Composite Decking - questions/information/experiences

8 Replies


I have a rental property (SFR) in a good area in Portland Metro area in Oregon. The deck is up for repair and there's much damage, therefore I am considering getting the deck replaced.

Based on my research composite material is the way to go, however, I also hear that composite wood is soft and scratches easily with pets. We do allow pets at our property.

Is this information correct? The modern composite materials IMO are 100% recycled plastic and there's little wood in it. Composite decking was suggested by the contractor due to its durability, however, he also mentioned it will need to be painted over -- which, again, is against my research findings. Therefore, what I'd like to hear from the community:

-- is composite decking a material of choice for a rental property for durability? Will it be scratch resistant? (I am aware of a higher cost, and I am willing to invest if there is ROI).

-- does composite deck have to be painted over?

-- Would you recommend Aluminum railing over composite railing? (Again, my information is Aluminum decking is expensive, but will it have advantages over composite railing aside from the sleek appearance?)

-- Have you heard of a brand called Deckorators for composite decking? Any specific grade that you would like to use?

For the purpose of comparables, the property is located in a stable middle-class neighborhood; with the overall neighborhood quality improving due to improving schools etc. Tenant profile is young urban families with children, with often 2 working adults, and in corporate jobs.

@Medha Nanal I just did three Chicago style three story porches at a property in Berwyn. The contractor there uses exclusively treated lumber and I asked this exact same question. His take was that there is not enough of a difference for it to be worth your investing the extra money into the composite. Essentially, treated lumber should last 15-20 years with minimal maintenance as long as you stain it every few years and generally maintain it. The composite won't last much longer. 

I have to agree with @John Warren I don't know that the cost difference is worth it. However, in Oregon the weather can be pretty brutal on a deck. Here's what I've been told, and seen myself, is that both are going to require some kind of maintenance. With the composite decking it's going to be more of a good cleaning every few years. (Pressure washing with some kind of moss remover) With a treated wood deck you'll need to retreat it every 2-4 years with some kind of sealer/stain. I was just talking to a friend of mine last weekend who manages a Miller Paint and he said it doesn't really matter what kind of sealer/stain you use, they all last about the same amount of time. 

The other factor is that if it's a long term rental for you then I would consider going with wood. If you plan to sell it in the next few years (2-5 years) you might consider going with the composite because it will probably still look great and be a great selling feature. 

Hope that helps?

Darren McGillvrey

Real Estate Agent and Investor in Oregon

Hi @John Warren and @Darren McGillvrey : Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Yes, the property being in Portland is subject to wet weather. Both the decks in question are uncovered.

John's post reminds me of another factor. In the previous 10 or so years, I have had to paint over the existing wood deck twice over, once entirely, another time a touch up. This brings me to another one of my favorite (!) topics: escalating costs of property maintenance in Portland metro area. I plan to start a new thread regarding that, but I have noticed that between 2014 to now, the property maintenance costs have doubled for me. Given this, I fully expect the new deck to need a lot of expensive paint touch up. One great benefit of composite/PVC type material appears that there is no need for a paint over for this deck. 

Any thoughts? Would love to hear from others as well.

@Darren McGillvrey : To clarify, my existing deck is a traditional(!) wood deck, therefore has needed painting and touch up (which, has been getting expensive to me in my unique situation). In the future, if I replace it with a composite deck, it will not need painting over. That tilts my opinion slightly in favor of a composite material. Hope this clarifies.

Also -- a factor to consider: John mentioned porches. If I understand correctly, these are covered. My decks are uncovered (though in the local lingo the front entry deck is called a porch!! :-))

I'm debating composite decking since it is a LOT less maintenance, but it is expensive (like 2x quality cedar), plus you need a special mounting system.

If you can live with the upfront pricing, I'd go for it.

I also am facing a similar dilemma with a rental. I have no experience with decks - who typically does the maintenance? Landlord or tenant? I assume landlord so am leaning composite, but also not sure if the price is justified.