If you are considering building a new deck or remodeling a current deck, you have come to the right place.
While wood decks are the king of the hill when it comes to building materials, that is about to change.
Composite decking is up and coming and growing more popular by the year.
There are distinct advantages that composite has over wood, and we will cover all of that.
We will examine what makes composite decking so good (and where it falls short) and we will take a close look at top brands.
Composite Deck Best Brands
- 1 Composite Deck Best Brands
- 2 What is a Composite Deck?
- 3 Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Right Brand for Your Composite Deck Project
- 4 8 Best Composite Decking Brands Reviewed
- 5 DIY Vs. Professional Installation of Composite Decking
- 6 Composite Vs. Wood: Is Composite That Much Better?
- 7 Frequently Asked Questions about Composite Decking
- 8 Conclusion
There are quite a few brands out there that offer composite or non-wood decking. These brands are the best of the best.
- Fiberon. Best decking all-around.
- MoistureShield. Best option for direct sunlight.
- Cali Bamboo. Best alternative wood-source decking.
- Trex. Best DIY install decking.
- Duralife. Best hidden fastener decking option.
- Lumberock. Best fully synthetic decking.
- Envision. Best option for contractors.
- TimberTech (AZEC). Honorable mention. Best all-plastic decking.
What is a Composite Deck?
A composite is a combination of a base material with other materials, held together by a binding agent. In the case of composite decking that base material is wood. The other materials are generally some type of plastic or PVC.
There is a little confusion though, one thing composite decking is not is plastic. 100% plastic decking is made from PVC and has no wood in the mix at all.
Plastic decking is a different breed of lumber-mimicking material. Composite decking planks have wood in them.
Composite deck planks are made in a few different ways, they can be molded, pressed or hollow with end caps. These different manufacturing processes affect the strength, durability, longevity and cost of the planks themselves.
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Right Brand for Your Composite Deck Project
Before you head out and purchase any old type of composite decking, take a few minutes to decide which style and designs will serve your needs best.
Below are several consideration factors that will help you narrow down your options.
Color and Style
Composite wood can be dyed and constructed in almost any color imaginable. Many brands try to stick to natural wood colors, but there are some truly unique pieces out there. You can also have flat planks or grooved which help with traction.
Most planks that you find will also have a wood grain put on them, either through the molding process or through machine work before the planks are finalized. This gives a more natural appearance to the planks making them look more like wood (though some do a better job than others).
Size of Project
The size of your project is also crucial. You need to know how much material to buy, and after comparing prices, this will give you the best indicator of how much your total project will cost.
Deck Area Conditions
Another thing to think about is what will be around the deck when everything is said and done. That large pine tree may bring some great shade to the side of your deck, but it will also bring pine tar and needles.
Knowing the area and what will eventually end up on your deck will help you choose the right composite decking brand. Some clean up better than others, or resist mold and mildew better than other brands, for example.
Unlike wood decking, where pine planks will always be pine planks, composite decking is a growing field. If you need to replace a portion of your deck 5 or 10 years down the road, you may not be able to find the exact style or color of your original purchase.
It is advised that when you do buy your decking material, you also purchase a few extra square feet for replacement purposes. This will help you avoid the availability issue down the line.
Capped or Standard
Standard planks are just what it sounds like. These are the planks as they come off the production line and made ready for shipment. They are good planks, sturdy, decorative and ready for install.
Warranties will vary across brands and even composite decking styles within brands. The industry average is about 10-years on the warranty coverage, but some extend well past this, and others fall well short.
When browsing, make sure you know the coverage terms of the warranty for that particular style. It is also wise to read up on the claims process before you buy. Sometimes to qualify, you will need to register your purchase online with a certain time frame, or hold on to proof of purchase for a specific period.
Whatever the claim process and registration requires, make sure you understand it before you make the purchase to maximize your time to get everything handled.
Price is always going to be a consideration factor. Your budget will need to extend to not only the price of the materials, but the tools, equipment and other needs for a proper install. You may even need to budget in a professional install with a contractor.
Below the brand reviews we have a small section on professional installation to help you understand the pros and cons. We can even help you find a local contractor, too.
8 Best Composite Decking Brands Reviewed
Fiberon is a brand that specializes in composite decking materials. They have everything you need from decking to fascia and railings. They also have one of the largest selections in both styles and colors to select.
Whether you want a natural wood appearance or a stylish new look, you’ll find it here. Fiberon uses a variety of composites with cellular foam polymer being the most used. Each style is either capped on three or 4 sides, and each style line has a slightly different makeup.
The Promenade collection is a smooth top, three-sided capped plank that is fashionable, durable and affordable. You also have the Good Life collection that features more wood-grain look and feel with natural tones and colors.
Of course, that isn’t all. They also have Collections that fall between these tow, such as Paramount, Concordia, Sanctuary, ArmorGuard, and Jatoba. Each style has at least 4 different colors with the average falling around 6 options.
Installation is easy using deck screws and 16-inch joists. You can choose multiple colors to create a pattern or stick with a single color for a uniform look.
Whatever you need, you will find it with Fiberon. While they may be the best, they tend to know it, though. Their prices are on the higher side of the spectrum. But, you get 25 to Lifetime warranties (depending on style) protecting your investments against fading and staining.
|Up to Lifetime fade and stain warranty||Fairly expensive|
|Easy DIY install||Planks aren’t easily painted|
|More style options than anyone else|
|Wood and polymer composite construction|
|High-traction wood grain options available|
MoistureShield has a great product that is definitely worthy of your attention. While they don’t have the selection or color options of other brands on this list, they have something the others don’t: Moisture blocking.
There are three lines to shop, Vision, Elevate and Vantage. All three planks are made from Solid Core. This is a proprietary construction method that presses and molds the planks resulting in a solid piece.
All planks are also water resistant to the point they are warranties against absorbing moisture at any time. Where some brands suggest you do not install their decking near a pool, MoistureShield begs you to create pool decks. Stating you can install the decking above ground, in the ground or even underwater.
While you may not need to install an underwater deck, it is nice to see a company so behind their product, they don’t care if you do.
The Solid Core construction means there is zero water absorption, no damage from insects, rot, and the planks won’t warp, bow or crack.
Of course they can’t be all perfect. Because MoistureShield focuses on the construction and durability, the style options are limited and fading is a concern.
While the planks aren’t fade resistant, it won’t be a noticeable fade for many years (if ever, depending on direct sun times and duration in your area). It is, however, something to be aware of.
|Ideal around water or pools||Not many color options|
|Can be installed on-ground, above ground or in water||May fade faster than other brands|
|Won’t absorb water|
|Resistant to termites and insect damage|
|Can be handled like real wood|
3. Cali Bamboo
Cali Bamboo is known for their quality indoor flooring. You can find Cali Bamboo on the top of a lot of indoor flooring lists (Including ours). What you may not know, though, is that they also use bamboo to make composite wood decking.
There are severely limited options, but you will find that these decks last for many years and any compromise you make on color choices will quickly be forgotten.
There are two options, TruOrganics and BamDeck 4G. TruOrganics has 8 styles and colors to choose from and is made from 100% recycled content. 60% is recycled wood fiber and 40% is recycled plastics.
The hidden fastener install system is extremely DIY friendly and the weather-proof, fade resistance and durability are second to none.
For the BamDeck 4G, it is also 100% recycled material. 60% is recycled bamboo fiber and 40% is recycled HDPE (high-density) plastics. This makes for one of the most durable, scratch and damage resistant decking planks around.
Couple all of that with the hidden fastener system, seamless finish and matte colors, and you have a deck that will outlast you (probably).
The problem with BamDeck is that there are only 3 options. You can get the colors (slate, coffee and charcoal) in either 4 to 8-foot lengths, giving you a total of 6 options.
The warranties are a little light, though. With residential installs lasting only 15 years. However, that 15 years is prorated, so if you need to make a claim after year 5, you will only get a percentage of the cost back (80% at 6 years, to 10% at 15 years).
|Easy DIY install||Limited color options|
|100% recycled materials||Warranty is light|
|Strong, rugged and modern planks|
|Multiple lengths available|
|Can treat like real wood|
If you have done any other research on composite decking before visiting our fine website, then you have seen the name Trex. They are, without a doubt, one of the most popular composite decking brands on the market.
This is thanks, in part, to their quality decking materials. However, more of it has to do with exposure. Being featured on HGTV as the decking choice for the HGTV Dream Home not only catapulted Trex into the limelight, but composite decking in general.
However, Trex may not be worthy of the top title as many seem to think. It is true that Trex has a quality product. They wouldn’t be on our list if they didn’t.
However, Trex isn’t easy to install, and many homeowners turn to professional install which can cost almost as much as the materials themselves. They also only have one major style.
That one style is great, and it does come in 20 different colors, but it is a limited selection to say the least. However, Trex planks are nice. They feature termite resistance, moisture resistance and offer a long life of wear and tear.
Each plank also features a wood grain pattern, so you can stick to traditional if you like, or choose colors like Lava Rock Red or Spiced Rum Brown for a stand out addition to your yard.
All Trex composite decks are fade resistant and come with a 25-year warranty. You will need to register your purchase online before install. Once it is installed, there is an additional 25 years added to the warranty to cover fading and staining.
|50-year fade and stain warranty||Professional installation recommended|
|20 color choices||Single style option|
|Featured on HGTV|
Duralife is a nationwide company that has amazing composite decking. They offer various types to make your project unique and attractive. The planks are durable, hardy and easy to install, too. They even feature an installing rail that only requires you to step on it!
One thing you will notice off the bat is how confusing it can be to order Duralife decking. There are 4 options, but you only need to make two choices. The standard MVP plank is a little less sturdy but much more affordable.
The Sierra planks are much more rigid and durable, but cost more. These are your two primary choices for decking. However, you will also find Starter and SqEdge options on the list. These are not decking (in the traditional sense) options but finishing options.
Duralife Starter is a first-row option to help hid the grooves on the sides of the MVP or Sierra planks. It is only designed to go around the edge of your deck for aesthetic purposes.
Likewise, SqEdge is meant for hand holds, railings and edges., It doesn’t have any tongue and groove sections and isn’t designed to be walked on.
You can choose from 4 different lengths and 8 colors, though. And all 4 options come with a 25-year full warranty that includes stain and fading. Regardless of your final choices, you will have a deck that looks great, installs easily and performs for many years to come.
|All polypropylene & hardwood composite||Ordering correct amounts and types can be confusing|
|25-year all inclusive warranty||May not have the style or color you are after|
|Simple DIY install with full materials included|
|Straight or wood grain embossed|
Lumber, plastics and minerals. These are the materials used to make Lumberock composite decking. The strength is among the best in the business and the durability is unmatched. Lumberock also has the most extensive styling options available.
Everything from 5/4-inch x 6-inch boards to 4×4 square posts, you can mix and match to create the look, feel and design you want. Whether you want a dual layer deck or a fancy plank design, the various lengths, widths and color options will suit your most creative whim.
When it comes to colors, you aren’t limited here. With Lumberock composite decking you can choose natural wood colors, stone colors or make a statement with turquoise, orange or blue decking. If you can imagine it, you will find it here.
These fully synthetic boards aren’t technically wood composite, but we aren’t going to hold that against them. Using 100% synthetic material means you don’t worry about termites, burrowing ants, mold or mildew or difficult clean up.
Each board or plank also comes with a limited lifetime warranty, too. Your planks are designed to last virtually forever without cracking, fading or becoming damaged. However, if they ever do, the claim process is a bit tricky to navigate.
Even after you get it sorted and the claim is successful, you have to replace the individual plank or board. You cannot repair these like you can with wood planks. Any damage to any part of the plank and the entire board needs to go.
|Lifetime warranty||Not a lot of post-consumer recycled content|
|Fully synthetic materials||Warranty claim can be difficult|
|Multiple size and color options|
|Will not rot or warp|
Envision is an older brand (20 years in the industry) that is making waves in the composite decking game. They feature several lines and intricate color options to make your dream deck a reality.
The main problem here is that their five different line ups don’t have much difference in the actual planks. The biggest difference is truly just the colors that are available.
All of their planks are compressed constructed, using high heat and extreme pressure. They also press their wood grain patterns into each board, and promise that no wood grain pattern repeats on the same board, regardless of length.
Like any composite decking plank, you will find that Envision boards are rot-free, resist termites and insects, and are difficult to fade, even in direct sunlight.
They still have a high gloss finish though, (even the muted colors) which can give off a plastic appearance.
Once you have the decking installed, which comes in two options, facing or hidden attachment, you will need railings. Envision has you covered there, too. You can get all of your facings and railings of the same type, style and color to match your deck perfectly.
|Compressed grain pattern doesn’t repeat||Plastic look|
|Detailed coloring gives individuality to each plank||Style lines are too similar|
|More colors than most other brands|
TimberTech has three styles to choose from, each presented with varying differences and attributes and in a myriad of colors. From the pricey Vintage collection to the wallet-friendly Primer collection, you are sure to find what you need.
While they offer three styles of board, you will find a total of seven collections. Each one comes with their own colors and options.
The mixture of the three board types can get confusing. However, in truth, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between them. All are non-wood, all plastic boards. They are the top choice for contractors and installers because of their durability and ease of install.
The boards also do not fade, crack or weather. The sustainable planks can withstand water and the elements and are ideal for installing in any climate. They also feature a protection layer that prevents fading and staining.
Here you can see how TimberTech compares to Trex.
You can choose the style, color and brand, but you need to pay attention to the warranty, as well. Not all TimberTech planks are created equal. There are three warranties. The first is for the Vintage collection and other higher priced models.
It offers 50 years stain and fade protection and a lifetime warranty on damage, cracking and splintering. Next you will find the 30-year stain and fading with 30-year damage warranty. This is followed by the lowest warranty, for the budget styles.
It offers you a 25-year stain protection and 25 year product warranty. Still not be scoffed at, but it is a far cry from the 50-year/lifetime option you get when you pay more.
|Won’t fade or warp||Warranties can get confusing|
|DIY install available||Not much difference in board selections|
|Compressed composite plastics for extra durability|
|Trusted by professional contractors and installers|
DIY Vs. Professional Installation of Composite Decking
Composite decking isn’t any more difficult than a natural wood deck is to install. The same measurements, cuts and sizing needs must be met. You also need to plan the same way, and lay the planks in order while attaching.
The difference is how the planks are attached. For most wood decks, you will use nails and hammer the top planks into the joists underneath. For composite decking, you may need to use adhesives, nails or screws, depending on the type of composite you select.
Hollow planks, for example, won’t hold nails or screws for very long. Vibrations and cold or heat expansion will make the screws and nails become loose and back out over time.
If the idea of installing the deck of your dreams yourself is too much, you can always hire a professional contractor to do the job for you.
When searching for a contractor, you need to be diligent and ask the right questions. It is also important to get three in-person quotes for the cost of the install.
If you are having problems finding a reliable contractor, or don’t even know where to start, we can help! Use our free form to find a list of professionals and get quotes local to your area.
Composite Vs. Wood: Is Composite That Much Better?
How does composite wood decking compare to natural wood? There are obvious wins and losses for each type. Let’s take a closer look.
- Life expectancy. Natural wood should last you 10 to 15 years before it needs repairs or replacement. Composite wood can last up to 50 years. Winner: Composite.
- Insect damage. Composite wood is not susceptible to termite and other wood chewing or burrowing insects. Natural wood must be treated annually to help prevent insect damage. Winner: Composite.
- Appearance. Natural wood looks like natural wood. Composite wood can look cheap, plastic, or even shiny. While modern methods help the look of composite, it still doesn’t exactly mimic natural timber. Winner: Natural wood.
- Moisture. Natural wood decks must be treated with sealants and protectors to prevent the wood from absorbing moisture. Most (though not all) brands of composite decking are moisture-resistant to the core, meaning no special treatments are needed. Winner: Composite.
- Installation. Natural wood can be shaped, cut and installed with relative ease. Composite can also be shaped, cut and installed with ease. Winner: Tie.
- Damage. Natural wood is susceptible to splintering, bowing, fading and cracking. Composite wood can fade in direct sunlight, but is far superior when it comes to other forms of damage. Winner: Composite.
- Maintenance. Natural wood must be treated, stained, painted and scrubbed, washed and maintained on a regular basis. Composite wood can be rinsed with a garden hose and swept as needed. Winner: Composite.
- Temperature. Composite can become quite hot in direct sunlight. Natural wood maintains a much cooler temperature, even in direct sunlight. Winner: Natural wood.
- Price. On average, wood planks will range from $0.75 to $1.50 per plank. Composite wood, on average, doubles that price to between $1.25 to over $3.00 per plank. Winner: Natural wood.
Frequently Asked Questions about Composite Decking
Here we answer some of the most commonly asked questions about composite decking. As always, if you have other questions or remarks, please use the comment section below the article.
Q. Can you screw down composite decking?
- Most composite decking can be attached to the joists with nails or screws, just like real wood. Deck screws are preferred as they tend to have a better bite on the joist and hold longer.
The one exception is for hollow composite planks. Screws will back out and become loose quickly and nails won’t hold long at all. However, since hollow composite is rare, it shouldn’t pose much of an issue for you.
Q. How far apart should the joists be on a composite deck install?
- Most brands and manufacturers will recommend a joist distance of not more than 16 inches. While some brands can use 24-inch joist placement, 12 to 16 inches is still preferred for strength and appearance.
Q. Do composite decks get hot?
- Yes. In direct sunlight, composite wood does get much warmer underfoot than regular wood. In some instances the difference in the deck temperature and ambient temperature can be as much as 30-degrees (Fahrenheit) different. Meaning an 80-degree day can have a deck that reaches 110 degrees or more.
Q. Does composite decking stain?
- Composite decking materials are more stain resistant than natural wood. However, the composite does have wood in it, so moisture, mold and other stains can form. Regular cleaning and maintenance will limit the occurrences, but you must know there is always a chance of staining, just like with any other decking material.
Q. Can I paint composite decking planks?
- Most composite decking planks can be painted. It is not recommended, though, which is why they offer so many styles and colors. To properly paint composite wood, you will need the right tools, primers and paints to complete the job. Even then, there isn’t a guarantee the paint job will last more than a season or two.
Finding the best composite decking brand for your next outdoor project can be difficult. There are a lot of brands out there that produce or market composite planks and tiles. Most brands are decent enough, but there are obvious advantages with sticking with the best.
This article gave you all the information you need to make a well informed decision. We also covered the best major brands for composite decking to help get you started on the right foot. Good luck with your project!