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Compare Composite Decking vs Wood Cost

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Outdoor decks can increase living space and provide additional areas to enjoy the outdoors. But when people want to build or replace a deck, they usually have to make a big decision: whether to choose wood decking or composite decking.

Both are considered one of the best materials for building a deck, but they each have their pros and cons. Some homeowners will choose a deck material based on their budget and design style. While others will consider how weather-resistant the deck is and how easy it is to maintain.

Depending on the type of wood, some wood decks are usually cheaper to install than composite decking. However, over time, wood decking requires more maintenance, which means more maintenance costs. Composite decking material, on the other hand, can last a long time and is low maintenance while still being easy to install.

The average price of composite decking ranges from $3,600 to $7,800, but most people spend around $5,450. Pressure-treated wood decking costs about $15 to $25 per square foot, and cedar decking costs about $4 to $9 per square foot.

Of course, whether you choose composite decking or wood decking, the total cost of building an outdoor deck varies with the brand, the price in your area, and the type of deck material. In addition to the size of the deck and the design ideas that need to be considered, the person building the deck needs to decide whether to choose composite decking boards or wood decking.

This guide will cover the different types of decking options, how to calculate the cost of each type of decking board, as well as the price difference between wood decking and composite decking, and the maintenance required for each type of decking board.


Composite Decking

What is composite decking?

Composite decking materials are known as wood plastic composite decking, also known as WPC decking. they are made from a blend of recycled plastic and wood fibers. Composite decking looks like real wood boards and can give you the enjoyment of solid wood.

Depending on the brand of composite decking, high-quality composite decking boards usually have a realistic wood grain pattern. Of course, they also have composite deck boards with a grooved surface and a frosted surface.

Advantages of composite decking

Low maintenance

Composite decking is virtually maintenance-free, which is one of the biggest advantages of the material. Composite wood decking does not require sanding, staining, or sealing like wood decking. All you need to do is clean it twice a year on a regular basis using mild soapy water or a low-power washer.

Of course, you can also hire a professional to clean your outdoor deck. The cost of a professional deck cleaning ranges from $90 to $770, but most people spend around $150.

Long Lifespan

The composite decking material is strong and durable, does not stain easily, and has a long lifespan that can withstand normal wear and tear for up to 50 years. Because of the material used to make it, it is less susceptible to insect damage and it will not rot or crack.



During the production of composite decking, UV inhibitors are usually added. As a result, composite decking has superior UV resistance than wood decking. This means that composite deck boards will not fade and darken more quickly than wood decks.

Of course, you can also change the look of composite deck boards by staining or painting them. You can learn how to stain your outdoor deck to save money on deck maintenance.

Color versatility

Composite decking boards are available in a wide range of colors. This is because wood-plastic composites can be colored during the manufacturing process, which determines the final color of the composite product. It follows that you can seek composite decking manufacturers to customize the composite decking you need.


Environmentally Friendly

If you are planning to create an eco-friendly home, then composite decking material is perfect for you. This is because it is made from recyclable plastic and wood fiber. The use of recyclable plastic can reduce the plastic waste in your life and the use of wood fiber can increase the utilization of trees. Therefore, promoting and using composite decking is good for protecting our living environment.

When the decking is no longer useful, composite decking boards can be reused to make new things. For example, composite joists are produced to build the framing structure of the deck. These composite joists are also strong and durable, mold and mildew-resistant, and insect-resistant.


Price of composite decking

High-quality composite decking costs $15 to $36 per square foot, which is more than most lumber. However many families find it worthwhile to use composite decking for their outdoor living spaces. That’s because it can cost up to $1,000 per year to maintain your wood deck. After you’ve used it for many years, the total cost of building a wood deck will exceed the cost of composite decking.

It’s important to note that the framing to build composite decking needs to be sturdy framing so that it can withstand the weight of the deck and anything on it. You can choose a composite joist or you can use a solid wood frame.

However, some composite decking manufacturers recommend using a steel substructure for support, which can cost up to 35% more than pressure-treated wood. When creating a budget for installing composite decking, you need to add the price of the composite decking material to the cost of the lumber and the cost of the work in your area.


Wood Decking

Traditional wood has always been the classic choice for outdoor decks. The price of wood decking varies greatly depending on the type of wood. Yellow pine is one of the least expensive woods, while redwood and cedar are more expensive. Decks made from imported woods such as Brazilian walnut (also called ipe) are much more expensive.

Natural wood decks require regular care and maintenance to keep them looking good and increase their lifespan. Every two to five years, wood decks need to be sanded, stained, and sealed. Painting a wood deck can cost anywhere from $540 to $1,250, but the average cost for most people is around $775.

Left untreated, natural wood materials are more susceptible to fading, moisture, and rot. Pressure-treated wood is known to warp and crack in the wind and sun. However, if you take care of your wood deck, it can last up to 15 years or more.

Wood decking is a great option for those who want to save money on deck installation. Pressure-treated wood costs between $15 and $25 per square foot. Redwood costs between $4 and $6 per square foot, and cedar costs between $4 and $9 per square foot.

Built-in Fire Pits

How to Estimate the Cost of a Deck

When installing a new deck, one can create a budget by estimating the cost of the entire project. When one wants to know the cost of a deck, the following steps should be followed.

  • One should first measure the area of the outdoor space and determine the size and design of the deck for that space.
  • Make a mark on the ground where the deck will be located in order to know if the deck is the right size for your needs. Keep in mind that the size of the deck has a significant impact on the total cost of materials and construction.
  • Consider which deck accessories are necessary and which are optional. By minimizing the number of deck accessories that need to be installed, you can save money and reduce the cost of outdoor deck installation.
  • Talk to a professional deck builder or home improvement store in your area to find out about labor costs and what they recommend for deck materials.

Cost of composite decking vs wood decking

Composite decking typically costs more to install than wood decking. The following chart comparing the cost of different decking materials visualizes the average cost per square foot for different types of wood and composite decking.

Decking MaterialsCost per Square Foot (Materials Only)
Redwood$4 to $6
Cedarwood$4 to $9
Pressure-treated wood$15 to $25
Composite decking$15 to $36

Composite decking typically costs more to install than wood decking

While composite decking is usually more expensive than wood, it is more stable in price. Whereas the price of lumber has been unstable and highly variable in recent years. Additionally, homeowners should consider the longevity of the material used for the deck and how that affects the price.

Composite decking materials last much longer than wood. Therefore many people believe that installing composite decking is worth the cost compared to what they will spend on repairing their wood decks over the years.


There are many types of wood decking available at different prices

Pressure-treated wood is strong and durable and can give a deck a classic look. But you’ll need to pay ongoing maintenance costs for it, and it will need to be painted or stained every two to five years. Pressure-treated wood decks don’t come in many different styles or designs. If a wood deck gets wet, then it can harbor mold and it can split, splinter, and warp.

Cedar decking is more beautiful than pressure-treated wood. It is stronger and lasts longer, but you still have to stain and seal it to make it look new. Likewise, cedar lumber is prone to cracking, warping, and mold when exposed to water.

Cedar, redwood, and ipe are graded based on the clarity and quality of the wood. Boards with fewer knots, defects, or mineral stains are graded higher and of course, are the most expensive. It is important to note that if you need wider planks than standard decorative boards, they will also be more expensive. This is because wider boards need to be made from larger logs, which are not as common.


The price of wood decking fluctuates

The price of wood decking fluctuates with the price of lumber, while the price of composite decking materials is more stable. Therefore, the price of lumber affects the overall cost of building a wood deck. The price of different types of lumber will vary depending on where they are sold and how much people want them.

For the most part, pine is the cheapest decking wood. Cedar and redwood are more expensive, while well-known exotic woods such as Brazilian chestnut and ipe are the most expensive. Compared to the price of lumber, the price of composite decking boards is fairly stable.

Installing composite decking labor cost is lower

The labor cost of installing composite decking is lower than wood decking because there is no need to process or seal the boards. The cost of installing composite decking boards typically ranges from $10 to $14 per square foot. Natural wood decking, on the other hand, costs $15 to $35 per square foot to construct.

There are also a few important things that can cause the labor costs to differ between installing wood decking and composite decking. Adding stairs or deck railings to a deck will cost more in labor, as will the design of the deck. In most cases, building a rectangular deck is the most cost-effective option.


Complex deck designs and multi-level decks require more measuring and cutting, so labor costs increase. Building an outdoor deck on a hill takes longer and requires more work. The same is true for building a deck in an area that needs to be cleared of rocks, trees, or other vegetation.

In addition, labor costs are affected by the season and the number of people building the deck. Wooden decks need to be stained, painted, and sealed before they can be used, which will take more labor hours. Different types of hardwoods require different starting holes to be drilled before they are joined, which also adds to the amount of work required. Labor costs are usually higher in cities with large crowds and high cost of living than in rural areas.

Composite decking requires little maintenance

Although composite decking costs more to install, it lasts longer, won’t stain or fade, and requires little maintenance. Composite deck boards don’t darken or fade as quickly as natural wood decking, and their color stays longer.

In addition, composite material lasts longer and looks better than wood because it is more weather-resistant than wood decking. For this reason, composite deck boards don’t require much maintenance. They only need to be cleaned twice a year with mild soapy water or a low-power pressure washer.


Wood decks cost more in the long run

It is cheaper to buy a wood deck at first, but in the long run, it will cost more to maintain. This is because it requires regular sanding, staining, and replacement of boards to keep it in good condition. In order to keep a wood deck in good condition, one needs to maintain, service, and seal it every two to five years.

Hiring a professional for deck maintenance costs more than doing it yourself, but it still costs homeowners money and time to do it themselves. Everyone should know how to waterproof a deck and how to repair deck boards that have been damaged by weather.

How to choose composite decking boards

If you live in a place where the temperature is high all year round, when composite decking boards are exposed to the sun, they can get so hot that it can be difficult to walk on them barefoot. On hot days, some people like to put outdoor rugs on their composite decking to keep their feet cool. You can also go for light-colored composite decking boards which will reduce its heat.

If you live in a coastal area or a place with a lot of rain, it is recommended that you choose composite decking boards with grooves or 3D wood grain. This will prevent the composite decking from becoming slippery when it gets wet.


Wood decking can be repaired

When a wood deck is worn out, it can be sanded, painted, or stained to make it look new again. However, composite deck boards cannot be refinished when they become damaged and must be replaced. When to repair or replace deck boards depends on the degree of wear and tear on the deck, the materials used, and the overall age of the deck.

DIY Deck Installation and Maintenance

People on a tight budget may choose to build a wooden deck and then maintain it themselves to save money. Composite decking may be better suited for people with more money or who don’t want to maintain a deck.

If you don’t mind spending a weekend every two to five years maintaining your deck, you can save money by doing it yourself instead of hiring someone to do it for you. For some people, the look of solid wood is a big advantage of owning a wood deck.


Maintaining a wood deck to keep it looking its best is only part of the equation. People need to consider the cost of regular maintenance and repairs when calculating the cost of building a wood deck. People with more money tend to think that the more expensive composite decking is worth it because they don’t want to do any more maintenance than a quick cleaning twice a year.


The above is the difference in cost and advantages of composite decking and wood decking. Choose the decking material that suits you according to your living area, preference, budget, and so on.

If you have more questions, you can consult our service team. COOWIN is a composite decking brand with more than two decades of experience in production research and development. We are committed to providing you with more thoughtful services.

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