Choosing whether to build a real wood deck or use composite deck boards is a big decision. Each of these materials has different qualities that affect their price, performance and longevity. Wood decking has been the traditional outdoor living choice for centuries, and it’s still used to build most new decks today. However, advances in manufacturing have made composite decking an increasingly attractive option, with finishes that resemble natural wood and decking products available at several price points.

When you choose a decking material, you’re selecting the finishes for the visible parts of the deck; the flooring, steps, and fascia boards. All deck projects use treated lumber for the foundations and framing. Many homeowners choose wood for the entire deck design because it’s familiar and affordable. They assume that composite wood decking will be too costly. However, wood requires so much upkeep that the up-front savings is gone in just a few years! And products like Timbertech’s Composite Decking offer low-maintenance finishes at a price point that’s actually in line with today’s high lumber prices.

Whether you’re planning to hire a professional contractor or you’re ready to tackle a DIY deck project, we can help you decide which material is best for you. Read on to learn about the different types of wood and composite decking, and the pros and cons of each one.

Types Of Wood Decking

Most people choose wood decking for their outdoor living space because for years it was the more affordable option. While it offers an attractive, traditional look, wood is susceptible to damage from insects and the weather; a protective finish must be maintained to prevent the solid boards from rotting, splitting and developing splinters.

Choosing building materials can be confusing, so let’s start with the basics. Wood decking falls into three major categories with different price points and levels of durability.

Pressure-Treated Lumber

The least expensive wood deck option uses less dense, lower-grade woods infused with chemicals to deter insects. It’s readily available at big-box retailers.

Softwood Deck Boards

Naturally resistant to insects, softwoods include pine, cedar, cypress and redwood. Prices vary according to the variety of wood.

Hardwood Decking

Exotic woods like ipe, mahogany, and teak are extremely hard and dense. Naturally more resistant to both insects and moisture, they’re long-lasting and the most expensive wood per square foot.

Types of Composite Decking

Composite decking is an eco-friendly product made from a combination of wood chips and recycled plastic. Containing up to 80% recycled materials, composite deck boards are insect-proof and moisture resistant. The recycled material is encased in a synthetic cap for extra protection from moisture infiltration. While composite decking doesn’t replicate real wood decking exactly, it’s versatile, durable, and very low maintenance.

Composite decking manufacturer TimberTech offers slip-resistant wood-grain textures and an extensive selection of decking colors at two different price points:

4-Sided Capped Composite Deck Boards

  • Premium composite decking by Timbertech with the added protection of a fully synthetic cap on all 4 sides.
  • Premium resistance to moisture with Mold Guard® Technology.
  • 30-Year Limited Fade & Stain Warranty.
  • High-end product with premium patterns and colors.

3-Sided Capped Composite Deck Boards

  • Traditional composite decking by Timbertech with a synthetic 3-sided cap.
  • Surface protection from moisture.
  • 25-Year Limited Fade & Stain Warranty.
  • Attractive, lasting finishes at an affordable price point.

Wood Decking Pros And Cons

Among wood decking’s pros and cons, one of the biggest benefits is affordability. Wood deck materials are available at several price points, starting significantly lower than the price of composites. Stained wood has classic appeal that’s ideal for traditional and rustic style homes. Wood is easy to customize with stain or paint to match the colors of your home. Certain wood deck materials are less expensive to install than composite products as well. For homeowners on a budget, wood decking is often the best choice.

While it’s more affordable, wood decking does have its drawbacks. The initial savings compared to composite may be appealing; but wood requires regular maintenance that costs money over time. While wood can be treated against insects, constant weathering will cause it to split, mildew, discolor and rot.

In harsh climates like the Northeast, homeowners must strip the finish and paint or stain the decking every few years to protect it from moisture. The lifespan of most wooden decks is only about ten years. After that, they usually end up in landfills. And with the price of lumber rising every day, the cost of a high quality wood deck is now comparable to the cost of some composite products.

Finally, wood decking is not sustainable. The production of wood decking boards requires a continuous supply of trees, and hardwoods are not grown on tree farms – they must be cut from forests.

Composite Decking Pros And Cons

Timbertech EDGE composite decking in Sea Salt Gray

The biggest benefits of composite decking are its long lifespan and easy maintenance. When installed correctly and properly cared for, Timbertech Composite Decking will retain its appearance for 25 years or more. The composite material is finished with a hard synthetic cap that protects the surface from staining, fading, scratching and mold. Regular cleaning is typically the only required maintenance for a composite deck.

Composites also come in a variety of designer colors that coordinate with your home’s exterior – without painting. Compared to wood, composite decking is environmentally friendly too! Since it combines recycled plastic bottles and bags with wood chips, long boards can be supplied for larger decks without cutting down big trees.

Composite decking is also a low-waste product; every board is the same consistent quality. Unlike wood, none will be discarded because of weakness, knots or warping. If you want to DIY your deck project, you can use standard power tools to cut and drill composite deck boards. Plus, the grooved edge and hidden fasteners provide a seamless, professional finish.

Composite decking is insect-proof but not mold-resistant, although TimberTech PRO Decking incorporates advanced MoldGuard technology to retard the growth of mold and mildew.

Since we’re talking pros and cons, there are features of composite decking that some people consider negative. Composite boards are more expensive than wood; however, the best wood species for decking are actually similar in price to composite materials. Since it’s not a natural material, it will never quite match the beauty of real wood boards, but it comes close.

TimberTech EDGE composite decking in Coconut Husk

Final Analysis: Wood vs. Composite Decking

Which type of decking is right for you ultimately depends on your budget and design preferences. However, when you compare the costs of composite vs. wood over time, composite decking is the hands-down winner. Let’s compare:

Relative Price Of Materials: $

Installation Cost: $$

Lifespan: 10 years

Color Options: Standard wood stain colors

Material Options: 5.5” widthMaximum length 16’

Maintenance Required: Pressure wash annually and treat for mildew as needed Sand and replace stain every few years Replace split or rotten boards as needed

Durability: Vulnerable to moisture and rot even when maintained

Warranty: None

Our Rating: FAIR

Relative Price Of Materials: $$-$$$

Installation Cost: $$$

Lifespan: 15 years

Color Options: Standard wood stain colors

Material Options: 5.5” widthMaximum length 16’

Maintenance Required: Pressure wash annually and treat for mildew as needed Sand and replace stain every few years Replace split or rotten boards as needed

Durability: Naturally rot-resistant if carefully maintained

Warranty: None

Our Rating: GOOD

Relative Price Of Materials: $$

Installation Cost: $$

Lifespan: 25 years plus

Color Options: 5 Designer Colors

Material Options: 5.36” widthMaximum length 20’

Maintenance Required: Pressure wash annually and treat for mildew as needed

Durability: Inherently resistant to moisture damage and rot.

Warranty: 25-Year Fade & Stain Warranty

Our Rating: BETTER

Relative Price Of Materials: $$-$$$

Installation Cost: $$

Lifespan: 30 years plus

Color Options: 14 Wood-Inspired Colors

Material Options: 5.36” widthMaximum length 20’

Maintenance Required: Pressure wash annually and treat for mildew as needed

Durability: Advanced Mold Guard Coating to prevent mildewHighly resistant to moisture damage and rot.

Warranty: 30-Year Fade & Stain Warranty

Our Rating: BEST

To learn about composite deck board colors and design options, check out our guide to Choosing the Best TimberTech Color. For helpful information on choosing a deck railing, visit our Deck & Porch Railings page. Your architect, designer or contractor can also recommend a price range for materials to guide you to the best Timbertech products for your project.

Composite Decking FAQs

Is composite decking slippery when wet?

Composite decking isn’t more slippery than wood decking. However, mildew and dirt left on the surface of a composite deck can make it slick, so it’s important to hose it off regularly.

Do composite decks get hotter than wood decks?

Newer composite products like TimberTech are engineered to reduce heat absorption, and typically have a surface temperature similar to wood. All decking materials will get hot in the sun. Composite decking is available in light, reflective shades that stay cooler in summer.

Does composite decking warp in the sun?

Your composite deck will not warp, but it can sag and buckle if not supported correctly. The boards are more flexible than wood so it’s important to check the specifications; the joists and stringers should be set closer together.

Can I replace wood deck boards with composite?

Wood deck boards can be replaced one-for-one with composite boards; just be aware you may need to add additional support structure because composite boards are more flexible.

Is composite decking cheaper than wood in 2022?

The national average cost of building a wood deck in 2022 is $6,280, while the average cost of a composite deck is $8,064; if you upgrade to hardwood decking, the cost is almost the same.

Is a composite deck worth the money?

Composite decking materials are definitely worth the investment. The labor costs to build a deck will be the same whether you choose composite or wood. It makes sense to choose composite and avoid paying for construction again for 25-30 years.