Composite vs. Wood Decking: Which is Better?

Wood is the traditional choice for building a deck, but it needs so much maintenance and care. That’s why other types of decking material like composite are becoming so popular. But which is better, overall: composite or wood deck?

Is plastic decking better than wood? Yes: it’s stronger, lasts for twenty to thirty years, and requires far less maintenance. It looks very similar to normal wood, so still has the same traditional feel, but is a modern and durable material. Initial costs are higher than softwood timbers but comparable with high-quality hardwoods, although all wooden decks are rapidly climbing in price due to the recent increase in prices. The cost of composite is further offset by lower care costs, and composite is recyclable too.

The guide below starts with a side-by-side comparison table, before covering each point (look, durability, lifespan, maintenance, cost and recyclability) in more depth.

 

Composite Decking vs. Wood

Composite, hardwood, softwood, PVC, aluminium, ThermoWood—if you want to build a deck, you’re spoilt for choice in materials. So let’s take a look at a pros-and-cons overview of composite decking vs. treated wood:

Composite Wood
Appearance Clean and consistent Traditional
Strength Solid, doesn’t chip or scratch easily Durable if well cared for, but can splinter
Lifespan 20-25 years Variable
Maintenance Occasional sweeping and cleaning Cleaning, sealing etc.
Cost Higher initial cost Lower initial cost
Recyclable Yes Yes

So, overall, composite offers some real benefits over traditional wood.

 

Which Looks Better: Composite or Wood Decking?

composite decking
With composite, you can choose from a more traditional wood-like look, or something more clean and modern like this.

This is one point that’s very much down to personal taste. While composite is designed to look a lot like wood, it’s not the exact same. If you’ve never seen a composite deck up close before, it’s not smooth plastic. It’s textured and grainy but is consistent enough to give a smooth, clean look from a distance.

This means you’ll prefer the look of whichever material best suits your back-garden project. If you want a rustic aesthetic, then there’s nothing better than wood. But if you just want a regular patio, or you’re going for a sharp, modern look, then composite decking is best.

We offer two different types of WPC (wood plastic composite): the Clarity range and the Forma range. The Clarity range is a mixture of 55% reclaimed wood fibre and 45% HDPE and is the same material all the way through. The surface looks more like timber than the Forma due to the wood fibres being in the top layer, customers looking for a product that feels and looks like timber may choose the clarity board.

The Forma board is of a similar composition to the Clarity but is capped all the way round its exterior with a HDPE capping. While this is plastic, we use a woodgrain roller to create a traditional wood effect. This also gives us the opportunity to create two tone products through colour streaking, making the product look more natural on the eye. Our silver birch colour, for example, is a two-tone product perfect for an antique or weathered look.

 

Composite Decking Maintenance vs. Wood

From here on out, you’ll be hearing an awful lot about how great composite decking is, starting with its maintenance needs! A wooden deck needs to be sealed, treated, painted and cleaned regularly if it’s to stay in top condition.

Composite by contrast requires hardly any maintenance. You need to sweep, mop and clean it occasionally—and occasionally can mean as infrequently as every six months or so. You don’t need to seal it with Ronseal or repaint it for it to keep its colour, which means it saves you time, money and effort.

 

Which Is Stronger: Composite or Wood?

Composite can stand up to harsher treatment than wood. You can spill things on it, drop heavy things on it, let your pets walk on it and generally treat it roughly; but it’s designed to be chip- and scratch-resistant. Even treated wood can chip and splinter. Our Forma range is best for scratch and stain resistance.

 

What Lasts Longer: Composite Decking or Wood Decking?

composite decking
Composite tends to last longer than wood, which is why we offer such a long warranty for all of our composite boards.

With composite being stronger and more durable, it won’t surprise you to learn that it lasts longer too. Composite lasts for twenty, even twenty-five years whereas wooden decks last ten years on average.

The reason it lasts so long is that it’s resistant to mould, rot and insects. Even if you take care to maintain a wooden deck, it could be affected in places you can’t easily see or reach, and no sealant or paint lasts forever. But like we mentioned above composite doesn’t need maintenance to stay in good shape—its natural durability means it lasts for decades as it is.

 

Composite Decking vs. Wood Cost

One drawback to composite is that it tends to cost more than wood. That’s because it costs more to produce. While prices understandably vary, the initial cost of buying composite deck boards and having them installed is roughly twice the price of wood.

What’s also true, though, is that the long-term costs of composite are much lower. Given that it lasts twice as long, that evens out with wood being half the price. And besides that, composite has lower ongoing maintenance costs too with no sealing, painting and so on. Getting a composite deck is like buying a good pair of boots: paying a little more to begin with saves you lots of money in the long run.

 

Is Composite Decking Recyclable Like Wood?

The best thing about composite decking is that it’s recyclable, too. While not as simple to recycle as wooden decking, it is possible to separate the wood fibres and HDPE, and both materials are recyclable. WPC products can be repurposed for other building products like wall partitions.

If you’d like to know more about composite decks, what it’s like to have one and what makes them so great, get in touch. You can either call us at 0845 9011 988, email us at sales@ecoscape.co.uk, or fill out our form for a free no-obligation quote.

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