When you buy a house, square footage is one of your top considerations. You want to know how much space you’ll get to enjoy. Today, though, more and more homeowners are taking advantage of their outdoor space, too.
One of the best way to squeeze more benefit from your space is with a great deck. Before you start dreaming about outdoor kitchens and picking out furniture, you need to figure out your deck material.
You have plenty of choices when it comes to your deck, and it can be hard to know where to start. To narrow down your options you can begin by deciding between two key categories: real wood or composite wood.
As important as style and feel are, you can’t ignore the financial aspect of building a deck. Here’s how the costs compare between real and composite wood.
Costs for Real Wood Decking
Real wood has an undeniable authenticity that some homeowners love. How does it match up when it comes to budget, though? Here’s what you need to know.
One of the most common reasons homeowners choose real wood is for its low initial price. If you’re dealing with a budget shortage in the short-term but don’t want to wait, a real wood deck might be the choice for you.
Of course, not all wood is equal. Your cost can span a huge price range depending on the type of wood you choose.
Some woods may fit with the look you want better than others do. A large part of the price difference, though, comes from how durable different wood is. Some varieties will last longer against the elements, so they may be worth the extra initial cost.
As enticing as the initial cost is, real wood does cost a pretty penny to maintain. In most cases, you’ll need to sand and re-stain your deck every two years or so. Many homeowners find themselves doing this every year.
When you buy a stain, it may say that it lasts five years or ten years. Don’t trust the labels. If you wait too long before re-staining your deck, the wood is vulnerable to water damage, mold and rot.
Instead, test your deck every year. Drop a small amount of water on it and watch whether it stays on top in a dome or whether some of it seeps in. If there’s any water seeping in, it’s time for some maintenance.
As important as it is to care for your wood deck, it won’t make it last forever. Part of using a natural material is accepting that it will break down over time.
When it comes to real wood, you can expect to replace your deck every 15 or 20 years if you’re maintaining it well. That number can go up or down depending on your local climate, the wood you choose, and more.
Costs with Composite Deck Material
Now that you know the budgetary pros and cons of real wood decking, how does composite deck material hold up?
As with real wood, composite decking varies in price depending on the quality and type you choose. However, it does tend to be more expensive than real wood when it comes to your initial cost.
Some composites cost about twice as much as real wood depending on the varieties you compare. Others have a price difference of 30% or less.
Composite decking is known for its low-maintenance life. In fact, for many people who choose composite wood over real wood, the maintenance is their deciding factor.
With composite wood, the weather resistance is built into the material itself. This differs from real wood, which relies on an exterior stain for that resistance.
For that reason, there’s no need to sand or refinish a composite deck. The only maintenance you can expect is a thorough cleaning every three or four years. Compared to annual or bi-annual refinishing, these cleanings are far less expensive and time-consuming.
As we mentioned, composite wood is more expensive than real wood when you first install your deck. You’ll be happy to know, though, that you can expect to get more time out of your composite deck than from real wood.
There’s no hard and fast estimate for how long your composite deck will last. To give you an idea, though, most composite wood comes with at least a 25-year warranty from the manufacturer.
Composite deck lasts longer for several reasons. For one, artificial materials (like recycled plastic in many cases) takes longer to break down that wood does.
For two, it’s not as susceptible to damage from the environment. A composite deck isn’t vulnerable to termite damage, nor does it warp or fade as much as real wood does. These small risk factors add up to a longer life overall.
The Verdict: Is Real Wood or Composite Wood More Economical?
It’s clear from this article that both real wood and composite wood have their pros and cons for your wallet. The most affordable option for your deck will depend on your long-term goals, how much work you’re willing to put in, and the specific varieties of wood or composite you want.
All in all, though, here’s the summary: real wood is more affordable at the installation time. Composite wood costs less in the long-term. Depending on your short-term and long-term budgets, this can help you make your decision.
With that in mind, though, remember that cost is just one factor to consider. Real wood and composite wood have different feels and different style options to consider. You should choose your deck material based on a combination of all these factors.
For more professional tips or to start shopping for your perfect deck material, contact our team of decking experts.