Composite vs real wood deck in new construction build?

roll80April 7, 2014

Were in the final stages of getting set to break ground on our home in Michigan and need to decide on the deck material. Composite vs real wood....building roughly a 12 x 34 ft deck.
anybody know the cost per square foot difference and what you have done or prefer..i know it will be more for the composite but it think the up front cost will be worth it in the long run with the look and virtually maintenance free..
any advise?

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I'm curious about this topic. My inclination is to think that the no-maintenance (or perhaps low-maintenance) deck is the winner in the long run. I do hate clearing off everything and doing waterproofing on my deck every couple years.

However, I'm leaning towards a patio for my next house. I'd be interested in how that price might stack up against a deck of either sort.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 1:27PM
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Have you posted over on the Porches and Decks forum?

All products have their pros and cons and some of that depends on location and amount of sunshine, snow, rain, etc. the deck will receive.

Here is a link that might be useful: Porches and Decks forum

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 4:20PM
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We were interested in the Trex composite for a new deck until I read all the issues many people had with the product. There has been 2 class action lawsuits regarding the decking rotting, splitting, fading etc. They settled the last lawsuit in 2013.

According to their document:

In 2010 it debuted Trex Transcend, which has a proprietary shell that resists fading, stains, scratching and mold.

This is the new product they are selling now. Also notice the language: RESISTS......

If you decide on composite make sure you do you homework to determine if there are any problems with the product.

This post was edited by cricket49 on Mon, Apr 7, 14 at 16:55

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 4:47PM
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We are debating this as well. Our wood choices are limited by code. We are looking at Ipe, which seems to have a favorable reputation in our area, but is about the same cost as the composite. The composite decking has a tendency to get slippery when wet (or so I am told) and that has me scared off a bit. Although I've seen it and the nicer ones are quite nice.

Patios are wonderful, but the cost is about 2 - 3 x the decking in our area for the same size if you want pavers or stone.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 7:12PM
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What about a simple concrete patio?
Perhaps stained?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 7:51PM
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@MrsPete - I've got a concrete patio which was poured in 1967 - I know because the year was scratched into the surface by the original owner. While the surface has roughened up over the years, the only crack is along one expansion joint and there is no other cracking or crumbling. It definitely is a plus for longevity. A possible issue on smaller lots can be code/regulation requiring certain amount of open ground to allow water to seep into the ground. Large patios might not be allowed.

I'm interested in this topic as well. A few years ago was looking at a vacation home which required the deck to be completely replaced. While I was working on the deal, I tried to quickly get an idea on cost - and the "quickly" part was not possible - too many options to consider. The deal fell through for other reasons, but am still interested - pressure treated, cedar, exotic hardwoods, composite materials. And then there are new mounting methods with clips that don't show the screws. And if you have a view, what sort of railing - wire, glass,? Gets complicated quick and the $$$$$ start racking up.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 8:32PM
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Ipe is beautiful and we built our front porch using this wood, stained it a rich mahogany color and get many compliments BUT A WORD OF CAUTION-if you stain the Ipe it becomes very slippery when it is raining. Also, since it is so dense it doesn't absorb water so ice sits on top of it creating a skating rink. If you don't plan on staining the ipe it turns grey and is less slippery.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 9:32PM
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We have fiberon composite decking in the color "ipe". It is obviously not as beautiful as natural wood, but it is still very attractive. It gets direct sun all afternoon and has not faded at all, but gets very hot. I remember it being extremely expensive- I want to say $12 per linear foot. This was a few years ago and it was a newer product, so prices may have come down. My husband built the deck using the hidden fasteners and it looks very nice.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 5:54AM
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We're building a home and decided on:

- Poured concrete pad for the lower level walkout @ $2.30/sf installed. I considered getting this concrete stamped but opted against it thinking I may do a decorative stencil instead (a la Pinterest). But the plain concrete looks surprisingly nice, so I doubt I'll need to do a thing once I get rugs and furniture set up. This is a pretty large area at approximately 18' x 70'.

- TimberTech Earthwood Evolutions Terrain in Silver Maple for our 14' x 70' veranda @ $6.10/sf material only. This is a vinyl capped composite and we used the concealed fasteners too. Looks great! I love it.

We also considered Azek's XLM solid pvc decking since we used Azek solid pvc for our exterior trim; we were quoted $9.50-$11/sf. Our lumber yard sells many brands of composite decking including Trex but said their contractors have experienced the best results with TimberTech/Azek. YMMV. I recommend at least researching the benefits of a vinyl cap or solid vinyl product rather than composite only materials no matter which brand you choose.

We didn't get pricing on pressure treated pine on this build because we desired material requiring less maintenance. We had a wood deck on our last house and it was pretty, but we grew tired of the restaining process -- whether we did it ourselves or we paid to have it done. We also had a large slate patio under that wood deck that opened up to a fire pit seating area; it was beautiful, but slate is an expensive choice.

The first house we built had a concrete patio with a colored stain added to the mix, and we chose an exposed aggregate finish. I really loved that patio, and it was rather inexpensive @ around $3 something / sf installed in today's prices.

Yet another option we chose for a vacation property is travertine tile which runs $3-5/sf for material only. This is my favorite but is not the best choice for all climates.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 10:38AM
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Here's a photo of our TimberTech Earthwood Evolutions Terrain in Silver Maple - a vinyl capped composite decking.

(Also pictured is our Nichiha Sierra Premium Shake that I'm so happy we chose, based on recommendations from this forum. Thank you! It is primed but not yet painted/stained.)

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 10:49AM
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Dreaming, I have a concrete driveway that is original to the house -- I'm guessing late 60s /early 70s -- and it still looks fine. I'd assume that a driveway lives a harder life than does a patio. So your story and mine make me think plain old concrete is a good, solid choice.

I'd be perfectly happy with concrete with a bit of color in it (to keep it from being "blinding" in the sun.

I hear what you're saying about size vs. lot, but I have 45 acres.

This post was edited by MrsPete on Sun, Apr 13, 14 at 11:06

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 2:05PM
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I love the look of real wood decking, but will avoid it at all costs because of the increased maintenance. As with most materials for our home, I wanted something that was as low maintenance as possible while still being aesthetically pleasing.

We wanted to use PVC but the temps were too cold for install, so we ended up with a Trex product that I'm happy with. Many of the Trex issues had to do with mold and I'm in a very dry climate and decided it wasn't an issue for us.

For me, I think the increase in upfront costs is definitely offset by the fact that the composite decking is, like you said, virtually maintenance-free. So worth it, and in the end, likely cheaper than real wood.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 12:21AM
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I should also give a shout out to cement - if your "deck" is actually at or near ground level, you should strongly consider the cost and maintenance benefits of cement or pavers.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 12:23AM
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Has anyone considered large concrete pavers on deck stands? Bison and AWS make "plastic shims" for a lack of better description, that are attached to 16OC joists. Then 16x16 pavers are placed on them. The shims have spacers and screw holes. They have you put a flashing tape over the joists as well. Bison is about $1 per shim and AWS $2 so it's probably 1 or 2 dollars per square ft for them plus teh cost of the pavers, but absolutely no maintenance. Some companies make pavers that look very much like Slate and Travertine as well. And Trex is 4.25 a sq (plus no show screw systems) at Lowes. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 2:14PM
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Ok I can't comment in any way of type of decking material, I just want to say I want to move onto juju bean's porch! Somehow the stress of a full gut remodel or build would seem to melt away sitting on the porch. I try to do this on my back port that overlooks our 7 acres, sit there to forget about the cabinet person who says he can't get to install for few weeks, the mudders who don't show, the appliances that are late, ETC... but in no way does it compare to that porch.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 6:04PM
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