Decking Comparison: PVC vs. Capped Composite & Hardwood Decking

 

Decking options have grown exponentially over the past few years. Before that, the only option available for most folks was wood, which was available in Cedar, hardwood or Pressure Treated.

However, in 1996 composite decking (TREX) hit the market and gained huge popularity since it offered a low maintenance option for users.  A few years later came, Fiberon, Monarch, Timbertech and an onslaught of vendors trying to get into the decking game.  First batches of product came with lifetime warranties which failed after about 10 years of being utilized in real life applications.  Next to come about was PVC and PVC capped decking materials which again revolutionized the market, while the issues with composites wiped out a large market of decking suppliers there are 5 main companies that provide decking now world wide TimberTech, Azek, Fiberon, Trex, and Wolf.  MasterDecks is a certified installer for all 5 products and have found that the least amount of product failure when it comes to synthetics is with full PVC lines.  

Before you embark on purchasing decking, it pays to know the pros and cons of each all of which have different prices, aesthetics, and maintenance.

Take a look at the pros and cons of the three most popular decking varieties:

 

PVC

Poly vinyl Chloride (PVC) is a special class of plastic resin which is used in the manufacture of a wide variety of products. PVC decking is mainly used in exterior installation for most homes.

PRO’s

  • PVC will give you a variety of options in styles, designs, and shapes to choose from. This means that you can choose single or double color options, whichever suits your needs best.
  • Additionally, you can choose from a variety of colors and surface textures. This makes selection easier.
  • 30 year warranty against product failure
  • Resists stain, scratches and fading
  • stands up to harsh weather
  • quick and easy installation
  • superior heat dissipation
  • no annual staining
  • resists mold mildew & moisture


Affordability

While PVC decking is the most expensive upfront cost out of all the material we have seen that it has less call backs and over 20 years will save customers thousands of money in routine maintenance costs.  

Cons

  • If PVC is not installed by a certified installer it causes issues with shrinking and expansion that could make for an unfavorable look.  
  • Squeaky noises if hidden fasteners are used due to the two plastics rubbing together
  • static electricity build up right after installation and depending on the type of footwear you have on

 

Capped Composite

This material is less expensive than full PVC material, it has a very thin layer around all four sides of the deck board that allow for it to show similar qualities as the full PVC line.  The core is comprised of Resin material that is a mixture of plastic and wood.  The Pro’s are the same as PVC material except it isn’t as mold and mildew resistant, scratch resistant and the heat dissipation is not as good. The cons are also similar except at MasterDecks we have noticed more warranty claims on Capped Composite material than we have seen with full PVC lines.

 

Hardwood

There is a wide variety of options for hardwood but the best marketed and most popular is Ipe, Tigerwood and Batu.  Pricing wise these products fall inline with capped composite, and PVC decking material options.  Over time you will spend more due to maintenance but for some customers that are looking for a long lasting product that is wood this our suggested option

Pros

  • Most product will last around 30 + years with proper maintenance
  • It is very exotic and looks like beautiful wood (because it is)
  • It is extremely hard and durable
  • Lots of people like the fact that the decking material will grey over time.

Con’s

  • Hardwood is quite dense and heavy. This makes it difficult to work with. You will require the help of carbide saw blades to cut through the wood.
  • You will have to oil the product every couple years in order to protect your investment
  • It can splinter, cup, and warp
  • Hidden Fastener options are very difficult to work with

 

CEDAR

Cedar is a great product and for many years was inexpensive way to put decking down on the substrate.  Recently the price has gone up considerably and it is very similar in price to low end composites and capped composite materials.  

Pro’s

  • It is very easy to install and can be nailed down or screwed down
  • It is the most inexpensive upfront decking solution
  • If maintenance is kept up every couple years this product will last 30 + years
  • It is wood and looks good when installed

Con’s

  • Splinters
  • Maintenance
  • Not mold and Mildew resistant
  • not stain resistant
  • not fade resistant
  • will wear easier than any of the other alternatives