6 Advantages and 6 Disadvantages of Composite Decking

The use of composite decking really seems to be taking off here. While at the Calgary Home and Garden Show I had a bit of a chat at a decking booth. He told me that composite decking material is becoming more and more common. They are still building more timber/wood decks than composite decks, but composite decks are becoming more popular and common.

Below are a few advantages that they talked about with composite decking materials:

  1. No evidence of nails / nice flat finish
  2. Environmentally friendly, made from recycled material (plastics bags, milk bottles, etc.)
  3. Pre-coloured and never has to be painted, oiled or stained
  4. Easy to clean with a hose
  5. Smooth, splinter free finish
  6. Flexible material with many unique possibilites over wood / timber

All of those sounded too good to be true so I did a bit of research into composite decking material after coming home. There is a lot of good things about it, but there are also a few concerns that I found on the Internet about composite building materials. Here are a few of them:

  1. Can not be used for load-bearing or structural work
  2. Expands and contacts at different rates than material needed to be used for structure / frame
  3. If damaged or faded the material must be replaced
  4. It is very temperature sensitive and expands and contracts with temperature change
  5. Very new building material
  6. It’s a soft material and wears easily

Probably the best review of the material that I have read so far is from a deck contractor around Toronto in Ontario, Canada. From reading the article it sounds like he has done a lot of looking into it, and has had some experience with composite building materials, but builds primarily with wood / timber:

We won’t be using composite decking materials for our deck. We already have most of the hardwood decking material from when we removed the deck from our old house. We will probably still need to replace about 30% of the decking, but most of it’s already there, so I’m not in any hurry to replace all of it.

7 thoughts on “6 Advantages and 6 Disadvantages of Composite Decking

  1. Steve

    FWIW, I agree. I’ve yet to see a composite deck that looked good after five years. One thing to add to the “disadvantages” list is not just that it wears easily, it also scratches and gouges easily… as my neighbor learned the first day he had his composite deck and dragged out his barbecue for a christening party. He got two deep gouges that he tried to sand out and only made it look worse.

    I’ve got the most durable deck made, as well as the ugliest unless you like “industrial”. It’s diamond plate steel, like a fire escape landing. It needs a power brushing and a new coat of paint every five years. That’s about it. Fortunately, it’s not in direct sun because it would probably cook your feet.

    However, if I was going to replace it I’d use a hardwood called ipe (also called ironwood). I built a deck table out of it and it’s aptly named. It’s so hard that saw blades and drill bits dull quickly and even 100-grit sandpaper is rubbed flat in about two minutes. But, man, is this wood durable as well as beautiful. And a lot cheaper than other hardwood alternatives like mahogany.

  2. Bill Hutchison Post author

    I think that the decking material that we have already is either Balau or Kwila. I’m not sure which as I have been told both by different builders who have seen it…

  3. Pingback: Update on Composite Decking VS. Wood Decks | Renovate Australia



  5. correysmith321

    Oh, that sure is interesting to know that timber and wood decking are still being made but yet composite decking is on the rise. Well, why is composite decking on the rise now days? As a kid, I remember having to work on timber decking projects with my father and I did that for fifteen years. http://www.proformpergolas.com.au/construction.html

  6. Josh G

    Hi Bill,

    You are definitely right about composite
    decking sometimes sounding too good to be true! There have been alot of
    issues with the older Wood Plastic Composites (WPCs)  with growing
    mould, staining, fading etc. 

    If your looking for a
    next gen product for 2015 you should check out Millboard decking, its a
    new composite that has no wood and no plastic in it, so it side steps
    alot of the above issues. It’s a bit dearer but I suppose you get what
    you pay for.
    If you get a chance check it out at http://www.millboarddeck.com.au

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