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Composite vs Timber Decking: Which Material is More Durable?

When planning your dream outdoor living space, one of the most important decisions you'll make is choosing the right decking material. Two popular options are composite decking and timber decking, each offering unique benefits and drawbacks. In this blog post, we'll compare the durability of composite and timber decking, helping you determine which material is best suited for your needs and preferences.

  1. What is Composite Decking?

Composite decking is a man-made material created from a mixture of wood fibres, plastic, polyurethane, glass fibre strands and binding agents. This combination results in a highly durable and low-maintenance decking material that resembles the look of natural wood. Composite decking is available in a wide range of colours and finishes, making it easy to find a style that suits your taste and complements your home's exterior.

  1. What is Timber Decking?

Timber decking is made from natural wood, which can be sourced from a variety of species, such as pressure-treated Pine, ThermoWood softwood and hardwood, or exotic hardwoods like Ipe and Teak. Timber decking offers a warm and natural appearance with no two boards looking the same that many homeowners find appealing.

  1. Durability of Composite Decking

Composite materials are resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage, ensuring a longer lifespan for your outdoor space. Some composite decking, depending on the quality is fade, stain, and scratch-resistant, making it an ideal choice for households with children, pets, or heavy foot traffic. However, you still need to treat them with care and not drag furniture across the surface as they cannot easily be repaired. For the environmentalists, most composites end up in landfill sites unless your local authority has a means of disposing of them.

Stability of composite boards will come down to how much plastic it contains because the boards will expand and twist in hot weather if not properly installed.

Some composite decking brands offer warranties ranging from 25 to 30 years, demonstrating their confidence in the material's longevity. However, it's essential to follow the manufacturer's installation and maintenance guidelines to ensure your deck lasts as long as possible and failure to complete any warranty paperwork will negate any future claim you might have.

  1. Durability of Timber Decking

The durability of timber decking largely depends on the type of wood you choose and how well it's maintained. Pressure-treated Pine, for example, is treated with chemicals to resist decay and insects, making it a more durable option than untreated wood.

ThermoWoods due to their heat modification process do not have chemical preservatives and are naturally resistant to insects and decay and also do not need to go into landfill, and their lifespan is generally between 20-30 plus years. Stability is also extremely good.

Exotic hardwoods like Ipe and Teak are known for their exceptional durability, with some species lasting up to 50 years or more with proper care. However, these materials come with a higher price tag and can be more challenging to install and maintain.

  1. Maintenance Requirements

When comparing the maintenance of composite and timber decking, it's important to remember that there is no such thing as ‘Maintenance-Free’.

Composite decking will require occasional cleaning with soap and water and a brush to remove dirt and debris. There is no need for staining, sealing, or painting, making composite decking a convenient option for busy homeowners.

Timber decking again will require cleaning, usually once or twice a year. However, these days this is a very painless process because you can spray a cleaner over the surface then jet wash it all off and you're good to go. You have, if desired, the option to oil it which conditions and protects the surface from fading and this can also be done with a long-handled sponge/mop or brush as the oil will soak into the surface.

  1. Cost Considerations

While composite decking tends to be more expensive upfront than timber decking, its durability and low-maintenance can in some cases result in lower long-term costs. Timber decking may require oiling as an addition to composite, but apart from that, maintenance is virtually the same providing you are comparing an equal quality product and not an expensive composite versus a budget cost pressure treated timber deck.

ThermoWoods as mentioned will tick all the environment boxes over composite/UPVC decking if that's your consideration when purchasing.

To conclude, these days the market is flooded with all sorts of decking products, a lot of which come from China. More so on the composite /uvpc side which can be confusing, and the marketing for these products can be very biased towards their own, knocking the timber products by saying that they don't split, crack, warp and rot like timber.

This would be very inaccurate and is not a fair comparison with timber unless a cheap fencing timber grade product was used.

So make an informed decision about what works for your situation and also consider end of life for the product.

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