Composite vs. Wood Decks: Costs, Types, Durability & More

By HomeAdvisor

Updated January 20, 2021

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What Is Composite Decking?

Composite decking is a combination of sawdust and some kind of plastic. Manufacturers may use polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene or polypropylene. There are a few different types, including:

  • Wood Composite: About 50/50 plastic and wood flour
  • Capped Wood Composite: Has a hard outer shell
  • PVC: Made entirely from PVC, sometimes called vinyl
  • Capped Polymer: All-plastic decking with a protective outer layer

PVC vs. Composite Decking

While composite decking combines sawdust and a variety of possible plastics, PVC boards use just one product. The two may look very similar. A few manufacturers, such as TimberTech, offer both types.

Wood Decking Materials

Most homeowners choose to install a deck made of wood. Popular types include:

  • Cedar
  • Redwood
  • Pressure-treated pine
  • Ipe, a Brazilian hardwood

Cedar Composite Decking

Cedar composite decking features the look of cedar. It is not an actual wood product. Many manufacturers make options to mimic other popular styles, such as redwood or ipe.

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Composite versus Wood Decking

  Composite Wood
Cost Per Square Foot $4-$13 $10-$25+
Installation Price $9-$12 $9-$12
Appearance & Style Consistent Noticeable color variation
Strength & Durability High Variable
Maintenance Low Moderate
Lifespan 15-25 years 10-30 years
ROI 70% 75%

Composite Decking vs. Wood Cost

  • Composite Decking: $4-$13 per square foot for the boards. Remains consistent year-round.
  • Wood: $10-$25+. Can vary depending on seasonal availability.

The labor price to install a composite or wood deck ranges from $9 to $12 per square foot. Since the process is quite similar regardless of the material, the cost runs about the same.

Lowest Cost: Composite

Appearance & Style


Consistent appearance. This means that you’ll get a deck that looks just like the sample.


May vary significantly in the color and openness of the grain. If you want a lot of character in the boards, prepare to pay more.

Most Desired Look: Wood

Deck Board Strength & Durability

Composite boards are much less likely to scratch or crack. As a man-made material, its strength is somewhere between that of softwoods, like cedar or redwood, and hard ones like Ipe. Wood’s durability depends highly on the species.

Consistent Durability: Composite

DIY Installation

Many composite boards are built for easy cutting and quick installation. This makes it generally simpler for homeowners to DIY, compared to wood.

Easier to DIY: Composite


Composite decking

Requires very little maintenance. Periodically, you may need to pay the cost of deck repair for either material, which averages $800 to $2,600.


Hire a pro for the following services:

Easier to Maintain: Composite

Length of Life

Decking materials have a variable lifespan depending on the quality of the product:

  • Composite: Cheaper or thinner boards may only last 10-15 years, compared to 25 years for high-end ones.
  • Wood: Pressure-treated lumber lasts 10-15 years on average, while Ipe can last for 30 years or more.
Longest Lifespan: High-end hardwoods

ROI or Resale

Both have a relatively high return on investment:

  • Composite: 70%
  • Wood: 75%
Highest ROI: Wood
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Composite vs. Wood – Individual Types

Type Pros Cons
Trex/Composite Durable, affordable Can look artificial
Ipe Hardwood Strong, beautiful Most expensive material
Redwood Excellent color variation Requires careful maintenance
Cedar Classic appearance Scratches easily
Pressure-Treated Lumber Can be installed anywhere Cheaper boards can warp
PVC Highly sustainable Shorter lifespan

Trex vs. Wood

  • Low-maintenance
  • Consistent coloring makes it easy to know what to expect
  • Less likely to fade over time
  • Features a natural look
  • Needs resealing and re-staining every 2 to 3 years
  • Variable strength and durability

Ipe Decking vs. Trex Composite

  • Resistant to scratches and rotting
  • Average lifespan is 30 years, but could last much longer
  • Has a high-end appearance
  • Costs more than other materials
  • Requires drilling prior to placement, so it’s harder to DIY
Trex Composite
  • Costs much less
  • Lots of color options
  • Mold-and-mildew-resistant
  • Shorter lifespan

Trex vs. Redwood

  • Uniform appearance
  • Little or no upkeep
  • Can last longer
  • May not look as natural
  • Striking color variability
  • Will fade without regular resealing
  • May scratch or crack
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Cedar vs. Composite Deck

  • Classic deck look
  • Relatively easy to re-stain
  • Requires regular upkeep
  • Won’t last as long if installed near the ground
  • Installs anywhere
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Limited ability to change color without replacing

Composite vs. Pressure-Treated Lumber

  • Lightweight
  • Less expensive
  • Fades in direct sunlight
  • Looks more natural
  • Costs more
  • Much heavier when wet

PVC vs. Wood

  • Can be 100% recycled material
  • Usually costs less
  • Looks just like the sample
  • Cannot be re-stained
  • More prone to warping
  • Can last longer
  • Color is hard to predict
  • Requires more maintenance
  • Less sustainable
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