Building Tips

Composite vs Wood Decking

Rug | Galvanized Planter

You might have heard me say before that I am a huge fan of real wood. There is just something about that wood grain and texture that faux wood cannot measure up to.

However, in some applications, I think careful consideration should be made over the choice of real wood or fake. Decking is one of these applications.

We have only had real wood decking on all of the homes that we’ve built and remodeled, but we have been doing lots of research on composite. We’re still trying to make up our mind on which we will choose. If you’re in the same boat as us trying to decide between the two, here are some things to consider:

Overall Look

As I said before, nothing really compares to the real thing. If fact, when we built our current house, we were planning on using composite. It was delivered to the building site. We unwrapped it, and could tell right away that it was not the look we wanted. That’s the point when we decided to use real wood.

But in the defense of composite decking companies, I do have to say that they have made real strides in improving the look of their product. We did order a lower grade composite decking. So that might have been the reason we didn’t like the look when we saw it on the job site.

Photo Credit: Fiberon

Most composite decking comes in a low, mid, and high quality grade. The high quality grade gives more of a natural look closer to real wood. The grain mimics a closer resemblance and pattern to the real thing.


Cost can always be a game changer. Composite decking will be a significant amount more on the front end. It could be almost double in price of regular treated lumber, and even more depending on what grade you choose.

But with real wood, you should factor in the cost of ongoing maintenance like applying fresh coats of stain, or even replacing boards as they become weathered and cracked.

Upkeep and Maintenance

Composite is made for low maintenance and durability. The only thing you will need to do with composite decking is a good cleaning every year to prevent mold and build up.

With real wood, you will spend several hours initially staining the wood after installation. The upkeep then will be almost a yearly or biyearly thing. Up front you have to decide if the savings and real wood look is worth the work to keep it look great.

We just finished sanding and applying a fresh coat of stain to some weathered areas that are exposed to mid day sun. Those are the areas that will require the most upkeep.

Henry sanding the most weather areas before I applied the stain.

Concrete Planter

That’s one thing to consider. If your deck or porch is covered and not exposed to a lot of direct sunlight, the amount of maintenance you have to perform will be minimal.

Which is the right choice?

We are busy people and are trying to simplify our lives. With our new build, one big thing we continue to think about is how we can simplify things. With running two businesses and two teenage children, “low maintenance” is becoming a bigger factor in our decision making.

With that said, the obvious choice might seem like a higher grade of composite. However, our back porch is covered and will no receive any direct sunlight thanks to all of the trees. This means that wood should also be low maintenance.

Decisions. Decisions. We do still have quite a bit of time to make this one, but we’ll let you know when we decide.

If you’re trying to make the same decision, here are a few questions to ask yourself. Is your decking an area where you want to splurge? Will your deck or porch be exposed to harsh elements like rain and midday sun? Do you have time to spend on upkeep and maintenance? What overall look are you going for?

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  • Reply Kahleen

    What brand and color stain do you use?

    May 25, 2019 at 11:44 pm
    • Reply Henry

      We used Cabot Gold Moonlit Mahogany.

      May 28, 2019 at 12:55 pm
  • Reply Andrea

    Looks lovely. What kind of wood did you use for your decking?
    Dimensions, kind of wood, treated etc.

    June 1, 2019 at 5:10 am
  • Reply Steve B.

    I have an old wood deck, but have been considering having it resurfaced with composite. You mentioned composite needs a good cleaning ever year – do you have it power washed, or is there a better way to clean composite decking? Typically I’ve used a power washing service to clean my wood deck.

    July 10, 2019 at 6:15 pm
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