With so many different brands and materials on the market, knowing what to take into consideration as you browse for the perfect decking is hard. If you’re currently thinking about installing a deck in your garden, the following comparisons of wood, plastic and composite decking might simplify things for you and make your decision a little easier.
Consideration 1: Maintenance
If you’ve decided to invest in a new deck to enhance your outdoor space, you’ll want plenty of time to get outside and enjoy it. That’s why choosing a deck that requires very little of your attention once it has been installed is a very popular and appealing option.
Deck boards made from quality real timber can offer an unrivalled stunning natural wood finish, however you should consider that both soft and hardwood deck boards will weather over time, requiring you to sand, paint/stain, and seal them to preserve their good looks. This can be an arduous and costly task, and will obviously reduce the amount of time you can spend enjoying your new deck.
Plastic decking is a cheap alternative to timber decking, but it doesn’t look as nice and can be prone to bowing and cracking over time, however it is a low-maintenance decking option, so it will give you more time to enjoy your deck, rather than maintaining it. It is cheaper than most decking options and is easy to maintain, but you may find yourself replacing areas of your decking, or individual deck boards, after only a short time due to wear and tear.
There is a more durable and attractive option, and that is composite decking. Made using a combination of hardwood and polymer resin, composite decking is acclaimed for its impressive low-maintenance qualities. The hard-wearing nature of good quality composite decking means it requires little more than an annual power wash or warm soapy rinse to keep it looking brand-new. As well as being durable it often comes in a variety of modern colours and finishes, more often than not with a real wood textured finish, and often comes with a 30 year warranty! It is more expensive than timber or plastic initially, but over time the durability, maintenance free aspect, and the warranty does make it a cheaper long-term investment.
Consideration 2: Safety
The Safety of different kinds of decking is an incredibly important factor to bear in mind when choosing the right deck for you. After all, you don’t want to invest your time and money into installing a new deck to find the resulting outdoor space can become unsafe for you and your family to use.
When comparing the safety of different types of decking, real wood decking stands out as posing the highest potential safety threat for the following reasons:
- It can crack and splinter over time, causing a potential hazard if you or your family intend to walk around on it barefoot
- It takes on a high percentage of surface water so ice, algae and mould can develop creating a slip hazard
Both plastic and composite decking are generally considered safer options. Neither plastic or composite decking has the grained texture of timber so there is no possibility of either material splintering in the same way that wood can, however some plastic decking options are hollow and as a result are weaker than solid composites, thus can warp or crack, creating a potential trip hazard.
The polymers in plastic and composite decking make these types of decking highly water resistant. Choosing boards that take on minimal water not only reduces the chance of a slip or fall, but also reduces the likelihood of algae or mould developing. There are clear health and safety regulations around the testing and rating of decking slip-resistance, so be sure that the decking you choose complies to the British and European Slip-Resistance Standards before purchasing.
Consideration 3: Cost
You’ll of course have a budget for your decking so this is often the primary consideration when looking to install a deck. The materials used to make the decking boards, combined with the manufacturing process and the overall quality of the finished boards, will largely dictate the cost of the boards. Ultimately, you’ll get what you pay for but as you might naturally assume, the more long lasting, durable and attractive boards will cost the most, whilst the cheaper timber with no pre-treatment should be the cheapest option.
Actually, plastic and PVC decking is often cheaper than wood decking because it can be made in large quantities using very cheap materials, and this is great if you have a very tight budget or need a short-term solution, but as we previously mentioned, the lower quality of these boards means they might need regularly replacing.
These days wood decking is considered a mid-range option, with prices varying depending on the type of wood you choose. Softwood decking from fast growing trees is generally less expensive than hardwood decking because hardwoods take longer to grow and to be processed into boards. One cost you need to consider if you choose wood decking, is the cost of upkeep and maintenance. The stains, paints, and seals you need to apply will become costly as the years go by.
Composite decking is the more expensive option in terms of initial outlay, but will save you a great deal of time and money in the long-term. Homeowners looking for a more modern and contemporary outdoor transformation will usually opt for the high-quality, low-maintenance decking as a way to improve their outdoor living. The main reason for this, is that they’re aware that any money saved by choosing cheap decking alternatives will be spent on replacing or upkeeping the boards over the course of their lifetime, but also the appealing look of the more expensive composite decking boards is considerable when comparing with the cheaper looking alternatives.
So, while you might think composite boards are the most expensive option, they are sure to save you money in the long-run.With so many things to consider when you’re choosing decking, the whole process can become overwhelming. The best advice is to seek the help of professionals in the decking industry, who can talk you through different types of decking and answer any questions you may have.