Probably the most common question when deciding which deck material you're going to use is do you go for the traditional wooden deck material or do you go for composite wood decking. Below is a great break down describing the advantages and disadvantages of both.
Wooden decks have been around for as long as there have been buildings & with good reason. Wood decks are economical, durable and abundant in material.
In South Africa some of the most common wooden deck material is balau decking at the coast and as we head inland can also include Massaranduba, Garapa & Rhodesian teak. Pine decking is also used sometimes as it’s the cheapest decking material but with good reason, as it does not handle the weather well and has much shorter lifespan than other decking materials.
Cost wise wooden decking varies greatly depending on the material used. A garapa deck fully installed can cost up to R1300 a square metre including material and installation. So let’s say you’re looking to do a 5m x 4m deck you could be looking at R26000. But keep in mind that wooden decks require constant maintenance. Each year you will have to sand and seal the deck or else it will begin to rot. This can add to the cost tremendously. Professional installers will generally charge +- R150-R200 a sqm to do this each year. So now our 20sqm is going to cost us an additional R4000 each year that is 15% of the overall deck cost!
Wooden deck advantages
Cost – Wooden decking material requires a slightly less upfront cost then composite decks. Pine decking will cost substantially less but then might only last 3-5 years at the coast. Premium woods such as Teak or Grappa cost a similar amount to the composite.
Lifespan – Timber Decking constructed with a premium wood can last anywhere from 5-7 years depending on the maintenance and weather. Pine decking may last from between 3-5 years at the coast.
Look – Wood decks appear authentic because it is real wood. It feels like natural timber and looks just like wood.
Wooden Deck disadvantages.
Maintenance – Any wooden deck requires constant maintenance. This will need to be constantly sanded cleaned and sealed almost every year which as discussed above adds exponentially to the cost. This is also a constant time consuming activity that you can’t get away from when you could rather be relaxing on your deck instead of looking after it.
Safety - Wood is a natural material that can warp, rot, as well as be eaten by termites or wood bore. This can create a safety hazard if a board breaks while you are walking on it or your deck collapses. Splinters are another concern especially if you have children who are running barefoot on your deck.
Installation – Wooden decks require you to drill through the boards, not only is this more time consuming it also creates a weak point in your deck where water can seep in. 4Everdeck Installers say that an installation of a composite deck can also be up to 35% quicker than a wooden deck.
Sustainability – It is very difficult to trace where exactly your timber came from. Quite often natural rain forests are stripped for their wood and the forest permanently damaged.
Composite wood decks are a synthetic decking product that has grown tremendously in popularity over the past few years. Generally they are all made with a combination of wood fibre and different plastics mixed in various quantities. 4Everdeck is made up of 60% wood fibre and 40% recycled High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). Some composite decks are made up with pvc which gives a more plastic look and feel to the composite wood.
How much does composite wood decking cost.
Composite wood deck costs vary depending on your brand but 4Everdeck will generally cost about R1400 a square metre fully installed. So let’s say you’re looking to do a 5m x 4m deck you could be looking at about R28 000. Keep in mind that this excludes things such as stairs, handrails & cladding.
Composite wood deck advantages.
Maintenance – a good quality composite deck requires no maintenance besides the occasional clean with a brush and some water. There is no need to sand seal or stain.
Durability – Composite wood will not rot, splinter or warp. It is also immune to termites.
Installation – Composite wood is far quicker to install (up to 35% faster) than traditional wooden decks as each decking board is perfectly straight and the same size. The hidden fastener system also makes the installation far quicker as well as looks more professional since there are no screws through the deck board.
Lifespan – 4Everdeck comes standard with a 10 year guarantee but has an expected lifespan of 20-25 years!
As you can see composite wood is the ideal material for your decking project especially once you factor in the cost savings from no maintenance. Using our calculations above the maintenance on wooden decks accounts for up to 15% of the overall cost each year!
Not all natural woods nor composite woods are the same. You should only purchase your decking material from a trusted supplier with a proven track record. Some wood composite deck materials can look very artificial and will not look anything like natural wood. We encourage you to view decking samples before making your final decisions.
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