The Hidden Costs of Wood Decking

Eco-friendly composite decking is easier to maintain and longer-lasting than pressure-treated wood.

When you are building a new deck, there are many compelling reasons to choose composite decking over wood. Capped composite decking reflects the natural beauty of wood but is far easier to maintain and longer lasting, too. Here at Fiberon we offer several composite decking product lines, each with its own carefully curated color palette, streaking detail, and distinct grain patterns -- in other words, something for virtually everyone. Find your ideal deck board color


Good Life Decking, shown in new multi-chromatic Bungalow, offers exceptional looks at a value price.

So given all composite decking’s benefits, why isn’t everyone upgrading? Increasingly, homeowners are; however, there are still consumers who are deterred by the initial cost.  Most (not all) capped composite decking is more expensive than standard pressure-treated lumber – the most common and prevalent source of wood decking. Of course, there are other wood options with high price tags. Cedar and redwood cost more than pressure-treated wood; exotics such as Ipe and hardwoods such as Ironwood are very expensive. Nonetheless, some consumers still compare all their decking options to pressure-treated wood. What they are overlooking is the time and money they will spend to maintain an ordinary wood deck – not to mention the challenges they might face if they decide to sell their home.


Symmetry Decking (shown in Cinnabar) retains its like-new looks, a huge bonus when it's time to sell your home.

So given all composite decking’s benefits, why isn’t everyone upgrading? Increasingly, homeowners are; however, there are still consumers who are deterred by the initial cost.  Most (not all) capped composite decking is more expensive than standard pressure-treated lumber – the most common and prevalent source of wood decking. Of course, there are other wood options with high price tags. Cedar and redwood cost more than pressure-treated wood; exotics such as Ipe and hardwoods such as Ironwood are very expensive. Nonetheless, some consumers still compare all their decking options to pressure-treated wood. What they are overlooking is the time and money they will spend to maintain an ordinary wood deck – not to mention the challenges they might face if they decide to sell their home.

What exactly is pressure-treated wood?

The term “pressure-treated” refers to the process used to infuse the wood with chemical preservatives to help it last longer. The lumber is placed in a cylindrical tank which is then de-pressurized to remove air. A preservative is added and, through the use of high pressure, forced deep down into the wood. The tank is drained, and the wood is removed and shipped to lumber yards. And while the highly toxic preservative used in the past (chromated copper arsenate, or CCA) has been replaced by less-toxic amine copper quat (ACQ) and copper azole (CA), there are still many unknowns as to the long-term effects of exposure to these chemicals. There are other health concerns when working with pressure-treated lumber. It is designed for outdoor use only, should never be burned, and builders should avoid skin contact as much as possible during the construction phase. Plus, the sawdust itself has been found to be a skin, eye, and nose irritant. Even with all its preservatives, pressure-treated wood is no match for Mother Nature.  The wood will weather – badly – unless (you guessed it) more preservatives are applied and re-applied on a regular basis.

Warping, splintering, and cracking are common wood decking problems.

Pressure-treated lumber retains a fair amount of moisture after the chemical infusion process. Once installed and exposed to air and sun, the moisture begins to evaporate. Warping and shrinking soon follow. Decking contractors install pressure-treated lumber without any gapping to account for the gaps that will occur as the wood dries out. It’s also why some professionals may recommend an immediate application of sealant but caution against staining the wood for at least a month or two. The wood will not accept stain properly if it hasn’t dried out enough. Of course, if you wait too long, you’ll need to clean your deck first and then seal it – more chores to add to your list.


Wood beauty without the work: Fiberon Symmetry Decking in Burnt Umber.

Maintenance costs for wood add up fast

How much will all the sealing, staining, and refinishing required of a pressure-treated deck set you back? We chose eight random zip codes from across the country and plugged them into an online home advisory deck refinishing calculator. The results ranged from $459 to $1352 for refinishing a 200-square foot deck. A deck with multiple levels, in a state of disrepair, or suffering from insect or water damage would likely cost far more to repair and refinish.

Now, let’s assume you are faithful about maintenance (most homeowners aren’t) and refinish your deck every two to three years. After 10 years, that could still add up to nearly $7000 for a simple deck space. And let’s not forget the challenges of nail pops, splinters, warped boards, and mold or mildew. Suddenly that inexpensive project doesn’t seem so inexpensive.


Fiberon Horizon Decking will never splinter, warp, or decay. And no nail pops! Shown here: Ipe and Tudor Brown.

Party-ready spaces hold more appeal for potential home buyers

Here’s another item to consider: if you decide to sell your home, which will be more appealing to potential buyers? A wood deck that requires continual upkeep and will likely still need replacing after 10-15 years, or a low-maintenance composite deck that needs little more than an annual soap and water cleaning and is warranted for 25 years or longer? Put another way, if you had to sell your house tomorrow, would a potential buyer see a beautiful outdoor space that’s ready for kids, pets, parties, and fun, or a wood deck that might be in good shape, might be sporting some nail pops, splintered boards, and weather damage, or might be in such a state of disrepair that your family hasn’t used in it years?


Fiberon Horizon Decking in Ipe is easy to maintain and always party-ready.

Composite decking offers superior long-term value, low maintenance, and peace of mind

Fiberon capped composite decking offers superior long-term value, easier maintenance, and peace of mind from exceptional 25-year warranty coverage. Plus, Fiberon composite decking is available in a range of price points – some of which are quite competitive with pressure-treated wood. You owe to yourself to compare. And if you want to see just how incredible your backyard space could look with Fiberon composite decking, “test drive” some boards using our Deck Visualizer Tool. It’s fast, fun to use, and absolutely free.

This post was updated on 11/1/18 for accuracy.

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