When it comes to building a deck you want something that’s going to be sturdy, high quality and great looking. Where wood used to be the only way to get the ideal look, composite decking is becoming an excellent alternative. That’s because the composite provides a very similar look to traditional wood, but it’s actually lower maintenance.
So, are you considering composite decking for your new deck? Well then you’re going to want to check out the rest of the tips we have here to get you from a plan to a real composite deck in your backyard.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- The Costs
- Where the cost comes from
- The Benefits
- The Drawbacks
- Making the Budget
- What You Have to Choose From
- The Colors
- Solid vs. Hollow
- What Else You Need to Know
- How to Save
- Overall Maintenance
Composite Decking: The Costs
Now, to be completely up-front, composite decking runs at about $35 per square foot. That’s going to depend on some factors, however.
If you use a polyethylene-based decking you’re going to have lower costs. These can run approximately $7.82 per square foot.
Decks made with polypropylene average $8.68 per square foot.
Next up is a solid polyvinyl chloride (more commonly known as PVC) decking, which is approximately $9.48 per square foot. The good news with this format however, is that you can actually cut almost $2 per square foot by opting for hollow slats instead of the standard. It comes in at $7.50 per square foot.
If you’re going to create a full deck with any of these types of composite you should expect it to be somewhere around $9,000 to $20,000, with an average usually around $15,579.
Composite Decking: Where the Cost Comes From
If you’re looking at the price of $15,579 and thinking that sounds high or low you should know there’s more to it than just the cost of the boards. There are actually a number of factors involved that can change the price.
First, you’re going to want to take a look at the size of the deck you’re looking at and of course, which specific version of composite you think you’re going to use. The full deck could be as low as $9,000 or as high as $20,000 and that’s a pretty big span. When you consider that the boards themselves range from $7 to $10 per square foot you can definitely see where it all starts, but that’s not where it ends.
The second factor to consider when it comes to your decking is the labor. After all, someone is going to have to put that deck together. While that could be you, it’s generally easier to have a professional do it for you. That means that your cost is going to inch closer to the higher end of that range because you want a licensed decking professional.
Finally, you need to think about anything else you’re going to be adding to your deck, like rails, lights, benches and stairs. Not to mention you’ll need to pay for things like permits and depending on the season or location of your property, you may need to pay a little more.
Composite Decking: The Benefits
Maybe you’re looking at all of this and wondering if composite decking is really the way to go. Well, there are actually a number of factors to consider, and one of the biggest is durability. With just a little bit of effort, composite decking provides you with something that will last up to 50 years or more. Though, to be honest, it can start to wear a little over this time and you may want to start considering a replacement at 20 years. Even still, that’s a long time.
When we talk about the effort involved, however, we’re not talking about much. That’s because the composite is durable, sturdy and designed to deal with just about anything. It is a type of plastic (no matter which form you get) and that means if you don’t put in some minimal effort for cleaning you may end up with warping or scratching, but it’s not going to be hard to balance. Just spray it down with a hose every so often and you’ll be good to go.
Another benefit is that composite can often be painted. So, if you get to that 20 year mark and your deck is starting to look a little older you may be able to paint it to get it looking fresh and almost like new again. Not all composite decks are able to be painted, but it’s worth checking out.
And last but not least, you don’t need to worry about staining the deck or sealing it at all. Wood decks require both of these things, but a composite deck is made of plastic, which means that you don’t need to worry about it. It keeps itself looking great.
Composite Decking: The Drawbacks
As with anything, there are a few drawbacks to consider when it comes to composite decking. The most prevalent of these is the price. Where a standard wood deck can generally be put in for as little as $5,000, a composite deck is going to cost upwards of $9,000. If you’re trying to budget your purchase that might not be a possibility for you.
Next, it can be difficult to fix any damage that does occur for a composite deck. Wood decks can easily be repainted, refinished, repaired and more. Composite, however, can be scratched in similar ways to wood, but then it can’t be fixed. It’s going to look that way until you replace the board entirely.
Another thing you’ll notice is that not all composite decks are able to be painted and that means eventually you’ll notice color changing. As the deck fades it’s definitely not going to look as good as it did when you first put it in. That’s when a lot of people decide that they want to replace the deck they have.
Composite Decking: Making the Budget
As we mentioned, composite decking is the more expensive option when it comes to putting in a deck, but you don’t want to just compare the up-front costs. You want to also look at the long-term costs that are involved with your deck.
When it comes to those you’ll find that a composite deck doesn’t have upkeep like a wood one. It doesn’t rot or splinter and it doesn’t require staining or sealing, which will eventually save you a whole lot of money (especially since wood decks do this quite frequently).
Composite Decking: What You Have to Choose From
As we mentioned, there are three different primary forms that composite decking actually comes in. These include:
- Polyethylene-Based Decking
- Polypropylene-Based Decking
- Polyvinyl Chloride-Based Decking
Now, what you’ll find with these is that there are pluses and minuses to each variety. If you go with polyethylene or polypropylene you’ll find that there’s actually pieces of wood in the mix. If you’re interested in staining your deck you can actually do it with these forms because the wood is there to absorb the stain. Also, they’re both oil-based options. On the other side, you’ll find that polyethylene isn’t quite as durable as the other options we’ve mentioned here and that’s why it’s starting to fall by the wayside.
PVC decking is becoming even more popular even as the other two fade slightly. That’s because, even though it doesn’t contain any wood and can’t be stained, it’s actually more durable than the others. It also doesn’t absorb water, which makes it the lowest maintenance option and it doesn’t grow mold. The downside here is that it’s going to cost more, sometimes as much as 20% more than the other two options we’ve discussed.
Composite Decking: The Colors
Wood decks tend to be limited in color options unless you want to stain or paint them. But with a composite deck the sky’s the limit because these decks are actually available in basically any color. You can even customize some of them if you choose to work directly with the company. Plus, they can have grains added in so they look like wood even though they’re not. Commonly you’ll find these decks in these primary colors:
- Beige & Red
- Light to Medium Brown
- Dark Brown
Composite Decking: Solid vs. Hollow
There are two different types of composite decking that you can choose from when it comes time to start the process. These are hollow and solid. A hollow deck is lighter weight and it actually can be a great way to go for those who want to add lighting or even speaker wiring onto the deck because they can fit into the hollow slats. The downside is that these decks are weaker because they’re lighter and that can cause the deck to deteriorate faster than the solid versions.
Solid decking is going to be heavier and more durable, which makes it quieter actually too. Not only that but it actually looks more like a wood deck. On the downside, it can expand and contract more and it also tends to be more expensive because it’s more substantial. The overall decision, however, is up to you.
Composite Decking: What Else You Need to Know
When we talk about the pricing for the composite deck above we’re basing these factors on a deck that is 10’ x 12’, which is the standard. But if your deck is larger or smaller it could affect the price. The first thing you may want to look at is what size deck your neighbors have, especially if you’re building a brand new deck. This could help you figure out what size you’re going to want.
Also, you could choose to have a single-story or multi-story deck, which is going to affect the price. The pricing we’ve mentioned is for a standard, single-story deck. But adding more stories is going to make it more complicated, which also makes it more expensive in the long run. That means you may want to pay attention to these things when pricing out your deck if you’re worried about the budget.
Next, pay attention to things that you’re adding to the deck, like the installed lighting. Different types of lighting (or lighting at all) can dramatically affect the price as well. And this is something you can add later if you choose to save money right now.
Composite Decking: How to Save
Want to cut down on costs as much as possible? Well, it doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might have thought. You can simply follow these tips to help yourself along:
- Choose hollow polyethylene composite.
- Help your professional however you can (even if it’s moving pieces or applying for a permit).
- Get several quotes for a professional and weigh out the standards and price.
- Choose to build in spring or fall when prices are lowest.
Composite Decking: Overall Maintenance
As mentioned already, there’s not a whole lot of maintenance when it comes to composite decking but that doesn’t mean there’s no maintenance. One of the best products for cleaning your deck is Olympic Deck Cleaner, which actually can get out just about any stains and even oil and grease. If you don’t have any of those you can just hose it down.
Finally, keep these in mind as well:
- Don’t use anything with sharp edges on your deck to reduce scratching
- Clean up oil and/or grease stains as quickly as possible to reduce staining
- Keep pressure washing below 1500 psi to avoid damage
- Clean the deck at least twice per year to prevent scratches/stains
- Make sure you have good drainage around the deck to keep water from pooling nearby