Deck Reviews & Comparisons
Learn about how different decking materials and companies compare so that you can find the right decking for your home.

Composite Vs. Wood Decking — Which Is The Best Option For You?

If you're considering installing a new deck in your backyard, you'll likely want to compare composite decking vs. wood decking. There are key differences between these two popular decking materials to factor into your decision. 

A new deck can enhance your backyard enjoyment and increase your home's value. This guide examines the pros and cons of composite and wood decks to help you choose the best option for your home.


Composite Decking Overview

Composite decking is made of recycled plastic, wood materials, and bonding agents. The components are mixed together, extruded, and formed into deck boards that mimic the look and feel of real wood. Composite boards are installed much like traditional wood deck boards.

Low maintenance needs. Composite decking is fade-, stain-, mold-, and scratch-resistant. You won't have to stain or seal a composite deck. I find that washing it occasionally with soap and water to remove dirt and debris is all that's required.
Durability. The average life expectancy of a composite deck is 30 to 50 years. The materials withstand harsh weather and heavy foot traffic better than natural wood.
Customizable aesthetics. Composite decking comes in a wide variety of colors and grain patterns. You can mimic the look of exotic hardwoods or choose bold, vibrant colors to make a statement.
Higher up-front cost. Composite decking costs $8 to $13 per square foot installed — two to three times more than the cost of pressure-treated pine, cedar, or redwood decks.
Can get hot. Composite absorbs heat from the sun and can get uncomfortably hot on your bare feet on summer days. Newer composites mitigate this issue.
Prone to staining. Composite isn't impervious to stains. Oil, grease, and chemicals can cause permanent discoloration if not cleaned up quickly.

Wood Decking Overview

Wood decks use solid, natural wood boards. Common species are:

  • Pressure-treated pine Inexpensive softwood treated for rot and insect resistance. Lasts 10 to 15 years. Pine is the most commonly used deck wood due to its affordability.
  • Cedar  —  Naturally rot-resistant softwood with a distinct aroma. Lasts 15 to 20 years.
  • Redwood  —  Rot-resistant softwood that's highly workable. Lasts 15 to 30 years.
  • Tropical hardwoods  —  Extremely dense and durable but expensive. Lasts over 30 years.
Lower cost. Pressure-treated pine is the most affordable decking material. Even premium woods like ipe cost less than composites.
Natural beauty. Wood has an unmistakable natural richness some homeowners prefer over composites. Finishes accentuate the wood's natural grain patterns.
Stays cooler. Wood absorbs less heat, so it's more comfortable under your bare feet.
Higher maintenance needs. Wood needs refinishing with stain/sealant every two to three years to maintain its appearance.
Prone to rotting and cracking. Maintenance prevents decay. Cracks form as boards expand and contract seasonally.
Less durable. Although some woods resist rot well, none matches the composite's 30- to 50- year life span.
Can warp and splinter. Wood naturally shrinks and swells, leading to warping and splintering over time.

Key Differences

FactorCompositeWood
Initial cost per square foot$8 – $13$3 – $9
Lifespan30 – 50 years10 – 30 years
MaintenanceVery lowModerate to high
Customizable aestheticsHighLow to moderate
Stain resistanceHighLow to moderate
Heat absorptionHighLow
Rot/insect resistanceExcellentVaries by wood species
Prone to cracking/warpingNoYes

Combining Composite and Wood

It’s possible to build a deck using composite for the deck boards and wood for the substructure, rails, and accents. This mixed materials approach gives you the best of both worlds:

  • Use composite decking on a pressure-treated pine subframe
  • Incorporate real wood posts, rails, trim, and accents
  • Choose composite boards with a wood-like grain pattern

This approach combines a durable, low-maintenance walking surface with beautiful real wood accents.


So, Which Is Better for You: Composite or Wood?

There's no definitively better deck material. The pros and cons show that each has advantages and disadvantages.The right choice depends on your priorities.

Composite is better if you want:

  • Extremely low maintenance
  • Maximum durability
  • Bold, customizable colors
  • Stain and rot resistance

Wood is better if you want:

  • A classic, natural look
  • Real wood grain beauty
  • Lower up-front cost
  • A cooler deck

Talk to local deck builders about whether your lifestyle, priorities, and budget favor composite or wood. Combining both materials in a custom deck is a great option, too.

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FAQs About Composite Decking Vs. Wood

Does composite decking get hot in the sun?

Yes, composite absorbs and retains more heat than wood. On hot days, composite decks can get uncomfortably hot under your bare feet. Newer composites are engineered to reduce heat absorption. Lighter colors also stay cooler than darker ones.


How long do composite vs. wood decks last?

In my experience, composite decks last about 30 to 50 years. Wood decks last 10 to 30 years, depending on species and maintenance.


Can you stain composite decking?

No. The color runs throughout composite boards. Semi-transparent deck washes can freshen older decks.


Is Trex composite decking?

Yes. Made from recycled plastic and wood fibers, Trex is a popular composite choice for its durability, low maintenance needs, and natural wood look.


How often should you seal a wood deck?

Seal wood decks every two to three years to maintain their appearance. More frequent sealing is recommended in harsh climates. Use clear water sealer or semi-transparent or solid color opaque stains.



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