How to choose between composite and wooden decking.

There are many argumets for both, with lots of pros and cons relating not only to the material but also to the cost. Several years ago, with the quality being the biggest difference, the choice was much easier but now it can be impossible to tell the difference between the two.

Depending on your budget, choosing composite decking may be the ideal option for you. Below we discuss the options available in both wooden and composite decking, including pros and cons for both.

Traditional Wood Decking

When choosing your materials, always opt for the best quality, treated wood. Not only does this help with the longevity of the decking, it also ensures you get a quality finish and bigger aesthetic impact in your garden.

This comes down to your budget and there is a telling difference in price between softwood and hardwood timbers.

Durability of timber and wood products is prescribed by the British standards (BS EN 350-1), broken down into 5 distinct categories.

  • I. highly durable
  • II. durable
  • III. moderately durable
  • IV. low durabilty
  • V. no durability

Pine softwood decking is the most common and budget-friendly timber available, while cedar decking boards also are available for a fraction more. Both can be installed without any need for pre-drilling or hidden fastening costs.

First and foremost it is worth noting that hardwood decking is not a cheap option.

However, hardwood decking does last much longer than its softwood counterpart. There is a broad selection of timber available in the UK, including oak, ipe (Brazilian Walnut), Teak, Merbau, Belinga, Elondo, Kebony, Cumaru and many more. Each have their own specific grain, weathering properties and traits.

When installing your decking boards, it's also worth paying special attention to the bearers. As the bearings come into close contact with the damp ground, they are prone to moving and twisting, as well as rotting if left untreated.

Hardwoods should be class I durability, as befitting their price. If not, then they are not worth paying for. On the other hand, softwoods can be any of the classes and should be checked in advance of paying for. Anything less than class I and the maintenance costs start to become a factor.

Softwood decking will require more maintenance and stains will need to be applied. This is because less durable woods absorb water more easily and also are more prone to worm, rot and damp. You will need to wash, stain and seal your softwood decking every couple of years. If it gets dirty or mould covered, a non abrasive cleaner would be the best option to prolong your decking's lifespan.

Traditional Wood vs Composite Decking

Composite Decking

In the last few years, it has become next to impossible to tell the difference between composite and wood decking. The technology to blend wood pulp and polypropylene into a "realistic" looking board has been improved greatly.

With the addition of the plastic, composite decking has the ability to be weather and rot resistant without the need to ever treat or stain your decking.

Hollow boards with reinforced matrix structures are as strong as freshly laid timber, with the same high-quality aesthetic finish off a hardwood variety. This makes it super easy to install, without any difficulty screwing through the boards. Unlike with wooden timbers, you can use whatever screws you like knowing that the boards and the screws will not react.

With pre-mixed pigments in the plastic, your decking's colour will remain as fresh as the day you install it without the need to actually paint it! This saves you time and money every year not having to restain your decking. The stylish look and lifespan of your decking is often guaranteed for long life - around 50 years is common - but there is no reason to suggest your decking won't last even longer! This is one time the often criticised lifespan of plastic comes in handy! When used in permanent constructions, this is where plastic is at its best. Couple that with the ability to use recycled plastics to generate the boards, your decking is suddenly an eco friendly addition to your garden!

Unfortunately we are surrounded by plastics in this day and age. It is hard to escape the stuff, given how often used it is in our lives. Everything from milk cartons to straws to our toothbrushes have used plastic to some extent. Plastics do have their advantages though in landscaping and buildings. Landscapers often choose composite decking for their temperature resitance (-60 to +80°), water and chemical resistance, mechanical pressure resistance and biological resistance. However, like its more traditional counterpart composite decking will still attract and grow mould but it is much easier to clean off.

So to determine which you would prefer, it totally comes down to your immediate budget. If you are considering wooden decking, choose the best quality timber available, treat it properly and be prepared to have to look after it every year. If you have the budget, either choose composite decking or high quality hardwood boards for your garden.

If you have any questions regarding the installation of decking in your garden, get in touch and we'll give you some helpful pointers!