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Ask the Readers | wood vs. composite deck

Reader April wrote in with a question about a deck, which she wanted me to ask you all. I have no personal experience with composite decking, so I’m hoping some of you do!

deck stain behr taupe

My non-composite deck, in the midst of a resealing job I did

Here’s what April wrote:

Our house is 20 years old. Our backyard is only accessible via deck off our kitchen. The deck is 12X14. It needs sanding, staining, and a few boards replaced in addition to replacing a support beam because of a safety issue.

Replacement cost for a bigger deck —12 X 20 — is $15,000 for wood and $19,000 for composite. This is going rate here for a decking company. We have the cash available because of selling a home for profit. We would enjoy a larger deck.

It still seems like a huge waste of money and I wish we had the skills and tools.

acorns on deck

Is composite slippery? Our deck gets snow and ice and is on the north side of our home.

Does composite really hold up well? How often does a wood deck need maintenance in the real world?

Our home doesn’t get the sun it should due to weird features, but the deck does get sun. We’d love to be able to sit in the sun on a bigger deck.

Our house has appreciated 100K since we purchased it. Due to my husband’s career in the military we’re unlikely to live here more than 5 more years and possibly could only be here another year. We’re in an extremely unique situation where we may stay 5 years.

Which type of deck should we choose?



April, I’ll just share my opinion on the cost issue: if I were in your shoes, I’d likely choose the wood deck over the composite and invest the $4000.

A $4000 price difference is pretty huge, and the wood will still be in great shape when you move, even if it’s in five years. 

If this was your forever home, I might spring for the composite; otherwise it doesn’t seem to make as much sense.

One thing I wonder: how much would it cost to have someone do the necessary work on your existing deck? That might be a helpful number to assist you in deciding if you do want to spring for the new deck or not. 

Alrighty, readers! Help April out with your opinions.

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Friday 12th of March 2021

I would definitely take a look at resale value. How much would it go up if you had a bigger deck? Would it go up more if that was a composite deck vs a wood deck? Could be you would get all your money back when you sell. Since you're moving in 5 years or less, I'd base it on that almost completely.


Saturday 27th of March 2021

We walk our puppy and notice how most people have a deck so small it's barely worthwhile. I think it will improve our value. We bought deck furniture and even on our old deck, it feels like a whole new room of our home.

Thanks for your input.


Thursday 11th of March 2021

A bigger deck is a want, not a need, so consider keeping it the same size. Before you do anything, fully inspect the support system. It's crucially important that your base is solid.

My suggestion is that you challenge yourself to complete this project as frugally as possible. Secure the footings, replace any damaged boards, and powerwash the existing surface. Then you can stain or even paint it and be done. From then on, every time you look at your restored deck, you can play a few ca-ching notes in your head for all the money you've saved.

Wood prices are through the roof and likely to stay that way for a while. Fires destroyed huge tracts of managed forests and sawmills. Canada is apparently charging a 20% tariff on lumber, possibly in retaliation for a past administration's policies. Demand is way up. 2x4's have nearly tripled in cost since the pandemic began, and good qualuty is harder to come by, even at those prices. This is not a good time to purchase raw materials, whether directly or through a contractor.

Also, there are environmental considerations. Composite is recycled plastic. Pressure treated wood is infused with chemicals and can never be recycled, nor should it be burned. Wood has its own issues, but is possibly a more environmentally friendly option.

It's not an easy decision at all.


Saturday 27th of March 2021

Thank you so much for explaining the massive rise in supply cost. Our neighbors got this same deck from the same small company 3 years ago, and our quote is 10K more!


Wednesday 10th of March 2021

We did a huge remodel on a foreclosure home we purchased. We opted and designed things so we could have cement for the front porch and cement for the back patio. I am so thankful we did. I hate maintenance. I can power wash it every so often and it's wonderful. Is your home situated so that you might be able to use cement?


Saturday 27th of March 2021

Unfortunately, it is not. It's 12 feet from our slider to the ground!


Wednesday 10th of March 2021

If this were your forever home, I would definitely say go with composite. My parents have it and love it. Our deck has several years of life left, but we plan to replace with composite when the time comes. Even though my husband can do the necessary maintenance on a wood deck, his time has value too and I think the difference in cost will pay for itself over the years (at least when factoring in both money and time).

For a home that you will only be in for 1-5 years, I don't think it is worth the extra money. I would also want to know if replacing it with a wood deck would have any impact on your home value. Even the cost of the wood deck seems significant for a home you might only be in for another year. Of course, you cannot put a dollar value on the enjoyment you will get from a new deck compared to repairing your current deck.


Saturday 27th of March 2021

If we manage to stay here for another 5 years for my husband's job, we'll probably stay in the home until we need a main floor master.

I appreciate your feedback!


Wednesday 10th of March 2021

My extended family owns a summer cottage on a lake in Vermont. Several years ago the deck was replaced with composite while the docks remained wood. I was shocked at how much hotter the composite is on bare feet versus the wood. Both areas get full sun during the day.


Saturday 27th of March 2021

Oh, Libby, that's very interesting. What color is the composite?

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