Choosing the Best Deck Board for You

Choosing a composite or PVC deck board is a lot like buying a car. Depending on your needs and budget, you can opt for entry-level or go all-out for the luxury model.

As with cars, decking is offered in a range of colors and with varying levels of “equipment” or features. Here are some tips to make the process easier and help you find the ideal Fiberon board for your personal outdoor space.

Composite decking for your first home

When you purchased your first car, you were probably focused more on “attractive yet affordable” rather than “luxury sports coupe.” Decking for a starter home works pretty much the same way. You want a board that will complement your home yet not break the bank. Composite decking is a great choice. It is durable and easier to maintain than wood since there’s no need for periodic re-staining or refinishing. It offers grain patterns that echo natural wood, and it is available in attractive colors. Often, the colors tend to be solids with no multi-tonal streaking or other higher-end treatments.

Another difference: lower-priced composite boards tend to have relieved bottoms, also called scalloped, rather than a straight bottom. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The underside is still finished yet not necessarily suitable for show, so it’s best suited for ground-level decks. Also, pay special attention to the types of fasteners the manufacturer recommends. Some fasteners may not be able to grab onto a scalloped surface as effectively as they can a flat surface. With Fiberon Good Life Decking, for example, we recommend stainless steel or composite screws to ensure a lasting hold.


Fiberon Good Life Decking offers better-than-wood performance at a closer-to-wood price.

Deck boards for waterside applications

If you are purchasing decking for a commercial application, dock, or marina, you want a product that can handle plenty of foot traffic and stand up to waterside use. PVC decking is a great option. Think of it as the SUV or heavy duty pick-up truck of decking. Tough as nails, PVC decking resists dents, moisture, and in some cases, even flames. Fiberon Paramount PVC Decking is approved for Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) zones and meets the requirements of the California State Fire Marshal for flame resistance. Also, PVC decking has no organic compounds to promote mold growth. And just as SUVs and trucks can be downright gorgeous, Fiberon Paramount PVC Decking is available in six stunning colors, four of which feature multi-tonal streaking for added appeal. Generally speaking, PVC decking is priced comparably to high-end composites.

Fiberon Paramount PVC Decking stands up to backyard barbecues and poolside parties. Shown here in Brownstone.

“Aesthetically pleasing” decking is a top priority for homeowners

Let’s say you plan to stay in your home for several years. Maybe it’s not your dream home, but you plan to raise your family there and want an outdoor space that will keep up. Using our car analogy, you are likely looking at mid-priced models of decking or, depending on your budget and deck size, perhaps a premium-level composite deck board.

As you get into this range, you will find expanded color options and higher-end details such as multi-tonal streaking and more detailed grain patterns. Most boards will still feature a three-sided cap. Again, that doesn’t mean the bottom is left exposed the elements. It simply means that it is not finished in a way that makes it suitable for display. If your deck is on the first floor and the space beneath it is not easily visible, this may not matter. If it an elevated deck, you may want to spring for the four-sided capped board for enhanced aesthetic appeal.

Fiberon ProTect Advantage® Decking features a three-side PermaTech cap layer for superior stain and fade resistance. Shown here in Western Cedar.

Speaking of aesthetic appeal, you know how some cars are so beautiful you just can’t help but stop and stare? Decking can be equally head-turning. In fact, it’s one of the characteristics homeowners value the most. When asked hardware and building supply dealers which factors were most important to their customers who were planning decks, the top two responses were “aesthetically pleasing” (40% of respondents) and “easy to maintain” (31%). Clearly, the benefits of composite decking over wood are catching on.

Fiberon Symmetry Decking in Graphite offers the high-end aesthetics and easy maintenance today’s homeowners are seeking.

And when it comes to aesthetics, it’s hard to beat the premium or “best” options in most decking lines – you know, the “luxury coupes.” Premium decking usually features the most nuanced and expansive color palette: plenty of rich color options with multi-tonal streaking, authentic grain patterns, and perhaps even different finishes on the boards. At Fiberon, for example, we offer both Symmetry Decking and Horizon Decking in the premium or “best” capped composite decking category. Symmetry Decking features a unique matte finish and rich, earthy color palette – including new, on-trend Graphite – while Horizon Decking is renowned for its dramatic multi-tonal streaking that emulates exotic hardwoods.

Fiberon Horizon Decking in Ipe is a great choice for a beautiful deck that can withstand years of fun, friends, and family.

What really goes into the cost of a new deck?

Often, the difference in cost per linear foot of decking is really not that significant when you compare it to the overall project budget. If you making an investment in a space you plan to enjoy for years to come, why not get exactly what you want? After all, if it’s a long-lasting composite rather than wood, you are going to be looking at that deck for a long time.

You know you will be paying for deck boards, fasteners, railing, and balusters, so what’s left? There’s the decking substructure (the footings, framing, and so forth). The substructure costs will be the same regardless of the surface material you select. What can vary widely in the cost equation -- and make up a big chunk of the final bill -- is labor. Just as with car dealers, it pays to shop around. Plan to get at least three estimates from contractors and compare carefully. That being said, it doesn’t always pay to go with the lowest bid. Consider references, experience, design expertise, and your comfort level: is this someone you believe you can trust and work well with (keeping in mind that he or she is probably asking the same questions about you). Another idea for hiring a pro if you’re on a tight budget: Consider building during the slower seasons – generally early spring or late autumn, or perhaps even winter if your climate is suitable.

Long-term costs of owning a composite deck versus a wood deck

And speaking of investment, don’t forget that the long-terms costs of ownership with composite decking are significantly lower than those of wood decking. Pressure-treated wood will crack, split, rot, and decay – especially if you are less than faithful with regular maintenance. Even more expensive species of wood need periodic re-sealing or refinishing, and can fall victim to nail pops, splintering, and so on. Depending on the size of your deck and where you live, the maintenance costs can add up pretty fast.

Fiberon Symmetry Decking in Burnt Umber with Warm Sienna accents is an excellent option for busy homeowners who want the rich look of premium hardwoods without the upkeep.

Of course, just as you can test drive a car, you can also test drive decking – at least, you can with Fiberon. How? Order a composite deck or rail sample. The cost is minimal, shipping is free, and you can order as many colors and board styles as you wish. It’s a great way to get a sense of what the boards really look like in your backyard and against your house, as well as gain an appreciation for the graining, streaking, and heft of the material.

If you’re just starting the design process, check out the Fiberon Outdoor Living Visualizer. You can select a decking arrangement that mimics your actual or planned outdoor space, and then select board colors, railing, and fascia. You can even customize the image to match your home’s colors or see how great the exterior would look with Fiberon composite cladding. And while a digital tool is not quite the same as a physical sample, the new Outdoor Living Visualizer really does an outstanding job of giving you a sneak peek into just how fabulous your space will look with Fiberon composite decking and railing.

There’s a lot to think about when planning a new outdoor space. Fortunately, Fiberon is here to help!


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