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DECKING 101

PVC vs WOOD vs COMPOSITE

It can seem like there are endless options for decking out there, but when it comes down to it, you're most likely to encounter one of only three or four main types of decking material.
Knowing the key differences between each type will help you narrow down your options.

While all decking brands and styles will be a bit different, here's a basic breakdown of what you can expect from the three most common decking materials: PVC, Wood, and Composite.

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PVC

Image by Margarida Afonso

Wood

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Composite

THE BASICS

PVC
Wood
Composite
MOLD / ROT / BUG RISK
Very resistant
Not resistant
Resistant
WARP / SPLIT RISK
Very low
Very high
Very low
MAINTENANCE
Just cleaning
Cleaning, sanding, staining, painting
Just cleaning
PURCHASE COST
Highest
Low-medium
Medium-high
AVERAGE LIFESPAN
50+ year replacement
~10 year replacement
25 year replacement
MATERIAL
100% pure PVC
Readily available lumber
Wood filler and plastic
PVC
Wood
Composite
HEAT RESISTANCE
Resists heat for a cooler feel on the feet
Can be hot, depending on stain color
Retains heat much longer than PVC, can get very hot
SPLINTER RISK
Zero risk of splinters or slivers
High risk of splinters and slivers
No risk of splinters or slivers
SLIP RISK
Highest traction and slip resistance
Can be very slippery when wet
Can be slippery when wet
FADE RISK
Low
Very high
Low
SCRATCH / STAIN RISK
Highest resistance to scratching
Low resistance to scratching
Medium resistance to scratching
BOARD APPEARANCE
Multi-tone creates a more authentic hardwood look
Natural lumber look, usually stained or painted
Some good, some fake with repeating patterns

LOOK AND FEEL

INSTALL

PVC
Wood
Composite
GROUND RATED / WATERPROOF
Yes, can be installed around pools, hot tubs, etc. and in contact with the ground
Only some types of wood can be installed around pools and hot tubs
Typically cannot be used around pools and hot tubs or in contact with the ground
TOOLS REQUIRED
Standard decking tools
Standard decking tools
Standard decking tools
INSTALL TIME
Medium
Low
Medium