Comparison between timber and composite decking

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No matter which way you cut it, decks are an asset to any home in which they’re installed.

A deck gives you a platform from which to experience and enjoy the outdoor surroundings of your home, as well as increasing the appraisal value of the property should you ever choose to put it on the market.

But when the time comes to get one installed, homeowners are usually confronted with an important question: are you interested in the timber or composite variety?

In this article, we explore both the advantages and disadvantages of each type of decking so you can make a more informed decision around which might be best suited for your property and most aligned with your values.

The Upside of Timber Decking

Timber boasts a few key features that make it a highly popular decking material.

First and foremost, it is a product of nature, and therefore retains a most authentic natural appearance that manmade options simply can’t hope to replicate.

Depending on the varieties in which you’re interested and how you treat the wood, timber can give your deck a light, traditional look or something darker and more luxurious.

Should you ever grow tired of the stain or colour that you initially applied to your deck, it is a relatively easy process to strip it up and start all over again, basically giving you limitless options in your deck’s colour range.

Timber is a no-nonsense product that requires little fuss in the way of workmanship. You can cut it, shape it, sand it and paint it with relative ease, and it’s available at affordable prices.

This last point brings us to what is perhaps timber’s biggest selling point: timber decks are generally cheaper than composite decks, so if you’re looking to save money in the short term, it might be the more suitable option for you.

The Downside of Timber Decking

While there’s a sunny side to timber decking, there’s a dark side too.

We mentioned above that timber decking offers great visual appeal in terms of its natural appearance. It’s true, it does. But to maintain that look over time requires a lot of maintenance.

For example, you’ll need to paint or revarnish your timber deck at least once a year to keep it in good condition, as well as to continue protecting it from fading and warping as a result of exposure to the elements.

This ongoing maintenance usually translates into added costs for the homeowner that weren’t mentioned in the product disclaimer.

Over the course of its lifetime, you will need to continue purchasing materials and using your personal time to treat your deck. It might not seem like much on an annual basis, but you add up those totals over a fifteen year period and it can amount to an eye-watering total in terms of time and money.

In addition to this, even though you might take measures to prolong the life and vitality of your timber deck, your efforts might be in vain.

This is because timber decks are notoriously susceptible to the effects of weathering.

Constant exposure to sunlight, water damage, and geographical processes such as erosion means that it’s only a matter of time until the boards begin to break down, warp, weaken and decay.

This means that at some point during its lifetime, components of your deck will likely need to be replaced, again translating into hidden costs that will hit you in the hip pocket again and again.

Lastly, all timber products necessitate the cutting down and harvesting of trees. While many manufacturers in the industry employ sustainable methods to counterbalance their impact on the environment, many do not, meaning they are actively contributing to environmental issues such as deforestation.

If you’re an eco-conscious individual and you’re worried about the impact your spending might have on the environment, but you’re still intent on having a timber deck, make sure you do some research to find an organisation whose practices match your values.

The Upside of Composite Decking

Composite materials haven’t been available for as long as timber materials, so they’re not as well-known nor are they quite as popular.

Nevertheless, with ongoing exposure, composite decks are gaining traction in the market and are now experiencing a huge surge in popularity with consumers.

The first reason for this is its appearance. A quality composite deck resembles natural timber to such a degree that it doesn’t come across as a lookalike, but a clone. The illusion of authentic wood is so beguiling that it will trick even the most trained eye into thinking it’s the real thing.

Although some lower quality composite boards don’t quite have this feature down pat just yet, those on the upper end of the scale most certainly do. With genuine woodgrain effects, such as knots and visible grooves, they look just like real timber minus the timber.

This brings about an important selling point for composite decks. Despite the fact they look like timber, they are not. This means they require very little in the upkeep department.

Other than an occasional hosing down, no annual staining or maintenance is required of a composite deck, meaning more money ends up in your pocket in the long term.

In addition to this, high quality composites come in a capped variety. This is a fancy way of saying they have a protective outer layer that safeguards them against the elements, acting as a shield against external forces that would otherwise compromise its integrity. In other words, composite boards are impervious to the very hazards that threaten timber decking.

As a result of this, composite decks typically enjoy a much longer lifespan and end up costing less in terms of maintenance than their timber counterparts. This translates into more savings for you than if you were to purchase a timber deck.

And the cherry on top: composite decks are manufactured almost entirely from recyclable plastics and wood products such as sawdust, meaning they have little to no impact on the environment. This makes them the obvious choice for people who are mindful of their impact on the environment.

The Downside of Composite Decking

While composite decking is generally a superior product in most areas, it does have a few drawbacks that might make you think twice before swiping your credit card.

First and foremost, the initial outlay for composite materials is generally more expensive than if you were to opt for timber.

However, it should be noted that this extra cost is usually absorbed over the lifetime of the product as it costs little in the way of ongoing maintenance, unlike timber products which will continually drain money from your bank account.

In addition to this, composite materials can’t be recoloured in the same way that timber can. Once you pick your deck and have it installed, you’re stuck with that colour and tone for the duration of its existence.

However, this will only be a problem if you’re limited by a truly strict budget, as higher quality products offer a most authentic timber appearance at relatively affordable prices.

The Verdict

Having compared the pluses and minuses of each type of decking, you should now be in a better position to make a more informed choice around which is more suited for your outdoor area.

While each material offers its own unique benefits to the customer in terms of looks, versatility and performance, it is wise to consider the ongoing expense of upkeep and maintenance. Timber will haunt your bank account for the duration of its existence whereas composite decks will rarely drain another cent from it.

Now that you’re up to scratch with what each product offers you in terms of its usability, durability and cost-effectiveness, you should let your personal needs and values determine which type of decking is most suitable for your home and tastes. Good luck with the new deck!

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