Composite or Natural: Which is the Best Material for Your Deck?

If you’re putting in a new outdoor deck, there are a few important decisions you’ll have to make. One is which professional deck builder you’re going to work with—this obviously has a big impact on how your deck will turn out. Another important decision is the overall design and layout of your deck, and which amenities you’ll go for. A third key factor is which material you’ll use.

This last decision is something that leaves a lot of homeowners scratching their heads. Aren’t the materials used to build outdoor decks pretty much the same, all things considered?

The answer: Not really. When you’re in the process of planning for your new deck, there are two main types of material you’ll have to choose from: Composite or wood. If you choose wood, you’ll then have to decide whether to use pressure treated wood or not.

For now, let’s focus on the choice between composite and wood. Here are some important questions to keep in mind while making this decision:

  • What’s my budget right now?
  • What’s the best and cheapest solution in the long-term?
  • Is one material or another better suited to my home and tastes?

Wood

Who can argue with the look and feel of real wood? In the case of outdoor decks, it’s also typically the more budget-friendly solution—at least up front. If you with a wood deck, be prepared to hear the following from your deck installation specialist:

You’ll need to stain and treat your deck every two years or so
Around the five year mark, the wood should be stripped of all treatment and sanded down before applying a new treatment

To some owners, these maintenance requirements are entirely manageable. Others would prefer a more worry-free solution.

Another important note about wood: There are many varieties that can be used for your outdoor deck. Cedar is very popular on the lower end of the cost scale. Redwood is also popular, but costs more. These woods do contain natural oils that preserve them against the elements, and against hungry insects.

In terms of variety, there are many types of natural wood to choose from. The most common softwood is cedar. Redwood (another softwood) is also popular. Both contain oils and tannins that make them naturally resistant to rotting, insects, and decay. Hardwoods such as Ipe and Jutoba are also commonly used, and are even better suited to withstand the elements. Hardwoods are, however, more expensive.

Composite

Most of the problems associated with natural woods—decay, maintenance, weathering—have been addressed with the invention of strong composite materials. Made from different blends of plastic, natural fibers, vinyl and other recycled materials, composites can last years without any change in appearance. The overall maintenance requirements and financial costs are lower once the deck is installed—but the installation itself will cost more, simply because composite materials are more expensive to make.

A good composite deck might run between $30 and $50 per square foot, compared to the lower cost (as little as $25) for a natural softwood. To get an estimate that’s specific to your project, you’ll need to consult a qualified pro in your area.

As for the drawbacks, composite doesn’t have many—except that the surface of the deck can get very hot if you live in a warm climate. People who live in tropical areas, where the weather is warm all throughout the year, are often advised to choose a natural wood surface for their deck, in order to keep it cooler throughout the year.

What’s the best choice for you?

The answer really depends on where you live, how much you want to spend up front, and what kind of maintenance requirements you’re looking for in the long term. Both natural wood and composite materials have strong advantages and can be installed with excellent results—provided you work with an experienced and reputable contractor!

Best of luck with your deck, and please comment!

Client Testimonials

J.Widener from Newton, NJ

“Outstanding team. Very impressed with the whole process and the most with my new beautiful deck!”

S.Long from Franklin Township, NJ

“The deck looks FANTASTIC. I still can’t believe that Deck Guardian was able to resurface my old, ugly deck. Our neighbors have stopped by to comment on how great the deck looks. The attention to detail, work ethic and professionalism set this company apart. I highly recommend Deck Guardian!”

M.Lewis from Fleminton, NJ

“We have received numerous compliments from Neighbor’s and friend’s who think that the finished project looks terrific. Not only do I appreciate the “quality job”, but I really appreciate the professional manner Skip handled all the details!”

L.Cohen from West Orange, NJ

“When I came home yesterday, I could not believe how amazing my newly resurfaced deck looked. Crew did an amazing job. It was also a pleasure to work with your salesperson, very professional and knowledgeable!”

S.Smith from Chester Township, NJ

“I’m completely impressed. I have dealt with my share of contractors as I have been updating my home for several years. Deck Guardian gets the gold medal. Deck Guardian restored my 10 year old deck & fence to a brand new condition. I am amazed!”

P.Tang from Westfield, NJ

“Deck Guardian Team did a good and pleasant job to give us a professional service and a beautiful new deck, without replacing it. We love the color and the way it feels like. Highly recommended!”

Kathryn Barchi from Piscataway, NJ

“My husband and I had recently moved into a new home and quite quickly we learned of so many things that both us and the home inspector missed prior to the purchase; the deck being one huge item. We quite desperately wanted to use our deck and know that it was safe for us, our kids, our pups, and our guests, which in the original state, was definitely not the case. Deck Guardian to the rescue! The Deck Guardian team, from the free estimate to the point of project close, were quite wonderful to work with entirely. They even pointed out additional things we had missed with regards to the safety of our deck. Of course, best of all, the Deck Guardian team was able to work within our budget, while giving us back our deck with a new lease on life. Deck Guardian far exceeded our expectations and for that, my husband and I can not thank them enough!!!”

Jessica Ravitz from Skillman, NJ

“Deck Guardian completed an amazing deck replacement project for us in less than 2 weeks after we signed our contract. Not only did they provide an extremely competitive price, we got a beautiful deck that so greatly exceeded our expectations! Everyone at Deck Guardian is wonderful – from the estimator, the crew and the administrative staff – very friendly, professional, meticulous and hard working. We are so pleased and give the highest recommendation!!! Thank you Deck Guardian!”

Paul Cichello from Bridgewater, NJ

“I contacted Deck Guardian and was given an estimate the very next day. The representative was very knowledgeable and fair. The workers were polite and professional. We are satisfied with our new deck and would recommend Deck Guardian to anyone who wants quality work.”