Timber Vs. Composite Decking: What Homeowners Need to Know

Updated March 25th, 2021

If you are considering adding decking to your home, your contractor will likely ask you to choose between timber and wood decking. Composite and timber are the most popular decking options. Each of these materials comes with advantages and drawbacks that you should know before you decide on one. When choosing either, you will need to think about several things including cost, maintenance, durability and more.

Decking Costs

The cost of timber decking will depend on the type of wood you or the contractor would like to use. Hardwood decking is often more expensive than softwood decking, with composite decking a costlier alternative to the two. It is not uncommon to find hardwood decking priced the same as composite decking in some hardware stores.

If you choose timber decking, you also need to consider other costs associated with timber decking. The one cost you will have to contend with is the cost of oils and stains that are used to make sure the decking looks its best for longer. There might also be additional costs required to maintain timber decking over its lifetime.

Look and Feel

Composite decking is the better material if you are looking for decking that is a lot less slippery. Composite decking also comes in a range of colours and finishes. Depending on the composition of wood fibres and recycled plastic, it is possible to have composite decking boards that look exceedingly like either plastic or wood. The forma decking boards from Ecoscape, for example, come in a range of colours, from midnight black to the spicy brown colour of oak. Ecoscape supplies eco-friendly composite building products including cladding, fencing, decking and balustrades. All their products also come with a 20-year warranty.

In addition to the many colour variations available, different decking boards will usually look different due to the mixing process of the wood and plastic, thereby giving you a unique decking even when you source the boards from the same supplier as your neighbour.

Although hardwood decking is a better option if you are going for a luxurious look, timber decking can be very slippery and wet as well as cause splinters if it is not maintained well. Although you get a limited selection of colours when you choose wooden decking, you can change the look using oils, stains and paints.

Lifespan and Maintenance

A lot of people do not know that timber decking can last for a lifetime. However, this will depend on how well the decking is taken care of, the type of wood used and the traffic levels on the deck. Sections that are worn down can be sanded down or replaced, which saves you the time and money it would take to replace the whole deck.

Composite decking is often rated for 20 to 30 years, although it can last longer and requires less maintenance. Maintenance for composite decking usually only involves cleaning it and there is no need for paint, oils or stains to protect it from damage caused by moisture. One thing to note is that composite decking is prone to scratches. These scratches are harder to repair or remove because composite decking cannot be sanded down.

Environmental Impact

Timber is an environmentally-friendly building material. Once it ages, it breaks down without causing too much damage to the environment. Timber can also be sourced in a way that causes as little damage to the environment as possible.

Composite decking, on the other hand, is made out of recycled wood and plastic. In some cases, this plastic is recycled. Even though the wood used minimises the impact of the manufacture of composite decking on the environment, the plastic has some impact on the environment.

The production process, the by-products and the fact that crude oil is used in the manufacturing process can make it seem like composite decking is not environmentally friendly. To ensure that it is, manufacturers are using recycled plastic in the manufacturing process. This way, manufacturing waste, as well as the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills, is reduced.

Strength

Composite decking is not a structural material. This means that it requires more support to give it the strength required when used in decking. Contractors do this by placing joists closer together which can increase the cost of having the decking installed. Timber is a structural material and does not need as much support to prevent sagging or breakages.

Your choice of decking material will depend on the characteristics of the material as well as your personal preferences. Composite decking is the better option if you do not want to spend a lot of time taking care of the decking and need a non-slip decking surface because you have kids in the house. Timber decking can be a great option if you are going for a traditional look and do not mind the maintenance it takes to keep the decking in top shape.

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