How to Finish Ends of Composite Decking

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Installing a composite deck can be rewarding while adding style and aesthetics to your home. However, the look of the deck from the yard or the street may not be the best. To help finalize the appearance and keep the deck protected you need to finish the ends.

This article will look at the various options for finish ends for composite decking to help you decide which option is right for you.

We will also cover the various factors that go into the finish ends decision making process as well as the right materials to complete the job.

how to finish ends of composite decking

Why You Should Finish Decking Ends

There are several reasons to finish the ends of your composite deck. Here are the most popular reasons.

  • Give a finished appearance. You can hide the board ends and end with a more professional look.
  • Prevent infestation. Pests and rodents can crawl into the boards or decking to build nests, by finishing the ends you prevent access to these areas.
  • Eliminate warping and damage. Moisture and water will get to the core of the composite boards if the ends aren’t finished, promoting warping and damage from within.
  • Add value to your deck and home. Decks generally increase the home’s resale value and a finished composite deck adds value to the deck itself.

Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Right Decking Material

buyers guide choosing right decking material

Composite decks come in a wide variety of styles, colors and board options. Your end finishing materials are also varied and vast. Let’s look at the factors that determine which end finishing materials you should choose.

Project Size

The end finishing materials will cost money and depending on the size of your deck, this cost can get high. You will need to know the outer edge dimensions of your deck to know how much material you need to cover.

Smaller decks, hidden ends and edges and other factors may enable you to limit the amount of material, but you should plan on covering the entire deck perimeter.

Environmental Concerns

Some decks are raised, others are near flush with the ground. This is a concern for the type of material you use to cover the ends. For example, a ground-flush deck can use rocks, brick and even vegetation to cover board ends. But these aren’t capable of being used on raised decks.

Availability

Your materials for finishing the ends of your deck needs to be something you can easily get your hands on when needed. If you plan to finish your deck construction before the winter, for example, and plan to finish the ends and stain the deck when spring rolls around, you need to ensure the finishing materials will be there 6 months down the line.

Build Location

Going back to the types of decks, where your deck is constructed is important. Colder and wetter climates, for example, will have more issues with moisture damage on ground-flush decks. Hotter climates will need materials that can withstand long periods of summer heat.

Installation Type

If you are performing the end finishing as a DIY project you need to ensure you have the skill, time and tools needed for the job. Likewise, if you are hiring out the project to a professional, you want to ensure you hire a competent contractor and budget for the labor costs.

Price & Warranty

Everything will come down to the cost, whether it is actual money costs or costs on your time and efforts. You need to plan and budget accordingly, knowing that finishing the ends of a composite deck can be tedious and time consuming.

If you do go with professional installation, ensure there is some type of warranty coverage to protect your investment. You also need to ensure you fully understand the warranty, what is covered, what is not covered and how to make a claim.

9 Best Composite Decking End Finishing Options

best composite decking end finishing

In this section we will review, rate and explain the 9 best options for composite deck end finishing. Each option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, so you will want to pay attention to those areas to ensure you find the best fit for your needs.

Picture Framing

Picture framing is by far the most popular option. It provides the most sleek and stylish finish to your deck ends without compromising integrity. By using this method you also have the option to use different materials or colors to give your deck an even more unique look.

Essentially, with picture frames, you use another decking board that runs perpendicular to the deck boards. You can run this around all edges to frame the deck and hide the cut ends. It is a simple process and ends with a professional look.

The most common application is to use a different color board than the main decking and run it all the way around the edge. The fascia and lower deck portions are generally the same color as the frame to give it a finished look.

Best for: Those looking for the most aesthetic and easily implemented deck end finishing option.

ProsCons
Easy to installMaterial costs can get high
Looks professionalTakes some time to complete
Can use any color or board material 
Same level of care and maintenance as rest of deck 

Painting

With color match technologies, you can get paint of any type in the exact color that you need. Using an exterior or decking paint color matched to your composite decking boards, you can simply paint the ends to hide any unsightly cores or discoloration.

Paint for decking is a little more expensive than interior latex paint. However for the cost it does last a while. There is also a higher maintenance level to the paint requiring touch-ups, reapplying and extra coats.

The biggest benefit, though, is time savings. Once your deck is finished it only takes about an hour (or less) to paint the ends of the deck boards.

Best for: Homeowners that don’t have a lot of extra time or money to finish a deck with other means.

ProsCons
Inexpensive optionHigher maintenance than other options
Color match your deck near exactEnvironmental application and usage concerns
DIY capable 
Cost-effective time solution 

Veneer Caps

In this relatively new process, a deck board is stripped of it’s veneer capping using a delicate saw and filing process. These veneer pieces are then shaped and glued to the ends of each board.

When the project is finished it is the most natural and beautiful option available. However, you must complete the process for each individual board which can take several hours or even days to complete.

However, once you are done, the deck board ends do not need any extra care, will last and weather just like the tops of the boards and the look is near seamless. Just be mindful that the process involves cutting the top or bottom of a full board off to between 1/8 and 1/16 of an inch.

Best for: trained professionals looking for a uniform and aesthetically pleasing finish.

ProsCons
Most professional and complete finishMost time consuming option available
Low maintenance once finishedMore material and adhesive costs
Matches existing decking exactlyTakes a skilled craftsman 

End Strips

With end strips you take a similar process to the veneer finishing option but instead of cutting the composite capping off, you just cut the boards to about an inch thick.

Once you have the strips you simply screw or nail them to the ends of the boards and sand to smooth. A little color match paint will seal the gaps and any discolored spots to give you a sleek and finished look.

This process is also time consuming, but not as detailed or lengthy as the veneer finishing option. However, with the additional need for decking screws and paint, it can look unprofessional if the job is rushed.

Best for: Homeowners looking for a composite solution without the skills or time required for a veneer.

ProsCons
Easy to installRequires sanding and painting
Can use left over materials to finishCan look unprofessional
DIY capableRequires solid core decking
Cost effective 

Stair Nosing

Vinyl stair nosing is often used on interior stairs and porches to add durability and slip resistance to the steps. However, it is a cost effective solution to deck ends as well.

Because the vinyl is weather resistant, it makes a great material for deck finishing. It also adds a touch of slip and wear resistance to your deck ends where you are most likely to step up or off of the deck.

Nosing already comes in an L shape for easy attachment to the board ends and can be attached in a number of ways including gluing, nails or tacks. The biggest downside though, is trying to find a color matched vinyl that won’t clash with your decking colors.

Best for: Homeowners on a smaller budget or that require additional deck edge protection.

ProsCons
Easy to installCan be difficult to color match
Adds wear and slip resistance to your deckDoesn’t prevent moisture from getting to core
Readily available options online or in store 

Composite Trim

Some manufacturers understand the deck end issue we face. They produce a composite corner trim that can be used for edging as well. When available, this option all but promises a seamless, finished look that matches your deck exactly.

However, most brands that do offer only have a few select colors or styles and your board colors may not be in that list. You can opt for a different color and end with a picture frame style appearance, or paint to match, though.

Aside from availability, the other downside is cost. Usually trim boards aren’t that expensive and composite is generally cheaper than most. However, for brand-specific solutions you tend to pay more.

This method is similar in look and install to the vinyl stair nosing solution, but instead of vinyl you use composite, just like the deck itself. This lowers maintenance and raises the durability.

Best for: Homeowners looking for a simple install with a “perfect match” possibility.

ProsCons
Made form composite to matchNot always readily available
Colors and textures blend wellCan get expensive with larger decks
Easy to apply to board ends 
Can order along side decking materials 

Plastic Decking Ends

Along with trim boards, manufacturers of composite decking may also produce color-matched end pieces. These are specifically designed for hollow core boards. These pieces are not made of composite but instead are made of a polymer plastic for long life and weather resistance.

The plastic also allows the end caps to flex and swell as needed to maintain their positioning in the ends of the planks. Installation is easy, too. You just line the end cap up with the board, tap it with a mallet and it fits inside the end of the board with a snug fit.

The biggest issue with this solution is that composite decking and plastic end caps won’t fade the same. So while the colors may look exact when installed, a few seasons in the sun and it will be a bigger difference.

Aside from this, the plastic isn’t always water tight, meaning moisture, humidity and rain may make it into the core of the board. While this isn’t a usual thing, it is something to be on the lookout for.

Best for: Decks made with hollow core boards.

ProsCons
Easiest install of the listOnly works with hollow core planks
DIY capableMay not retain color
Affordable optionNot always water tight
Color match ease 

Fascia Boards

Installing a fascia is a way to connect and cover the board end openings. As the name suggests, the board is a facing board that covers imperfections and makes a single, smooth appearance.

To complete this you can use various materials, with painted wood or composite board being the most popular. The idea is also simple enough. Build your deck while bringing the planks to the edge. Once the deck is complete, you can place the fascia board flush with the top of the deck and reach the bottom of the facing.

Using glue, nails or deck screws the fascia attaches easily and looks great from all angles and distances. Of course you can always paint to match if the colors aren’t perfect, or stain the wood for added weathering and durability.

Like the plastic end caps, though, unless you take the extra time (and cost) to seal all edges, this solution is not water tight and moisture can get to the plank cores.

Best for: Homeowners looking for a fast and simple solution that looks good.

ProsCons
Simple installNot the most professional looking finish
No extra cutting of the planks requiredCan be difficult to install with hollow boards
Can be installed at any time after deck completion 

Natural Material Edging

Finally, you can use nature and the deck surroundings to cover the edges. If your deck is ground-flush, there are options for landscaping and using decorative items to conceal the edges of your deck boards.

For example, bushes, shrubbery and flowers are commonly used along the front edge of decks to conceal the edges. You can also use landscape rocks, tiles or brick to make a beautiful alternative end finish.

The downside is that you may need a lot of landscaping to complete the covering, or your chosen materials may be expensive. It is also not ideal for raised decks or those installed on a second floor to use ground coverings as a concealer method.

Still, if your deck area already has natural materials, repurposing them only costs time and effort and saves your wallet so you can order that spa or grill you’ve been wanting.

Best for: Decks built at ground level,

ProsCons
Can use natural materials already on siteBuying stone or brick can get expensive
Gives a clean, professional look to the projectRequires more care and maintenance than other options
Color matching and durability aren’t needed 

Frequently Asked Questions

faq how to finish ends of composite decking

In this section we will answer the most common questions about composite deck end finishing and deck ends in general. If you have other questions, use the comment section below the article.

Q. Can you stain or paint composite deck ends?

  1. Yes, in most cases the composite deck ends, even after being cut, can be painted or stained. Some brands, like Trex and TimberTech offer end coating paints and finishes that are already color matched to your decking materials.

Q. Can you seal a composite deck?

  1. Not only can you seal a composite deck, it is highly recommended. Once the deck is built and the ends are finished, you should thoroughly clean the decking and then seal it. This will prevent the need for detailed annual cleaning and will only need a resealing every few years.

Q. Can I use any end finishing method for my deck?

  1. The short answer is no. Composite decking comes in many styles and options, including hollow or solid core planks. This means your end finishing options are also varied. You can’t use plastic end caps on a solid core board, for example, and painting a hollow board won’t do much good.

Q. How long does composite decking last?

  1. The average expected life of a composite deck is between 25 and 35 years. Your deck ends need to be able to last, too. Paints and sealers need reapplications and composite, vinyl or plastic solutions will need touch ups or replacement. 

Conclusion

Composite deck end finishing is a personal choice that will help protect your investment as well as add value and beauty to the finished project.

How you choose to finish the ends are up to you. Hopefully this guide of the 9 best composite deck end finishing solutions has helped you out. If you need other ideas or solutions, check out our composite deck reviews for more inspiration.

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AUTHOR

Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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