Replacing Wood Decking With Composite

13 Replies

Hello BP community. I have a SFR in North Carolina with a deck on the back of the home that is need of some serious repair. I built this deck myself with treated wood from HD. The deck is approximately 19'X20' (16" on center joist spacing) with a hot tub in the middle of it. (Deck was built around the hot tub) I initially used wood because I liked the look and that is what I could afford at the time. Over the years I have had to make a few small repairs due to a few soft boards here and there. The deck also gets (got) stained every year.Well it is time to replace the entire decking surface and I am considering using composite decking materials. I was wondering what the communities' opinions are about composite decking versus wood decking.

I do realize that the price will probably be around double ($15 sq. ft. wood) compared to ($30-$35 sq. ft.) for composite but most of the warranties (limited) are 25 years against rot, termites, or insect damage. Additionally composite costs a bit more to install and has the potential to get hot due to receiving a lot of sunshine.

I have also seen numerous websites with horror stories about composite decks failing and companies no longer in business to honor the warranty. If I chose the composite I will likely chose one of the more popular brands such as Trex or Azek. Even these more popular companies have had some serious issues and although these are “low” maintenance they must still be maintained and cared for, something the tenant will not do.

So, I was wondering what opinions were floating around out there and if anyone had good or bad experiences.

I have good experience with trex decking albeit only for porch flooring at a duplex of mine.  No treatment or anything.  Works and looks great!!

@Bruce M.   How long have you had the decking in place? I know it always looks good when you first instal it. Did you buy it from a big box store? 

I have Evergrain? or something like that - been in 5 years, looks good.

It has 'cupped' - the installers did not gap the boards, so when they expand, the pressure makes them cup.

I've heard/read that you need  your supports closer together for composite decking, 12" vs. 18" ?  so if you are re-decking an existing deck - that could be a problem?  but maybe some brands avoid that or the tech has improved in the past 5 years?

I caught my contractors buidling a railing out of it with the posts 8 feet apart.  The instructions said no railing spans over 5 feet, so I had them add another post in the middle giving me two four foot sections of railing.  That would have been about 12 feet off the ground too.

@David C.  thanks! I have heard about the reduced floor joist span as well. I did my deck 16" on center and I know too far apart can cause some bowing. 

Any issues with mold, fading, or anything else? I am leaning towards the composite as I really don't want to have to keep up with the maintenance the wood requires.  I can have it pressure washed by the same guy that does the regular pressure washing. 

@Paul S.  its part shade so some black/dark green stuff grows on it, the powerwasher takes it right off.  We did a 'light tan color' it may have faded a little but I can't really tell you for sure.  I'd guess fading would be more pronounced with a darker color?

@David C.  

 you are probably right the lighter colors are tougher to see any fading. I guess if it all fades together it really does not matter either. 

I guess my next question for anyone reading this would be what brand or type of composite they would recommend from all points of view: cost, durability, reliability, maintenance, etc.

I don't know a brand to recommend but I definitely think composite is a better long term solution

Originally posted by @Paul S. :

@Bruce M.  How long have you had the decking in place? I know it always looks good when you first instal it. Did you buy it from a big box store? 

 Hey Paul, I had it in place for almost 3 years now and it has yet to discolor or lose its rigidity.  I went through a contractor who purchased the boards on his own some I'm honestly not sure where it's from.

There is no perfect product. There are pluses and minuses to all. I personally dislike composite decking and much prefer wood. I don't like the look of composite: it always looks 'fake'. It's also very expensive and I don't see where it holds up any better than wood. 

@Art A.  If there were a perfect product we probably could not afford it. I was just thinking the composite route because that deck gets NC sun all day and really takes a beating. It seems like every year I am replacing several boards and I feel like I just keep slapping band aids on it when maybe what I need is a new deck surface.

Has anyone tried Behr Deckover?

@Dawn Brenengen   I have read both good and bad reviews about the deck over, but my property manager is telling me the stuff is good. I have considered it but I do not want to throw more money away on something that might not work. If anyone out there has used this product I would be interested to see what you have to say.

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