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Composite Decking vs. Wood Decking

When it comes to deciding between composite or wooden decking, there are many factors to consider. Traditionally, timber has been the preferred material for decking applications, mostly because it can be cheap to buy and is relatively easy to work with! When it’s properly treated and maintained, it can create a beautiful outdoor space, but all wooden decking will absorb water and will need regular maintenance to prevent splitting, rotting and warping.

If you’d rather spend more time enjoying your outdoor space than maintaining it, you might be better off doing some research on composite decking – whether it’s for a garden, balcony, swimming pool, or for a commercial space, there’s bound to a product that meets your individual needs. That’s because composite materials are specially designed to have a host of benefits that you simply can’t achieve with traditional wood; meaning it looks better for longer and doesn’t suffer from the main disadvantages of timber.

Advantages of composite decking

If you’re not sure whether to go for composite or wooden decking, read on to discover the main benefits of composite decking vs. wood. That way, when it’s time to design your perfect outdoor space, you’ll be well-informed about which is the right option for you.

Incredible Slip Resistance

One of the primary benefits of composite decking is that it is highly resistant to wet weather. Not only does it not absorb water like timber – meaning it doesn’t rot or allow mould build-up – but the best composite decking brands are also engineered to reduce slip potential.
Whilst not a huge concern for most people – how likely are you to be using your decking in the rain anyway? – it does mean that the composite decking is safer for children, elderly or more vulnerable family members to use. It also greatly increases the application potential of your decking; making it safe to use by a pool, on a balcony, or a roof-top terrace. Look for published slip resistance results from your chosen supplier that show ‘low slip potential’, they should be easy to find in their brochures.

Fire Safety

One of the major downsides of traditional timber is that it’s very flammable. Again, this may not be the first thing you think of when deciding how to build your decking, but it may cross your mind if you’re planning on hosting a BBQ over the summer! Unlike timber, most composite decking boards have a degree of fire resistance built in as part of the manufacturing process – although some are more resistant than others.
The fire safety properties of your composite decking are especially important if you’re looking to deck balconies or terraces in high-rise buildings or commercial spaces, as they are subject to more stringent safety measures to keep occupants safe in the event that a fire does break out.

composite decking garden

Here’s a great example of how fire performance of composite decking can vary and why it pays to do your research:

composite decking plant pots

More Environmentally Friendly

It’s now easier than ever to get timber decking from sustainable sources and make an environmentally conscious purchase. Composite decking also benefits from the fact that it’s eco-friendly – usually developed from a blend of recycled wood and polymers.
As with most products, the exact level of recycled materials varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but some of the more high-end boards will be made with more recycled content.
Whilst this may not be a direct benefit for the consumer in the same way that fire and slip-resistance is, it will certainly make some people feel better about the environmental impacts, knowing they’re investing in a long-lasting, sustainable material for their project.

Minimal Maintenance

Composite decking easily replicates the characteristics of timber decking without any of the drawbacks like rotting, warp, or fading and is highly UV and stain resistant.
One of the major drawbacks of timber decking is the need to constantly paint, stain, or treat it every spring, to ensure it holds colour and looks its best. These problems don’t really exist with composite decking boards as the colour pigments stabilise quickly after installation to prevent ongoing fading issues and it will never need painting or treating during its life cycle. If all you need to do to look after it is give it the occasional sweep to remove any debris, then it’s a win-win!

Cost Benefits

The composite decking vs. wood cost implications is an important factor for many people when deciding between composite or wooden decking. In terms of side-by-side comparisons, there are no real downsides to composite decking when compared to actual timber – it’s just as beautiful, safe and lasts longer.

However, that quality does come at a price, and this is one area where cheap timber has the advantage. Because it is a raw material and not subject to the same ‘engineering’ as composite, softwood decking is easily and cheaply bought, making it a common go-to option for those creating a space on a budget. But it’s important not just to think about the initial outlay, but about the ongoing cost of repairs to timber; including decking paint, labour and materials to replace damaged or warped planks and most importantly, the time you will have to spend putting it right each year.
When you take all of that into account, choosing composite can actually end up saving you money in the long run – and what’s more, it looks great the moment you lay it, with no staining needed to build up the colour finish you want.

Colour Considerations

One criticism sometimes levelled against composite decking is that it gets hot. In truth, all surfaces that are exposed to direct sunlight all day will be warm to walk on with bare feet, but the amount of heat retained can be greatly affected by the colour. Darker colours will retain more heat than lighter colours, so if you’ve got a south facing garden and live somewhere with long, hot summers, then you may want to factor this in when selecting your colour.

Making The Right Choice

We hope that the pros and cons addressed in this article have helped to answer some of your questions about quality composite decking vs. wood decking. If you want to see for yourself how composite decking compares to timber, or to test it for yourself, you can always order a free sample or speak to a member of the Dura Composites team! You can even get a detailed online quote in seconds with our composite decking calculator!