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Wood vs. Composite Deck: What's the Best Choice for You?


May 30, 2020 by Maurie Backman

Adding a deck to your home is a great way to make the most of your outdoor space. But not all decking material is created equal, and you may be torn between natural wood or composite, a material designed to mimic the look of wood. Here's how to weigh your options.

Aesthetics

You're no doubt familiar with the classic look of wood -- it's elegant and it goes well with a wide range of home exteriors. Composite, though designed to look like wood, isn't actual wood. From an aesthetic standpoint, that's a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your preferences. With composite, you may get more color choices, though keep in mind that wood can always be painted if you have your heart set on a specific shade. For example, if you have gray siding, you can look for gray composite decking or paint your wood gray.

Maintenance

If you're the type of homeowner who doesn't have a lot of time or patience for maintenance, you may want to steer clear of wood. With a wooden deck, you generally need to sand its surface every few years, as well as seal it. You should also plan to stain or paint your deck every other year, and you may need to pressure-wash it annually. Composite, on the other hand, doesn't require sanding, sealing, staining, or painting at all. All you really need to do is give it a thorough clean every year or two.

Upfront cost

The cost to install a composite deck is roughly double the cost of wood when you factor in the higher materials cost plus labor. If your budget for installing a deck is limited, you may choose to stick with wood. But keep in mind that composite requires less maintenance over time so that, depending on the size of your deck, at some point, you could break even. The question is really how much you're willing or able to spend upfront.

Durability

The downside of wood is that it can warp, rot, splinter, and fade over time. Maintaining your deck properly can help prevent all of these things, but you may reach a point when you need to replace a wooden deck -- if not the entire structure, then at least the top that's most exposed to the elements. With composite, you don't have to worry about the same level of wear and tear. You may find that a composite deck lasts twice as long as a wooden one.

What's the right choice for your deck?

Though composite decking is the more expensive choice initially, over time, it can pay for itself and save you a world of maintenance. But if you don't like the look of composite, wood may be a better choice despite the maintenance involved. Think about what works best for your taste and budget, and hopefully you'll land on the right decision. And no matter which material you choose, be sure to get your share of quotes so you're able to compare your options and snag a great deal.

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