Best Composite Decking: 2022 Buying Guide

By Fortino Rosas / April 11, 2022 / 0 Comments

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    Best Composite Decking Guide

    Composite decking is a better option than wood materials because it’s more durable, low-maintenance, and comes in a wide array of options. With the right product, you can build a pleasant outdoor space that can last for years and provide the same aesthetic appeal that wood offers.

    As we compare composite decking brands here, we will help you find the best composite decking material for any application. We have also included a buying guide where we discussed the types of composite decking and factors to consider when buying one.

    Jump to our side-by-side comparison of composite decking brands.

    Our Top Picks of the Best Composite Decking Brands

    1. Best Overall: TimberTech
    2. Best Value: Trex
    3. Best Moisture-Resistant: MoistureShield
    4. Best Environmentally Friendly: Fiberon
    5. Best Slip-Resistant: DuraLife
    6. Best for Commercial Properties: Envision

    Composite Decking Buying Advice

    Best Overall: TimberTech

    Floor Critics Rating (4.8):

    Bottom Line: A top-rated composite decking brand chosen for their realistic boards and the wide variety of styles they offer that allow unlimited customization opportunities.

    Source: TimberTech

    Useful Tips From Our Testing

    • We found it much easier to clean spills like mustard as the decking material has a shallower emboss, in addition, a shallower emboss will hide scratches better.
    • Ensure there is enough material to use cortex plugs as the decking is scalloped at the bottom.
    • TimberTech uses less recycled material used in their products compared to brands like Trex.
    ProsCons
    – Has the widest range of texture and color options on our list
    – Highly resistant to weathering and damages
    – Industry-leading warranties
    – Free samples
    – Deck design tools and customizable deck plans are available
    – Class A Flame Rating AZEK line30% cooler and lighter and 40% more slip-resistant AZEK line
    – Warranties can be confusing
    – Expensive

    Company Overview

    Timbertech is a Chicago-based company founded in 1997 and was acquired by AZEK in 2012. They sell PVC decking and capped composite boards.

    Selection: Styles & Colors

    TimberTech offers three decking lines with amazing width, color, and finishing options.

    TimberTech AZEK
    TimberTech AZEK Composite Decking
    – Highest quality line that stays cooler on hot days
    – Capped PVC without wood
    – Solid profile with a square or grooved edge
    – 4 collections
    – 26 colors
    – Most realistic look
    – Multi-width: Narrow (3.25″), Standard (5.5″), & Wide (7.25″)
    TimberTech PRO
    TimberTech PRO Composite Decking
    – Middle tier quality line
    – 4-sided capped composite
    – Solid or hollow profiles
    – Grooved or square edges
    – 3 collections
    – 16 colors
    TimberTech EDGE
    TimberTech EDGE Composite Decking
    – Budget line
    – 3-sided capped composite
    – Solid or hollow profiles
    – Grooved or square edges
    – 2 collections
    – 6 colors
    Source: TimberTech

    You can read more about the differences between their lines in their decking comparison.

    What we liked about Timbertech’s composite decking selection are:

    • Single-width boards and multi-width options for smaller decks
    • A wide variety of color options in shades of coconut husk and sea salt gray
    • Used Color-Cascading Technology to deliver the most realistic wood look and grain patterns for more traction.
    • Different finishing options like low gloss, brushed, and classic cathedral grains

    You can also get free samples to test before you buy.

    Design Tools Available

    The company has the following tools on their website where you can get design inspiration:

    Composition and Durability

    TimberTech decking uses unique technology to create decking options that are more durable than the competition:

    • Alloy Armour Technology in their AZEK and PRO lines offers a 100% polymer cap for superior protection against fading, weathering, UV damage, and scratches while repelling stains and reducing heat.
    • Capped boards for unbeatable protection against moisture damage, mold, and mildew.
    • Can be installed in any temperature including cold weather and near saltwater.
    TimberTech AZEKTimberTech PROTimberTech EDGE
    – Moisture resistance
    30% cooler and lighter
    Up to 40% slip resistance than leading competitors
    Approved in WUI zones and has a Class A Flame Spread Rating
    – Highly resistant to damage and rotting– Resistant to moisture damage

    Warranty

    TimberTech offers three industry-leading warranties ranging from 25-50 years.

    Product LineWarranty
    AZEKLifetime limited warranty
    50-year fade & stain warranty
    PRO30-year limited and fade & stain warranty
    EDGE25 year limited and fade & stain warranty

    What’s great with their warranties is they are:

    • Transferrable one time within 5 years from purchase date
    • Included limited replacement labor warranty of 2-7 years depending on the contractor’s level (Silver, Gold, or Platinum).

    Price

    The company’s decking options come in three price points to match any budget.

    TimberTech EDGE: $

    TimberTech PRO: $$

    TimberTech AZEK: $$$

    • Decking Material Cost: $7-$11 per square foot
    • Total Materials Cost including railing, substructure, etc: $15-$30

    Check out TimberTech’s decking cost calculator or get a quote.

    Availability

    The availability of TimberTech’s composite decking is quite impressive because you can buy them in both small and big-box retailers, unlike other brands that are harder to find.

    • Big box and local decking dealers
    • Home Depot
    • Lowe’s
    • 84 Lumber

    Find more dealers through their Where to Buy page.

    Installation

    Install your deck easily with Timbertech’s detailed DIY installation instructions for each of their product lines! Also, you can hire a TimberTech registered contractor here.

    Check out the video below on how to install TimberTech decking:

    Care & Maintenance

    As for maintaining your deck, TimberTech also provides a very detailed care and cleaning guide.

    Here are the dos and don’ts listed by TimberTech when it comes to maintaining their composite decking:

    Dos

    • Use a garden hose.
    • Use their TimberTech DeckCleaner.
    • Use a power washer for RINSING only. Pressure should not exceed 1,500 psi.

    Don’ts

    • Do not use composite deck cleaners in liquid or powder form like Corte Clean, Olympic Deck Cleaner, and Thompson’s Water Seal – Oxy Action.
    • Do not let the cleaner dry on the surface to avoid white films.
    • Do not clean in direct sunlight.

    Sustainability

    For environmentally-conscious people, TimberTech offers products that are sustainable to the core.

    The capped composite boards are made of up to 80% recycled materials. Also, the company has a recycling program. Moreover, TimberTech’s water filtration system can recycle up to 97% of the water that their facilities are using.

    Best Value: Trex

    Floor Critics Rating (4.8):

    Bottom Line: The largest manufacturer of high-performance composite decking materials worldwide with branches in over 40 countries.

    Premium Tropical Trex Transcend Deck
    Source: Trex

    Useful Tips From Our Testing

    • What we didn’t like is that Trex Select looks more like plastic than their other options. It is also slightly thinner compared to other decking boards (7/8-inch thick rather than the standard one-inch thickness of other brands) so you can’t mix it with other boards to prevent trip hazards.
    • Although their budget line (Trex Enhance) is scalloped, it still has enough material for you to use cortex plugs without any issues.
    • Since the boards have deeper embossing, scratches will be more noticeable and cleaning spills will take a whole week, unlike TimberTech.
    ProsCons
    – Available in 40 countries
    – Many size and color options
    – Free samples
    – Helpful deck designer tools
    – All products have Class B to Class C fire ratings
    – Transcend line is more scratch-resistant than TimberTech’s AZEK line
    – 25-year warranties only

    Company Overview

    Trex is a Virginia-based company formed in 1996 and is the largest manufacturer of wood-alternative decking materials worldwide. It is available in over 40 countries and was featured as the decking choice for the HGTV Smart Home.

    Selection: Styles & Colors

    Trex has early-generation and newer-generation decking options, but they have stopped manufacturing the old ones in 2014. Their new-generation decking options are more durable with long-lasting colors and come in various multi-tone and single-tone colors.

    Early-Generation Trex
    • Composed of the Origins, Accents, Contours, Profiles, and Brasilia lines.
    • Came in more colors than newer-generation Trex and with more natural grain patterns.
    Newer-Generation High-Performance Trex

    Newer-generation options are composed of the Transcend, Enhance, and Select lines which Trex categorized into their Best, Better, and Good options:

    • Best: Trex Transcend Earth Tones & Tropicals
    • Better: Trex Select Earth Tones and Trex Enhance Naturals
    • Good: Trex Enhance Basics
    Trex Transcend
    Spiced Rum Trex Transcend Composite Decking Board
    – Offers the beauty of exotic wood
    – 3 earth tones and 6 tropicals
    – Solid profile
    – Grooved or square edge
    – 8 sizes
    Trex Select
    Woodland Brown Trex Select Composite Decking Board
    – Opaque colors that resemble traditional lumber
    – 5 Earth Tones
    – Solid profile
    – Grooved and square edge
    – 9 Sizes
    Trex Enhance
    Clam Shell Trex Enhance Basics Composite Decking Board
    – Hollow profile
    – Grooved or square edge
    – 6 sizes
    – Natural wood-grain appearance
    – Naturals Collection5 colors
    – Multi-tonal look
    – Basics Collection
    – 3 colors
    – Single-tone
    Source: Trex

    You can order samples but you need to pay $5 for the 12-inch samples. They do have free samples but are shorter (3 ½ inches).

    Design Tools Available

    You can find more ideas here.

    Composition & Durability

    Trex TranscendTrex SelectTrex Enhance
    Scratch Resistance★★★★★★★
    Fire RatingClass BClass BClass C

    As for performance, Trex Transcend is more scratch-resistant than TimberTech’s AZEK line, but TimberTech is still our top pick overall.

    Learn more about TimberTech vs. Trex here.

    Trex’s newer generation decking uses what they call the protective shell technology that wraps around three sides of their composite boards. This creates boards with high scratch resistance.

    In addition, the protective shell technology provides:

    • Superior resistance to staining, fading, mold, and mildew
    • Protection against insect damage, rotting, cracking, splintering, and splitting
    • Enhance aesthetics for richer and longer-lasting colors that don’t need painting or staining

    Warranty

    Trex provides a 25-year limited residential warranty for all of their products. They also offer an additional 25-year limited residential fade and stain warranty for their newer-generation products.

    Note:

    Your warranty will be voided if:

    • You apply coating materials like paint.
    • Your decking is punctured or damaged after using sharp-edged tools or metal shovels to remove ice and snow.

    Price

    Trex’s products are less expensive than TimberTech.

    Transcend: $$$

    Select: $$

    Enhance: $-$$

    Trex’s decking products usually cost between $5 to $8 per square foot depending on how much you purchase and where you buy. You can get a more accurate estimate through their cost calculator

    Availability

    You can find Trex decking products at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other retailers. Check out their retailer finder page to find products near you.

    Installation

    Trex allows DIY installation where you can follow their installation guide for more tips and tricks. If you want to ensure the success of your project, find a Trex decking builder.

    Check out the video below on how to install Trex decking:

    Note: The Trex Select line is slightly thinner than their Enhance and Transcend decking. We suggest not combine the collections to prevent tripping hazards.

    Care & Maintenance

    Trex recommends the following care and cleaning tips for their products:

    Dos

    • Occasional cleaning using soap and water.
    • Power washing of up to 3100 psi to remove debris and dirt. (You can’t power wash their early-generation decking.) The tip of the power washer should be at least 8 inches away from the deck’s surface.
    • Use Plexus Plastic Cleaner for marks, scuffs, and small scratches.
    • Use Magic Eraser Extra Power, Magic Eraser Original, or Mr. Clean for color transfer issues.

    Don’ts

    • Use solvents like acetone.
    • Sand your decking.

    Sustainability

    Trex is the first company to use reclaimed sawdust and recycled plastic to create high-performance products. Their decking products are made from 95% recycled materials. They also use eco-friendly and low-carbon manufacturing processes and don’t use harmful chemicals.

    In fact, they received numerous environmental awards including being the first wood-alternative decking manufacturer to receive an ICC-ES SAVE Verification for Recycled Content.

    Best Moisture-Resistant: MoistureShield

    Floor Critics Rating (4.7):

    Bottom Line: A composite decking brand chosen for its zero structural field failures in over 30 years and has unbeatable performance in almost any environment (above ground or underwater).

    Moisture Shield Composite Decking
    Source: MoistureShield

    Useful Tips From Our Testing

    • On our temperature checks on the Moisture Vision decking, we found that their boards are dramatically better under sunlight compared to other brands (even their products that don’t have their CoolDeck technology). The reflective technology they use doesn’t allow the boards to absorb as much heat as the competitors.
    • Not many manufacturers can offer MoistureShield’s warranty on their boards installed both on the ground or submerged underwater, which is great.
    ProsCons
    – Industry-leading warranties
    – Very environmentally friendly decking
    – Up to 35% cooler and up to 77% slip-resistant when wet
    – Impermeable for maximum resistance against damage especially moisture
    – Can be installed underwater, on the ground, or in the ground
    – Reversible boards available
    – Specific pricing is not available
    – Complicated DIY installation

    Company Overview

    MoistureShield is a division of Oldcastle APG – the largest outdoor living products manufacturer in North America. They serve a wide range of distribution and retail customers in North America along with several international markets.

    Selection: Styles & Colors

    MoistureShield offers four composite decking lines including reversible options for beauty from edge to edge.

    • Best: MoistureShield Vision & MoistureShield Meridian
    • Better: MoistureShield Vantage
    • Good: MoistureShield Elevate
    MoistureShield Vision
    MoistureShield Vision Composite Decking in Smokey Gray
    – Solid or grooved edge
    – Available in marine grade
    – 6 colors
    – 3 sizes
    MoistureShield Meridian
    MoistureShield Meridian Composite Decking in Shoreside Color
    – Almost the same as Vision but cheaper
    TruTexture Surface for a more natural wood look with defined grains and enriched variegation
    – Solid or grooved edge
    – 3 colors
    – 3 sizes
    MoistureShield Vantage
    MoistureShield Vantage Composite Decking in Bridle Color
    Reversible boards that allow you to use either side of the board
    – Uncapped
    – Solid or grooved edge
    – 5 colors
    – 11 sizes
    – Available in marine grade
    MoistureShield Elevate
    MoistureShield Elevate Composite Decking in Lake Fog Color
    – Traditional cap
    – Solid or grooved edge
    – 4 colors
    – 3 sizes
    Source: MoistureShield

    MoistureShield also allows you to choose up to three 4-inch samples for free. You can also order additional samples for $5 per box of three.

    Design Tools Available

    MoistureShield can give you inspiration to get you started through their color guide and sample projects. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to provide a deck design tool.

    Composition and Durability

    MoistureShield’s most notable innovation is their Solid Core technology that provides performance when it comes to durability.

    Their decking products have the following features:

    • Solid Core Technology: Impermeable core for maximum resistance to warping, rotting, moisture, insect damage, and other elements.
    • CoolDeck Technology: Up to 35% heat reduction compared to traditional capped composites.
    • DiamondDefense Coating: strongest cap to prevent fading, scratching, and staining.
    • Zero Field Failures: The industry’s only boards that you can install underwater, on the ground, and in the ground without performance issues for 30 years or more.
    VisionMeridianVantageElevate
    – SolidCore Technology
    – DiamondDefenseCoolDeck Technology
    – Slip Resistance: Up to 83% when dry and up to 77% when wet
    – SolidCore Technology
    – CoolDeck Technology
    – SolidCore Technology
    – Rips and cuts like real wood
    – Self-healing
    – SolidCore Technology
    – Slip Resistance: Up to 77% when dry and up to 71% when wet

    Warranty

    MoistureShield offers 30 to 50-year Fade & Stain warranties which is higher compared to the 25-year minimum warranty of other brands. They also provide a 50-year structural warranty for all of their products.

    Limited Fade & Stain Warranty
    Vision50 Years
    Meridian40 Years
    VantageNone
    Elevate30 Years

    Note: Clean MoistureShield products with Fade and Stain warranties within one week after exposure to staining agents to avoid voiding the warranty. Read more on their warranty document.

    Price

    As for the pricing, MoistureShield decking options are divided into four price points.

    Vision: $$$$

    Meridian: $$$

    Vantage: $$

    Elevate: $

    We were not able to find cost estimates but you can find a deck estimator on their website to get an idea of how much your budget should be.

    Availability

    • Home Depot and Lowe’s
    • Building supply stores
    • Retailers

    Find dealers through their Where to Buy page.

    NOTE: Not sold by big retailers. You need to contact the manufacturer directly.

    Installation

    MoistureShield provides a detailed illustrated installation guide for DIY installation, but the guide seems complicated. So if you need further assistance, you can just hire a MoistureShield contractor.

    Care & Maintenance

    You can check out MoistureShield’s full cleaning care guide here, but below are important things you need to take note of:

    Dos

    • Allow Vantage options to weather for 3-6 months before you clean them.
    • Weekly cleaning using a leaf blower or broom.
    • Use warm water and mild soap with a nylon scrub brush.
    • Use household degreasing agents like a dishwashing liquid.
    • Use Olympic Premium Deck Cleaner for mold, mildew, and stains.
    • Pressure washing should not exceed 1300 PSI and at least 10 inches away from the surface.

    Don’ts

    • Mix cleaning products (phosphoric acid, ammonia, and others) with bleach.
    • Use red chalk when installing your deck.
    • Sand your deck, fill deep scratches, and apply paints, sealers, or stains.

    Sustainability

    MoistureShield’s decking materials are environmentally friendly and are made of 95% recycled content.

    • 70% pre-consumer recycled content
    • 25% post-consumer recycled content

    Best Environmentally Friendly: Fiberon

    Floor Critics Rating (4.7):

    Bottom Line: An innovator of many decking “firsts” offering the most environmentally friendly durable decking boards with various warranty options.

    Concordia Fiberon Deck With Tranquil White Railing
    Source: Fiberon

    Useful Tips From Our Testing

    • We find their colors really pretty and have softer hues.
    • Their four-capped variations are reversible which makes them great for two-story decks.
    • The grooves of their boards are unprotected, unlike other options. This lessens the durability of the boards.
    • They have deeper embossing to provide more traction.
    ProsCons
    – Reversible boards are available
    – Fire-rated versions are available
    – Very eco-friendly (up to 96% recycled content which is the highest on our list)
    – Offers deck plans and an AR visualizer
    – Industry-leading warranties
    – Paid samples
    – Warranties can be confusing

    Company Overview

    Fiberon was founded in North Carolina in 1997 and has been selling eco-friendly and high-quality composite decking, fencing, and railing since then. They were innovators of many firsts in the decking industry like the first:

    • Hidden fastener system
    • Capped composite decking using multi-chromatic technology
    • Stain and fade warranty
    • Embossed and multi-tonal decking boards

    Selection: Styles & Colors

    Fiberon offers multi-chromatic and solid tones as well as reversible boards to suit any customer’s style. They have four lines of composite decking that reflect the grain patterns and warm tones of genuine hardwood.

    • Best: Concordia
    • Better: Sanctuary and Good Life
    • Good: Armor Guard
    Concordia
    Grooved Edge Fiberon Concordia Horizon Composite Decking Board in Castle Gray 
    – Flat bottom3 sizes
    – Multi-tonal
    – Symmetry Collection (4 colors)
    – Horizon Collection (4 colors)
    – Square or grooved edge
    – Dramatic colors and subtle grain patterns
    – Four-capped (reversible) for less waste and cuts
    – 94% recycled content
    Sanctuary
    Grooved Edge Fiberon Sanctuary Composite Decking Board in Moringa Color 
    – Flat bottom
    – 3 sizes
    – Multi-tonal
    – 5 colors
    – Square or grooved edge
    – Rustic embossing
    – Three-sided cap layer
    – 95% recycled content
    – Fire-rated versions available for use in WUI zones
    Good Life
    Grooved Edge Hollow Fiberon Good Life Escapes Composite Decking Board in Bungalow Color 
    – Relief bottom
    – 3 sizes
    – Escapes Collection (Multi-tonal in 4 colors resembling exotic hardwoods)
    – Weekender Collection (solid color in 2 stained deck look)
    – Square or grooved edge
    – More pronounced grain patterns
    – Three-sided cap layer
    – Fire-rated versions available for use in WUI zones
    – 96% recycled content
    Armor Guard
    Grooved Edge Hollow Fiberon Armor Guard Composite Decking Board in Brazilian Walnut Color
    – Relief bottom
    – 3 sizes
    – Multi-tonal in 3 exotic wood colors
    – Square or grooved edge
    – Three-sided cap layer
    Source: Fiberon

    As for the samples, they cost $5 each. They don’t provide free samples but they include free shipping.

    Design Tools Available

    Fiberon provides decking ideas by providing sample images of finished decking projects as well as deck plans, a product visualizer, and an Augmented Reality (AR) visualizer.  They also offer a deck designer tool available in both web and mobile apps.

    Composition & Durability

    Fiberon uses their innovative PermaTech cap layer on their composite decking for superior resistance against staining, fading, cracking, warping, insect damage, mold, mildew, and decay. All of their products are either capped on three or four sides for enhanced durability.

    Also, they make one decking board using around 2,000 recycled polyethylene plastic to create long-lasting decking materials.

    Warranty

    Fiberon offers three industry-leading warranties that include performance, stain, and fade warranties for commercial and residential applications. They also offer a 5-year labor warranty on selected products.

    Below are the residential limited warranties:

    Limited Lifetime WarrantyLimited Stain and Fade WarrantyLimited Performance Warranty
    ConcordiaYes50 YearsNone
    SanctuaryNo40 Years40 Years
    Good LifeNoEscapes Collection: 30 Years
    Weekender Collection: 25 Years
    Escapes Collection: 30 Years
    Weekender Collection: 25 Years
    Armor GuardNo25 Years25 Years

    As for commercial limited warranties, they are all 10 years for both performance and stain & fade warranties.

    Price

    Below are the estimated average Fiberon decking prices per square foot according to Deck Cost Guide:

    Deck Board PricingOverall Installation Cost
    Concordia$9 – $11$15 – $21
    Sanctuary$8 – $9$14 – $20
    Good Life$4 – $5$10 – $15
    Armor Guard$5 – $7

    You can also enter the length and width of your planned deck in their cost calculator to get a more accurate estimate.

    Availability

    • Home Depot
    • Lowe’s
    • Other retailers

    Find other local dealers here.

    Installation

    Fiberon provides an installation guide for their composite decking along with other instructions such as railing installation. You can do DIY installation but we recommend that you hire a Fiberon decking contractor to avoid costly mistakes.

    Care & Maintenance

    Fiberon has a list of deck maintenance and care tips for you to follow and among these are:

    Dos

    • Occasional soap and water cleaning
    • Use a mild composite decking or household cleaner
    • Use a pump sprayer
    • If using a pressure washer, the pressure should be less than 2500 psi and 12 inches  away from the deck surface

    Don’ts

    • Use rock salt, sand, or other calcium chloride-based materials to remove snow and ice
    • Use a metal scrub brush

    Sustainability

    Fiberon uses sustainable and highly efficient manufacturing processes for all of their products and has even received recognition from various organizations.

    • 50% recycled wood and 50% recycled plastic cores
    • Up to 96% recycled content
    • Free of toxic chemicals
    • Reusing up to 98.5% of wastewater from their factories
    • Member of the US. Green Building Council
    • SCS Recycled Content Certified
    • Recognized by Green Builder magazine as an Eco-leader in 2015

    Best Slip-Resistant: DuraLife

    Floor Critics Rating (4.3):

    Bottom Line: Decking materials that use recycled polypropylene which is stronger than polyethylene. Less style options and less complete warranty coverage than competitors.

    Brazilian Cherry DuraLife Composite Decking
    Source: DuraLife

    Useful Tips From Our Testing

    • Their boards come with a plastic coating to protect them until you get them installed which is really nice.
    • Since their products are made of very hard polypropylene material, you have to pre-drill them to make the installation easier.
    • Installers will surely love DuraLife decking materials due to their easy Step-Clip installation option that makes the process a lot faster. This technology is what sets them apart from the competition.
    ProsCons
    – The first company in the industry to use polypropylene
    – They offer starter profiles that can hide exposed edges
    – Non-repeating grain patterns
    – 18% cooler and 136% more slip-resistant when wet
    – Confusing product lines
    – Few color options to choose from
    – Only 25-year warranties
    – Products are hard to find
    – No cost estimator

    Company Overview

    Barrette Outdoor Living, a manufacturer of complementary outdoor products including composite decking, acquired DuraLife in 2018. It manufactures its products in Biddeford, Maine.

    Selection: Styles & Colors

    DuraLife’s decking options come in non-variegated color options in three sizes with each option having a non-repeating grain pattern. However, they only have a capped surface. They do offer starter profiles for hiding exposed edges of your stair treads and perimeter boards.

    DuraLife MVP Profile
    DuraLife MVP Profile Composite Decking in Garapa Gray
    – Maximum value performance decking
    – Hollow profile
    – Grooved edge
    – 3 sizes
    – 2 colors
    DuraLife MVP Starter Profile
    DuraLife MVP Starter Profile Composite Decking in Garapa Gray
    – Maximum value performance perimeter and stair decking board
    – Solid profile
    – Grooved and square edge
    – 1 size
    – 2 colors
    DuraLife Profile
    DuraLife Profile Composite Decking in Island Nut
    – Budget-friendly decking
    – Hollow profile
    – Grooved edge
    – 3 sizes
    – 2 colors
    DuraLife Starter Profile
    DuraLife Starter Profile Composite Decking in Island Nut
    – Budget-friendly perimeter and stair decking board
    – Hollow profile
    – Grooved and square edge
    – 1 size
    – 2 colors
    Source: DuraLife

    Although DuraLife only listed four lines on their product list and brochure, they are actually offering more options when you check their color and collections page. This is quite confusing.

    On the page we mentioned, you will be given two collections to choose from:

    • Hardwoods Collection (4 wood tones)
    • Landscapes Collection (4 earth tones)

    Also, they have listed four decking profiles that are different from the ones we have mentioned above:

    DuraLife Siesta ProfileDuraLife MVP ProfileDuraLife Starter ProfileDuraLife Sq.Edge Profile
    – Ultimate performance
    – 4 Hardwood colors
    – Straight and wood grain
    – Grooved edge
    – 2 sizes
    – Affordable option
    – 4 colors
    – Straight and wood grain
    – Grooved edge
    – 1 size
    – Ultimate performance perimeter and stair
    – 4 colors
    – Straight and wood grain
    – Grooved and square edge
    – 2 sizes
    – High-performance railing cap
    – 4 Hardwood and 4 Landscape colors
    – Straight and wood grain
    – Square edge
    – 2 sizes
    Design Tools Available

    Moreover, they offer free samples and also have a simple deck visualizer where you can just choose your desired deck color and you will be shown a sample deck.

    Composition & Durability

    DuraLife uses polypropylene which is a stronger plastic than polyethylene. Thus, creating durable decking materials that are weather, heat, and damage-resistant. 

    The company’s decking boards are made with a blend of recycled Canadian hardwood and polypropylene.

    Among DuraLife’s notable performance features are the following:

    • CoolTrac Advantage: Designed and tested to withstand the harshest weather conditions like sun, rain, snow, ice, and wind.
    • Heat Resistant: CoolTrac technology makes the boards over 18% cooler compared to traditional composite decks.
    • Slip-Resistant: Compared to the competition, they are 56% more slip-resistant when dry and 136% when wet.
    • SolarGuard Technology: Polypropylene outer shell for stain and fade resistance while minimizing expanding and contracting.
    • Mold and mildew resistant.
    • Minimizes flex and sagging between joints.

    Warranty

    All DuraLife composite decking products come with a 25-year limited performance warranty including Stain and Fade plus a 2-year Labor Coverage.

    Price

    We were not able to find prices on DuraLife’s website, but Deck Cost Guide mentioned the following prices:

    • 12-foot boards: $40 – $50 (Approx. $7 – $9 per square foot)
    • 16-foot boards: $55 – $60 (Approx. $7 – $8)
    • 20-foot boards: No available information

    Availability

    DuraLife says you can find their decking materials at Home Depot Canada, but it is hard to find them in other Home Depot stores. You can find a nearby Home Depot store here though.

    Installation

    DuraLife provides downloadable step-by-step installation instructions for DIYers. Featuring their Step-Clip system, the installation process is 50% faster by using a hammer or roofing nail. Just snap them into place and you’re done!

    This installation method also makes replacing damaged boards easier than other decking methods. Plus, you won’t need joist protection tapes.

    Care & Maintenance

    DuraLife’s product care guide is a short one, unlike the other brands we discussed that have long guides. They have listed deck cleaning and care tips in a straightforward manner which makes them easier to understand.

    Dos

    • Use a sponge along with warm water and non-bleach dish soap.
    • Occasional dry sweeping using a bristled broom.
    • Use alcohol wipes for spots.
    • Use Krud Kutter Degreaser Stain Remover or Concentrated Cleaner.
    • Use a calcium-chloride-based product or rock salt for removing ice and snow.

    Don’ts

    • Use a pressure washer.

    Sustainability

    DuraLife’s products are non-toxic and are made of 45% polypropylene and 55% hardwood. Thus, using up to 90% recycled materials. Also, they are formaldehyde-free with no preservatives and toxic chemicals.

    Best for Commercial Properties: Envision

    Floor Critics Rating (4.2):

    Bottom Line: Durable decking options with great availability, strong to the core, and trusted for over 20 years in commercial applications.

    Envision Composite Decking
    Source: Envision

    Useful Tips From Our Testing

    • The cut ends are unprotected which leaves the boards vulnerable to damage.
    • You might have a hard time processing warranty claims because of their limited and unclear warranty terms.
    ProsCons
    – Deep grain patterns that don’t repeat
    – Detailed coloring
    – The only composite decking made through compression molding
    – Strong cores that are trusted in many commercial projects across the country
    – Different budget options
    – Great availability
    – Only 10-25 years warranty (the lowest on our list)
    – Has the most expensive maximum price range on our list
    – No cost estimator

    Company Overview

    Envision is a brand under TAMKO – a company popular for manufacturing building products. Envision is based in Pennsylvania and was founded in 1999.

    Selection: Styles & Colors

    EverGrain has five decking lines which they categorized into Best, Better, Good, and Specialty.

    • Best: Distinction and Inspiration
    • Better: Expression
    • Good: Ridge Premium
    • Specialty: EverGrain

    All lines come in grooved or solid edges and in three sizes for each line.

    Here is what we liked about Envision’s styles:

    • Non-repeating and deep wood grain patterns
    • Matching railings and facings
    • Several wood tones with multiple colors

    Although you can request samples, we are not sure if they are free.

    Design Tools Available

    Envision also offers a deck visualizer.

    Composition and Durability

    As for durability, Envision uses Compress Technology and EverGrain Core to create stronger and more durable decking materials that are perfect for commercial applications.

    • Compress Technology – Uses extreme heat and pressure to create deeply textured decking that is strong, dense, and can last long.
    • EverGrain Core – For stronger cores that are trusted in stadiums, national parks, amusement parks, and water parks across the country.
    • High-density capped decking (except the EverGrain line).

    Warranty

    Unfortunately, Envision only offers 10 to 25-year limited warranties for their products, unlike the other brands on our list with a minimum of 25-year warranties. However, they offer a 5-year full start period. In addition, all Envision deck boards have a 25-year Stain Resistance Limited Warranty.

    Product LineCommercial TermResidential Term
    InspirationExpressionDistinctionEverGrain25 years25 years
    Ridge Premium1025
    Ridge Classic1010

    Price

    Envision’s composite decking costs range between $5 and $17 per square foot (material costs only). 

    Here are the estimated costs per square foot according to Deck Cost Guide:

    • Distinction: $15 – $17
    • Inspiration: $13 – $14
    • Expression: $10 – $12
    • Ridge Premium: $5 – $6
    • EverGrain: $8 – $9

    Availability

    The great news is Envision’s products are available at various retailers and lumber yards across the country. You can find a dealer near you through their Where to Buy page.

    Installation

    You can find composite decking installation instructions here, but it doesn’t come with much detail. Their installation videos, though, might be able to help you.

    Also, although Envision provides resources for contractors and builders, it seems like they don’t provide a list of contractors if you want to hire a professional.

    Care & Maintenance

    You can find Envision’s composite decking care tips here, but below are the key tips:

    Dos

    • Clean using a garden hose with a fan-tip nozzle. The pressure should not exceed 1,000 psi.
    • Use cleaners containing sodium hypochlorite like the following to remove mold, mildew, and dirt:
      1. OLYMPIC® Deck Cleaner
      2. Mold Armor® Deck Wash
      3. BEHR® Premium All-In-One Wood Cleaner No. 63

    Don’ts

    • Grease, oil, and suntan lotion spills.
    • Mix more than two cleaning agents.
    • Sand your deck or apply harsh solvents like acetone, benzene, gasoline, paint thinner, or carbon tetrachloride

    Sustainability

    Aside from Envision’s materials being made of more than 80% recycled materials, we didn’t find other information about sustainability on their website.

    Side By Side Composite Decking Comparison and Ratings

    Below is a summary of our comparison between the top composite decking brands:

    Decking BrandOverall RatingPrice per sq. ft. (Decking Boards Only)Warranty (Years)AvailabilitySustainability (Percentage of Recycled Materials)
    TimberTech4.8$7 – $1125-30 Limited and Fade & StainBig box and local retailersUp to 80% 
    Trex4.8$5 – $825 Limited and Fade & StainHome Depot, Lowe’s, etc.Up to 95%
    MoistureShield4.7None Found30-50 Fade & Stain and 50 StructuralHome Depot, Lowe’s, etc.Up to 95%
    Fiberon4.7$7 – $1125-50 Performance and Stain & FadeHome Depot, Lowe’s, etc.Up to 96%
    DuraLife4.3$7 – Unknown25 PerformanceHome Depot CanadaUp to 90%
    Envision4.2$5 – $ 1710-25 Limited and 25 Stain Resistance Lumber Yards and retailersMore than 80%

    Our ratings by category.

    Decking BrandOverall RatingSelection
    (Styles & Colors)
    Durability &
    Performance
    WarrantyAvailabilitySustainability
    TimberTech4.85.04.94.85.04.5
    Trex4.84.84.84.55.05.0
    MoistureShield4.74.24.55.05.05.0
    Fiberon4.74.54.05.05.05.0
    DuraLife4.34.04.84.03.84.8
    Envision4.24.53.83.84.84.2

    What Is a Composite Deck?

    Considered the best synthetic decking, composite decks are made using a combination of wooden fibers, recycled plastic, and a binding agent. This creates a durable and robust decking material that is easier to maintain than wooden decking.

    Composite decks also come in various colors and textures that replicate the natural beauty of wood. However, take note that composite decking is different from plastic decking. While composite decks are mixed with wood, 100% plastic decks are made from PVC without mixing wood finders.

    Moreover, composite deck planks can be made in different ways which affect their longevity and strength:

    • Capped or uncapped
    • Solid or hollow
    • Grooved or square edge

    Composite vs. Wood: Why Composite Is the Best Decking Material

    So why choose composite over wood decking? To prove to you that composite decks are far superior to wood, we have compared these two materials below:

    Summary

    CompositeWoodWinner
    Overall InvestmentCheaper long-term investmentCostly short-term investmentComposite
    Price10%-20% more expensiveMore expensive to installCheaper price and installationWood
    Life ExpectancyUp to 50 years10-15 yearsComposite
    DurabilityMore resistant to damages and weather conditionsProne to fading, cracking, scratching, and insect attacks.Composite
    InstallationSimple & EasySimple & EasyTie
    MaintenanceLow MaintenanceSoap and water onlyRegular cleaning and repairsNeeds staining and coatingComposite
    AppearanceMany mimic real wood, but some will look like cheap plasticMore color and style optionsLonger boards of up to 20 feetNatural lookWide variety of options, but composite will have moreComposite
    Warranty25-50 years10-15 yearsComposite
    Environmental ImpactMost environmentally-friendly decking materialMaintenance chemicals are dangerous to the environmentComposite

    The Verdict

    Based on our comparison, composite decking is better than wood and won in all of our chosen criteria. Wood wins if we only consider the initial price and its natural appearance. However, these benefits are obviously outweighed by that of composite.

    Composite decks are more durable and low-maintenance. They are less damaging to the environment too, compared to wood.

    What are the disadvantages of composite decking?

    Composite decks provide durability and more attractive benefits than wood, but they also have their own drawbacks:

    • Expensive: Around 10%-20% more expensive than wood on average. Sometimes, even more.
    • Doesn’t Look Natural: Many are designed to mimic real wood, but they still can’t beat the aesthetic of real wood.
    • Can Get Extremely Hot: Dark composites will heat up when exposed to the sun’s heat and you can’t walk on them.
    • Not That Environmentally-Friendly: Although many brands use more recycled materials, they are still made with plastic that won’t decompose easily.

    Buyer’s Guide: How To Find The Best Composite Decking for Your Project

    If you are still having a hard time choosing a composite decking brand, this buying guide can help you.

    3 Composite Decking Material Considerations

    Composite decks are manufactured in different ways. Here, we have summarized and compared your options:

    #1 Solid vs. Hollow

    SolidHollow
    – Closely resembles real wood
    – Better sound absorption
    – Doesn’t require fascia boards or plugs
    – More durable
    – Easily affected by moisture and temperature level fluctuations
    – Hollow with a ribbed center so it’s lighter
    – Easier to contract and expand
    – Ideal replacement boards
    – Makes running wires easier
    – Need plugs to prevent water retention
    – Won’t last as long

    #2 Uncapped vs. Capped

    UncappedCapped
    – Not covered or capped with plastics
    – Cheaper but less resistant to wear and tear
    – First-generation decking that is vulnerable to fading, staining, mildew, and mold
    – More suitable on shaded or covered areas
    – Decking with an outer layer coated with plastics that can contain UV inhibitors and other extra features
    – More durable as it won’t absorb moisture and is resistant to fading, staining, mildew, and mold
    – Ideal for moisture-prone areas

    #3 Grooved vs. Square Edge

    GroovedSquare
    – Has hollow sides
    – Screws and fasteners won’t be visible after installation which creates a more polished look
    – Require fasteners which leads to wider gaps between the boards
    – Has solid sides
    – Need to drill screws or nails on the boards’ top which distorts your decking’s appearance
    – Visible screws/nails

    7 Factors to Consider When Buying Composite Decking

    To ensure that you buy the right composite decking material for your project, here are important factors you should consider:

    #1 Your Budget

    When setting your budget, consider other tools you will need for the installation aside from the price of your deck. If you are going to hire a contractor, you might even need to pay more.

    In addition, the following cost estimates by Deck Cost Guide might be able to help you:

    Composite Decking Prices

    Depending on the quality of the boards, here are the estimated prices for 6-inch wide composite decking:

    Quality LevelCost Per Linear Foot
    Good$2 – $4
    Better$3 – $5
    Best$4 – $7
    Overall Installation Costs

    Also, a complete composite decking including stairs, posts, spindles, rails, and other accessories will cost:

    • Material: $7 to $15 per square foot
    • Labor: $5 to $10 per square foot

    These costs can be affected by the following factors:

    • Quality of your decking material
    • The complexity of your decking
    • Experience of the installer
    • The time you built your deck (prices during peak seasons will be higher)
    Deck Repair Costs

    Composite Deck Repair Costs: $8 to $15 per square foot

    Repair costs will be higher than building a new deck since you need to remove boards, replace them, and do structural repairs.

    Tips:

    • More expensive but higher quality products can provide more benefits like cooling technology, improved aesthetics, and improved traction.
    • Measure the deck area first and allocate a budget for repairing mistakes and replacements.

    #2 Appearance

    First-generation and budget composite decking will look like plastic.

    High-quality composite is more attractive:

    • They look more like wood.
    • Awesome grain design for a more wood-like appearance and feel.
    • They come in various colors and styles.

    Tip:

    Composite decking with a very pronounced texture will look great if you are going to install your deck in your home’s main entrance.

    #3 Installation

    There are two options when installing composite decking:

    • Through a hidden fastener system
    • By driving nails or screws through the top of the boards

    We’ve mentioned before that grooved composite decking allows you to hide screws and fasteners while square edge options are top-nailed.

    #4 Deck Area Conditions

    Depending on where you will be installing your decking, here are tips we can give you:

    For Cool-Climate & Moisture-Prone Areas

    One major concern with composite decking is that they are slippery when wet, so make sure you choose higher quality products:

    • Choose decking materials with more texture depending on the amount of rain or ice your deck will get.
    • Decking made with minerals (mineral-based decking) or PVC will have a higher grip rating because they have deeper embossing.
    • Smooth-texture options are great for budget-conscious buyers, but you need to stay aware of rainy days. (Plus, they are not recommended near pools!

    Tip:

    If you run your hand over a slippering decking, it will glide. Otherwise, it will have more grip.

    For Warm-Climate Areas

    Composite decks can get extremely hot in full sun which can cause severe burns. So if you live in a warm climate, follow these tips:

    • Dense and dark decking options will get hot under the sun.
    • Choose light colors like white, beige, or tan in hot areas. (Though dirt will be more visible in light-colored decking so you will need to clean it more often.)
    • Choose options that can stay cooler.

    #5 Warranty

    Composite decking boards usually have a 25-year warranty, but some can have up to 50 years depending on the brand. The longer the warranty is, the better.

    #6 Municipal Codes

    Know your local building codes to confirm if they allow composite decking in your area. Some codes have limitations on the materials that are usable in certain structures. For instance, you might not be able to use specific composite decking brands that don’t comply with the Wildland Urban Interface’s (WUI) standards in wildfire hazard areas.

    #7 Maintenance

    While composite decks require less maintenance than other types of decking, you still need to clean them every once in a while.

    Take note that some decking brands have their own recommended cleaning routine to ensure the longevity of their products. Make sure to do your research first before using any cleaning material.

    NOTE: Composite decks are indeed designed to be scratch-resistant, but it is hard to fix more major damages. Thus, you will need to replace a whole damaged board.

    FAQs

    What is the best composite decking?

    Based on our comparison, the best overall composite decking is TimberTech. Aside from having the largest selection on our list, they provide great durability with industry-leading warranties. They are also available in both local and big-box retailers.


    Is a composite deck worth the money?

    Composite decks are far more durable and require less maintenance compared to wood decking. Although they are more expensive than wood, your investment in the long run will be cheaper than wood. So yes, they are worth your money.


    Which composite decking looks most like wood?

    TimberTech and Trex are the two brands that offer the most realistic composite decking options with natural grain patterns. TimberTech is more realistic than Trex though, but Trex is a more affordable option.


    Does composite decking get hot to walk on?

    Most composite decking can get extremely hot when exposed under the sun, but some brands can stay cooler in direct sunlight when they are designed with cooling technology. These include TimberTech, DuraLife, and MoistureShield. Moreover, darker colors will become even hotter than lighter colors.


    Does composite decking get slippery when wet?

    Composite decks won’t become slippery when there’s water on their surface. But when there is a buildup of mold, mildew, algae, or dirt or when water/ice accumulates on the surface, it will become slippery. These will also cause damage to your decking.

    Final Thoughts

    Composite decks are more durable and weather-resistant than wood which also makes them more expensive. Though this may be the case, your investment will be more worth it in the long run. This is because you won’t be paying for costly repairs and maintenance, unlike wooden decking.

    Need help with installing your composite decking? Get in touch with us and we will help you find a trustworthy contractor that can match your budget!

    About Fortino Rosas

    Chief Floor Critic, 32 years of experience in flooring installation and sales

    Fortino Rosas is an independent flooring contractor with 32 years of experience in residential and commercial flooring installation and sales. He joined the Floor Critics team to share his expertise with our readers. Fortino has acquired vast knowledge and skills in the areas of product selection, space planning, and installation. He has installed flooring in residential, government, and commercial office projects in the Midwest. Visit Website.

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