Best Ways to Choose Composite Decking

There are seven key ways to simplify your shopping experience and are essential in making your choice – from the budget, moisture and sunlight considerations, building codes and any extras that arise. 

Options for Composite Decking Boards

As a low-maintenance alternative to wood, composite decking is an excellent choice for your next outdoor project. While it’s well noted that in the early years of the composite decking industry, there were some teething issues, over time, it has improved quite considerably and is improved to be a quality product. There are now 50 difference composite choices available, only ten years ago, there were only 10, so it’s a growing market.

Other similar boards, including cellular PVC and plastic lumber such as high-density or HDPE, install much in the same way as composite lumber. While we concentrate on composite decking boards for this article, the same information can be applied to PVC and plastic. When looking for an option that is right for your project, the biggest frustration will be choosing between the styles, colours and brands. 

When choosing the suitable composite decking boards, this is most often done by budget first, followed by style and colour preferences. The type of fasteners are also important and can be attributed to budget, and then you have to consider site and code requirements. For quality composite decking materials, you will find the initial outlay is expensive, at least two to three times more so than treated wood, but it lasts considerably longer and requires less maintenance overall.

We narrow down your options in this article and simplify your shopping experience.

Factor 1: Considering Budget

Are you on a tight budget? Did you know that installing a wooden railing instead of out of composite materials can reduce your costs? However, the wood does require much more maintenance. Given that most brands of composites are similar and will work well together, varying brands are likely to differ in colour, the combination of plastic and wood and design.

There are various low cost and maintenance options available but come in limited repetitive grain patterns and colours with a smooth finish; however, you need to expect to pay more if you want more variety. The decking boards generally come in 4.8M and 6M planks. You can reduce costs by using face screw systems instead of hidden fasteners.

Top Tip: If you plan around the plank measurements, this will reduce waste and save you money.

Factor 2: Is The Deck Hot in the Sun?

Decks can get hot, especially if you have chosen a dark shade. If you live in a hot climate, your outdoor areas are bound to warm up fairly easily unless you have a lot of natural shade in your yard. Choosing a lighter colour, adding an umbrella or shade cloth will help take the sizzle off your outdoor space and help make it more comfortable in the heat of the day.

Top Tip: Get composite samples in various colours and set them outside where you plan to build your deck to test what gets less sun.

Factor 3: How Important is a “Wood Look”?

Most composites, particularly the higher-end type, have a superior grain and look the most like wood in both appearance and feel. Although pricey, some feature shading and grain variations that are subtle but all vary from one another. Some boards are buffed to remove the “plastic” look.

The more expensive composites also have a wider variety of colours and matching accessories – rainings, posts, caps, decorative trim and skirts. While they don’t come cheap, they transform a deck and look very beautiful.

Top Tip:  Consider what are must-haves and add on any extras that work within your budget for a complete look.

Factor 4: How Wet Does Composite Decking Get?

While smooth textured surfaces can get slippery, choosing a composite board with a pronounced texture can eliminate this issue. This is particularly the best solution if the decking is by a pool or the main entry to your home, and even more so if ice is frequent where you live.

Top Tip: Composite decking generally isn’t slippery; however, to be sure, take a look at the material in person before buying to get a feel for what it’s like.

Factor 5: How Important Are Hidden Fasteners?

For some people, using hidden fasteners are a deal-breaker. However, many people don’t mind if they are visible. While clip systems work well with grooved decking with a thin profile, they are susceptible to collecting leaves and dirt if the ends aren’t capped. Compared to other systems, hidden fasteners are costly and can bump up your costs by 30%

Top Tip: Using face screws still looks relatively neat for considerably less cost.

Factor 6: Do Your Deck Materials Meet Building Codes?

Some composite products are limited with how they can be used on stairs and framing. Research what will and won’t meet the local codes and ensure that you space your fasteners accurately, so your inspection runs smoothly on completion.

Top Tip: Call your local council to ensure your composite decking materials are approved before moving forward.

Factor 7: Including Extras in our Budget

There are always hidden costs in any project, so you must allow for this in your budget. You won’t require buying any specialised tools because composite lumber only requires the same essential tools that are used when building a wooden deck. Other costs to consider are hidden fasteners, screws, end caps, reinforcement pieces and any other extras you wish to include for decoration.

Top Tip: Allow for a surplus in your budget for any hidden extras that may come up.