Composite vs. Wood Decking: How to Choose the Right Material

Composite and wood can both provide your home with a quality deck. Wood offers a natural look and is often less expensive. High-quality composites mimic wood and offer lower maintenance but come with a higher price tag. 

Composite vs. Wood Decking: How to Choose the Right Material

Composite Decking at a Glance

Composite is a decking material made of wood fibers and plastic. It’s durable, low maintenance, and has a natural wood look. Some popular composite deck manufacturers include DuraLife, Fiberon, Trex Decking, and Envision.

What Materials Create Composite Decks?

  • Wood and Plastic: Wood plastic composite (WPC) is a blend of natural fibers and plastic powder. WPC deck boards provide environmental benefits through waste-derived natural fibers and recycled plastics. They’re easy to color and install but aren’t weather-resistant due to the fiber content.
  • Minerals and Plastics: Mineral-based composite (MBC) combines plastics and minerals. The resulting boards are stable, durable, and resistant to moisture and pests. 
  • Cellular PVC: Cellular PVC uses polyvinyl chloride (PVC) as its primary component. Manufacturers often add grain patterns for wood-like properties and paintability. It offers insect, water, and rot resistance and superior environmental benefits to plastics.

Pros and Cons of a Composite Deck


  • Doesn’t warp or splinter
  • Low maintenance
  • Resistant to rotting and termite infestation


  • Prone to fading
  • More expensive than natural wood

Wood Decking at a Glance

Wood decking is a traditional and popular choice for outdoor decks. Wood provides natural, rustic aesthetics, complementing various architectural styles and landscaping designs.

Which Types of Wood are Ideal for Decking?

Choosing the right type of wood impacts the deck’s lifespan. There are several types of wood species used for decking. Each wood type has its unique characteristics.

Here are some popular types of wood for decks:

  • Cedar: Cedar is a softwood that’s naturally resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage. It has a warm, reddish-brown color and a straight-grain pattern. Cedar is lightweight and easy to work with, making it a popular choice for DIY projects.
  • Redwood: Redwood is a durable softwood that contains natural oils and tannins. The elements resist rot, decay, and insect damage without chemical treatment. Redwood is also lightweight and easy to work with.
  • Pressure-treated pine: Pressure-treated pine is a more affordable option for decking. The softwood undergoes chemical treatment to resist rot, decay, and insect damage. It’s easy to stain or paint pressure-treated pine.
  • Ipe: Ipe is a durable hardwood that’s resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage. It has a dark brown color and a tight, straight-grain pattern. Ipe is heavy, making it more challenging to work with and pricier than other wood species.
  • Mahogany: Mahogany is a popular hardwood due to its appeal and durability. It has a reddish-brown color and a straight-grain pattern. Mahogany is also resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage. But it’s expensive.

Pros and Cons of Wood Decks


  • Best for DIY projects
  • Less expensive than composite decks
  • Offers a classic and natural look


  • High maintenance costs
  • Prone to rotting, decaying, and insect damage

Composite vs. Wood Decking: Comparison


Wood decking is susceptible to rot and decay in high humidity or high moisture areas. You should maintain a regular inspection schedule to identify and repair damaged parts.

Wood decking needs periodic staining and sealing to prevent rot and insect damage. (Often, every 3-5 years.) The frequency of staining and sealing depends on the wood species and local climate. 

Composite decking is not susceptible to rot or decay like wood decking, and it doesn’t require sanding and staining. You do still need to clean composite decking with soap and water a few times per year to keep it in good shape.


Composite decking offers superior durability due to insect and moisture resistance. Composite does not absorb moisture, preventing warping, splitting, rot, and decay.

The durability of wood decking varies depending on the wood species. Some species, such as cedar and redwood, are more durable than pine, for example.


The price of composite ranges from $3 to $12 per square foot, depending on the quality and brand. Wood prices range from $2 to $8 per square foot, depending on the type.

Homeowners save money on maintenance costs with composite decking due to minimal requirements. Wood decking requires regular maintenance, such as staining and sealing. The maintenance costs are crucial in preventing element damage and extending its lifespan.

Natural Appearance

Composite decks have an artificial appearance which some homeowners find unappealing. Wood decking has a natural look and feel. Different wood species have unique grain patterns and colors, which add character to the deck.

Composite decking is available in a limited range of colors, mostly gray and brown shades. Some composite decking brands offer more color options but are more expensive.

Wood decking is available in a wide range of colors, depending on the type of wood used. Cedar and redwood, for example, have natural reddish-brown hues.

Weather Resistance

Composite is more weather-resistant than wood decking. Wood is porous, so when the sealant on it wears down, it can absorb moisture. Excess moisture can cause a wood deck to warp, split, crack, or decay.

Direct exposure to sunlight can cause both wood and composite decks to fade over time. Most composite decking will come with a limited warranty guaranteeing fade resistance for a set number of years.

Environmental Impact

Composite decking has a lower environmental impact and is more durable. The primary composite components are recycled plastic and wood fibers.

Composite materials reduce waste and conserve natural resources due to their long-lasting nature. Composite, however, has an energy-intensive production and is non-biodegradable. Composite decks end up in landfills once their lifespan depletes.

Wood has a lower energy input, meaning there will be low carbon emissions. It’s also a biodegradable and renewable source.