What Is The Difference Between Composite Decking And Wood Decking?

Decking materials are a crucial component of any outdoor space, providing a platform for relaxation, entertainment, and enjoyment of nature. With numerous options available in the market, it is essential to understand the differences between materials before making a decision. In this article, we will explore the disparities between composite decking and wood decking, taking a closer look at their composition, advantages, drawbacks, and environmental impact. By the end, you’ll have all the information you need to choose the right decking material for your needs.

Composite Decking: A Modern Solution

Composite decking is a relatively recent innovation that has gained popularity due to its durability and low-maintenance characteristics.

Definition and Composition

Composite decking is a man-made material composed of a blend of wood fibers, recycled plastics, and binding agents. It is designed to mimic the natural look and grain of wood while offering enhanced performance.

Understanding the Composite Decking Structure

Composite decking is typically made up of three layers: the protective shell, the core, and the base. The protective shell provides resistance against scratches, stains, fading, and moisture.

Materials Used in Composite Decking

The materials used in composite decking vary but usually include a mixture of wood fibers, such as sawdust or bamboo, and recycled plastics, such as polyethylene or PVC. Binders and additives are also incorporated to enhance durability and color retention.

Environmental Considerations

While composite decking incorporates recycled materials, it is important to consider the environmental impact of the production process. The extraction and manufacturing of the components, as well as the disposal of composite decking at the end of its lifecycle, can contribute to environmental degradation.

Advantages of Composite Decking

  1. Durability and Longevity: Composite decking is highly resistant to warping, cracking, and splintering, offering a long lifespan even in harsh weather conditions.
  2. Low Maintenance: Unlike wood decking, composite materials do not require regular staining, sealing, or painting. They resist fading, staining, and mold growth, eliminating the need for extensive upkeep.
  3. Resistance to Moisture, Rot, and Insects: Composite decking is impervious to moisture, preventing rot and decay. It is also highly resistant to termite damage, providing a worry-free option for homeowners.

Drawbacks of Composite Decking

  1. Initial Cost: While composite decking offers long-term savings in terms of maintenance, the upfront cost can be higher compared to wood decking.
  2. Heat Retention and Color Fading: Due to its composition, composite decking can retain heat, making it uncomfortable to walk on barefoot during hot summer days. Additionally, exposure to sunlight may cause some fading of color over time.
  3. Limited Customization Options: While composite decking comes in a variety of colors and textures, it may not offer the same level of customization as wood decking. Intricate designs or unique finishes may be better achieved with traditional wood materials.

Wood Decking: Traditional Appeal

Wood decking has been a go-to choice for centuries due to its timeless aesthetics and natural appeal.

Types of Wood Decking

  1. Common Wood Species for Decking: Cedar, redwood, tropical hardwoods, and pressure-treated pine are popular choices for wood decking due to their durability and resistance to rot.
  2. Pros and Cons of Different Wood Types: Cedar and redwood offer natural resistance to decay and insects, while tropical hardwoods, such as ipe and mahogany, provide exceptional durability. Pressure-treated pine, although affordable, requires regular maintenance and may contain chemicals.
  3. Sustainability and Sourcing: When considering wood decking, it is crucial to choose sustainably sourced materials certified by recognized organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Benefits of Wood Decking

  1. Natural Aesthetics and Warmth: Wood decking provides timeless beauty and warmth, creating an inviting outdoor space that seamlessly blends with natural surroundings.
  2. Affordability and Versatility: Compared to composite decking, wood materials are often more affordable, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious homeowners. Wood can be easily customized, allowing for different design possibilities.
  3. Easy Repairs and Modifications: Wood decking is relatively easy to repair, and modifications such as adding built-in seating or changing the layout can be done without significant hassle.

Limitations of Wood Decking

  1. High Maintenance: Wood decking requires regular maintenance, including staining, sealing, and occasional repairs to address issues like rot or insect damage.
  2. Vulnerability to Weather and Insect Damage: Unlike composite decking, wood materials are prone to warping, splitting, and insect infestation if not properly maintained and protected.
  3. Environmental Impact: The production of wood decking involves the use of natural resources and may contribute to deforestation unless sustainable practices are followed.

Performance Comparison: Composite vs. Wood

When it comes to performance, there are several key factors to consider between composite and wood decking.

Durability and Lifespan

  1. Assessing the Longevity of Composite Decking: Composite decking typically has a longer lifespan compared to wood, with some brands offering warranties of up to 25 years or more.
  2. Evaluating the Lifespan of Wood Decking: Depending on the type of wood and maintenance practices, wood decking can last anywhere from 10 to 30 years.

Maintenance Requirements

  1. Maintenance Tips for Composite Decking: While composite decking requires minimal maintenance, periodic cleaning with mild soap and water is recommended to remove dirt and debris. Additionally, it is important to address any stains or scratches promptly.
  2. Maintenance Tips for Wood Decking: Wood decking should be regularly cleaned, sealed, and stained to protect it from moisture, UV rays, and insect damage. Inspecting for rot, mold, or loose boards is also crucial to ensure the longevity of the deck.

Resilience to Environmental Factors

  1. Withstanding Moisture and Mold: Composite decking’s moisture resistance makes it an ideal choice for areas with high humidity or near water sources. Wood decking, on the other hand, requires more vigilance to prevent moisture-related issues.
  2. Imperviousness to UV Rays and Fading: Most composite decking brands incorporate UV-resistant properties, reducing the risk of color fading. Wood decking, if not properly sealed or stained, may experience color changes over time due to exposure to UV rays.


  1. The Environmental Impact of Composite Decking: Composite decking utilizes recycled materials, reducing the demand for virgin plastics and wood. However, the production process and disposal of composite materials can have negative environmental consequences.
  2. Sustainable Practices for Wood Decking: Choosing sustainably sourced wood, such as FSC-certified materials, promotes responsible forestry practices and reduces environmental impact. Regular maintenance and proper disposal of wood materials also contribute to sustainability.

Making the Right Choice

Selecting the perfect decking material requires careful consideration of several factors.

Considerations for Selecting the Perfect Decking Material

  1. Budgetary Constraints: Determine your budget and weigh the initial cost against the long-term expenses associated with maintenance and repairs.
  2. Desired Aesthetic and Style: Consider the look and feel you want for your outdoor space. Decide whether you prefer the natural beauty of wood or the modern appeal of composite materials.
  3. Priority on Longevity or Sustainability: Determine whether longevity or sustainability is more important to you. Composite decking may offer a longer lifespan, while wood decking provides a renewable and natural option.

Best Applications for Composite Decking

  1. Ideal Settings for Composite Decking: Composite decking is an excellent choice for high-traffic areas, such as pool decks or commercial spaces, where durability and low maintenance are essential.
  2. Projects That Benefit from Composite Decking: Large decks, multi-level decks, and decks in areas with harsh weather conditions can benefit from the durability and resistance of composite materials.

Best Applications for Wood Decking

  1. Ideal Settings for Wood Decking: Wood decking is well-suited for residential applications, particularly in areas with a preference for traditional aesthetics and a desire for customization options.
  2. Projects That Benefit from Wood Decking: Smaller decks, intimate outdoor spaces, and eco-conscious projects that prioritize sustainability and natural materials are a perfect fit for wood decking.


In summary, the choice between composite decking and wood decking depends on various factors, including desired aesthetics, maintenance requirements, environmental impact, budget, and project requirements. Composite decking offers durability, low maintenance, and resistance to moisture and insects. Meanwhile, wood decking provides natural aesthetics, affordability, and the ability to be easily repaired and modified. By carefully assessing your needs and priorities, you can make an informed decision that will enhance your outdoor space for years to come.


Q1: Can composite decking replicate the look of real wood?

Ans: Composite decking is designed to mimic the natural look and grain of wood, offering a wide range of color and texture options. While it provides a similar appearance, it may not perfectly replicate the organic feel of real wood.

Q2: How long does composite decking typically last?

Ans: Composite decking has a longer lifespan compared to wood, with some brands offering warranties of up to 25 years or more. Proper maintenance and care can further extend its durability.

Q3: Is wood decking a sustainable choice?

Ans: Wood decking can be a sustainable choice when sourced from responsibly managed forests and certified by recognized organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Opting for FSC-certified wood promotes environmentally friendly practices.

Q4: Can I install composite decking over an existing wood deck?

Ans: Installing composite decking over an existing wood deck is possible, depending on the condition of the wood deck. However, it is essential to evaluate the structural integrity and consult with professionals to ensure a safe and successful installation.

Q5: Which decking material requires less maintenance?

Ans: Composite decking requires less maintenance compared to wood decking. While occasional cleaning is recommended, composite materials do not require staining, sealing, or painting. Wood decking, on the other hand, requires regular maintenance to preserve its appearance and structural integrity.

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