Composite decking is experiencing a surge in popularity as it rivals and sometimes even surpasses timber as the preferred material for decking.
When it comes to creating a composite board, the best properties of both timber and recycled plastics synergise, coming together from their respective sources to unite, delivering the highest performance with the lowest maintenance.
But how much does such a composite deck cost? Well, you’ve come to the right place to find out.
In this article, we”ll give you a comprehensive lowdown on everything you need to know about composite decking, from what it’s made of to how much it costs, and everything in between.
What is composite decking?
Composite decking is virtually the product of recycled materials, being comprised of reusable plastics and timber remains, such as sawdust. In a single unit, the core is typically made up of the wood component, while the plastics are used on the outside.
Uncapped decking is generally cheaper, whereas capped decking enjoys a second outermost layer that is added during the manufacturing process to add more strength to the board, as well as making it stain resistant and less likely to fade.
Whether you opt for the capped or uncapped boards, both are characterised by authentic woodgrain effects so they look like timber minus the timber.
So, what value is there in buying composite decking as opposed to timber decking, particularly when you compare the price tags?
Well, while timber decking might be cheaper in the short, composite decking offers some big bonuses that make it a worthy competitor for your money:
1) Durability: They might not be shaped from a single plank of wood, nor are they as tough as some hardwoods, but composite planks are extremely hardwearing and strong, and are likely to last an extremely long time if cared for in an appropriate manner.
2) High resistance: admittedly, composite decks are susceptible to the elements, just like every other outdoor fixture, yet they are highly resistant to these elements thanks to the process they undergo during manufacturing. Although they might give in eventually, they are virtually impervious to scratches, stains and mould.
3) Less hazardous: If you live near a fire-prone area, composite boards are probably the right materials for your deck. There are many composite decks that are fire resistant, meaning they won’t go up in a whoosh like timber decks might should a bush-fire threaten your household. Similarly, they are virtually waterproof, meaning they won’t absorb swell and warp unlike their natural counterparts if you happen to install them in a moist, humid area.
4) Environmentally friendly: unlike timber boards, composite boards are much friendlier to the environment. Their production doesn’t necessitate nor contribute to deforestation, because they are crafted almost completely from 100% recycled products. This makes them much more in line with the eco-conscious values of our modern society.
5) Looks: Composite boards retain the look of a classic wooden deck, although they’re not wood at all. Thanks to the woodgrain design that’s printed onto their outer layer, they look startlingly like an authentic wood product, even though they’re not wooden at all.
What varieties are out there?
There are a bunch of composite varieties out there that may be suitable for your home, but to ensure you get the right one it’s important that you consult an expert for professional advice.
Nevertheless, below we describe some of the characteristics and features you’d commonly find in the most popular composite boards:
1) Capping: Capped decking has an extra outer layer added during the manufacturing process for further protection. It increases the boards’ resistant qualities and enhances its durability, but tend to cost a little more than the uncapped variety.
2) Fastening: Just like timber boards, composite boards can be drilled and screwed into a bigger framework to create the cladding that will become your deck. However, some of the more expensive products come with hidden fasteners, making nail and screw heads invisible to the casual onlooker.
3) Finish: While all composite products have a convincing woodgrain appearance, there are those that have more intricate designs and effects if you’re willing to fork out for it. These products will more closely resemble a natural wooden product because they have a randomness about them that a second grade factory product lacks.
4) Scallops: Some composite decks have a scalloped or incomplete bottom. While they may never see the light of day and will forever be turned to the ground once installed, their durability generally diminishes as a result of this. This decrease also translates to a lower price — meaning they might be cheaper, but they typically won’t last as long.
5) Water/fireproof: Most composite decks, as outlined earlier, are inherently resistant to water absorption and fire hazards. Nonetheless, some brands are less susceptible to fire and water than others, and these typically cost more thanks to these properties. If you want to purchase a brand that is basically immune to fire and water, you’ll need to fork out a little more for it than your standard composite board.
How much will I pay for composite decking?
Composite decking generally costs somewhere between $100 to $350 AUD per square metre, depending on the type you want to purchase.
Your price will typically be determined by the following factors:
Type: As we mentioned above, if you want a composite board that more closely represents a natural timber, you’ll have to fork out more for it. The same goes if you want invisible fasteners, which will create an illusion of seamlessness across your relaxation pad, you’ll need to fork out more again.
Size: size dictates how much you’ll be required to pay. If you have a big, grandiose deck that will house the whole kit and kaboodle — including a barbecue, sunshade and bar — you can expect to pay more than a more modest deck that might serve its purpose simply as a poolside pad.
Council regulations: if your local council requires permits, you may be expected to pay a fee of some description.
Design: Whether you have a huge ostentatious deck in mind, or a small, understated one, it’s likely you’ll require approval by a qualified specialist before you start building. This is to make sure that the structure will pass all tests and comply with local regulations, which (again) will probably attract a fee of some kind.
Are composite boards friendly to the environment?
You betcha. Unlike timber products, which have a direct impact on the environment through deforestation, composite boards are made almost exclusively from recyclable and reusable materials. This means they are much friendlier towards the environment.
This isn’t to tarnish the reputation of nor discount timber products that are harvested from sustainable wood forests, as these are also extremely friendly towards the environment.
But composite boards, unlike these products, don’t require harvesting at all.
This is because they don’t use any new raw materials and they reuse the waste of other products, giving them a second life as a new product elsewhere.
Hiring a professional
If you’re new to the decking game, it’s highly likely you’ll want to hire a professional build your deck for you. If that’s the case, make sure you verify their credentials and make sure you follow up on the following:
They hold a current licence
They have insurance
They can complete your project on time
They can provide a written quote (either hardcopy or digital)
They can talk to the council on your behalf when it comes to compliance with local rules and regulations
They have testimony from other customers and references attesting to their professionalism
Make sure, before you book anybody in or put a deposit down, that you check the criteria outlined above — there’s nothing worse than hiring a shoddy labourer whose questionable workmanship will delay the completion of your project.
Make sure they’re legit the first time around, so you don’t have to worry about a second time around.
Local safety regulations
If you hire a qualified builder, you’ll have no probs at all when it comes to this area of building your deck, because they will interact with and negotiate compliance agreements with the council on your behalf.
Nevertheless, as the main stakeholder in the timely and fashionable completion of your project, you should also double check with the right authorities to make sure you are conforming where expected.
This might mean making sure you have approval to build a deck in the first place, as well as making sure you include a fence — particularly if your deck surrounds a pool.
It’s best to get all this checked before you commence your project, so get in contact with your local council or commission your deck builder to do it on your behalf.