it will include the installation fee, too.

Different manufacturers in and about Cornwall include:

  • EcoDek;
  • Tilon;
  • Xyltech;
  • Exterpark Tech Composite Decking;

Maintenance

Nowadays, decking designers love the composite decks and apply it to form terraces, porches, alleys, children playgrounds, outdoor areas, quays and pools. Of course, the main disadvantage of the composite wood is that it’s not entirely a natural product. However, looking at the fact that you are surrounded by plastic – from the electric appliances to your toothbrush – you won’t be able to move to an environment where you’re living with natural materials ONLY. Furthermore, thanks to the polymer compounds inside the boards, several qualities that are highly sought after come into play:

  • Water and radiation resistance;
  • Resistant to some biological threats (bacteria, insects, rodents), but not mould;
  • Durable to mechanical pressure;
  • Resistant to different cleaning chemicals;
  • Temperature resistant (between -60 to +80 °C).

Another comfortable benefit is this material doesn’t require periodical grinding or painting of the surface. That in itself can be a downside, because you have no way of removing scratches. The composite boards can be both hollow or solid, with hollow being of lesser quality – holding moisture leads to warping and deconstruction of the material. Solid composite resembles natural wood the most.

Despite the above-given qualities, contrary to some outdated advertising, composite decks are not entirely maintenance-free. Mould and pollen are their natural enemies. In order to lower the damage, always pick cleaning detergents that are specifically made for composite materials – otherwise, the deck colour might fade. Opt for a professional that is certified to deal with hard-to-remove stains when the situation’s beyond hope.

Popular Questions

Is composite decking slippery?

Not really. It depends on the texture of your deck. Most composite decks have special textures which make them slip-resistant when wet. Wood decks, on the other hand, lack this feature and can get quite slippery especially if there’s a thin layer of mould growing on them.

Do composite decks get hot?

They can get really hot really fast when exposed to direct sunlight. Of course, darker colours attract more sunlight compared to lighter ones. If you plan on building a composite deck with no trees around, consider going with a lighter colour.

So, there you have it. All the details on composite VS wood decking. Which one do you have? Would you have chosen the other one if you had the chance? 

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