If you are interested in using composite decking material for a new deck build but have trouble justifying the additional cost, you are not alone! The average cost of a 400 sq. ft. composite deck is about $5,700 while the same size deck built using traditional pressure treated lumber will average about $3,000. However, in order to make a truly informed decision, a homeowner will need to compare more than just the cost of materials and installation costs. The purpose of this article is to take a deeper look at all the costs associated with building a traditional wood deck as well as a composite deck so that an accurate, apples-to-apples comparison can be made and the homeowner can make the best decision for their needs.
A Look At Maintenance Costs
Most goods and services on the market are offered in a variety of price points. Similar products serve the same purpose but may be priced quite differently. The same is true for deck building materials. To effectively compare building materials for your deck and choose the one right for your needs, you will need to consider two factors: long-term value (LTV) and the total cost of ownership (TCO). Both terms are used to calculate and measure the total amount of time and money that someone will spend on something they own.
A traditional pressure treated wood deck will cost less to build and install initially, however to keep the deck safe and sturdy and free from damage, it will need more regular maintenance than a composite wood deck. Routine maintenance equals money – whether you choose to DIY the work or hire someone else to complete the maintenance and repairs.
Annual Deck Sealing
Let’s dive a bit deeper into wood deck maintenance costs. All lumber, even pressure treated lumber, is prone to moisture damage at some point. Since wood is an organic material it naturally absorbs and retains water. When water seeps into wood it can cause both minor surface damage like mold and mildew as well as more major damage such as rot that can compromise the structural integrity of the deck. In order to try and prevent as much water damage as possible, wood decks must be sealed every few years with paint or stain.
According to research, homeowners spend an average of $800 per year on professional deck maintenance such as sanding, sealing prepping and staining or painting. The DIYer may spend less but there are still some significant costs associated with doing it yourself like buying the cleaners, stains and sealants as well as the time it takes to complete the work which normally takes up to two full days.
As we’ve shown here so far, after just 2-3 years the additional maintenance expenses required to care for a traditional wood decks is starting to add up to the initial cost of a composite wood deck. While composite deck do require some maintenance it is minimal compared to a wood deck. Composite decks only require sweeping and maybe an occasional light wash with soap and water.
Resale Deal Breaker
Some homeowners who have wood decks maintain them beautifully and don’t mind the extra work and costs associated with them, however home resale value is also something to keep in mind. If you are thinking about selling your home soon, potential buyers may not welcome the additional maintenance expense. This becomes even more of a factor for larger decks that will take more maintenance over time. Studies have shown that composite decks are preferred by new home buyers because of their low maintenance attributes as well as their ability to retain value for a longer period of time.
Benefits of Composite Decking
Many homeowners have come to understand that the true costs of building a traditional wood deck may be lower initially, however may cost more in the long run due to cost to maintain it. High-quality composite deck materials can last up to 25 years and most come with limited stain and fade warranties.
As more and more homeowners enjoy the extended living space that decks provide, deck contractors are starting to recommend newer generation composite decking materials over traditional pressure treated wood decks. Initially, when composite deck materials were new to the marketplace there was very little variety and most didn’t look very realistic, however manufacturers have come along way and today’s composite wood decking can closely mimic teak, cherry or walnut.
If you are ready to join the millions of homeowners who have taken the composite wood deck plunge give our team a call today so that we can get started on your deck build!