Large deck at sunset.

Composite Decking Vs. Wood: Which Is Better?

Jamie Johnson3-minute read
August 05, 2022

As more people are working remotely and spending more time at home, backyard setups have become a hot commodity. More than ever, families are enjoying spending time on their deck eating dinner or watching the sun go down in the evenings.

If you’re considering building a brand new deck or renovating an existing one, you may have wondered if you should use wood or composite materials. While wooden decks are a more common sight, composite decks have become an increasingly popular choice over the past decade.

But how do you know which is right for you? If you’re having trouble deciding which material best suits your needs, this article will demystify both composite and wood while explaining the pros and cons of both.

What Is Composite Decking?

Most composite decks are made from decking materials like recycled wood scraps and plastic, making them an eco-friendly option. They come in a variety of earth tones and wood colors to match your outdoor decor.

Many manufacturers also add fake wood grains, either in the coloring or the mold in which the planks are formed. Composite decks come in a plank form, similar to traditionally treated wood planks.

You also have the option now to buy composite deck tiles. If you don’t want to completely replace your existing wood deck, you can use these tiles to cover the entire area. Home Depot boasts that they snap together and only take a few minutes to install.

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What’s The Cost Of Wood Vs. Composite Decking?

The cost of building a deck is a top concern for homeowners trying to decide between wood or composite decking. If price is your main objective, then you may want to consider a wood deck.

On average, a wood deck costs between $15 and $20 per square foot and between $2 to $5 for decking boards. These decks are also a little higher maintenance and may occasionally need to be resealed or refinished.

But when well-maintained, wood decks can last for up to 30 years. And on average, you’ll get a 75% return on your investment.

In comparison, composite decks cost between $30 to $40 per square foot and between $12 to $22 for decking boards. These decks are very low-maintenance and can last between 15 and 25 years. Most come with a 70% return on your investment.

One thing to note is that while you’ll pay less money upfront for a wood deck, you may end up paying more over the life of the deck. That’s because you might end up spending more on upkeep than you would with a composite deck.

Composite Decking Pros And Cons

Here are some considerations to keep in mind when choosing composite decking.

Pros

  • Less maintenance than wood decks
  • It comes in a variety of colors, and it doesn’t need to be painted or stained
  • Most use recycled materials, so they’re an eco-friendly option
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Won’t rot like some wood decks

Cons

  • Composite decks won’t rot, but they can be damaged by furniture or storms
  • Some homeowners complain about fading with composite decks
  • They aren’t entirely maintenance free

Wood Vs. Composite Decks At A Glance

There are advantages and downsides that come with choosing a wood deck and a composite deck. If you’re still trying to decide between the two, the following table provides an overview of wood vs. composite decks.

Wood

Composite

Costs between $15 to $20 per square foot

Costs between $30 to $40 per square foot

Costs between $2 to $5 for decking boards

Costs between $12 to $22 for decking boards

More natural look

A more eco-friendly option

Lower surface temperature on hot days

Typically more expensive

Requires more ongoing maintenance

Requires less ongoing maintenance

It can last up to 30 years

It can last up to 25 years

The Bottom Line

Determining whether to invest in a wood or composite deck is a personal choice based on a variety of factors. By weighing pros and cons of both materials you can make a better-informed decision and have a greater understanding of what works best for you.

If spending a little less money and doing some regular maintenance sounds OK to you, stick with tried-and-true wood decking. Go for the composite deck if you don’t mind spending a bit more money for a deck that requires far less maintenance.

And if you’re concerned about the cost of replacing or putting in a deck, be sure to learn more about deck financing options.

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Jamie Johnson

Jamie Johnson is a Kansas City-based freelance writer who writes about a variety of personal finance topics, including loans, building credit, and paying down debt. She currently writes for clients like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Insider, and Bankrate.