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Wood vs. Composite: Which Makes for the Best Custom Decks?

Posted on April 20, 2018

Custom Decks in San Antonio, TX

At Paradise Decks & Spas, we offer San Antonio truly custom decks, with a vast selection of deck materials, styles, and accessories. In terms of deck materials, we have cedar and exotic hardwoods from excellent brands including: Ipe, Massaranduba, Cumaru, Garapa, and Angelina. We also have composites from top manufacturers like Trex, Evergrain, Fiberon, and Timertech. The question you may ask, then, is which one works best: wood or composite?

There are a few factors to consider here. Let's break them down:

Style

Wood decking is self explanatory — it's decking material made from real wood, finished to hold up to the elements and have a deeper look. Cedar is preferable for decks because of its durability and color but certain other hardwoods are also popular. In the opinion of many homeowners, the look and feel of real wood is hard to beat. It's natural, classic, and has that trademark texture you can't help but love.

Composite decking is catching up, however. Composite decking is made of wood particles infused with plastics. When composite decking was first introduced, it's true that it couldn't stand up to the elegant style of wood. However, it's come a long way since then. Now composite decking can be made to look, and even feel, so much like wood that it's hard to tell the difference between the two. You can opt for smooth composite decking or textured decking, and it comes in a variety of colors. With the right manufacturer, composite decking levels the playing field in terms of style.

Cost

As with anything else, cost depends significantly on the brand and the quality of the material, not just the type of material. As a general rule, composite decking costs more because it's more complicated to manufacture and lower maintenance. However, high quality wood decks such as those made with ipe hardwood — which is resistant to rot and exceptionally durable — may be comparable to standard composite decking in cost. On the other hand, some lower quality composite decking materials may be around the cost of standard or high quality wood decking. Either way, you'll get what you pay for.

Maintenance

Wood decking is known to have maintenance that can be tedious to some homeowners. Depending on the kind of wood, it can chip, rot, and swell when neglected. Wood needs to be stained and sealed every few years to protect it against water damage and chipping and to keep its color. If you need to clean the deck, power washing could be harmful to the wood. Instead, use a gentle detergent and soft brush to clean wood decks. Here again, high quality wood will be more durable and require less maintenance than low quality wood. 

Composite decks are often mistakenly called "no maintenance," but they are relatively low maintenance, particularly compared to wood. These decks won't chip or rot and while warping was once a problem, it's been minimized by higher quality composite brands. It can scratch and fade, however, and for homeowners with pets or kids, it's a good idea to invest in higher quality composite decks with scratch-resistant material. It is susceptible to mold and mildew, and should be washed regularly with a soft brush and detergent. In the case of composite decks, however, there's no harm in power washing and you won't have to worry about staining and sealing.

Environmental Impact

There are ups and downs regarding the environmental impact of both of these materials. Wood is an all-natural and renewable material. It's naturally biodegradable so if you have your wood deck replaced, the materials won't add to waste pollution. However, the chemicals involved in sealants and stains will be released into the air as wood biodegrades, and that could be harmful to the ozone layer.

On the other hand, composite decking is made primarily with recycled materials. No trees need to be cut down to make composite decking, as manufacturers will simply use a mixture of recycled wood and recycled plastic - often from plastic bags. The downside is once the materials are mixed together to create composite decking, they can't be recycled again. However, composite decking will last longer than wood, so it will be some time before that's an issue. 

At the end of the day, there are pros and cons to both materials and both, when high quality, are fine choices that provide variety for our custom decks. A better question is, which one do you prefer? When you know, contact Paradise Decks & Spas or visit our showroom to see our selection of custom decks.

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