Depending on your budget, location, and personal expectations, choosing the “best” material to build a deck will vary from owner to owner. Making the most informed financial and personal decision requires knowing the initial installation and continual maintenance costs for each building material. In this article, we will review several decking materials and suggest the best decking material for you to build your dream deck depending on what you prioritize as a homeowner.
Wood decking is one of the cheapest options available on the market to build a deck — the average cost is around $25 per square foot of wood decking. Wood decks require a lot of annual maintenance and upkeep in comparison to other decking materials. Because wood decks readily absorb moisture from the air, they decay, splinter, and crack faster than other building materials. For this reason you should expect to sand, stain, and seal a wooden deck on a yearly basis. The average lifespan of a wooden deck ranges between 10 and 15 years. If you notice that the foundations of your wooden deck are rotting away, it may be cheaper to get a full deck replacement. That being said, nothing beats the authentic quality and feel of wood decking, which can elevate the experience on any homeowner’s backyard.
Composite decking is durable and extremely low maintenance — however, the average cost of installation is higher at around $35 per square foot. For some homeowners, the ease of composite decking makes the initial expense posed by installation well worth the cost. The wood-plastic materials used to create composite decks are stain and moisture resistant, meaning that composite decks do not decay, splinter, or weaken with a termite infestation. In addition to overall lower maintenance and cost, the average lifespan of a composite deck is longer, ranging from 25 to 30 years. Still, some homeowners have turned away from composite decking because many brands lack the look and feel of a natural wood deck.
Plastic decking or PVC decking is building material made from 100% synthetic materials, making them durable and easy to maintain. However, the installation costs tend to be higher on average for plastic decking than for wood or composite options. Because plastic does not readily absorb moisture, this type of decking is extremely resilient in the face of insects and decay. That being said, plastic decking does not fair well in extreme sunlight — this building material can get very hot during the summer months (which may not be so kind on the soles of your feet). In addition, most people agree that plastic decking looks cheap in comparison to natural wood.
The upfront cost of installing aluminum decking is higher than all the options presented here. However, this building material can be cost-competitive when compared to materials such as wooden decks which require regular annual maintenance and upkeep. Aluminum is a long-lasting material that is lightweight, resistant to staining and decay, and structurally sound. The exact costs of aluminum deck installation and upkeep vary depending on the quality of the design and building materials purchased. In general, however, at the expense of higher installation costs, aluminum decks are essentially maintenance-free.
Depending on the desired appearance, cost, and maintenance expectations, the choice for best deck building material will change from owner to owner. If you prioritize having to maintain your deck as little as possible, look into the composite, plastic, and aluminum options. Wood decking offers the most cost-effective option if you prioritize a good bargain at the time of installation. Building your dream deck doesn’t have to be difficult—reaching out to a professional contractor can help you make the most informed decision for your property.