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Wood Vs Composite Decking

  • Henry
  • May 1, 2019

Composite decking has now taken centre stage for any new garden decking project. You only need to watch any home garden show aired on National Television to understand the features, advantages and cost benefits of composite decking compared to wood decking.

If you’re currently in the market for a new deck, one of the main questions you may be asking yourself is, should I purchase wood or composite decking?

Wood decking is fast becoming a thing of the past, mainly due to the high maintenance costs of regular upkeep, requiring year upon year care, with a short life span when compared to composite. Regular wood decking suffers from warping, splintering, cracking, fading and even crumbling leading to structural failure.

Below is an expert look at the key factors upon purchase and time when comparing wooden decking with composite decking.


All decking needs maintenance. Mother nature’s elements, including the Sun, are powerful enough to break atoms apart. The biggest question is how much maintenance is needed when comparing wood and composite decking. To break this down we have put a simple table together on each point to support further.

MATERIAL Wood Hardwood Composite
Maintenance Regular cleaning, seal after 1 month and then annual sanding, staining and then sealing Regular cleaning and annual staining with sealing Regular cleaning

Wood requires a lot of maintenance and specialist chemical treatment to stop it from warping, cracking, splinting and rotting. The build-up of mould, moss, algae and UV fading also needs to be considered. In short, a high degree of labour and time is required to maintain your wood decking every season during its short service life. Of course, as with most decking products, the amount of work required to maintain your wood deck every year will depend on the quality you purchase.

Composite decking is not maintenance-free its low maintenance. Composite decking absorbs minimal moisture, so they don’t require refinishing, the use of sealant, or staining to stop them from rotting or splintering. However, they need to be cleaned once a month with a soapy water and a low-power washer or soft bristle brush.


Installing a new composite deck is a big investment for many homeowners. Performing due diligence and research will help you get this right the first time around. Friends and family will be spending considerable time almost all year-round socialising and relaxing on your new composite deck; therefore, it is a great idea to spend a little extra and choose a high-end quality composite decking boards that not only offers strength & durability but has the beauty and appeal of real wood without the drawbacks of sealing, staining, painting and sanding your deck.

A key point to ensure strength and durability in our experience is choose experienced installers to ensure your new deck has been correctly fitted. This will give you peace of mind that your new composite decking will provide you with decades of service and will add value to your property. In relation to wood and composite strength and durability lets take a look.


MATERIAL Wood Hardwood Composite
Strength When Installed Strong 34mpa to 45mpa Very Strong over 51mpa Strong 34mpa to 46mpa (Solid boards are stronger with 46 mpa)
Strength After Installation Decrease in strength due to moisture Decrease in strength due to moisture Retain its strength after installation for many years

Wood strength and durability, in all honesty, is good with a minimum of 34 mpa. In layman’s terms, it will take the weight of 2 average family cars per square inch before it fails. However, if not regularly maintained and treated, wood will become susceptible to pest infestation, mould growth, weather damage, splitting, and splintering. This in time dramatically decreases its strength and in worse case structural integrity’s, the changes are due to constant attacks from Mother nature, shortening its life span and weakening the board’s structure (even more so when purchasing softwood with knots in).

Composite decking is almost equally to the strength of wood, take our home choice range of composite decking that offers 34 mpa. You must understand the different board strengths to help you make an informed choice on the type of composite decking best suited to your project. For example solid composite decking boards are much strong with an average mpa of 46 or above, where hollow boards tend to fall in region of 34mpa.

What’s key to note on strength and durability between wood and composites, is both will see decreases in strength with moisture, but composite retain and maintenances its strength much better over it life span when compared to wood. We all seen unmaintained wood become brittle and weak over the years and eventually structural fail.


Environmental Impact

Both composite and timber wood are good environmental choices. Most wood that comes into the UK and Europe is from sustainable forests, but what key to point out in making the best choice for the environment is what happens after installation and removal of the goods once there finished.

MATERIAL Wood Hardwood Composite
Environmental Impact Pressure treated wood uses chemical to enhance its performance, even though great for performance, these chemical can leach into soil and can become issue to recycle Hardwood dont need ot be chemcial treated to enhance there performance and are a great product to install if environmental impact is key Composite are made from recycled plastic that would normally end up in landfill, the wood is recycled wood fibres in most cases, making them a great choice on choosing an eco friendly product.

As mentioned above wood is a great choice and the most natural product, but for environmental impact we would only recommend hardwood due to pressure treated woods are known to leach chemicals into soil, more so with CCA treated and not on newer treatments. They can also create an issue when it comes to recycling due to there pressure treatment.

Composite decking is even greener because it is manufactured using recycled plastics and wood. This has a huge impact as it helps to reduce carbon footprint, recycle materials that would normal end up in landfills, doesn’t require any toxic treatment to enhance its performance, therefore its overall much better product for our environment.


The authentic natural wood look is extremely important to a lot of customers. Composite have been know over the years for an synthetic appearance, in which can turn some customers away, pressure treated woods can also look unnatural in some customers personal views, but recent changes in production are enhancing composites natural appearance and even capturing hardwood turn beauty.

MATERIAL Wood Hardwood Composite
Natural Apperance Pressure treated wood can lose some of its natural appearance but for us its still a natural look product Nothing really beats hardwood on its appearance, its flow and mix colours are truly stunning Some can look sysentic but recent development in mix colours truly capture an authentic hardwood look

Nothing beats the real version and for us no wood and design equals hardwood decking for an authentic wood look, its simply the real deal as you say. Composite on other hand are extremely close, the recent changes in production for are able to successful captures the mix and flow of colours that your see in exotic wood, you only need to review our exclusive collection to see this.

Slip Resistance

This is another important feature. Customers are often concerned about slippery boards, especially if they have children or pets. Wood is known for being slippery more so in wet condition and after a number of years of use. Composite decking dos have improved slip resistance with an excellent resistance to slip in dry and good resistance to slip in very wet condition, but like and material you can still slip


MATERIAL Wood Hardwood Composite
Slip Resistance Very slippery in wet and a number of years after installation Becomes slippery over time Compared to its wood cousins composite decking is slip resistance in dry and wet conditions

Wood decking is extremely slippery and hazardous. This is mainly due to the growth of algae and moss, which needs to be regularly treated to stay under control. These treatments can cost time and money. As wood ages and if the incorrect maintained and care isn’t complete with hardwood and softwood then they can become very slippery

Composite decking is highly slip-resistant. Even when the boards are wet, Composite decking does not have the annoying defect of being slippery, mainly due to the high grade and quality of the raw materials used.

Please note: Although we describe our composite decking boards as “slip-resistant,” it goes without saying that with any decking solution if the surface has oil, slippery products, and excessive water or ice on the decking boards, they will still become slippery.


Colour fading is another important feature usually researched and commonly asked about. Have you ever noticed that your decking is not as vibrant as it used to be? Or perhaps you noticed that some parts of the deck are different from the others. It is because of the colour fading, which can be caused by various reasons.


MATERIAL Wood Hardwood Composite
Fading Wood will fade over time and change colour Hardwood equally will fade over time, report say it will fade slower but the result is similar Composite depending on the type you pick will see minimal colour change capped and uncapped will see colour lighten, neither are as aggressive as wood colour change

Wooden decking can fade aggressively its colour consistency is poor and requires consist maintenance to retain and maintain its colour. Even though some woods hold they colour for longer the result in time in most cases is the same turning to a dull grey.

If you replace your wooden decking with composites, you will see that the colour consistency is much better. The colour with composite still does fade, uncapped boards see the most and capped boards see extremely minimal colour change, even after several years. Uncapped boards as mentioned are the worse for colour change with composites, but even then they lighten around 30% but still maintain there original colour base being a grey or brown after several years. So even when comparing uncapped boards with wood the colour consistency is much better.


When choosing your new decking area, a big factor is, of course, costs. Wood is cheaper than composite decking on first initial installation, but if your installing decking to last and not moving home within 2 years then composite decking during this time and beyond simply get cheaper and cheaper. During this article we have compared wood, hardwood and composites. On cost we take a look at all the composite decking available to provide a detail price compared to wood. Below we go in more detail about costs, we will take an average 15 sqm decking area and compared it to wood.


MATERIAL Wood Hardwood Uncapped Composite Mixed Colour Composite Capped Composite
Initial 15 Sqm £312 £1036.80 £559.72 £724.71 £836.69
Labour £750 £750 £750 £750 £750
Maintenance Time & Labour (charged time at £12.50 per hour) 8 Hours = £100 (requires sanding, staining and sealing) 8 Hours = £100 (requires sanding, staining and sealing) 3 Hours = £36.15 2 Hours = £25 1 Hour = £12.50
Materials Maintenance Cost £67.36 £67.36 None required just hot soapy water None required just hot soapy water None required just hot soapy water
Total Maintenance Cost £167.36 per year £167.36 per year £36.15 per year £25 per year £12.50 per year
Total Cost After 5 Years £836.75 £836.75 £180.75 £125 £62.5
Total Cost After 10 Years £1672.90 £1672.90 £361.50 £250 £125
Total Cost After 15 Years £2509.25 £2509.25 £542.25 £375 £187.50

Softwood purchases are driven by price and is seen as the lowest cost option when choosing decking, but you will see on just maintenance alone simply after 5 years uncapped boards are the cheapest and after 10 years capped decking boards are the cheapest when taking all cost into account over time.

Composite decking prices are higher due to the raw materials used during the manufacturing process. The cost savings will come in time and money compared to the regular yearly costs for staining, sealing and painting. As you can in the table that saving and return comes as little as 5 years with uncapped boards.

One aspect is to compare wood and composite over time is maintenance, another in which is worth looking into is replacement. After 5 years some softwoods will need replacing, so lets go a little deeper and have a look at replacement costs over 5 to 15 years when comparing wood and composites together.

MATERIALS Wood Hardwood Uncapped Composite Mixed Colour Composite Capped Composite
After 5 years Wood not sealed of stained will be dull, soft and starting show structural issue. Cost to replace £1062 Hardwood not preserved will be losing colour and weakening Uncapped boards as long as cleaned will of lost around 30% of colour but still retaining its base colour Mixed colour boards as long as cleaned will of lost around 20% of its colour and its mixed colour could be fading out Capped boards as long as cleaned will of lost no noticeable colour and any mixed colours will be retained
After 10 years Wood not sealed or stained will again need replacing totalling £2124 Hardwood still not preserved will of lost almost all of its colour and rotting a decay could of started Uncapped boards simply cleaned will of reduce a further amount of colour and be look tried and worn Mixed colour boards will also be looking tried and its mixed colours will of faded at this point Capped boards will of lost a small amount of colour but still looking almost as good as new
After 15 years Wood again if not sealed or stained would again need replacing cost now will be up to £3186 Hardwood colour will be unnoticeable to its original and at this point rotting and decay may of got a grip of your hardwood decking and need replacing Uncapped boards could start to show sign of structural fail,cracking and bending, these uncapped boards will ned replacing Mixed colour will of faded its mix colour and start to show signs of replacement Capped boards will of lost some colour this will be nooticable to there original but still a base of its original, as long as cleaned and maintained. You may have few marks but these boards will still be going strong

In relation to replacement and longevity over a period of 15 years wood unmaintained will of been replaced a total of 3 times times and minimum in our view of twice costing anywhere between £2124 to £1062 in replacement materials and labour.

Hardwood will still be going, however there is a high chance rotting and decay would be showing or even causing it to be replaced. Hardwood compared to uncapped boards in relation to longevity and life span is equal, the only difference in our view is the colour consistency. Uncapped boards will provide a better consistency of colour compared to hardwood and is less maintenance is involved, as you seen above, so we would recommend uncapped boards over wood and even hardwood.

Capped boards on the other hand will of retained its colour, still be holding its structural integrity and going for another decade. If longevity beyond 1o years is key and you will of course benefit from capped decking and this would be our recommend decking solution.




We have explored all points when comparing wood and composite boards, wood may be cheaper on initial price and this is great for a short term solution, so if your staying in property for lower than 5 years then wood or softwood will be perfect.

If you looking for a solution to last beyond 5 years then hardwood and composite boards are the recommend decking solution.

If longevity, colour consistency and low maintenance is key for you then composite boards are most defiantly the recommend chose, even though hardwood can last as long as most composite boards is consistent maintenance and low colour consistency when compared to composite material would take hardwood of the list of recommendation.

If you looking for a long lasting solution lasting beyond 10 years, with minimal colour change and strong long term structural integrity then capped boards.

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