Composite decking is a familiar choice for the homeowner who prefers low-maintenance decking. Composites are at least partially made from HDPE or PVC, and contain organic filler material such as wood fibers or flax. This decking material is meant to last much longer than a 100% organic decking material like pressure-treated lumber. The benefit of partially inorganic decking material is its high resistance (not immunity) to wood rot or mildew.
There are different types of organic filler that are used in each brand of composite decking. Some brands, like Trex or Latitudes, are a 50/50 blend of inorganic material and wood fiber. Others, like Azek (which are technically cellular PVC, not composite), contain organic material but it's flaxseed and rice husks which do not come with the same risks of rot that actual wood fibers do. Plus, Azek's decking planks only contain up to 5% of that organic material.
But I Really Like Natural Wood Decks…
There is another option, for someone who might be willing to do a bit more regular maintenance for the right type of natural wood. Brazilian hardwoods like ipe are naturally tough against the elements with insect and mildew resistance. Many exotic woods even come with a guarantee of 10-20 years of functionality without any maintenance at all! Though be warned, you may not get termites or mildew but your deck will lose its color and turn to gray possibly within a year if you do not treat it, especially in harsh weather and sunlight.
Designing Your Deck for Low-Maintenance
Brazilian hardwood has a certain color and texture to it that some people are really drawn to. For others, it's a limitation and they look to composite decking or cellular PVC for more colors and textures to work with. Azek decking (a cellular PVC brand), is available in a variety of grain patterns and 14 colors that can enhance the color scheme you're interested in. You can also buy matching composite or cellular PVC deck railings.
Regardless of the low-maintenance decking material you choose, always consider wear and tear. In my handyman business, we chose Azek decking for a customer who wanted to replace a broken tile floor around his pool house. We knew there would be greasy lotions and food spills around a pool so Azek was perfect because it doesn’t stain (doesn't warp, swell or scratch either…).
Which would you choose? Composite or exotic wood decking?