A smart and common question among St. Louis homeowners interested in a deck: “Which is better, wood or composite (or vinyl)?”  We hear this on a daily basis!

The answer?  Both are absolutely, positively terrific options.  And when it comes to looks, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

Cedar Deck with Vinyl Rails, Chesterfield Mo by Archadeck

Cedar Deck with Vinyl Rails, Chesterfield Mo by Archadeck

Composite Deck with Vinyl Rails by Archadeck - St. Louis Mo

Composite Deck with Vinyl Rails by Archadeck St. Louis Mo

At first glance, wood and composite seem pretty darn close in appearance, however, there ARE differences.

Distinctive features and variations are found in: the manufacturing process; overall price and return-on-investment; material maintenance and warranties.

So today, let’s look at your choices when it comes to ‘real wood’ vs. decking that looks like wood.

 

Pressure Treated Lumber – Southern Pine 

If you’d like a large wood deck that brings a high return later, pressure treated lumber — which is typically pine — might be your best option.

What is it?  Well, it’s wood that’s been safely treated to protect it from insect damage and rot.  New treatment methods are deemed environmentally safe but this wood also needs ongoing maintenance — with sealant and/or stain — to preserve its integrity.

Pressure Treated Wood Deck by Archadeck, St. Louis Mo

Pressure Treated Wood Deck by Archadeck, St. Louis Mo — Before Staining

Dollar-for-dollar though, a pressure treated pine deck can’t be beat.   It’s tough and affordable; maintain it properly and it’ll look fantastic for years to come!

Stained Wood Deck, St. Louis Mo, by Archadeck

Stained Wood Deck, St. Louis Mo, by Archadeck

As a side note:  No matter the decking floor you choose, pressure treated lumber will always be used for the structural components of your deck.

For additional reading on the topic, check out “Back To Basics With Wood Decks” and “Are Wood Decks Becoming Obsolete?”.

Cedar Wood vs. Cedar Composite vs. Cedar Stain

‘Real’ cedar decks are beautiful AND cost effective.  Composite decks that resemble cedar are also attractive but tend to cost more than the real thing.

Cedar Decks by Archadeck

Cedar Decks by Archadeck

The primary differences?  Manufacturing and maintenance.

Manufacturing:

Cedar decking is natural wood.  Composites — including capped composite and vinyl decking — are not.  Planks are fabricated as wood fibers mixed with recycled plastics OR totally synthetic OR a composite wrapped (capped) in a protective coating.  And reputable producers such as TimberTech, AZEK and Fiberon back-up their quality claims with substantial warranties.

Maintenance:

Just like a deck built with pressure treated lumber, a natural cedar deck will require specific care.  On the other hand, composites, capped composites and vinyls are low maintenance materials which give a homeowner future savings in the upkeep — for both time and money.

Composite Cedar Decks in St. Louis by Archadeck

Composite Cedar Decks in St. Louis by Archadeck

Here’s the breakdown for a price comparison if you want a ‘cedar’ look to your deck.

  • A pressure treated wood deck with a cedar stain will be the least expensive option.  (See the stained wood deck photo above — #4)
  • High quality, man-made decking that looks like cedar (for example TimberTech, AZEK or Fiberon) will be the most expensive option.
  • An authentic cedar deck is often the ‘sweet spot’, price-wise, falling somewhere in-between the look-alike options.
Natural Cedar Deck, St. Louis Mo, by Archadeck

Natural Cedar Deck, St. Louis Mo, by Archadeck

How to decide?

If your primary concern is maintenance, choose composite, capped composite or vinyl (PVC).  If however, your immediate interest is a lower price, choose pressure treated lumber with a cedar stain.  But if you truly love the look and feel (and aroma) of ‘real’ cedar, then choose cedar!  Rest assured, cedar decks remain very popular.

Check out our article, “Cedar Decking and Why We Love It”.

Hardwood vs. Synthetic Hardwood

When it comes to decking, hardwood reigns supreme.  All hardwood decking — the real McCoy or a synthetic version — is elegant, sophisticated and high quality.

Hardwood Decks in St. Louis by Archadeck

Hardwood Decks in St. Louis by Archadeck

Fiberon Capped Composite Decking in Ipe Hardwood, St. Louis Mo by Archadeck

Fiberon Capped Composite Decking in Ipe Hardwood, St. Louis Mo by Archadeck

Just like pressure treated lumber and cedar, genuine hardwood will need some TLC and the synthetic versions will need minimal care.  In St. Louis, we’ve found that folks love them both and the style is trending.

To learn more about hardwood, check out our articles, “Archadeck Gives 5 Stars To Earthwood Evolutions,”  “Brazilian Hardwoods” and  “Composite Decking With A Hardwood Look”

Key takeaways

  • Pressure treated decks are cost-effective especially when a homeowner wants a spacious deck and/or they’re planning to move in a few years.
  • Maintenance requirements will vary between authentic woods and wood look-alikes, as will the price.
  • All types of wooden decks are in-demand but the newest-generation of synthetics that resemble hardwood are getting a lot of buzz.
  • When contemplating a deck addition, consider what YOU want:  your style preference, the colors and materials used in-and-around your home, as well as your personal budget.
AZEK PVC Decking in Acacia (Tropical Hardwood) by Archadeck

AZEK PVC Decking in Acacia (Tropical Hardwood Look) by Archadeck

Next Steps

Do you live in the St. Louis area and are you searching for an experienced and reputable builder for a deck, pergola, porch or other outdoor project? If so, please consider Archadeck.  With offices in West County, we’re locally owned and operated…  we live here and we work here too.

Call us anytime,  636-227-0800.

If you’re not quite ready to talk to a contractor, you’ll find plenty of resources for outdoor living by visiting our website west-county.archadeck.com:  photo galleries, an inquiry form, a free download for Archadeck’s design guide and video(s) too. 

Or find us on social media —  Pinterest, Google+ and Houzz.

And no matter where you live or what contractor you choose, download Archadeck’s free design guide.  It’s a helpful tool in the planning process.  Just enter your email to receive the guide; no strings attached!

Outside of St. Louis, Missouri?  Visit archadeck.com or call 888-687-3325.

Sources

Popular Mechanics, Home Advisor, Fiberon, TimberTech, AZEK, Archadeck of Central Iowa, Archadeck of Columbus, Archadeck of The Piedmont Triad