A gathering place for family barbecues, outdoor parties, or simply unwinding after a long day, a deck is a natural extension of your living space. Among the myriad of decking options available, composite decking stands out as a durable and stylish choice that elevates the look of your home while giving you a worry-free decking solution that will last for years to come.

“Today’s homeowners want to spend their time enjoying their outdoor living spaces rather than maintaining them,” said Leslie Adkins, Group Vice President of Marketing and ESG Development for Trex, a composite decking company. “High-performance composite decking, like Trex, stands up to weather and day-to-day wear, and resists fading, stains, mold and scratching far better than wood. It’s also made from recycled content, which makes it an ideal choice for today’s eco-conscious consumers.

One of the primary benefits of composite decking lies in its exceptional durability. Engineered from a blend of recycled wood fibers and high-quality polymers, composite decking is designed to withstand the rigors of outdoor elements without succumbing to rot, decay, or insect damage. Unlike traditional wood decking, which is prone to splintering, warping, and fading over time, composite decking maintains its structural integrity and appearance for years to come, requiring minimal maintenance.

“Long the go-to material for building decks, porches, and other outdoor living spaces, wood is increasingly being replaced by high-performance composite decking as the material of choice among professional contractors and homeowners alike,” Adkins said. “Designed to deliver incredible durability, easy maintenance and lasting beauty, composite decking offers all the beauty of wood without the hassles of continuous upkeep.”

For homeowners seeking a hassle-free outdoor living space, composite decking offers unparalleled convenience. Unlike wood decks that require regular staining, sealing, and painting to maintain their appearance and structural integrity, composite decking requires minimal upkeep. 

“Any wood deck—be it pressure-treated lumber, ipe, redwood or cedar—requires extensive upkeep to maintain and protect,” she continued. “Wood also fades easily, showing every spill and scuff it endures, so regular painting or staining is needed to maintain aesthetics. Composite decking is ready whenever you want to use it. You never need to worry about sanding, staining or painting. Just an occasional soap-and-water cleaning is all that’s needed to maintain superior stability and beauty for decades.”

Aesthetic Appeal: Beyond its practical advantages, composite decking also excels in the realm of aesthetics. Available in a wide array of colors, textures, and finishes, composite decking allows homeowners to achieve their desired look and complement their home’s architectural style seamlessly. Whether you prefer the rich warmth of natural wood tones or the sleek sophistication of modern designs, there’s a composite decking option to suit every taste and preference, enhancing the visual appeal of your outdoor space and elevating your home’s overall aesthetic.

“Color options range from deep earth tones to spicy reds and pristine grays, including tropically inspired boards that feature the distinct streaked look of exotic hardwoods,” Adkins explained. “ In addition to the range of decking looks available, homeowners also can find a wide selection of composite accessories, such as railings, stairs, gates, pergolas and furniture, to complement and enhance the beauty and safety of their decks while creating a truly customized outdoor space.”

Safety is also paramount when it comes to outdoor living spaces, especially in households with children and pets. Composite decking offers peace of mind with its slip-resistant surface, providing a secure footing even when wet, reducing the risk of slips and falls. 

“Over time, rotting and splitting [in wood decks] can pose safety hazards ranging from splinters to deterioration and deck collapse,” Adkins said.

Additionally, composite decking is free from harmful chemicals and toxins often found in pressure-treated wood, making it a safe choice for families and environmentally conscious homeowners alike.

While the initial cost of composite decking may be slightly higher than traditional wood decking, its long-term value far outweighs the upfront investment. With its superior durability and low maintenance requirements, composite decking offers a compelling return on investment by reducing the need for costly repairs, replacements, and ongoing maintenance expenses over time. Furthermore, composite decking can enhance the resale value of your home, making it an attractive feature for potential buyers and contributing to a higher overall property value.

“While the upfront cost of composite is typically higher than that of pressure-treated lumber, it’s important to consider the long-term costs related to maintenance and upkeep,” Adkins advised. “Maintaining a wood deck requires regular stripping, sanding, staining and sealing, which results in repeated expenses that add up over time. Additionally, there is the time and cost involved in repairing and replacing wooden deck boards that will inevitably warp and splinter over time—even if they are well-maintained. Conversely, maintaining a composite deck is simple. Just an occasional cleaning with basic soap and water is all that’s needed to keep a Trex deck looking like new for decades.”

According to Adkins, a typical wood deck can begin showing signs of decay after just eight years whereas a Trex composite deck is warrantied to last anywhere from 25 to 50 years. When you factor in the cost of ongoing maintenance and replacement required with a wood deck, a composite deck ends up more than making up for the initial cost difference in the long run.

Considerations with Composite Decking

When making the switch to composite decking—or choosing composite decking at the start of a build—Adkins agrees that careful consideration and planning is required to ensure you make a decision you’re happy with.

  • Labor One of the first things you’ll need to decide is whether you will build the deck yourself or hire professionals,” Adkins said. “While a DIY approach can save money on labor, it requires adequate knowledge, skills, and tools. Carefully consider your capabilities and available time when making this decision. Hiring professionals adds expense but ensures quality workmanship —and may end up saving you money on repairs or rework in the long run. There is a Find a Builder tool on Trex.com that can help you source decking contractors in your area.”
  • Consider Codes and Permits – “Consult your state, county, or city offices regarding building code requirements and to learn what permits are necessary for building a deck in your area,” she said. Adkins advises to factor permitting into your project timeline so that progress is not stalled by waiting for inspections and approvals. If your neighborhood has a homeowner association (HOA), make sure you understand any rules regarding deck size, color, product type or design. And don’t forget to check with your local utilities to locate any underground cables, wires or pipes before construction begins. Your deck builder should be able to help with this.
  • Spacing of Deck Joists – Composite decking spacing is critical as it ensures the deck boards will not sag over time. Before you begin to build, be sure to read the installation instructions for the decking.
  • Proper Gapping Between Boards One of the most common mistakes made with composite decking has to do with the gapping between boards during installation,” Adkins warned.Like most composite deck options, Trex decking must be gapped both end-to-end and width-to-width. Proper gapping is necessary for drainage, air flow and the slight thermal expansion and contraction of Trex decking boards.” Gapping also allows for shrinkage of the wood joist system. Consult the decking manufacturer’s installation guide for details related to gapping. 
  • Not Using Deck Flashing – According to Adkins, deck flashing is an important detail that many homeowners and even some contractors overlook. These moisture barrier materials are designed to protect wooden components of a deck and its substructure from moisture penetration that can lead to decay and deterioration.

Common Composite Myths

Adkins said there are a number of common misconceptions or myths about composite decking that she has encountered. Namely:

#1: Composite decking looks “fake.”

Composite decking has evolved tremendously since its beginnings more than 30 years ago. The latest generation of products, such as our Trex Signature® and Trex Transcend® Lineage™ decking lines, look more natural than ever, featuring refined grain patters and elevated aesthetics in light, nature-inspired hues,” she said. “There are also tropically inspired boards designed with subtle color variations and authentic streaking that mimic the look and feel of exotic hardwoods without the environmental impact—or splinters.”

#2: All composite decking materials are the same.

Since composite decking was invented in the early 1990s, the market has been flooded with competitive offerings varying widely in quality, aesthetics and value. Adkins advises that, for the best results, look for high-performance “capped” composite decking that features an integrated, three-sided shell. Capped boards feature an added layer of protection against severe weather, heavy foot traffic, fading, mold and staining.

#3: Composite decking is maintenance free.

“Anything that sits outside in the elements for years on end is going to need some type of maintenance,” she said. “When it comes to decking, the difference lies in how much upkeep is required. Maintaining wood decking is a downright chore with all the scrubbing, sanding and staining that wood requires—not to mention the replacement of splintered, warped and rotten boards. High-performance composite decking, on the other hand, calls for just wiping up spills when they happen and a simple soap-and-water cleaning twice a year—once in the spring when you’re getting it ready for outdoor living season and again when you close up your outdoor living space for the winter.”

#4: Composite decking gets hotter under the sun than wood.

While early composite decking could get uncomfortably hot, the newer generation of composite decking materials are much more resistant to heat and comparable to wood when it comes to surface temperature. 

“Our Trex Transcend® Lineage™ decking*, for instance, is engineered with heat-mitigating technology in the shell to reflect the sun and keep boards cooler,” she explained. “And, speaking of color, lighter decking colors tend to stay cooler in direct sunlight.”

(*Although Trex Transcend Lineage is designed to be cooler than most other composite decking products of a similar color, on a hot sunny day, it will get hot. On hot days, care should be taken to avoid extended contact between exposed skin and the deck surface, especially with young children and those with special needs.)

Composite decking is a versatile and practical choice for homeowners looking to enhance their outdoor living experience. With its unmatched durability, low maintenance requirements, aesthetic appeal, safety features, and long-term value, composite decking offers a winning combination of functionality and style. By investing in composite decking, homeowners can create a welcoming and inviting outdoor space that reflects their lifestyle preferences while enjoying years of worry-free enjoyment with family and friends.

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