Choosing decking materials can be a challenging task. The installation of a decking area can be an expensive investment, so it is vital that you make the right decision.
The most popular decking materials in the UK are wood and composite, and both offer excellent benefits.
The durability and lifespan of composite deck boards make them a suitable choice for the UK weather.
This guide will give you all the information you need about why composite decking lasts longer than wood and the other great benefits it has.
What is Composite Decking?
Wood composite decking is a synthetic material made from real wood fibres, plastics, and a bonding agent.
Ecoscape composite decking is made up of 55% FSC-approved reclaimed wood fibres and 45% recycled high-density polyethene plastic.
Why Composite Lasts Longer than Wooden Decking
Composite decking boards last longer than timber decking because the plastics used to create the boards protect them from many of the major issues a wood deck faces.
Rot, warping, splinters, and splitting are all issues that are common in traditional timber decking. Composite decking materials include plastic and wood fibres, and the wood fibres are coated in plastic to protect them from these issues. Wood-boring insects won’t attack composite wood boards without the treatments needed for wood decks.
Composite vs. Wood
One of the best ways to ensure you select the perfect material for your needs is by comparing composite decking boards with their wooden counterparts.
Comparing products will give you a better understanding of what each has to offer and how you can achieve a long-lasting deck for your budget.
Composite Decking Types
The first thing it is important to understand when choosing your decking is the different types available to you. Not only will composite decking boards differ between manufacturers, but there is more than one type for consumers to explore.
You will also have different types of wooden decking to explore to match the benefits that suit your needs.
The most common decking material types include;
Clarity composite decking is an excellent example of high-quality composite deck boards that are long-lasting and look great.
Clarity decking offers customers the opportunity to invest in an eco-friendly decking option that is 95% recycled, and the sustainably sourced wood fibres would typically be landfilled.
Ecoscape’s dedication to providing environmentally products also sees them recycle thousands of tons of plastic annually.
The Ecoscape Clarity decking range is available in five colours; ash, walnut, autumn, graphite, and charcoal.
The deck boards come in 3m and 4.8m lengths, with a 6mm narrow groove pattern on one side and a 25mm wide groove pattern on the reverse.
Capped Composite Decking
Capped composite is the second-generation composite option that takes the excellent benefits of first-generation composite decking and builds on them.
The Ecoscape Forma capped composite range has the same high-quality boards as the Clarity range but also undergoes a state-of-the-art co-extrusion procedure that covers the board in a durable membrane.
The durable membrane increases stain and scratch resistance, as well as protecting the deck boards from UV fading.
This decking option is available in six colours; Havana, silver birch, midnight, spiced oak, flint, and argent.
Hollow Composite Decking
Hollow composite decking is made from the same materials as solid composite decking but has a honeycomb centre. Hollow composite deck boards are significantly lighter than solid alternatives.
Timber Decking Options
When choosing wood decking, you should consider the classification to ensure it is suitable. A rating of C16 should be the minimum for softwoods that are higher than 600 mm.
C18 and C25-rated timber is suitable for commercial use and provides longer life.
Wood should also be sourced from sustainable and ethical sources. Third-party certification should be sought from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
Hardwood decking comes from trees such as chestnut and oak. They are a relatively durable and long-lasting option that is less likely to rot or splinter than softwoods.
You can expect hardwood decking to be significantly more expensive than softwood because it looks great and can withstand wear.
Softwood decking is typically sourced from fast-growing trees like the maritime pine, scots pin, and Norway spruce.
This type of tree grows significantly faster than hardwood, making it a more sustainable choice.
Softwood is typically cheaper than hardwood and composite because it is not as durable and needs to be regularly maintained.
Softwood is easy to work with and is still a popular option in the UK.
Exotic Wood Decking
Exotic wood, like eucalyptus, teak, and ipe, offers a great range of colours and is naturally resistant to rot.
Sometimes known as an exotic hardwood, it shares a lot of the same benefits that hardwood does.
Timber decking typically won’t have the same durability as composite decking. Softwood, in particular, needs to be treated regularly to protect it from the weather, wood boring insects, and rot.
Softwood is more susceptible to scuffs, scratches, and wear than hardwood and exotic wood.
Ecoscape Forma capped composite decking boards offer great scratch, scuff, and stain resistance. The durable membrane also provides protection from direct sunlight, and the boards have a 25-year colour guarantee.
Slip resistance in decking is an essential quality that guarantees the safety of its users. Timber decking requires treatment and regular maintenance to ensure it stays slip resistant.
Composite has natural anti-slip qualities, and the Ecoscape Forma and Clarity range undergo rigorous testing to ensure they are up to standard.
The Pendulum slip test requires a minimum value of 36 to be classed as a low-slip material.
Narrow and wide groove composite decking passes comfortably in wet and dry conditions, making Ecoscape’s composite decking range an excellent option.
Composite decking will still need to be swept and cleaned to ensure water pooling does not occur. Even non-slip surfaces can be compromised by standing water.
Softwood decking will typically last between 10 to 15 years and will need to be regularly treated.
Well-maintained hardwood decking can last for longer and, in some cases, can last for as long as 25 years. Regularly oiling, cleaning, and refinishing will be needed.
Composite decking is long-lasting and requires minimal maintenance in comparison to wood decking.
Ecoscape Clarity composite decking has a 20-year warranty, and the Forma range has a 25-year warranty.
Warranties of this length require users to follow the terms and conditions in regard to care and installation.
Well-maintained composite decking can in excess of 30 years, and many industry experts agree that capped composite decking could last as long as 50 years in some cases.
Composite maintenance is minimal, making it a popular choice among consumers that want to enjoy their decking rather than spend time and money on upkeep.
Regularly sweeping dirt and debris from composite deck boards will minimise the risk of filling expansion gaps.
Expansion gaps are used to allow for thermal expansion, stopping composite boards from pressing against one another and warping. They are also an essential part of the deck’s drainage and ventilation.
Cleaning composite is straightforward, and a soft bristle brush can be used with warm soapy water to clean the deck. Power washers can also be used on composite decks carefully and at the supplier’s recommended pressure.
Wood decking requires the same regular cleaning, but will also have to be weatherproofed, oiled, stained, and treated to protect it against rot and wood boring insects.
The time and expense of maintaining wooden decks can be a significant burden. This is why many consumers see the additional expense of composite decking as being a worthwhile investment.
A major factor that will dictate what type of decking material someone buys is the cost. Everyone will have a budget and will look at the best affordable options.
All decking prices will vary depending on the supplier and quality. The prices provided here are subject to variation and are accurate at the time of publishing.
Additional costs for subframes and installation will be required. Professional decking installation in the UK will typically cost around £200 per day. On average, it should take between one and two days to deck a small 15 m2 area.
The Cost of Composite Decking
Ecoscape Clarity solid composite decking costs £41.55 per m2.
Installing this composite decking in a 15 m2 area will cost £623.25.
The Cost of Capped Composite Decking
Ecoscape Forma capped composite decking costs £66.12 per m2.
Installing this durable decking option in a small 15 m2 area will cost £991.80.
The Cost of Hollow Composite Decking
Hollow core composite decking typically costs around £35 per m2. The cost of decking a 15 m2 area with hollow composite decking will be around £525.
The Cost of Hardwood Decking
Hardwood decking is relatively expensive and offers a longer-lasting material than softwood.
Hardwood decking typically costs between £60 and £120 per meter squared.
Small garden decking areas of around 15 m2 will cost between £900 and £1,800.
The Cost of Softwood Decking
Softwood decking is a low-priced option that is available for between £40 to £100 on average per square meter.
Small decking areas of around 15 m2 will typically cost between £600 and £1,500.
The Cost of Exotic Wood Decking
Exotic wood will differ in price depending on the wood type and quality. You could expect to pay between £80 and £100 per square meter.
It would cost between £1,200 and £1,500 for a small garden area of around 15 m2 to be decked with exotic wood.
Do composite decks last forever?
No, despite being long-lasting, composite decking will not last forever.
A well-maintained composite deck should last upwards of 25 years. Ensuring you invest in a high-quality subframe to support your deck will ensure it lasts longer.
Regular maintenance is another essential factor that will impact the lifespan of your decking area.
Is composite decking stronger than wood?
No, despite its durability, composite decking is not as strong as wood. Because of this, additional supports are necessary to minimise the risk of deck board bowing.
What can cause a composite board to become slippery?
Poor drainage and failing to clean a deck can lead to dirt and debris, creating a slippery surface.
Dirt can also block the expansion gaps and cause drainage and ventilation issues. Trapped moisture can cause mould and mildew to grow, which will cause the deck to become slippery.
Do composite deck boards fade?
The colour of some composite products can fade. High-quality products may have a colour guarantee to protect the boards from UV damage. The Forma and Grande range are UV stable and guaranteed against fading to 5 Delta E.
Checking what protection the decking has is an important part of the research process.
The composite deck manufacturing process ensures that the natural wood fibres are protected by long-lasting plastics. Not only does this give composite decking a longer life than wood, but it also offers additional protection.
While most composite products will have a higher price tag than traditional wooden decking boards, composite decking offers numerous benefits that make it worthwhile.
Unlike wood decking, composite requires minimal maintenance. The time and money you will dedicate to maintaining a wooden deck over the years make composite decking an excellent choice.