Wood Deck vs. Composites: While Other Homeowners May Have Made Their Selections, Is it a New Question for You?

Dayton homeowners are still trying to sort out the advantages and disadvantages of building their decks with wood or composite/synthetic decking materials. Although the “new” materials, sometimes called wood alternatives, have been around for 25 years, this is still a new question for some homeowners. That’s because until it’s YOUR deck, you don’t really have to decide—once and for all— which material you would use. Suddenly, when you are on the verge having a deck built at YOUR home, you are faced with this decision as though it’s being considered for the first time. Which it is, by you.

There are a few different ways to approach the question. We will share those with you now in hopes that your Dayton deck builder Archadeck of West Central & Southwest Ohio can make this process a little easier for you. When we meet with you for your deck design consultation, please let us know if you have additional questions. We want each homeowner to feel confident about the design decisions you are making for your Dayton-area outdoor living space.

We can break the decisions down to cost, aesthetics, maintenance and longevity.

When Do Aesthetics Matter More than Money?

When the price of wood alternatives is within your budget for a new deck, price may not be your driving factor in the decision. For some homeowners, nothing is more important than the look and feel of natural wood. If that’s the case for you, then a wood deck is right for you. If you could afford a composite deck if you wanted it, then you can probably afford to pay someone to handle the maintenance a wood deck requires to look good from year to year. Also, there are more expensive woods than pressure-treated pine, so you might want to consider ipe (pronounced “eepay”) or some of the other exotic hardwoods. Give Archadeck of West Central & Southwest Ohio a call to discuss those options.

If you haven’t explored composite decking, take a look at some samples before you make up your mind. In the early days of composites, they really did look horrible and they earned the name “fake wood.” Today’s composites are much improved. Manufacturers are constantly working to develop modifications to make these wood alternatives appealing to everyone.

How Much Deck Maintenance is Too Much?

For some homeowners, any deck maintenance is too much. Is that true for you? If so, you must either pay someone to maintain your wood deck, let it deteriorate or pay more for low-maintenance composite or synthetic decking boards. Now, please be aware that the manufacturers of wood alternatives do not call their products “no-maintenance.” They recommend that you sweep your composite deck when necessary and hose it down once in a while. If something is spilled that could stain the deck, it’s your responsibility to clean it up as soon as possible to minimize the chances of staining.

What exactly does deck maintenance entail? It helps to know what you’re running from, if you are. About once a year, a pressure-treated wood deck needs to be cleaned, sanded and restained or it will begin to weather and deteriorate. Not only is wood vulnerable to mold and insect damage, the wood fibers are also damaged by the sun’s UV rays. Not a pretty picture. Exotic hardwood decks need some maintenance but not as much as pressure-treated pine. They are more durable and resistant to decay.

How Long Do You Need Your Deck to Last?

The lifespan of a well-maintained wood deck is about 12-15 years. Composite decks will last considerably longer. One question we always ask our clients is how long do you intend to remain in this house? If you are going to move within five years, a wood deck is by far your best value. You will only need to deal with the maintenance issue a few times (whether you do the work yourself or pay someone else to do it). There is no need for you to invest in a feature (longevity) that you will not be there to enjoy. When you sell your home, the new owners may want to start over with a completely different deck anyway, so don’t worry about pleasing them.

Speaking of longevity, the earliest composites are not going to last as long as today’s products will. Composite decks and railings from 20 years ago are starting to look bad now, and Archadeck of West Central & Southwest Ohio is already being called in to redeck many of those. In contrast, today’s composites carry warranties from 25-30 years because of product improvements. Most of the composite decks we build today are built with capped composite. That refers to a core of recycled wood fibers and plastics with an extremely durable cap or shell covering three or four sides of each decking board.

If you want a new deck and need to learn more about today’s options for decking materials, contact Archadeck of West Central & Southwest Ohio today at (937) 848 – 7040 or (513) 897 – 2040, or via email at [email protected].


Tim Stephens, owner, Archadeck of West Central & Southwest Ohio.

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