Plastic decking is the most durable and maintenance-free form of decking for your outdoor areas. Plastic boards made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and composite decking materials are a newer and popular alternative to wood decking.
Plastic deck boards last longer, are more resistant to rot, and have a smaller environmental impact than wood deck boards.
Create a deck where you can spend time and share memories with family and friends for years to come with plastic deck boards.
What is Plastic Decking?
There are three main types of plastic deck boards: PVC, HDPE, and composite decking.
1. PVC Boards
PVC boards are made from polyvinyl chloride. They are long-lasting, fade-resistant, and come in many colors. Many companies make their plastic decking materials from recycled products making it a product that has a smaller environmental footprint than other decking options. There are even rustic boards that have wood grain to resemble real wood better.
2. HDPE Boards
Manufacturers craft these boards from petroleum thermoplastic and are known for their strength, moisture resistance, and density. Fewer companies use this type of plastic, but it is available in several wood tones and size boards. Also, manufacturing HDPE boards does not release the toxic compounds into the air that the production of PVC decking does.
3. Composite Boards
Composite decking is a combination of plastic and wood. The wood fibers make the boards stronger while the plastic makes them more resistant to water. Composite decking is resistant to rot and moisture, and it has the look of real wood.
Full Plastic vs Composite Decking
Full plastic and composite decking stand up better to the elements of the outdoors better than wood boards. However, there are distinct differences in these products that make these options unique from one another.
- Cost – The cost for PVC, HDPE, and composite boards are difficult to compare because there are many differences between brands. However, in general, plastic boards cost between $5-$13 per square foot and composite boards cost between $4-$12 per square foot for just the boards.
- Longevity – With a minimum level of upkeep, both of these products have an average lifespan of around 25-30 years.
- Look – Both composite and plastic boards have a grain pattern that resembles wood, but these patterns differ. Composite decking has a more natural appearance because it does have wood as part of its content.
- Maintenance – Both products require little heavy maintenance, though a twice-a-year cleaning will keep them both looking their best and free from mold and dirt.
- Installation – Plastic boards are lighter and are easier to transport and handle. Both plastic and composite decking expand and contract in hot and cold weather, though the wood in composite decking keeps it more stable throughout the seasons.
- Feel on bare feet – Plastic decks can become very hot and burn your feet with prolonged exposure to the sun. Composite decking does not get as hot and is more slip-resistant than plastic.
- Good for the Environment – Both plastic and composite decking are made from recycled materials. However, when the lifespan of the deck is over, the plastic deck boards can be recycled whereas the composite decking material may not be because of its mixed content.
The Best Plastic Deck Boards: A Buying Guide
We have rounded up some great options for plastic deck boards including PVC, HDPE, and composite decking. Consider all the options to see which one would work best for your outdoor space.
TIVA crafts one of the best PVC boards on the market known as TIVADEK. This board is scratch and stain resistant, suitable for extreme climates, and stands up well to moisture and mold.
It comes in beautiful colors inspired by the natural world and mimics the look and feel of natural wood.
Wolf has two varieties of deck boards both PVC and composite. Serenity are their PVC boards and Wolf Perspective is a composite.
Wolf Serenity is the more premium product with a longer warranty, 50 compared to 25 years, and more color options.
However, both products are moisture and mildew repellent.
Zuri has pioneered a technology for their PVC boards that are unlike any others in the industry. They use cellular PVC, photorealistic print, and premium acrylic to create a board that has a firmer feel and more realistic style than other PVC boards.
It comes in two sizes of deck boards and five natural wood colors.
TimberTech is a trusted name in the industry. They manufacture both polymer and composite boards. The Azek line is the polymer decking of which there are many size boards and color variations.
The installation of these boards is easy; they have CONCEALoc hidden fasteners to connect the boards in a seamless way.
The TimberTech Pro and TimberTech Edge are their composite lines.
Trex is another leader in the field. They are well known for their composite decking materials.
Trex creates their boards from 95% recycled materials of plastic film and reclaimed sawdust and guarantees a deck that doesn’t rot, mold, or split from exposure to the elements.
These boards are available in many color options and have a 25-year warranty.
MoistureShield is a unique product in that it is a composite board that can be installed near or even in water.
The boards are equipped with Solid Core technology to which they claim proprietary rights that creates an impermeable barrier to water, rot and insects.
This company has four types of composite decking: Vision, Meridian, Vantage, and Elevate.
The synthetic lumber from WearDeck is made from HDPE. It comes in eight different colors that resemble beautiful wood tones. They have UV protection with a 25-year warranty that ensures that the decking keeps its color for years to come. Also, unlike other plastic boards, their technology keeps the surface cooler to the touch even in the hot sun.
Fiberon produces both PVC and composite wood decking. Their PVC decking boards have a 50-year stain and fade warranty and their composite decking boards range from 50-25 year warranties.
All their boards have grooved edges which make installation easier. In addition, they have a wide color range across all their board options.
Duralife features a composite board that is made from their unique blend of polypropylene and recycled Canadian hardwood.
Because of its unique composition, it stays 18% cooler than other composite boards making it more comfortable for bare feet in the summer and is more slip resistant.
In addition, their product features a SolarGuard, a polypropylene outer shell, which makes it more resistant to stains and scratching than other composite decking.
How Does Plastic Compare to Real Wood Decking?
Most people find that all plastic and composite decking compare well to real wood decking, but it will not work for everyone. Consider all the pros and cons before you decide if plastic decking is right for you.
- Maintenance – In order to maintain a wood deck, you must stain, sand, and replace boards that rot. Plastic boards do not require this on-going maintenance. Instead, they just need to be cleaned a couple of times a year to keep them looking amazing.
- Longevity – Plastic and plastic composites last much longer than wood decks. In general, plastic boards have a 50-year warranty and composites have a 25-year guarantee.
- Environmental footprint – Many composite and full plastic boards use recycled materials in their composition. In the case of full plastic, you can recycle these after use.
- Cost – In general, full plastic and composite decks are more expensive than wood decks. However, because plastic decks last longer than wood, the longer you have them, the more cost-effective they will be.
- Appearance – Most people agree that real wood looks better than plastic varieties. Still, plastic board manufacturers are making strides towards creating more realistic wood all the time.
- Variability – Unlike wood that you can customize with paint or any color stain, plastic boards come in set colors that cannot be altered to suit the style and color of your home.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ
Is plastic decking better?
PVC and composite decking lasts longer than wood decking. Still, they are not always the best option for everyone. You need to consider how long you will be in your current situation before you invest the money in a plastic deck as most plastic boards are more expensive than most wood options. Also, PVC boards become very hot in the sun, so this may not be the best option if you live in a hot and sunny climate.
Does plastic decking expand?
Yes, plastic boards for decks expand in the hot weather and contract with the color weather. Therefore, it is important to plan for this by creating gaps between the boards on your deck. This will allow them to expand and contract without causing damage to each other.
Does plastic decking get hot?
All decks get hot in the sun, but PVC decks get hotter than composite or wood decks.
Can you paint plastic decking?
Yes and no. You can paint composite decks with latex paint, but it is not recommended to paint PVC decks as the paint will not stick and will peel off over time.
What's the best cleaner for plastic decking?
If you wash down your deck a couple of times a year with soap and water, this should keep your deck looking great. However, if you have a build-up of mold and mildew, you may need something stronger. There are plenty of formulated deck cleaners that you can purchase, but make sure to look that it is safe for plastic decks before you use it. If you want a DIY solution, try a cleaner made from two parts water with one part vinegar. Wet your deck and sprinkle any stains with baking soda. Allow to sit and then spray with the vinegar solution. You can also use a gentle pressure washer if you have more stubborn stains.
How much does it cost to build a plastic deck?
On average, composite or PVC decks cost between $5,000-$10,000 installed.
Plastic decking: Conclusion
Plastic deck boards, both full plastic and composites, are a good option to consider if you are thinking about adding a deck to your outdoor space.
While it doesn’t have the same look and feel of natural wood, its longevity, durability, and low-maintenance make it a clear contender for the top spot.
In addition, the longer you stay in your home, the longer you will have to enjoy your outdoor spaces and the more sense it makes to choose an option that will last for years to come.