Building a Deck – Wood or Composite?

Looking at the options for decking?
Since I am not keen to go back to an enclosed tiled deck again, I only have the option of open draining wood decks. In my attempt to keep the house as maintenance free as possible, but within a reasonable budget, I am faced with accessing each of the three options:

  • Treated Radiata Pine
  • Native Kwila Hardwood
  • Composite Decking

Low Maintenance
It is no longer a choice between a painted softwood deck and a naturally aging hardwood deck. All of these decks need some degree of maintenance:

  • The radiata pine deck requires sanding and staining or paint
  • The kwila decks need regular cleaning and sealing if you choose to keep the natural colour. Kwila can be left to age gracefully, however if you want to maintain the colour you do need to maintain it.
  • Composite decking requires the least maintenance – regular washing keeps it as good as new.

Best Value

  • Radiata pine is the least expensive raw material – however, you need to add on the cost of sanding, painting or staining at the time of construction, plus at regular intervals thereafter. Building time is relatively fast as the planks can be hammered in with a nail gun quite quickly.
  • Kwila material costs around double that of pine, plus the fixings are more expensive as you need copper headed screws for coastal locations. The fixing takes quite a bit longer as each screw or nail hole must be drilled first.
  • Composite costs around the same as kwila for the planks, however the fixings are not as costly. The special fixing systems used by most composite decking vendors mean that fixing time is around 25% that of Kwila.

About Composite Decking
Composite decking is made from a combination of wood and plastic:

  • Wood – from industry by-products like sawdust, chips and wood fiber
  • Plastic – from virgin or recycled material

The components are mixed with additives such as a pigment and preservative. The mixture is heated, formed into board lengths and then cooled. The last 5 years has seen a lot of improvement with WPC [wood/plastic composite] products

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