Home Home-improvementDecking Timber or Composite Decking – Which is Best?

Timber or Composite Decking – Which is Best?

by Neil Mathias
Composite Decking

Installing a deck is one of the better home improvement investments you can make. It will increase the value of your home while enhancing your lifestyle and expanding your outdoor entertaining or recreation area. And compared with other renovations or additions, it’s cost-effective and easy to do.

But before you shoot off to Bunnings for decking materials, you need to put some serious thought into what kind of material will work best.

When it comes to decking, the two most popular materials are traditional timber boards and composite decking. Each material has its pros and cons and depending on your specific requirements one may be better suited than the other.

So how do you decide which is best?

Well, we can help by running you through some of the pros and cons of each material.

Timber decking

Timber has long been the go-to decking material. There are numerous decking timbers to choose from, each with their own properties and pros and cons.

Softwoods, like treated pine, are among the cheapest and easiest to work with. However, they also have the shortest lifespan and require a lot of maintenance to keep them in good condition.

Imported and Australian hardwoods are more expensive, but much harder wearing and longer-lasting. They are also much better looking than the cheaper softwoods, with deeper timber tones and rich grains.

While there is significant difference between the cheapest treated pine decking and your high-end Australian hardwoods, the following pros and cons will more or less apply to all timbers.

Pros

Huge range

As already mentioned, there are plenty of different timbers to choose from. Depending on the price point, properties and look you’re going for, you’re sure to find the perfect timber to suit your project and complement your home and outdoor area.

Natural look and feel

Timber decking has a natural look and feel that can’t be matched by synthetic products. The large range of different timbers available means there are plenty of colours and grain patterns to choose from. Your choice of timber stains and oils can also really accentuate the natural timber colour and grain.

Budget option

Timber is generally the cheapest decking option, especially if you opt for low-end timber, like pressure-treated pine. While this is by far the cheapest option, it also has the shortest lifespan and will require significantly more upkeep than other more expensive options.

Easy to work with

Natural timber is easy to work with, which helps with installation and maintenance. It’s easy to cut, shape and sand using standard woodworking tools.

Cons

Lot of maintenance

To keep your timber deck in prime condition takes a lot of work. It requires annual painting and staining, as well as regular cleaning and resealing. Timber can be prone to stains, cracking and splintering. And that means regular sanding and repainting or even replacing boards or sections of the deck.

Cheaper softwoods will require even more maintenance than hardwoods, as softwoods are more prone to splitting, warping and water damage.

Over the long-term, the cost of maintenance can also start to add up. So, while a softwood deck may seem like the budget option, the repair and maintenance costs can end up costing you significantly more money.

You get what you pay for

While low-end timber options will be cheap, they will not be as durable, long-lasting and attractive as higher end more expensive timber options.

Rot, decay and termites

As a natural product, timber is prone to water and insect damage if not properly maintained. Termite damage, in particular, can be devastating and costly to repair.

Not always as eco-friendly as you might think

While timber is a renewable resource, sourcing timber decking boards inevitably involves cutting down trees.While quality decking timber is usually sourced from sustainable forests, especially Australian hardwoods, this is not the case with all decking timbers. Some decking board producers and importers are not always upfront about where they source their timber from. Research is important to make sure that the product you’re purchasing isn’t coming from unethical sources.

Timber decks also require a significant amount of chemicals for maintenance, including paints, oils, timber sealers, insect treatments and more and the regular use of these products isn’t great for the environment.

Composite Decking

Composite decking materials are generally made from reclaimed timber and recycled plastic products. They are designed to look and feel like timber, while requiring less maintenance and having a longer lifespan.

Like timber, composite decking products and brands vary in price, quality texture and appearance. It’s important to thoroughly do your research before settling on the decking product you want to ensure you get a quality product that looks great and lasts a long time.

Pros

Requires little maintenance

Composite decking requires very little maintenance compared with timber. It never needs oiling, sealing or painting. Quality composite wood products are also UV- stabilised, meaning they won’t fade to grey. Since they’re naturally termite resistant, they also don’t need any kind of pest treatment.

Longevity and durability

High-quality composite decks will have a lifespan equal to or greater than top-quality hardwoods. These decking materials are incredibly durable and long lasting and tend not to split, warp or splinter like timber. Composite materials will stand up to heavy foot traffic much better than timber, making them great for commercial applications.

Eco-friendly

Quality composite materials are made from reclaimed timber and recycled plastics. As a result, they don’t contribute to deforestation and the reduce the amount of timber and plastic that ends up in landfill.

Cons

Up-front expense

Composite decking is generally more expensive than timber decking, so your up-front purchase costs will be higher. However, given the very low maintenance requirements and the expected long lifespan, you’ll probably come out ahead in the end.

Aesthetics 

While composite product technology continues to advance, it still can’t match the look and feel of natural timber.

At the end of the day, both timber and timber alternatives, like composite wood decking, will both give you a great deck. The decision will come down to your specific decking requirements. So, it’s important to plan ahead and do your research before hitting up the Bunnings decking section.

Related Articles