Choosing the Best Composite Decking: 7 Questions to Ask Before Buying

Whether you’re building a composite deck to relax on in the summer sun or to host late-night cookouts with friends, one of the most important considerations is deciding which decking to use. With all the options in today’s home improvement stores—from progressive composite deck boards that encapsulate wood fibers in plastic throughout the board, to boards with wood-plastic cores wrapped in a plastic shell (capped composites)—how do you get on deck with the best composite decking? Start by asking these seven questions.

  1. Are the deck boards easy to install?

    For a hassle-free deck installation, make sure the deck boards and accessories are easy to work with and understand. Composite decking lines with a plastic and wood blend throughout the board can be screwed down like traditional decking or attached with hidden fasteners. Keep in mind some capped composites will require hidden fasteners as they tend to dimple around the screw head or discolor when the fastener breaks through their surface.
  2. Does the decking resist water?

    If your composite decking and railing will be in contact with water, consider decking lines like ChoiceDek that enclose wood fibers in plastic to protect against moisture intrusion all the way to the core. While capped composites may initially prevent water from seeping into the board, moisture can infiltrate the board’s core if the plastic outer layer is punctured by screws or if the board is cut to size. Remember, how long any decking material lasts largely depends on the degree to which it resists water.
  3. Do the deck boards provide design flexibility?

    Whether you’re building a simple square deck or multi-level outdoor living room, make sure you can shape the boards into interesting angles and curves to add visual interest. Composites without a plastic shell provide the greatest level of design flexibility. They work like wood, but better. You can easily rip, route and bend the boards per manufacturer instructions with little risk of delaminating, bubbling or peeling.
  4. Does the decking capture the look of wood?

    You can now have the good looks of wood decking with the high performance of composites. Products with a mix of wood fibers and plastic experience a natural weathering process that creates a beautiful, wood-like appearance. For an even more realistic look, select composite decking brands with embossed wood grain patterns.
  5. Are matching railing systems available?

    Brands that offer color-matched railing components and accessories make it easier to outfit your deck in style. As an added benefit, prepackaged, do-it-yourself kits with post sleeves, post caps and balusters can help you purchase the right amount of materials for each railing section. Matched railing systems are available online or in home improvement stores like Lowe’s.
  6. Does the decking protect against slips?

    If you are installing decking near pools, hot tubs and other areas where slipping is a concern for family, friends and pets, verify that the composite deck boards provide adequate slip resistance. Boards with a textured, wood-embossed surface have a higher coefficient of friction and better slip resistance than the plastic that wraps around capped composite decking.
  7. What does the warranty say?

    Not all warranties are created equal. Before deciding on a particular composite decking brand, read the warranty carefully to determine what is covered to make sure you know upfront what you are getting. It is also important to research how the product is made, how long the manufacturer has been around and what their track record is.
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