Table of Contents[hide]

  • What Is Composite Decking?
  • What Is PVC Decking?
  • What Is Capped Decking?
  • Composite Decking Pros & Cons
  • PVC Decking Pros & Cons
  • FAQs
  • Final Analysis: PVC Decking vs Composite Decking

Choosing a decking material is the first decision homeowners must make when building a deck. Whether you’re planning to hire a professional contractor or tackle a DIY deck project, it’s important to choose the best products for your design and budget. Compared to wood decking, any engineered decking is a superior material. The two major types of engineered materials are composite decking and PVC decking. Both are made from polymers and recycled materials, and both are durable and weather-resistant. However there are key differences between the two. In this guide we’ll compare PVC vs composite decking, and help you choose the type of decking that’s right for you. Modern synthetic deck materials are available in a variety of finishes that resemble real wood, and have a lifespan of twenty to fifty years. In the past few decades synthetic materials have revolutionized deck building. Their low-maintenance performance makes them a cost-effective alternative to wood decking. However, since PVC and composite decking materials are manufactured from different components, they differ in performance and in the finishes that can be achieved.

Save a copy of our handy comparison sheet for quick reference and keep reading for all the details to help you choose which type of decking is best for your project. 

Comparison of wood decking, composite decking, and PVC decking

What Is Composite Decking?

Composite decking boards are engineered boards made from a combination of recycled materials. A mix of wood fibers and polymers from recycled plastics are extruded to form the individual deck boards. The boards are usually capped with a layer of polymers to protect them from the weather. Composite decking’s unique manufacturing process allows for a wide range of colors and wood grain effects.

TimberTech’s composite decking contains up to 80% recycled materials and is insect-proof and moisture resistant. It’s available at two different price points, in an extensive selection of wood-grain textures and colors.

Timbertech PRO Legacy Collection composite decking in Espresso

What is PVC Decking?

PVC or polyvinyl chloride decking is an engineered product that’s made from 100% plastic polymers. Recycled plastics and new polymers are combined to create extruded deck boards, which may also have a polymer cap for extra weather protection. Like composite decking, polymer or PVC decking is low maintenance, mold-resistant and impervious to insects. The polymers in PVC deck boards create the most realistic wood looks, in a broader range of colors than any other decking material.

Timbertech AZEK is their premium polymer decking line, combining realistic wire-brushed and hand-scraped wood patterns with the superior durability of PVC. Incorporating at least 50% recycled materials, AZEK is eco-friendly and long lasting.

Timbertech AZEK Vintage Collection PVC decking in English Walnut

What Is Capped Decking?

Capped deck boards have a hard outer shell made from plastic polymers to provide extra protection against wet weather, stains and UV damage. Deck cap is bonded to the core material during the manufacturing process. This hard synthetic cap guarantees a scratch-resistant, fade resistant, and low-maintenance decking product. Unlike pressure-treated wood, composite and vinyl decking are nearly maintenance-free; regular cleaning is all that’s needed.

Both composite decking and PVC decking are available capped or uncapped, with varying levels of performance, so it’s important to research the options before choosing your decking materials. Uncapped decking is more affordable, but it is also vulnerable to staining, weathering and mold growth. Without the protection of the UV-inhibitors in the cap layer, uncapped decking will fade in direct sunlight. You’ll find deck boards that are capped on three sides to protect the upper surface and edges, or on all four sides for superior protection.

TimberTech Edge with three-sided capped deck boards and TimberTech Pro four-sided capped deck boards

TimberTech offers both capped composite and capped PVC decking. TimberTech AZEK is a capped PVC decking line that offers realistic hardwood and reclaimed wood designs. TimberTech Edge is their three-sided capped composite collection, and TimberTech PRO is made from four-sided capped composite that’s ideal for wet locations.

Composite Decking Pros & Cons

Composite decking took the market by storm when it was first introduced by the Trex brand in 1996. Since then many brands have entered the market, with varying levels of quality. Today, composite deck brands like TimberTech offer capped composite decking with superior durability.

Timbertech PRO composite decking in Ashwood and Espresso

Composite decking is known for its sustainability and realistic wood look. Compared to many PVC decks it’s more slip-resistant, making it a good choice for pool areas or rainy locations. The wood fibers in composite deck boards make them more rigid, so they’re less prone to warping. Many homeowners in cold climates prefer composite decking that won’t expand and contract easily with temperature changes. However, the boards are more flexible than wood so the joists and stringers should be set closer together. Composite boards are heavier than PVC decking materials, so they can make a DIY project harder to handle.

Composite decking is extremely durable, with a lifespan of 30 years (or more). Uncapped composite decking is prone to fading, mold and moisture damage over time. However, the newer capped composite products from TimberTech can resist moisture and are protected from UV rays. A four-sided capped composite decking, TimberTech PRO, also incorporates Mold-Guard technology for superior performance.

PVC Decking Pros & Cons

Timbertech AZEK Vintage Collection in Dark Hickory

PVC decking has been around for decades; the earliest versions had issues with peeling, staining, heat buildup and slippery surfaces, so many consumers are still wary of it today. However, the newest PVC decking has solved these problems with improved polymers and capped board designs. PVC is extremely long-lasting and mold-proof since it has no organic material, like wood, in either the cap or the core. PVC decking is a good choice for DIY deck projects because it weighs less than composite decking, so it’s easy to transport and install. Easy maintenance includes pressure washing, since the extruded boards won’t splinter. Polyvinyl chloride is 100% recyclable; even after 50 years, deck boards can be recycled into new decking material, so it’s a very sustainable product.

The polymers in PVC allow for more slip-resistant surface textures and realistic colors. PVC boards are also cooler in summer than many composite decking products. Timbertech’s AZEK deck boards are made from capped polymers that can create realistic wood grain patterns and natural wood surface textures. Plus, they have a Fade & Stain Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Final Analysis: How does PVC decking compare to composite decking?

Which type of decking is right for you ultimately depends on your budget and design preferences. PVC and composite decking share many similar qualities. Both are durable, low maintenance, cost-effective, insect and moisture resistant, and available in realistic wood looks. When it comes to sustainability, there’s little point in comparing PVC decking vs composite. Any engineered decking is substantially more sustainable than a traditional wood deck. Both composite and PVC are popular, high-quality decking products.

So how do you choose the best decking material for your project? It depends on which decking meets your needs and your budget. Let’s compare:

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

Relative Price Of Materials: $$$

Installation Cost: $$

Lifespan: Up to 50 years

Color Options: 11 Wood-Inspired Colors

Material Options: 3.5”, 5.5”, 7.25” width; Maximum length 20’

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

Durability: Moisture, rot and insect proof.

Warranty:50-Year Fade & Stain Warranty

Our Rating: BEST

To learn more about decking design options, check out our guides to Choosing the Best TimberTech Color and Composite Decking Design Ideas. Your designer, builder, or a Ring’s End representative can also recommend a price range for materials to guide you to the best Timbertech products for your project.

PVC Decking Quick Facts

Does PVC decking get hotter than composite decking?

All deck surfaces get hot in the sun because they absorb and retain heat. PVC decking is less dense than wood or composite materials so it absorbs less heat. However, the darker a deck’s color, the more heat it absorbs, so dark-colored PVC boards will be hotter than any light-colored material. In a hot and sunny climate, lighter deck colors are best. Light gray, white or beige decking in either composite or PVC will reflect sunlight and retain the least heat. Light colors in TimberTech AZEK polyvinyl chloride decking stay up to 30° F cooler to the touch than competitive products.

Which is more expensive, PVC or composite decking?

PVC capped polymer decking typically costs 5-10% more than composite decking; however, it offers a larger color selection and has a longer lifespan.

Are PVC and composite decking slippery when wet?

With their realistic wood textures, PVC and composite decking are no more slippery than wood decking. However, mildew and dirt left on the surface of any deck can make it slick, so it’s important to hose it off regularly.

Which decking is better for the environment?

The most sustainable decking product is made from polyvinyl chloride or PVC, because it’s not only made from recycled plastic, it has the industry’s longest lifespan and it can be recycled again and again. However, composite decking is made from recycled materials, so it’s still an eco-friendly decking option.