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5 Key Differences Between Composite and PVC Decking That You Need to Consider

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While both Composite and PVC decking materials have come a long way since Trex introduced composite decking in the early 90's, and despite their differences, both products are still commonly referred to as "composite". But there are fundamental and important differences between composite and PVC decking.

What is Composite Decking?

Composite decking is just that - a "composite" of different materials. Typically, composite decking has a core that is a combination of wood and plastic like TimberTech's Edge Prime and Terrain collections. More specifically, composite decking is often made with a 50/50 or 60/40 blend of recycled wood pulp or fibres and recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is a a type of plastic commonly used to make milk jugs, buckets, and detergent bottles.

Other composites include a mixture of bamboo and plastic offered by Fortress Decking and Deckorators high performance Voyage decking which is a mixture of mineral and plastic which makes it extremely strong and extremely resistant to expansion and contraction.

With the wood composite decking cross section seen below, you can clearly see the specs of wood fibres contained in the decking material.

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Wood-based Composite Deck Board

What is PVC Decking

Put simply, PVC decking is composite decking without the wood fibres. More specifically, PVC decking is made from 100% recycled polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is a high-strength plastic.

Azek Vintage Coastline PVC Decking
Azek Vintage PVC Decking

Similarities Between Composite & PVC Decking

Despite their differences, composite and PVC decking share a number of similarities:

  1. They are both virtually maintenance free, meaning you will never have to sand or stain them. While most manufacturers have a warranty against staining, it is still important to avoid discolouration by keeping your deck clean in terms of wiping spillages of substances like wine or chemicals, keeping the debris from overhead trees off the surface and avoiding the over use of ice-melting substances in the winter.

  2. Both products are extremely durable and stand up well to the rigours of everyday usage. Depending on the manufacturer and collection, scratch resistant capping is available. Both have a strong polymer cap which aids in their durability.

  3. Except for Deckorators Voyage decking (a mineral-based composite), both composite and PVC products will expand and contract in the heat and the cold.

  4. Both are available in a multitude of colours and textures.

  5. Both are mold and mildew resistant.

  6. Both products rank high for colorfastness and many manufacturers guarantee against fading.

  7. Both products rank high for stain resistance and as with colorfastness, many manufacturers guarantee against staining.

  8. Both products are environmentally friendly in that they are recycled and the top manufacturers maintain rigorous environmentally sustainable manufacturing practices and processes.

Differences Between Composite & PVC Decking

While composite and PVC decking share many similarities, its extremely important to keep in mind their differences as they play a significant role in deciding whether to go with either. The key differences are as follows

1. While composite decking contains wood fibres, PVC decking does not.

This can have significant implications when deciding on the decking for a deck that will be close to water, like a pool or a spa, or will be low to the ground. A composite deck that is built around a pool, for example, over the long term could begin to "cup" or curve due to the long term exposure to the moisture combined with the wood fibres in the composite decking. Also, if you are building a deck that is low to the ground and/or will be skirted all around, thus preventing airflow underneath the deck, moisture buildup under the deck needs to be properly considered thus possibly making PVC a better option.

2. PVC decking tends to be cooler.

It's well know that both composite and PVC decking tends to get hot, but PVC decking has two advantages. Firstly, it doesn't get as hot as composite decking and secondly, while it does get hot, it dissipates that heat much faster than composite which tends to hold the heat for much longer.

3. Composite Decking provides more options

Generally, PVC decking is sold as solid-core boards (as seen in the above images), with capping (or outer coating) on all 4 sides. But in order to provide more options and a wider range of price points, composite decking has two variables: either a solid or scalloped core and either a 3-sided cap or a 4-sided cap.

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Composite Scalloped Board

For example, TimberTech's Edge Prime composite decking is a 3-sided scalloped board while next up the price scale is their Terrain composite decking which is a 4-sided scalloped board. Further, their higher priced Reserve and Legacy composite collections are both 4-sided solid core boards.

4. PVC decking manufacturers offer longer warranties

If you are looking at manufacturers' warranties, the warranties on PVC decking are generally double that of composite decking. While many composite manufacturers offer a 25 year warranty on their products, many of the PVC manufacturers like Azek offer 50 year as well as Lifetime warranties on their PVC decking products.

5. Composite decking is generally less expensive

While composite decking tends to be less expensive than PVC decking when it comes to their upfront costs, due to the fact that PVC decking is much longer lasting, the lifetime cost of PVC decking is much lower.

As mentioned, while both composite and PVC decking have many similarities, it's important to consider their differences when trying to decide between the two. As a premium deck builder, Deco Decks offers a full range of both composite and PVC decking options for the decks that we build. Feel free to explore our composite and PVC decking options and contact us if you have any questions.

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