Should you use composite wood or timber decking?
There’s nothing quite like spending a long, lazy summer afternoon outside on the deck. But long before there are barbecues and platters of cheese and Kiwi onion dip, decisions must be made about something much more fundamental – the deck itself.
For anyone building a deck from scratch or rebuilding an old, failing deck, a decision must be made about materials. Namely, whether the new deck will be built with traditional timber, or the modern alternative of composite decking. The decision is entirely personal, and should be made once you have a strong idea of the pros and cons of each option.
To get you started, here’s what you can expect from both composite wood and timber materials in your decking.
The case for composite
Composite wood is a combination of wood fibres – largely reclaimed timber – and recycled plastic.
Up close, you can usually tell right away that the ‘plank’ you are touching is not real wood, however composite has been designed to look and feel quite similar to the real thing, and it’s much harder to tell when looking at the finished product.
The fact that no trees are cut down to create composite wood means this is marketed as a highly eco-friendly option. The only downside here is that in using plastics, it may be harder to deal with decades down the track should you ever need to reuse or dispose of your timber, so keep this in mind.
Composite timber offers a variety of other benefits, as well. It functions excellently in all types of New Zealand conditions, from windswept seafronts to hot and dry areas in the north to rainy and chilly spots in the south. It is naturally resistant to mould, bugs, mildew, and rot, and it won’t splinter with age. This material is also designed not to warp, and it takes virtually zero maintenance to keep it looking its best (a quick annual wash with soapy water is all it needs). Finally, composite wood is expected to fade ever so slightly within the first few months of installation, but won’t fade beyond that. This gives it a fantastic staying power, even when faced with countless sunny afternoons.
The composite wood market in New Zealand is still relatively new, but aside from general awareness of the product, one of the main drawbacks is that it is a higher cost than timber options.
Timber is the traditional choice for countless decks around New Zealand, and it’s easy to see why. First, it’s important to note that there are two main types of timber to choose from, hardwoods and treated pine.
Hardwoods – particularly tropical hardwoods – are exceptionally durable and long lasting. Hardwoods used in New Zealand (such as kwila, mahogany, and vitex) are usually sourced from sustainable plantations, meaning that by using it, you are not contributing to the destruction of wild forest lands. These woods are loved for their natural rich colours, resistance to splintering, and the beautiful feel they give for bare feet.
The other type of timber commonly used in New Zealand is treated pine. This is the more affordable option of the two timbers (and therefore the most budget-friendly of all decking materials), and is naturally pale in colour, meaning it is up to you to determine whether you paint it, stain it, or simply oil it.
Treated pine is not as durable as other materials, but regular maintenance can help it last much longer. When you look after it, it can easily last for decades, but you will need to keep an eye out for splintering and discolouration, and use sealants, oils, and other products to keep it looking and feeling great.
So how do you decide between composite and timber decking? It will likely come down to your budget, style preferences, and willingness (or resistance!) to do regular maintenance work. Chat to the team at Maintain Your Property for our help with building or maintaining your deck.