Creating the best outdoor space starts with flooring. For outdoor flooring, you have a few options to choose from, such as stone, wood, plastic and composite decking. However, the real question most homeowners ask is, “what is the best flooring for my garden?” Within this article, we will explore the properties of each material in order to determine the best choice for you.
Wood decking is most certainly one of the most popular outdoor flooring materials on the market today. Wood comes in various options: hardwood, softwood and pressure treated. Hardwoods are more expensive than softwood but a similar price to composite. Despite this, you must take into account the cost over time through maintenance and upkeep. Wood may have a lower initial cost in comparison to synthetic materials, but will cost more in the long run, as they require more maintenance such as painting, staining and sealing to retain their longevity. This maintenance process is not only costly but also time-consuming.
Softwoods have a much shorter service life in comparison to most other flooring materials. This is due to the fact they are less durable and more susceptible to moisture damage, such as rotting and warping. However, they remain popular with consumers due to the low cost, as softwood is the most accessible material out of any on the market.
Pressure-treated wood has been treated using chemicals in order to extend its lifespan and protect the boards from damage. Furthermore, they will last longer than untreated wood and, in some cases, the same as some synthetic options, please note cedar if maintained well can achieve a similar life span to synthetic, where others may struggle to achieve a similar life span.
A disadvantage to treated wood is that it is not an environmentally friendly outdoor flooring material and shouldn’t be burnt after use due to the chemical used to manufacture pressure treated wood, newer pressure treated woods (September 2006 onwards) are much safer, but it still isn’t advisable .
Therefore, out of all the woods, hardwood is the best option to choose as it is the most durable and has the longest lifespan in comparison to softwood and treated wood, and most importantly to us, its more eco-friendly. However, it still requires extensive maintenance, which is why a synthetic material, such as composite, is a better choice for busy homeowners.
PVC is a synthetic flooring option created using 100% plastic. Due to the composition of PVC, it is highly durable and resilient against weathering. PVC material can last for decades with minimal maintenance required, making it an ideal choice for homeowners who don’t have the time for the annual painting and staining required for wood.
The cost of PVC varies depending on the quality of the boards, which differs for each manufacturer. They can range from £25-£65 per board depending on size. This is more expensive than wood but in line with some composite, meaning if budget is your main priority, then PVC might not be the best option for you.
Additionally, the main reason PVC lacks in popularity is due to its aesthetic and its not environmentally friendly. Many homeowners have stated that they feel PVC has an unnatural synthetic appearance, which they felt looked cheap and didn’t compliment their outside landscape. However, some of the newer creates of PVC are especially aesthetic appearance are improving, but PVC isn’t environmentally friendly during and after production, meaning recycling this material can be challenging over time.
This is where composite outshines PVC decking, as it has a much similar texture and looks to that of wood due to the wood fibres in its composition and its more environmentally friendly to produce when compared with PVC.
Composite decking is made from a mixture of wood and plastic materials bonded together. Composite decking is rising considerably in popularity on the market as homeowners are becoming more aware of its extensive number of benefits. Composite decking has the lifespan and durability of PVC but retains that desired natural wood aesthetic that customers love. Additionally, composite requires little to no maintenance, with only regular cleaning necessary in order to retain its beautiful surface finish for decades.
Despite composite’s slightly higher initial upfront cost, it is an investment into your home, as you will spend less money over time on maintenance and repairs. Also, installing composite decking can increase the value of your property.
Therefore, due to the many benefits of composite, we personally rate this material as the best outdoor flooring option, as it is both aesthetically pleasing and long-lasting, having both the beneficial properties of wood and plastic.
Stone paving is hugely common, especially in the UK, as it is durable and can withstand outdoor elements, lasting beyond 25 years on average. The price range of stone paving is extremely broad, ranging from £15- £120 sqm. Therefore, you can choose the paving stone most suitable for you and your budget. The quality of the paving stones also varies depending on the manufacturer. Stone paving maybe durable and strong; however, they easily crack, which can lead to replacement and repair, which can be time-consuming. The main downfall to stone paving is the aesthetic, as it has a concrete appearance, this makes wood a more natural choice.
Aluminium flooring is not a very popular option on the market, mainly due to its price. Aluminium is one of the most expensive flooring options, as it is the most durable and long-lasting. Additionally, it provides a commercial feel to your landscape with its metal appearance. A common disadvantage to aluminium flooring is that it is can make a creaking noise when walking on, which can be irritating for homeowners. Furthermore, as it is a metal and conducts heat, it can become uncomfortably hot in the summer months. Therefore, aluminium is not the best flooring option in comparison to the other choices available.
Cost of Materials and Maintenance
Building decking is not exactly a cheap home improvement. Here in the UK, adding a medium-sized outside decking can run into thousands of pounds just for materials alone. Even more, it depends on the quality of the materials. For this reason, many homeowners want to save as much money as possible by choosing the cheapest materials.
Naturally, it does not mean you have to compromise quality over cost. There are several affordable options from which you can choose. For instance, many prefer wood not only because of the aesthetics but the low cost as well. As mentioned previously, The cheapest decking materials you could buy are softwoods.
Aside from the initial price, you should also take into consideration the maintenance and upkeep costs. A cheap wooden decking area could be more expensive during its service life than easy-to-maintain decking material. For instance, softwoods require regular treatment and strenuous maintenance processes throughout their lifespan whereas hardwoods and composites do not. If you are on a budget, opting for a material that is low-cost and low-maintenance such as composite decking is the best course of action to help you save money in the long run. On the other hand, if you are someone who is solely focused on saving as much money as possible on the forefront, softwood timber decking is the most affordable material.
Beauty and Aesthetics
Another factor that many homeowners consider when choosing the best material for outside decking is appearance. In this regard, many agree that nothing beats the timeless beauty of real wood decking. With wood decking in, you can choose from various shades and tones that will suit your preferences.
For instance, Redwood timber often comes in reddish tones, hence the name. On the other hand, oak decking has a deep brown colour tone. While many wood varieties are weatherproof, most wood will turn silver or grey unless stained or regularly painted, in most instances, every year. If you do not have a problem with the required annual maintenance, wood decking is your best choice.
In last recent years composite decking designs have take leaps forward, with the introduction of mix colour during the production process this has enable composite wood to look more authentic then ever before this can be seen in our exclusive natural collection.
The Most Durable Decking Material
Durability refers to the ability of a material to withstand, wear, pressure, damage or determine how long a decking can last. Although there are many durable options such as composite decking, PVC and some exotic hardwoods – the most durable material of them all is aluminium decking. Due to aluminium’s solid structure, the material will not absorb any moisture or water meaning there are no structural issues down the line. Aluminium decking will last over 30 years if installed correctly however many people make a purchasing decision based on other factors as well (not just the durability of the material).
In conclusion, every customers project and desires are different, meaning if life span and durability is key then aluminium would be a preferred option, on the flip side of this, if you desire is to quickly add a decking area or enhance your outdoor space on a budget without worrying too much about life span then wood or paving would be the best option.
Composite material are the most cost effective solution for your outdoor decking. As it is both durable and long-lasting whilst providing the natural aesthetic of wood that many homeowners desire. Composite may have a higher upfront cost, but it is worth the investment over time due to its minimal maintenance required.