Wood vs Vinyl Decking: Cost, Durability and Maintenance
Deciding between vinyl decking and wood decking can be a difficult process. Vinyl is a fairly new product that has some advantages and disadvantages. Wood decking also has pros and cons. It's important to examine the benefits and drawbacks of both materials before making a final purchase decision.
Although you only have to clean a vinyl deck periodically, the cleaning products required leave a powdery film on the deck. Because the cleaners are acidic, they strip the finish. Another drawback about the cleaners is that they are harsh chemicals, which end up in your yard afterwards. The job is not easy either - you have to get down on your hands and knees to scrub the deck.
Wood is much easier to maintain. Once the deck is installed and sealed, you only have to oil it once a year, and reseal every few years. You can quickly clean the wood itself by washing the surface with water from a garden hose.
Wood decks are far superior in terms of durability. A wood like mahogany can last up to 40 years if oiled yearly. You can refinish a wood deck every few years to make it look like new again.
You can’t refinish a composite deck, but you will have to replace it every five years. In addition, old vinyl decks are unattractive as they are covered with scratches and stains.
Vinyl decking doesn't last forever in an acceptable condition, even though it’s constructed out of plastic. The deck is harmful to the environment as well. Vinyl decking is made to mimic the look of wood, and the designs are quickly becoming more convincing. Of course, this "wood" is really made of plastic with wood grains and color added to mimic the look of real wood. Be warned that over time the "wood" color fades significantly.
Another problem with vinyl decking is that it is susceptible to mold growth. In fact, there have been several lawsuits against companies involved in selling and manufacturing vinyl decks. Mold is a serious issue because it can cause health problems.
Vinyl decking contains "pulp" wood that is made from small wood particles of tree species that don't have a good reputation for outdoor durability such as pine, spruce, and bark. Any wood scraps that are not good enough to make paper are added to the mix. Because the wood scraps absorb moisture and ejects it, the vinyl grows pockets that absorb more and more moisture each year. As time goes on, black mold grows on the deck that cannot be removed with cleaners. Stay away from vinyl decking that contains wood particles of any kind.
Vinyl decking is less expensive up front than wood decking, although it doesn't last as long as a deck constructed out of wood. In addition, the cost of the cleaners you have to buy to maintain a vinyl deck can add up. Virgin vinyl decking that doesn’t contain wood pulp is the only type of composite decking that may be save you money in the long run.
Wood decks require little maintenance and are strong enough to last for decades. In this sense, they are less expensive than vinyl decking.