Choosing the Best Decking Material: What You Need to Know

Posted by Admin on Friday, January 5, 2024 Under: Outdoor Living

Introduction to Decking Material Selection

Selecting the right decking material is crucial to the longevity, appearance, and functionality of your outdoor space. The choice you make will affect not only the aesthetic appeal of your deck but also its resistance to the elements, maintenance requirements, and overall cost. The range of materials available for decking can be broadly categorised into three groups: wood, composite, and synthetic.

Wooden decking materials, such as pressure-treated timber, cedar, and tropical hardwoods, offer a classic look and feel but require regular maintenance to protect against rot, decay, and insect infestation. For homeowners willing to invest time and resources into upkeep, wood can be a rewarding choice that naturally integrates with the outdoor environment.

Composite decking, made from a mix of wood fibres and plastics, provides a more durable alternative with greater resistance to the elements. It is designed to mimic the appearance of wood while minimizing the need for consistent maintenance. Composite materials often come with longer warranties and a variety of colour and texture options.

Synthetic materials, such as PVC and vinyl decking, present the highest level of durability and the lowest maintenance needs. These materials are resistant to moisture, stains, and fading but may lack the warmth and natural feel of wood.

In addition to material composition, factors such as cost, local climate, environmental impact, desired lifespan, and installation requirements are all important to consider when selecting decking material. Homeowners must balance their priorities, whether they favour natural aesthetics, longevity, sustainability, or ease of maintenance, to make an informed decision that satisfies both their practical needs and personal taste.


Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Factors to Consider When Choosing Decking Material

When embarking on the exciting journey of selecting decking material for a home or commercial space, several key factors must be carefully weighed to ensure the best possible decision:

  • Durability and Longevity: The chosen material should withstand the test of time, enduring weather conditions, potential insect damage, and general wear and tear. Materials like composite decking offer long-lasting performance without the need for frequent maintenance.

  • Maintenance Requirements: Consider the level of upkeep needed to keep the deck looking its best. While wood decks may require staining and sealing, alternative materials like PVC or composite decking may only need occasional cleaning.

  • Aesthetic Appeal: The material should complement the exterior design and aesthetic of the property. With a wide range of colours and textures available, there are decking options to match any architectural style.

  • Environmental Impact: For those with eco-friendly inclinations, it is important to assess the sustainability of the decking material. Recycled components and sustainable harvesting practices are key considerations for minimizing ecological footprint.

  • Cost: Budget plays a crucial role in material selection. While initial costs may be higher for certain materials, the long-term savings due to low maintenance can be more economical.

  • Installation: Some decking materials are easier to install than others. The skill level required, the need for special tools, and the overall time commitment for installation should align with one's capabilities or willingness to hire a professional.

  • Safety: A non-slip surface is especially crucial for areas with high moisture exposure. Material choice affects the risk of slipping or splinters, crucial for barefoot-friendly environments.

  • Local Climate: The material must be suitable for local weather conditions, whether it's resistance to moisture in rainy areas or thermal expansion in high heat zones.

Considering these factors with diligence will lead to a choice that provides both functional and aesthetic satisfaction for years to come.

The Pros and Cons of Common Decking Materials

When selecting the right decking material for your outdoor space, understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each option is crucial. Here's a breakdown of common materials used in deck construction:


  • Pros:

    • Natural Aesthetic: Wood offers a classic, warm look that is hard to replicate.

    • Customisable: Wood can be cut, stained, or painted to fit any design preference.

    • Strength and Durability: Certain types like redwood, cedar, and tropical hardwoods are durable and resist wear.

  • Cons:

    • Maintenance: Requires regular staining, sealing, or painting to prevent decay.

    • Cost: High-quality woods can be expensive.

    • Environmental Impact: Harvesting wood, particularly tropical hardwoods, can have environmental ramifications.


  • Pros:

    • Low Maintenance: Little upkeep is required beyond occasional cleaning.

    • Durability: Resistant to rot, splintering, and insect damage.

    • Longevity: Often comes with lengthy warranties, reflecting a long expected lifespan.

  • Cons:

    • Heat Retention: Can get hot underfoot in direct sunlight.

    • Price: Typically more expensive than basic wood options.

    • Less Natural: Some find the appearance less authentic than real wood.

Each decking material offers a unique combination of aesthetics, durability, maintenance needs, and cost. By weighing these factors, homeowners can make a more informed decision for their specific needs and preferences.


Sustainability and Environmental Considerations

When selecting the best decking material, the sustainability and environmental impact should be a top priority. Homeowners and builders must weigh the ecological footprint of their material choices, understanding that their decision can have long-lasting effects on the planet.

Renewable Resources

  • Wood: Traditional wood decking, sourced from sustainable forests and certified by organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), is a renewable option. However, it requires regular treatment and maintenance, which may involve chemicals that can be hazardous to the environment.

  • Composite: Composite decking, which combines wood fibres with recycled plastics, leverages waste materials effectively. This reduces the reliance on virgin materials and offers a deck with a longer life span, lessening the replacement frequency.

Manufacturing Process

The manufacturing process also contributes to a material's environmental footprint:

  • Wood: The processing of wood can be less energy-intensive compared to synthetic materials, but it may involve deforestation if not properly managed.

  • Synthetic materials (composites): Production often requires significant energy and emits greenhouse gases, but strides are being made to improve efficiency and reduce waste.


End-of-Life Disposal

End-of-life disposal is a crucial consideration:

  • Wood: It is biodegradable and can be recycled or repurposed when its life as a deck ends.

  • Synthetic decks: They are more challenging to dispose of due to their plastic content. While they can be recycled, the process is complex and not always accessible.

Considering the balance of these aspects—resource origin, production impact, maintenance requirements, and disposal options—is paramount for eco-conscious consumers. The choice of decking material should align with the homeowner's values and the global imperative for environmental responsibility.


Maintenance Requirements for Various Decking Materials

When selecting decking materials, considering their maintenance needs is essential for ensuring longevity and appearance over time. Here are the maintenance requirements for common decking materials:

  • Natural Wood: Requires annual cleaning with specialized wood cleaner. It's recommended to re-seal or stain every two to three years to keep the wood protected from moisture and UV rays. Inspecting for rot, insect damage, and splinters should be part of routine maintenance.

  • Pressure-Treated Wood: Similar to natural wood, it needs to be cleaned annually and stained or sealed every one to two years. However, it is more resistant to decay and pests due to chemical treatments.

  • Composite Decking: Composite decks require less maintenance than wood. A simple cleaning with soap and water or a mild household cleaner typically suffices. They do not require staining, sealing, or painting but may need a brush down for mould or mildew in damp climates.

  • Cedar and Redwood: These woods have a natural resistance to decay but will still benefit from a light cleaning and application of a clear water-repellent preservative every year to maintain their rich colours.

  • Tropical Hardwoods: While extremely durable and resistant to pests and rot, hardwoods like Ipe require oiling once or twice a year to maintain their colour, otherwise, they will naturally silver over time.

Regular upkeep maintains the appearance and durability of decking materials. Homeowners should carefully consider these maintenance demands when choosing their decking to align with their personal upkeep preferences and commitments.

Conclusion: Making an Informed Decision on Decking

When it comes to deciding on the best decking material for your outdoor space, the breadth of options can be overwhelming. Yet, making an informed decision is crucial to ensure that your investment not only elevates the aesthetic appeal of your home but also withstands the test of time and elements. It is important to consider the following factors before making your choice:

  • Durability and Longevity: Assess the lifespan of each material and how well it holds up against wear, decay, and insect damage. Materials like composite decking are known for their durability and long lifespan.

  • Maintenance Requirements: Some materials, like natural wood, require regular upkeep such as staining and sealing, while others like composite require minimal maintenance.

  • Aesthetic Appeal: Choose a material that complements the style of your home and landscape. While the natural look of wood is timeless, composites offer a variety of colour and texture options.

  • Environmental Impact: Consider the sustainability of the material. For example, wood is a renewable resource but may require more frequent replacement. Composite decking is a more eco-friendly option due to the material being made from recycled materials.

  • Budget: Factor in both the initial cost and the long-term maintenance expenses. While some materials may be more expensive upfront, they may be more cost-effective over time due to lower maintenance costs.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to a balance of personal preference, practicality, and budget. By thoroughly considering each factor and weighing the pros and cons, homeowners can choose the decking material that best fits their needs and lifestyle, ensuring enjoyment of their outdoor space for years to come.

In : Outdoor Living 

Tags: "composite decking" "wooden decking" 
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