Composite vs Real Timber Decking: Pros and Cons

Composite decking and traditional lumber boards are two popular options for building a deck. Both have their own set of pros and cons, and the best choice for you will depend on your specific needs and budget.
composite deck boards

Composite Decking Pros

Low maintenance

Because it is made of a combination of wood fibers and plastic, it is resistant to rot, insect damage, and fading. This means that it generally requires less maintenance than traditional lumber decking.

Compared to traditional wood decks, composite decking doesn't need to be stained, sealed, or painted. It typically only needs to be cleaned occasionally with soap and water or a mild detergent. And it won't rot, warp or splinter like wood, which is a great advantage.

Long lasting

Composite decking can last for decades without showing signs of wear and tear. It is also less likely to warp or crack, which means it will retain its shape and look for longer.

Variety of colors and styles

Composite decking comes in a variety of colors and styles, so you can choose the one that best suits your taste and the style of your home.

Environmentally friendly

Composite decking boards can be considered environmentally friendly, but it depends on the specific materials and manufacturing process used.

Some composite decking is made from recycled materials, such as reclaimed wood and recycled plastic. This can make composite decking a more environmentally friendly option than traditional lumber decking, which is typically made from virgin wood. The use of recycled materials can also reduce the demand for virgin wood, which can help to conserve natural resources.

Additionally, composite decking is more durable and longer-lasting than traditional lumber decking. This means that it does not need to be replaced as often, which can reduce the overall environmental impact over the lifetime of the deck.

Composite Decking Cons

Higher cost

Composite decking is typically more expensive than traditional lumber decking. The initial cost may be higher, but over time, the low maintenance costs can offset the difference.

Not as natural

Composite decking does not have the natural look and feel of wood decking. Some people may prefer the look of real wood, and may not find composite decking as appealing.

Lumber Decking Pros

merbau wood pool deck

Natural look and feel

Lumber decking is made from natural wood, and has a natural look and feel that many people find appealing.

Widely available

Lumber decking is widely available and easy to find at most home improvement stores.


In general, lumber decking boards can be less expensive than composite decking boards. The cost of lumber decking will depend on the type of wood used, with some woods, such as cedar and redwood, being more expensive than others, such as pressure-treated pine.

Lumber decking is a traditional option and is widely available in many home improvement stores and lumberyards. The availability and local price of certain type of woods could vary, but in general you will find that it will be cheaper than composite decking.

On the other hand, composite decking is made of a combination of wood fibers and plastic, and the cost of the materials and manufacturing process can be more expensive.

However, composite decking can last longer, require less maintenance and is resistant to rot, decay, and insects, which may offset the higher initial cost in the long run.

It's worth noting that the cost comparison between lumber and composite decking can vary depending on factors such as location, brand and quality, it's important to compare the options and get quotes from various suppliers, to get a clear idea of what is the best option for your budget and desired outcome.

Lumber Decking Cons

Require maintenance

deck repair

Lumber decking requires regular maintenance, including cleaning, staining, and sealing to protect it from rot, insect damage, and fading.

Shorter lifespan

Lumber decking may not last as long as composite decking, and may need to be replaced after a few years.

Environmental impact

trees chopped down logs forest

The use of real lumber, especially from natural forests, can have a negative impact on the environment.

Deforestation, or the clearing of natural forests, can lead to habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity, and disruption of local and global ecosystems. This can also impact indigenous communities who rely on the forest for their livelihoods.

Additionally, the transportation of wood from far-off locations can use a significant amount of fossil fuels and contribute to air pollution and carbon emissions.

However, not all lumber is the same in terms of environmental impact, there are more sustainable options available such as FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified lumber which come from responsibly managed forests and are harvested with a commitment to conserve biodiversity and protect forest ecosystems. Some mills also use efficient and sustainable processes to produce lumber that minimize environmental impact.

Additional Factors to Consider


If you live in an area with a lot of rainfall or humidity, composite decking may be the better choice because it is resistant to rot and insect damage.

Foot traffic

If your deck will be receiving heavy foot traffic, composite decking may be more durable and resistant to wear and tear than traditional lumber decking.


deck spacer

Lumber decking boards can expand and contract more than composite decking boards due to the natural properties of wood. Because wood is a natural material, it is affected by changes in temperature and humidity, which can cause it to expand or contract.

The degree of expansion and contraction will vary depending on the type of wood used for the decking boards. Some types of wood, like cedar and redwood, have a tighter grain and will expand and contract less than woods with a wider grain, like pine.

The natural movement of wood can cause lumber decking boards to warp, bend, or even become loose. This can lead to gaps or uneven surfaces on the deck. Proper installation techniques such as using proper spacing between the decking boards can help to mitigate this, however it will never be completely eliminated.

On the other hand, composite decking is made of a combination of wood fibers and plastic, which means it is not as affected by changes in temperature and humidity. Because it is a man-made material, the expansion and contraction of composite decking is more predictable and consistent.

While composite decking boards can expand and contract, they do so less than lumber decking boards, this is due to the properties of wood as a natural material. This is why it is important to take into account the natural movement of wood when installing lumber decking and to make sure that proper installation techniques are used to ensure the stability and longevity of the deck.

In summary

Composite decking and lumber decking both have their own set of pros and cons. The best choice for you will depend on your specific needs and budget. While composite decking requires less maintenance, it is typically more expensive than traditional lumber decking. However, composite decking can last for decades, and is resistant to rot, insect damage, and fading. Lumber decking, on the other hand, is less expensive and has a natural look and feel that many people find appealing. But it does require regular maintenance and has a shorter lifespan. Ultimately, you should weigh the pros and cons of each option and make a decision based on which one will best meet your needs and budget.

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