How to Select Your Decking Materials

There are many decking materials available today from wood, composite (wood-plastic blend) and vinyl/plastic. Wood tends to have lower initial cost but more maintenance effort and cost, especially if the desired color is not the natural weathered color. Wood looks like wood. Composites tend to be in the middle to high end in initial cost, lower on maintenance effort and cost, and good for color retention. Composites do not look exactly like wood. Vinyl/plastic tends to be the highest in initial cost, longest in expected service life, lowest in maintenance cost and effort, and great for color retention. Vinyl/plastic also does not look exactly like wood.


Most decking installed in the U.S. is wood and most wood decking is treated pine. Treated pine is treated to prevent rot (CCA has been phased out and has been replaced now with ACQ & other treatments). These are acronyms for the chemicals in the treatments. The wood most commonly treated is southern yellow pine. The nature of the wood itself, not the treatment, makes it prone to twisting, splitting, warping and splintering. Some other woods in use are cedar, redwood, IPE, Tigerwood, Massaranduba and Garapa.


Composite decking is a distant second in popularity after wood but is now more popular than ever in new deck installations and re-decks (re-use old deck framing and replace old deck boards and railing with new composite materials). “Composite” means that the decking is molded or extruded from a secret formula that is a mixture of wood and plastic or vinyl. The wood is a wood flour of various grinds and species. The plastic is most often polyethylene or polypropylene. There are different ratios of wood to plastic and different mixtures of recycled & virgin plastic. All of these things affect performance characteristics. Composite decking is available in regular plank, tongue & groove, grain finish, solid colors, and mixed colors.


Vinyl/plastic decking is becoming more popular and is primarily taking market share away from the composite deck segment. Decking profiles are typically plank but with a few manufacturers offering a tongue & groove. Vinyl/plastic decking is available in a grain or smooth finish, solid colors, and mixed colors.



” Wood looks like real wood and the initial cost is much lower with pine but not necessarily so with some of the other woods

” Wood weathers and changes color – requires periodic cleaning and staining to maintain a color other than the naturally weathered color

” Southern yellow pine splits, cracks and splinters over time

” Exotic woods like IPE, Tigerwood, Massaranduba and Garapa are more expensive but do not split and crack like pine.

” Wood must be replaced (usually before other materials) at some point which varies with exposure, maintenance and luck

” Wood requires some maintenance for best performance and service life – usually pressure washed to get clean

” Maintenance costs time and/or money and can offset any initial cost savings.


” Initial cost is significantly higher than pine, but similar to the exotic woods

” Longer service life

” Lower maintenance cost and effort than wood – usually cleaned with a pressure washer or a chemical solution wash & flush

” No painting, staining or sealing

” No splinters

” Variety of colors

” Variety of textures – embossed wood, grain, grooved, smooth

” Mixed colors and grains

” Hidden fasteners

” May grow mold and mildew in the wood component – can be difficult and troublesome to clean completely

” May stain – cleaning methods vary with type of stain and wood component


” Initial cost is usually the same or higher than composites

” Longer service life

” Least amount of maintenance and effort – usually cleaned with a water hose

” No painting, staining or sealing

” No splinters

” Maintains original look and color long term

” Variety of colors except for dark colors like brown

” Variety of textures – embossed wood, grain, grooved, smooth

” Mixed colors and grains

” Hidden fasteners

” No mold or mildew

” No stains


There are many factors to consider when selecting your decking materials:

” Aesthetics – color(s), finish, width, hidden fasteners, etc.

” Style – regular plank vs. tongue & groove

” Service Life

” Resistance to stains, fading and mold

” Resistance to splitting, cracking and splintering

” Maintenance

” Initial Cost

” Warranty

” Special Features – waterproofing area below

The material that is right for you is the one that has the best overall package of features that are important to you.


Based on such factors as cost, warranty, maintenance, durability, product integrity, as well as having the entire deck built out of the same product (visible parts) and the overall look of the deck. the following top brand of materials are recommended:


” Pressure Treated Southern Yellow Pine


” Tigerwood

” Massaranduba

” Garapa


” TimberTech (

” Trex (

” Evergrain (

” Monarch (


” TimberTech XLM (

” Trex Escapes (

” Azek (

” Veka (

” TanDeck (