The most oft asked question I receive as a decking installer is should I use a composite or real wood? Synthetic decking solutions have been on the market for close to 25 years now and are pretty much a known quantity at this point. In the early days there was some trial and error and for a while everyone wanted to be a decking manufacturer. This led to some not so great products. The market has weeded out the wanna-be’s and I feel a synthetic deck is really the way to go. There are certain home styles and individual tastes that really prefer real wood but, if long term cost and ease of maintenance is your primary criteria composite or PVC decking is the best choice.

The major manufacturer’s have very convincing simulated wood grain products available now with some creative fastening methods. I just installed a small deck with Trex Tropical decking in the color Spiced Rum, and it is truly gorgeous. We used the Hideaway hidden fastener system and the lack of screws in the surface really adds to the appearance.  Azek’s PVC Acacia color is great, as well as several colors in TimberTech’s palette.  Of course you pay a premium for these cutting edge colors but, many of the more basic patterns are barely more than wood.

Why not wood? I know that some individuals will give loving care to their deck and enjoy meticulously sanding and staining it every year giving them unparalleled beauty however, most customers with today’s busy lifestyles and troubled economy report that their main concerns are ease of maintenance and cost. I have found that with the narrowing of the gap in price between composite/PVC decking and wood decking that the price difference is usually bridged in either the first or second application of stain. Staining and especially re-staining a deck is a laborious and expensive task and that cost continues to accrue throughout the lifespan of the structure. Composite and PVC requires only a twice yearly rinsing with a dilute bleach solution to maintain it’s appearance. It takes about twenty minutes and costs about fifty cents per application. Ten years down the road a owner may have restained   wood as many as 5-10 times possibly costing several thousand dollars and it will still look like a 10 year old deck whereas the composite/PVC deck will look essentially the same as when it was installed. This preserves the value of the home and is often listed in the bullet points on a realtors listing of a home.

I hope this answers the question for prospective deck buyers and builders, it’s not so much a definitive answer as a question back at the consumer, what are your expectations? your aesthetic tastes? what kind of a commitment are you willing to make to maintenance? are you looking for short or long term expense? Answering those questions should put you much closer to a decision on your best decking type. My next blog post will explore the difference between standard composites and PVC and co-extruded decking choices. Stay tuned or e-mail me your specific questions.

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