Wood continues to be many builders’ first choice for deck material, but it isn’t nearly as durable or resilient to water damage or wood-destroying insects as one would hope. Composite decking completely solves this problem.
If you’ve decided to skip wood and take the composite decking route, two brand names are bound to appear during your research: UltraDeck and Trex.
UltraDeck has been the most buzzed-about choice of the do-it-yourself crowd mainly because it offers some of the most affordable, UV- and impact-resistant deck boards on the market today.
HGTV Dream Home has brought composite decking into the mainstream. The show also made its decking-of-choice, Trex, extremely popular.
So which brand should you use for your upcoming deck project?
- Both UltraDeck and Trex have lines that are priced below $2.50 per lineal foot.
- UltraDeck and Trex’s premium lines are strong enough to withstand regular foot traffic, heavy furniture, and occasional drops and bumps.
- If you want to future-proof your deck, go with Trex since the company offers better warranties.
UltraDeck is a composite decking brand owned by Eau Claire, a Wisconsin-based Midwest Manufacturing, which has been a major building supplies manufacturer since 1969.
In 2005, Midwest Manufacturing applied for a patent for UltraDeck Fusion and then offered it to the market soon after. Today, Ultradeck has 5 composite decking lines, as well as the special top-cap product named QuickCap.
- Fusion and Fusion 2.0: Both Fusion lines were inspired by tropical hardwoods and feature distinctive dark streaks. Fusion is available in Coastal Cedar and Driftwood Gray colors, while Fusion 2.0 comes in Walnut and Rosewood.
- Inspire: Available in Spanish Cedar, Fieldstone, Sandstone, and Canyon with a woodgrain pattern, UltraDeck Inspire is a premium grooved decking line that is weather- and fading-resistant.
- Triumph: Available in solid dark gray (Slate) and brown (Pecan).
- Rustic: Available in Redwood, Hickory, Gray and Cedar, UltraDeck Rustic leaves the decking core’s wood fibers uncapped.
- Natural: This is the only UltraDeck line that has a hollow profile and reversible colors – one side is woodgrain, the other is brushed side (which can be stained a year after installation).
All UltraDeck lines are available in 8, 12, 16, and 20 feet lengths. They are officially sold at Menards online and at brick-and-mortar stores.
Winchester, Virginia-based Trex is one of the innovators in the composite decking world. It launched its first board in 1996, way before the HGTV Dream Home show was ever on air.
What makes Trex stand out from other composite decking manufacturers is that its deck boards are made from 95% recycled material. Every year, Trex reuses over 400 million pounds of plastic, scrap wood, and other materials from landfills. The company is responsible for recycling 1.5 billion plastic bags.
Today, Trex has developed four composite decking lines:
- TrexTranscend – Transcend boasts a solid deck with a natural-looking wood grain pattern. It is available in 8 colors: 3 Earth-toned (Gravel Path, Rope Swing & Vintage Lantern) and 5 tropical colors (Havana Gold, Island Mist, Lava Rock, Spiced Rum & Tiki Torch). Of all the Trex lines, Transcend is considered the most durable and best-looking.
- TrexSelect – A mid-ranged, “simplified” and more affordable version of Transcend, the Trex Select line is available in Woodland Brown, Winchester Grey, Saddle, Pebble Grey, and Madeira colors. All options have wood grain patterns but these decks aren’t as scratch-resistant as the premium TrexTranscend.
- Enhance Natural – The Enhance Naturals line is available in Earthy tones like Coastal Bluff, Foggy Wharf, Rocky Harbor, Toasted Sand, and Sunset Cove.
- Enhance Basics – A lightweight scalloped decking, Enhance Basics come in three colors: Beach Dune, Clam Shell, and Saddle.
If you’re looking for affordability, both UltraDeck and Trex have lines that are priced below $2.50 per lineal foot. UltraDeck’s Rustic & Natural, and both of Trex’s Enhance options, are more affordable but are not as durable and as fade-resistant as the other collections.
As for the premium lines, UltraDeck’s Inspire is around $4.50 a lineal foot, which is similar to Trex’s Transcend which goes from $4.15 to $4.50 per lineal foot.
If you’re leaning towards Trex, note that it isn’t easy to install. If you haven’t had experience working with composite decks, you might be forced to hire professional contractors to have them installed and this will ultimately cost you more.
Trex wins this category. While all UltraDeck lines come with a 25-year warranty, the uncapped Rustic and Natural lines are only backed for 10 years.
Meanwhile, all Trex composite decking products come with a 25-year warranty.
Further, UltraDeck’s labor warranty is non-existent, while Trex has a substantially more comprehensive labor warranty. Simply put, Trex gives a longer labor warranty to installers that are more experienced.
Staining & Fading comparison
Trex wins this category, simply because the company backs up its composite decking with a 50-year fade- and stain- warranty.
UltraDeck’s capped options (Fusion, Inspire, Triumph) won’t fade much either, but the Natural and Rustic options tend to fade. If you prefer the look of faded wood, Rustic is manufactured with additives to minimize the impact of the sun’s UV rays.
UltraDeck and Trex’s premium lines (Inspire and Transcend respectively) are strong enough to withstand regular foot traffic, heavy furniture, and occasional drops and bumps.
I love that Trex makes reports of material testing publicly available. Unfortunately, UltraDeck doesn’t have one. These tests are the most accurate way to determine durability between lines. What I do know is that the UltraDeck company’s capped composite decks are sturdy and undergo minimal fading through the years.
If you’re trying to find a particular look that only UltraDeck Inspire decks could offer (this line doesn’t look like anything from Trex), then this should be your best bet. Inspire is budget-friendly for a premium line and offers a decent 25-year warranty. The biggest drawback you might face is availability, especially if you live nowhere near Menards.
Trex is ideal for consumers looking for an eco-friendly option that offers the same fading and scratch resistance as its more traditional competition. Trex composite decking lines are also termite-resistant and offer more color options. Finally, if you want to future-proof your deck, go with Trex since the company offers better warranties.