With natural lumber supplies dwindling—especially for the types of lumber with natural resistance to decay and pests, such as redwood, cedar, and teak—composite decking is becoming an increasingly popular choice for decks and other outdoor structures. So-called composite decking comes in several forms, from solid PVC plastic boards to solid composites using 100 percent recycled plastics to products that blend plastics and natural wood or bamboo fibers.
Two types of manufacturing processes are used: compression molding which creates solid planks and extrusion processes which form planks by pressing raw materials through shaping molds. Some synthetic or composite lumber is hollow, requiring end-caps to cover the ends of boards, while others are dense, solid boards that are cut and fitted like lumber boards used for decking. Although composite lumber is usually denser and heavier than natural wood lumber, it does not have the structural strength of wood. It is typically used only for surface decking or visible railing parts, not structural components.
Made of materials that include recycled and new plastic, bamboo, and wood fibers, these synthetic or composite decking products have evolved as an essential alternative where green or eco-conscious materials are desired, such as LEED-qualified or certified construction.
Here are eight popular brands of composite lumber for decks and other outdoor construction projects.
01 of 08
Trex offers one of the largest selections of outdoor composite lumber and products of any manufacturer and has some of the least expensive options, too. This Virginia-based company has been around since 1996 and sells its products to over 40 countries. Trex composite decking is made from reclaimed plastic and wood materials, manufacturing solid planks, and tongue-and-groove planks. Trex offers three thickness levels for their products and can accommodate special decking features. Depending on your preferences, the average cost is $15 to $35 per square foot for parts and labor.
About 95 percent of the raw materials come from recovered plastic grocery bags, plastic film, and waste wood fiber. Trex buys approximately 300 million pounds of used polyethylene and an equal amount of hardwood sawdust each year.
Trex decking is a compression-molded product, sometimes with an added extruded outer shell. The planks are solid materials and are generally finished with end caps or trim boards covering the ends. Some product lines are attached to underlying structural framing with hidden fasteners, while others are nailed or screwed down through the top face. Trex decking lasts as long if not longer than regular wood and stands the test of the elements. Trex offers a limited warranty of 25 years, which is relatively standard for the composite decking industry, and provides an additional 25-year residential fade and stain warranty.
Available products include surface decking, deck framing elements, drainage components, outdoor lighting, fencing, trim, pergolas, outdoor storage, collections, accessory hardware, and Trex Outdoor Furniture. You can wash most products with a composite deck cleaner, soap-and-water cleaning, or gentle pressure washing. Never use acetone or any solvent cleaning product on a Trex deck; the chemicals can damage the composite.
Trex offers information online for DIYers who wish to install a Trex deck on their own. And, they offer assistance to find a TrexPro, a local recommended deck contractor or installer that has been pre-screened and trained by Trex to install their system.
02 of 08
TimberTech offers surface decking, railing, porch, trim, molding components, lighting, and hardware accessories. Their capped composite boards are made from a blend of wood fibers (organic material) and plastic polymers (synthetic material), and their capped polymer deck boards are made from 100% plastic polymers. The Chicago-based company's boards are highly resistant to stains, scratches, splits, mold, and mildew and feature a remarkably realistic wood appearance.
TimberTech boards are made of recycled materials. The capped composite deck boards are made of 80 percent recycled content, and their capped polymer boards are made of about 50 percent recycled materials. The cost is about 20 to 40 percent more than Trex, averaging about $20 to $40 per square foot for parts and labor. You can hire a professional contractor to install the deck and take care of everything from start to finish or do-it-yourself.
Capped polymer boards are solid molded PVC through the entire thickness with an extra-durable cap coating on the exposed surfaces. End grain is usually covered with matching fascia boards. You can install planks with hidden fasteners or by driving nails or screws through the faces. The decking boards are available in narrow, standard, and wide board widths, with more than 40 colors and textures available across the various product lines.
TimberTech AZEK products are perhaps the best (and most expensive) of all the composite decking manufacturers. Its capped polymer boards are covered by a 50-year fade and stain warranty. Additional product lines include TimberTech Pro with 30-year warranties and TimberTech Edge with 25-year warranties. To clean their products, TimberTech recommends their proprietary TimberTech DeckCleaner, stating you should not use other composite deck cleaners for cleaning their polymer boards.
03 of 08
Cali-Bamboo operating in San Diego since 2004, produces BamDeck and TruOrganics surface decking planks and interior flooring options. Cali-Bamboo also sells fencing, plywood, poles, edging, flooring, and paneling products for decking projects. Its BamDeck composite is made from 60 percent recycled bamboo fibers and 40 percent recycled plastics. The TruOrganics product line is made of 100 percent recycled wood fibers. Cali-Bamboo products cost about $15 to $75, depending on the product. The TruOrganic products are at the top end of the price range.
The product lines offer nine different installation looks with three colors and four surface texture choices, including options like wood grain, ridged, and flat. The materials are termite-resistant, weather-tested, and LEED qualified. Cali-Bamboo offers decking and railing installation guides for DIYers.
BamDeck planks are formed by extrusion and have hollow cores. The ends of planks are generally covered with matching fascia boards. They can be installed either by driving screws or nails through the faces of the boards or with hidden fasteners.
BamDeck carries a 15-year residential warranty or a 10-year commercial use warranty. TruOrganics has a 25-year warranty. To clean the decking, use a water hose to remove dirt from the surface, soapy water made with mild dishwashing detergent, and a soft sponge/rag to remove any dirt buildup. Avoid using strong products like bleach or SLR (Scale-Lime-Rust) remover.
04 of 08
DuraLife Composite Decking was acquired in 2018 by Barrette Outdoor Living, a company that produces vinyl, aluminum, and steel fence and railing; composite decking; and other outdoor products. Its DuraLife decking and railing product lines include the Landscape and Hardwoods collection of decking planks in four wood grain tones and four colors each.
DuraLife decking is made of 80 and 90 percent post-consumer and post-industrial material. The decking is manufactured without preservatives or toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde. All decking and railing products are manufactured in Maine, and up to 100 percent of all raw materials are sourced within 500 miles of their facility to limit the environmental impact of shipping. Depending on the collection, it costs about $18 to $35 for parts and labor per square foot. Barrette offers installation instructions for DIYers and an online tool to find a professional installer near you.
All DuraLife decking comes with a 25-year limited warranty against staining and fading. Their planks are highly resistant to stains and damage. The company recommends using warm soapy water and non-bleach dish soap to clean these materials. They do not recommend using a pressure washer on decking or railings.
Dura-Life planks are formed by extrusion, with a co-extruded polypropylene outer shell covering an extruded composite core. The surface decking planks are typically installed with hidden fastener strips, with the ends protected by matching fascia boards.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Envision Composite Lumber
Envision Outdoor Living Products is based in Pennsylvania and manufactures solid decking using a compression-molded process, which uses lots of heat and pressure to squeeze out air pockets. This process makes very dense and heavy decking boards with deeply textured surfaces. The composite deck plank materials include the high-end Distinction, Inspiration, Expression, Ridge Premium, and EverGrain lines. Decking planks, railings, fasteners, and other hardware are available for each line. Several wood tones and gray colors are available in each product line.
The boards are made entirely from recycled plastics, with no natural wood fibers, and come with a 25-year limited warranty. The range in cost will run you similarly to Trex composite boards, costing about $15 to $35 per square foot with labor and parts. Envision provides deck installation instructions for those who plan to install it independently.
The more expensive product lines include a high-quality shell layer tightly bonded to the core composite layer. Depending on the product line, they can be installed either by driving screws or nails through the top face or a hidden fastener system. Ends can be left uncovered or can be covered by matching fascia boards.
To clean their products, Envision recommends semi-annual cleaning with a standard garden hose to remove dirt and residue and to use a mild dish detergent if necessary. Pressure washing, sanding, sealants, and staining Envision products are not advised.
06 of 08
Since 1997, the Fiberon company in North Carolina has made surface decking, railing components, and fencing products that feature a solid PVC "Permatech" outer shell bonded to a wood composite core. Fiberon boards are fade and stain resistant due to their PermaTech cap layer.
They have several product lines, categorized as "good," "better," and "best." Two are PVC lines: Promenade and Paramount; and four are wood/plastic composites: Concordia, Sanctuary, Good Life, and ArmorGuard. The best lines offer more realistic wood grain textures and are more resistant to fading. Fiberon makes boards in four main color categories: gray, golden brown, classic brown, and reddish-brown, offering 21 colors.
Fiberon boards are made out of 50 percent synthetic plastic PVC and 50 percent recycled wood from a combination of sawdust and discarded wood. Fiberon decking planks are formed by compression molding with a surface capping applied to three or four sides. They can be installed with face-driven fasteners or by a hidden fastening system. Ends are usually covered with matching fascia boards.
All products carry a 25-year limited warranty. Their top-line products are under a 50-year warranty. The pricing can run between $15 to $22 per square foot for parts and labor. You can install it on your own with help from the Fiberon installation guide. At least twice per year, clean your Fiberon deck to remove pollen, everyday dirt, and organic debris. For general cleaning, use soap and water or a mild household cleaner, along with a non-metal scrub brush. Fiberon does not recommend pressure washing over 2,500 psi.
07 of 08
EverNew by CertainTeed offers decking, railing, and porch systems. CertainTeed is based in Pennsylvania and is better known for siding and other building materials, but they are also regarded for their vinyl railing and decking materials. EverNew is stain-resistant and practically maintenance-free, never needing staining, painting, or harsh cleaning chemicals. Wash away dirt with a garden house and soapy water.
CertainTeed’s EverNew vinyl decking features a hollow-core profile with a nonporous surface that the manufacturer says won’t stain, scratch, or fade. It’s available in three UV-protected colors—almond, white, and gray—and in lengths of 12 feet, 16 feet, and 20 feet. It costs more than the Trex and TimberTech systems, averaging about $25 per square foot for parts and labor. It comes with a lifetime warranty.
Decking boards are hollow extruded planks attached with hidden fasteners, with ends covered by caps. This is a lighter-weight product than the other solid, compression-molded decking offered by several other companies. CertainTeed vinyl fence, decking, and railing products are manufactured using 100 percent hydropower. The plant’s recycling program has diverted more than one million pounds of waste from landfills.
They also offer an UnderShield Water Diversion System that catches and diverts water falling through the deck, so the space under the deck remains dry.
08 of 08
Lumberock Premium Decking located outside of Chicago is a smaller manufacturer that offers a line of solid, non-permeable planks and tongue-and-groove products made from high-density polyethylene plastic and mineral materials. Their decking comes in 12 colors, a wood texture finish, and different sizes, plus a small selection of railing components and fascia boards.
Because no organic materials are used, there is less susceptibility to mold and mildew. These products are virtually immune to damage from water and salt and are protected by a lifetime warranty. When dirt or debris accumulates, sweep it away, hose it off, or lightly wash the boards with soap and water. You can also pressure wash using a lower setting of 1,800 psi; never go above that pressure, it can damage the surface.
Lumberock decking planks are extruded solid material. No specialty hidden fasteners are available. Installation is typically done by nailing or screwing down through the top faces. It offers online deck installation instructions and has an online tool for finding professional installers near you.