As a consumer, is it better to go with a composite material or wood when building a deck? It’s a good question, and one that I must field almost every day.
My experience with composites has been interesting. About 10 – 15 years ago, composites were
introduced into the decking industry and heralded as its next savior. The promises included lasting virtually forever and being maintenance free. I must admit that we got caught up in the hoopla a little… although because I’m so crazy about wood, we only built a few composite-based decks. And looking back, I’m so glad that we didn’t get caught up in it more.
Unfortunately, as other deck contractors experienced, the composite decks that we built came with problems. The material didn’t hold up to the weather and elements very well…but most importantly, it just didn’t look very good. Unlike wood decks, which almost seem to mature like fine wine as time passes, composite decks started out looking “ok”, then got worse (I’m sure Mother Nature got a good laugh out of that).
We were lucky in that we never got caught up in any litigation as we continue to support any work we do, but other contractors and manufacturers weren’t so lucky. A quick Google search of “litigation” and “composite deck” or “warranty” and whatever composite you’re considering should yield an eyeful about the pitfalls of going with a composite deck. The promises over the years by the composite manufacturers (they’re now promising that they’ve fixed the problems that they claimed to have fixed several times earlier) are now sounding a little hollow to me.
If you’re completely sold on composites, then we’ll build one for you. But don’t be surprised if problems start to crop up. Because if they do, then the manufacturer will not pay for the labor to fix the problem…only the material. Conversely, on the wood decking side, we’ve only had to replaced a few deck boards in about 15 years. That’s not bad and is testament in my opinion about the value of good ole wood.