Composite VS Wood
Low Maintenance Vs. Wood
As the weather warms and the flowers bloom images of grilling on the Deck with family mixed with nights spent out under the stars sharing a bottle of wine start to emerge. As you start researching the perfect deck for your home questions about pricing and design come to light. There are numerous options for homeowners now a days from material choice down to the types of lighting you want. One of the major questions you’ll need to consider is the decking material. There are two main types; Composite and Wood. In this article we’ll explore both sides of the argument and hopefully give you a better understanding of the products so you can determine what is best for you.
You typically have two main types to choose from; Composite: Composed of a mix of recycled plastics and wood fibers; PVC: Ccomposed entirely of Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and contains no wood. PVC is more beneficial in high moisture areas since it is basically solid plastic. These products have undergone a ton of improvement over the last several years to help with look and longevity which has helped garner them as a top competitor. Though this material might not have the classic look of a finely made Southern Yellow Pine deck, there’s no doubt you can have a stunning finished product and less annual maintenance. Once touted as “Maintenance free,” they have changed this motto to “low maintenance” as no deck subjected to mother nature will ever leave the homeowner with zero upkeep. On the positive side there is no annual staining or sealing needed but you will need to clean the deck every three to four years due to pollen, mildew, etc. You can either do this with a pressure washer or hire a professional. Other Positives of using Composites/PVC is durability – They are very good at holding up against harsh weather and they do not rot. Both typically come with a 25-year fade resistance warranty, some of the higher quality ones also come with an equal stain warranty. On the downside we won’t know the long-term effects of these products until a few more decades have passed and we can really see how they stand up to the test of time. Another Con is the deck framing is still pressure treated wood, which will last 25+ years as long as the contractor takes the time to install flashing tape on all the joists and beams. Buyer beware, there is a big difference in quality from one brand to another, it is important for you to learn all the benefits of each product your contractor uses.
Still the most common and economical choice, Wood can give the homeowner that Natural look and feel they’ve been craving. These decks can last up to 50 years if treated correctly (Think of maintaining your vehicle with proper oil changes) and some are much more affordable upfront. Within this category there are a number of different types of Lumber you’ll need to consider with the most common being Pressure Treated (PT). PT is typically Fir soaked in anti-rot and insecticide agents. It’s that greenish-brown color but can be stained for a more attractive look. There are also weather resistant wood options such as cedar or redwood that are less susceptible to warping and weather-related issues but the cost can be three times the price of PT, pushing into or above the Composite/PVC territory. Regardless of the types of wood you will need to periodically clean and stain it. This is typically the reason most explore the Low Maintenance options. However, it is not that scary, typically depending on the sun and weather exposure your deck endures throughout the year you will need to clean and stain it every 3-5 years. It is easy to do yourself but if you prefer not to there are professionals that will do that at an average cost of $500-1000.00. This is an overall cost you have to factor in over the course of how many years you will be enjoying your deck.
Just like most things in life there is a range from low end to high end products to choose from in both Wood and Composite. Where wood is typically priced standard depending on your location, you’ll want to research the composite Brands because of the differences in look, wear and tear, and cost. This is where working with a trusted contractor can hopefully help you make an educated choice.
Pressure Treated decks on average can be half the cost of a Composite/PVC, or you may have to sacrifice size to stay in budget. More money upfront for Low Maintenance with very little upkeep, aside from general cleaning while Pressure Treated will have continuous maintenance over the years to keep it pristine.
DECISIONS DECISIONS DECISIONS
So now you know the pros and cons of both types but you still can’t decide which to go with. Our rule of thumb is to take what kind of wood you like and compare it to its composite counter-part. Whether its Pressure Treated, Cedar, Pine, or Redwood, compare them to a similar composite and go through a trusted contractor to make the best decision for you.
A Natural Wood Deck is still our personal favorite due to the timeless look and the potential upfront savings to the customer. When I consult with a customer and they are torn between the costs I will suggest to go with PT decking boards and a composite, vinyl, or metal railing system. An all wood railing would be the first to rot since all the end grains are exposed all the time to the elements. Going this route, you can afford the upgrade while saving money on the decking boards and usually allowing for a slightly larger deck.
If you are going to enjoy your deck for less than 5 years, I would recommend you go the Low Maintenance route since it is perceived as more value and in turn will add more value to your home.