In recent years, many people are starting to prefer non-wood decking. Two of the most compared decking are PVC and composite decking. Many even think that both materials are the same. However, there are several differences between the two. What are the differences? And if you are building a deck or replacing an existing one, which one should you choose?

Difference Between Composites and PVC

PVC and composites have similar properties, which is why most people think they are the same. They are both more durable, long-lasting, and easier to maintain than a traditional wooden deck. Some call both as plastic decking. However, they are different in many ways. Here are some of their differences.

  1. PVC is pure plastic, while composites are not. PVC, which stands for polyvinyl chloride, are boards made out of thermoplastics. Composites do have thermoplastics such as PVC, polyurethane, and polyethene. However, they also have wood fibres. The ratio of wood flour to plastic fibres of composites depends on the manufacturers.
  2. PVC is slightly more eco-friendly. Many manufacturers strive to use recycled plastic and wood for both composites and vinyl decking. However, since PVC is a material made out of pure plastic, it’s easier to recycle into new boards. Composites, on the other hand, are materials made from co-extrusion, fusing both plastic and wood, which in turn makes it harder to separate them. For this reason, it can be more difficult to recycle them into new ones. However, progress is being made to make it more environmentally-friendly.
  3. PVC decking is slightly expensive. Composites and vinyl decking boards also slightly differ in price. Naturally, costs will vary depending on various factors, such as brand, quality, colour, finish, and size. In general, however, PVC tends to be a little bit more expensive than composites of the same tier and quality. You may want to look at your options first before making any purchases.
  4. Most PVC boards are lighter – When transporting and installing decks, PVC can be easier to handle as it weighs less than most composites. However, there are varieties of composites which are hollow, reducing the weight of the materials significantly. Composites are also more similar to wood when it comes to drilling, cutting, and other preparations. Overall, both materials are easy to install and are workable with the usual woodwork tools.
  5. Composite decks are cooler during hot summer days. All types of decking, whether its wood, plastic, or composites, will get hot given enough exposure to the sun and hot temperatures. However, when comparing the two synthetic decking options, PVC tends to be more susceptible to high temperatures and warm up faster than composites. Again, there are a few exceptions, especially if you are working with and comparing high-quality materials. 
  6. Composites are often more dimensionally stable – As mentioned, plastic is more susceptible to heat. Getting hot on summer days is one problem, but warping is another serious one. When exposed for long periods, PVC tends to warp. On the other hand, while composites bend slightly under hot temperatures, they are overall more dimensionally stable than plastic decking. For places with high temperatures, it can be a better option. 
  7. Composites are more slip-resistant. Despite being water-proof, plastic and PVC decking are notoriously slippery, especially when wet. On the other hand, composite decking offers better slip-resistance. If you want a safer deck, you can also opt for ones with textured surfaces for better friction. Regardless, there are several ways to prevent slips from happening on your decking.
  8. Composites look more natural. Perhaps the most notable difference between composites and PVC decking is the appearance. PVC materials often look more synthetic and natural. While it may not necessarily mean it’s unappealing, it may not suit some people’s preferences. On the other hand, composite decking looks more natural and wood-like, delivering the timeless beauty that many people enjoy over the years.
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Which One Should You Choose?

While having similar traits, there are a few differences between PVC and composites. PVC decking can be easier to install and is slightly more environmentally-friendly. Composites are cheaper, more slip-resistant, and look more beautiful than most synthetic decks. If you are living in a place that gets constant sunlight and hot temperatures, you may also want to go with composites as they are more dimensionally stable. Overall, composites and PVC are both excellent materials for decking.