Two of the most popular wood alternatives for decking are vinyl and composites. Unlike wood, both of these materials are synthetic. Some people also refer to both of them as plastic. Because of this, there’s a slight confusion between the two. Some think they are the same, while others say they are different. So the question is, is composite decking the same as vinyl? Or are they different from each other? If so, what are their differences? And finally, which one should you choose?
Composite Decking and Vinyl Similarities
Let’s talk about similarities first. Both composites and vinyl are synthetic materials. Many also consider both as eco-friendly, making them both very popular for construction.
Another similarity that they share is that both of these are low-maintenance materials. Unlike wood, you don’t need special treatment to preserve vinyl and composite’s quality. After installing a wooden fence, you will need to seal and stain it at least every couple of years.
Since wood is a delicate material, you’ll also need to be extra careful in what cleaning products you’re using. As for composite and vinyl, they don’t need special treatment. You can also clean them using everyday cleaning products.
When it comes to durability, both composites and vinyl can withstand most elements. They are resistant to rotting, insects, and moisture. Compared to wood, both of these materials are also long-lasting. Fences made with vinyl and composite can last for more than 20 years, while traditional wooden fencing only lasts for 5 to 7 years. However, there are hardwood fences that can last for at least 15 years but are relatively short-lived than any plastic fence.
Another thing to remember is that both materials are not designed to be painted or stained. While you can still paint them, provided that you do the necessary preparations, doing so often lead to their warranties being void. So when buying them, make sure that you get the right colours.
Lastly, both materials are more expensive than wood. Despite their higher initial cost, both are worth spending more due to their durability, low-maintenance, and long lifespans.
Composite Decking and Vinyl Differences
Now we talked about their similarities, let’s go over why composites and vinyl are different. Despite being both synthetic materials, they are made using different materials.
Composites are made by combining wood and plastic fibres. Wood fibres usually come from the sawdust from wood processing factories and furniture plants, while the plastic fibres come from bottles and bags that would have ended in landfills. Various companies use different ratios of wood and plastic. Vinyl is entirely made out of plastic polymers, usually polyvinyl chloride or PVC.
As previously mentioned, both composites and vinyl are both durable materials. However, they do have their weaknesses. For instance, composites still expand and shrink when exposed to moisture, primarily due to the wood fibre content.
However, they do not bend or warp, as the plastic fibres hold the shape in place. On the other hand, vinyl doesn’t absorb moisture, so it won’t expand or shrink. Unfortunately, it can warp and bend when exposed to high temperatures.
Another notable difference between the two is their appearance. Vinyl materials have slightly limited options compared to composites. A reason why composite is better in terms of appearance is that it looks more natural and wood-like. With the addition of textured grains, it will also feel like real wood.
Lastly, vinyl fencing materials often come in bigger panels, whereas composites come in single boards. Because of this, repairing or replacing broken fences is easier when you use composites, as you don’t have to get new panels.
Which is the Right one For You?
Both materials are excellent options for decking. However, they are entirely different materials. Vinyl is one of the best alternatives to wood, due to its durability and longevity.
Unfortunately, they are not suitable in places with high temperatures due to their tendency to bend or warp. They are also not as natural-looking, and they don’t have as much variety in terms of colour and design.
As for composites, you can both enjoy the durability of plastics and the beauty of woods. While they can shrink and expand, they don’t warp or bend. If you are a fan of wood-like texture and appearance, go for composite fencing.