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Composite Decking Prices & Installation Tips

We put together a composite decking prices and installation tips guide which includes a cost break down and free contractor quotes.

A deck is definitely one of greatest ways to utilize and enhance your outdoor space. Nothing beats the feeling of sitting outside, sipping a drink, and chatting away with your loved ones or just gazing at the stars. Homeowners are warming up to the idea of installing decks in their homes as a way of extending their indoor living space.

Decks provide an ideal spot to enjoy the outdoors. They can serve as a quiet place that gives you the perfect ambiance to read a book. It can be a functional space that can be used for entertaining activities with a barbecue place and some even have a complete kitchen and dining area. Installing a deck in your home also increases the value of your home, and it’s a guaranteed return on your investment.

However, when it comes to the actual installation process, it’s essential to be aware of the many decking materials available on the market today. Each decking material has its advantages and disadvantages. But there is one option that stands from the rest, and that is composite decking. In the past, decking options were mainly wood which meant constant maintenance and care.

An alternative of wood eventually came out, an idea that saw the need to help homeowners with an option that required less maintenance. Composite decking is picking popularity among homeowners and all for good reasons. But before we discuss the benefits of composite decking, let’s find out what composite decking entails.

What Is Composite Decking?

Composite decking is an alternative to wood decking material. It is made from a combination of recycled wood and recycled plastic. The recycled wood comes as result of wood by-products such as chips, sawdust, and fiber. The plastic, on the other hand, is mainly made from recycled materials.

The two components (wood and plastic) are mixed in an equal measure, treated with preservatives sand pigment. They are then heated into a board–like-shape and allowed to cool. They end product looks like wood. In fact, some manufacturers design the composite decking boards with a fake wood grain making them look like real wood.

Benefits of Composite Decking

Composite decking is a human-made product that has gone through advancements to meet the needs of a homeowner. If you are a homeowner and you are planning to renovate your deck or install one, you have good reasons to consider using composite decking. Some of the important factors you have to think about when choosing decking materials its maintenance and durability. You also have to factor in styles, designs, and ease of installation. Composite decking fits the above description perfectly.

Here are benefits of composite decking and the reasons why you should consider using it as a decking option.

Low Maintenance

This is perhaps one the beneficial factors that make composite decking stand out from the other decking materials. Composite decking is surprisingly low maintenance compared to wood. Wood decks may come with the traditional aura and elegance but, you will also be subjected to frequent splinters in your feet, always washing, sealing, staining and frequent repairs. If you are not up for the endless maintenance routine to keep the wood looking presentable, you should consider composite decking.

This is not to say that composite decking does not require maintenance at all, but, compared to wood, it requires less maintenance, and you will not have to break your back on weekends cleaning, staining and sealing it. Once composite decking is installed, the deck is ready for use. You do not need to seal it to protect it from external elements. All you need to do to maintain its beauty is to wash it once in a while with a soft brush or clean it with a pressure washer.

It’s Durable

When planning to install a deck in your, you want it to serve your family for a long time without having to think of frequent renovations or replacements. Composite decking has been established to be one of the most durable decking materials available in the market today. In fact, if properly maintained, composite decking can last for almost 50 years without getting worn down.

More so, composite decking can withstand extreme weather conditions and other external elements. It will not rot, crack or splinter. Once installed, you do not have to worry about the effects of rain on it like you would with wood decks. Some composite brands have protection against UV rays, so it is less likely to fade due to sun rays. These decks will last you a long time, and your family can enjoy its comfort for years to come.

Eco-Friendly

Composite decking comes from recycled wood and plastic. Unlike wood, the manufacturers do not need to bring down a tree to get a decking material. In short, you do not need to worry about deforestation issues when it comes to composite decking. Using composite decking materials shows that you are environmentally conscious. It’s also a way of making use of recycled plastic and wood scraps that would have otherwise gone to waste.

It’s Safe

Composite decking comes with safety features. Unlike wood, it will not splinter or crack. This means that you do not have to worry about the possibility of splinters on your feet, which can be very painful. It also makes it safe for children and pets to play on the surface. Additionally, composite decking is resistant-free, and you do not have to worry about falls when the surface is wet.

Traditional wood was susceptible to mold and algae if not treated with additional chemicals. If affected by mold, wood can become slippery and also, the structure will be compromised when it comes to its strength. Composite decking, on the other hand, is resistant to mold and algae. More so, you don’t need to treat with any chemicals to protect it. This means that it will be safe regardless of wet conditions and moisture.

Aesthetically Appealing

Composite decking is easy to install and leaves the surface with a seamless finish. This gives it a clean and smooth finish with uniform color continuity. Since the boards are made from the same collection of recycled materials, they will acquire a standard and uniform look.

Composite decking also comes in different styles and shades. The color variation helps you choose a theme that will enhance or match the exterior design of your home. However, if you love the natural look of wood, composite decking has you covered. It can be made to imitate the look of natural wood with fake wood grains. Whichever way, you can achieve your style with composite decking and significantly improve the aesthetic appeal of your outdoor space with minimal effort.

Gradually Cost-Effective

Even though the initial cost of purchasing composite decking might be on the higher side, the cost will gradually even out in the long run. Wooden decking tends to lose its natural color with time and its susceptible to warping and splinting. Due to this, you will always be replacing the damaged boards, and as time goes by, you will have spent a lot of money and time on repairs and maintenance to keep the wood in good condition.

With composite decking, once it’s installed, you will not have to spend money on its maintenance. In fact, most come with a ten-year guarantee from the manufacturer.

Types of Composite Decking

Composite decking is an alternative to wood decking that lasts significantly longer as compared to wood. This decking option encompasses different materials which include wood and plastic, plastic lumber and capped composite. The three have distinct differences that set each apart. Below are details of the three categories that will help you gain a better understanding of each of them.

Wood-Plastic Composite (Polyethylene decking)

Wood-plastic composite decking as the name suggests is made from a combination of recycled wood and recycled plastic, both in equal measure. They are designed to look like real wood and are considered to be more long-lasting compared to natural wood. Their low maintenance requirements have made them popular among most homeowners.

Capped Composite (Polypropylene decking)

Capped composite has similar qualities to that of wood-plastic composite except that this particular option is coated with a protective cap of polymer shell on all four sides. The polymer shell protects the capped composite from elements, and it’s likely to have a longer lifespan than that of wood-plastic. However, this option it’s slightly expensive compared to wood-composite but tends to be more durable and less susceptible to elements.

Plastic Lumber (Polyvinyl Chloride)

This option does not contain wood and its 100% plastic. It is made from recycled plastic. It’s considered to be the most durable option compared to other types of composite decking. It does not stain neither does it absorb water thus it requires minimal maintenance. With this option, you do not have to worry about damages resulting from elements or mold growth.

This product is made from recycled plastic which makes the option environmentally friendly. In addition, plastic lumber can be designed to look like real wood with a smooth surface or molded with wood grains. Even though plastic lumber is almost 20% more expensive than the other composite options, it is more durable, weather resistance and requires low maintenance.

Hollow Composite and Solid Composite

Once you have chosen a composite decking material, you have to decide whether you want to use hollow or solid boards. The two options are ideal for your decking needs. They are functional, and both will give you attractive results. Your decision will boil down to your requirements and preferences.

Hollow Boards

Just like the name suggests, hollow boards are designed with space in between that looks like ribbed centers. They weigh less making their installation less labor intensive especially if you are planning on DIY installation. Their lightweight nature makes it easier for you to transport, lift and position the boards during installation.

In addition, you can make use of the space in between the boards for wiring. If you are planning to light your deck or have speakers for entertainment, you can run wiring in the spaces.

Hollow boards withstand weather fluctuations better than the solid boards and are less likely to be affected by the extreme weather conditions. In appearance, the hollow boards don t have a lot of grain variations as compared solid boards. They acquire a uniform finish, so if you are looking for a deck with a touch of uniformity, this option is ideal for you.

Solid Boards

Solid boards are heavier as compared to their counterparts, hollow boards. This is because solid boards are made of solid material. Since the boards are solid, the ends emulate the shape and look of a real wood deck making it look more authentic, unlike the hollow boards that have a tunnel-like look.

The solid boards are quieter to walk on just like real wood decks. They can be molded with many variations of wood grain making it look real wood. In addition, since the solid boards are dense, they are stronger, and they can particularly handle heavy loads such as furniture, grills, etc.

However, unlike hollow boards, solid boards are susceptible to extreme weather fluctuations. They are likely to expand and contract in case there are extreme temperature and moisture fluctuations. The expansion and contraction process may loosen fasteners and as a result, weaken the structure. The extreme weather changes may also make the boards warp with time.

Additionally, solid boards are also more expensive compared to hollow boards due to high amount material used to make them.

These two options are both excellent choices for composite decking, and they will provide you with a strong and stable deck that will last you and your family for years to come. The differences are minimal, and your choice should be based more on your personal preferences and requirements. They both require minimal maintenance; they durable and most importantly, they will give you an attractive, functional deck.

Composite Decking Prices and Installation Factors

The cost of composite decking will depend on various factors which include brand, the complexity of the decking project, and whether the installation is a DIY or by a licensed contractor. The overall cost will also be influenced factors such as the height and the shape of the deck, the style, pattern, the length of the railings, stairs, furniture, lighting, and whether you are demolishing an existing old deck.

The average cost of composite decking comes to about $35 per square foot. This includes the cost of decking materials such as railings, moorings, and other necessary materials required for the framework. Polyethylene composite decking option will cost you an average of $7.82 per square foot. If you are planning on using polypropylene composite decking material, expect to spend about $8.68 per square foot. A solid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) will you cost about $9.48per square while the hollow PVC option comes at a lower cost of $7.50 per square foot.

For an average deck of 16’x20, expect to spend around $8000 to $22,500, with the average cost coming close to $15,600. As mentioned, the overall cost depends on various factors such as labor, size and the height of the deck among many others.

A DIY composite deck installation is possible and cheaper but its more time consuming and quite challenging. However, if you choose to DIY, you will only factor in the cost of materials which come to an average of $10 to $30 per square foot. For a standard deck of about 16’x20′, a DIY installation will cost you a range of $3300 to $9700.

DescriptionAverage cost
Professional installation$35
DIY – the cost of materials$10-$30
Polyethylene composite – per square feet $7.82
Polypropylene - per square feet$8.68
Polyvinyl-per square feet$9.48

Other Cost Consideration

When planning to install composite decking, you should also factor other costs that are likely to come up with the installation. These include:

Permits – a deck is an additional structure in your home, and most states will require you to get a permit before installing one. If you are planning to hire a contractor to install composite decking for you, they will follow up with the permits and coordinate the inspection process, but you will facilitate the permit fees. Sometimes a contractor can include the permit fees in their quotes, so it’s advisable to discuss the issue of permits during the bidding stage.
To get the permit, the local authority will need to see a detailed plan and drawings of the composite decking to ascertain its structural quality and see if it meets the building codes. The amount you pay to obtain the permit will depend on your location.

Insurance and taxes – since a composite decking installation is an addition to your house, it will increase the value of your home. The cost of the deck will determine how much you need to add to your tax and insurance payments. It is therefore essential to consult your local assessor about the extra charges that you may be required to pay before you start the installation. This way, you will avoid getting unpleasant surprises after installing your deck.

Check with your insurance company to see if a deck is a part of what is covered in your home. If it’s not covered, arrange with your insurance company to have the deck included on the policy cover. Clarify from your insurance agent if there are any extra charges that you will need to top up on your previous insurance installments. In addition, if you are hiring a contractor, make sure that they are insured and ask if they will organize for the certificate of occupancy from the relevant authority. This way, your composite decking will be approved and declared safe for use. Also depending on its size, the certificate will indicate the number of people the deck can accommodate.

Lighting – this is not only a decorative feature great for ambiance but also comes as a safety feature. When planning to install composite decking, you have to factor in the lighting aspect. The type of lighting you choose will boil down to your taste and preferences. The cost of lighting will depend on the style of lights you choose, brand and method of installing. Generally, deck lights range from $8.19 to $30.50 each.

Other related costs include seating, landscaping, heating, etc. Once you have installed your composite decking, you have endless choices of things to do to improve and enhance the extended indoor space. You can add dining set to include a dining area where your family and friends can sit together and enjoy meals. You can also plant flowers around the deck to create a visual connection to your garden and improve the aesthetic view of your home. The choices, as mentioned are endless.

DIY Composite Decking VS Professional Services

When it comes to composite decking installation, as a homeowner you might be conflicted on whether to hire a professional to do it or to save on labor charges by DIY instead. You might also be a DIY enthusiast, and the idea of installing a composite decking by yourself is like a sense of adventure. Whichever the case, this is an issue that most homeowners struggle with and the decision will be influenced by several factors.

Installing a composite decking through DIY is an achievable task that has its challenges but can save you a great deal of money. However, in most cases, building your deck is not an easy job. It can actually be a nightmare if you are not handy enough or not ready for the many hours you have to sacrifice in installing one.

Skills

When it comes to composite decking or any other decking for that matter, there is no doubt that a professional will deliver a quality job, faster than you can. This is not to say that DIY job does not reach up to the standards. It’s just that a deck builder is more experienced and has probably handled all kinds of decks, a task they do every day. A professional deck builder has probably gone through frustrations and mistakes in the course of their jobs and now knows what to avoid and what works best.

In short, a professional deck builder has crafted the skill of deck building and installation with time. They are efficient, and they will deliver for you a deck in the shortest time possible. You, on the other hand, are probably learning through trial and error and it may take you a lot of time, even a month to complete the task. However, the best thing about DIY composite installation is that you will acquire essential skills during the process that can be utilized elsewhere.

Saving Time

Deck building is a time-consuming process that requires sacrifice and determination. If you do not have time on your hands, you might get frustrated along the way. This installation can take you weeks or even a month to complete unless you are pro and you know your way around the process. It will also take time to shop and choose the right composite decking materials and the necessary tools. In short, installing composite decking requires time, love for labor and commitment.

A professional on the other hand has specialized in deck building. It’s their daily job, and they will do it with expertise and have the right tools. Since they know their way around this issue, it will take them just a few days to complete the task.

How Do You Save The Cost Without Compromising On Quality?

If you feel you cannot handle the task of installing composite decking by DIY but still want to save on the overall cost of installation, you can combine a professional input and yours to the project. You can carry out 50% of the work and leave the rest to the professional. Here are some ideas on how you can save some cost and still have a composite decking professionally done.

Buy the composite decking materials yourself while making sure you get discounts by doing a bit of research. Before you embark on a shopping spree, it’s important to approach a deck pro and discuss the project beforehand. This way, the pro will give you the right number of materials to buy. They will also give you important tips on the best quality that will work better for your structure.

Consulting a professional will give you an opportunity to know exactly what to buy. You will also save money on contractor fees since they will not charge you for the time they will spend purchasing the material. Normally, contractors and professionals put a markup of about 5 to 10% on materials to cater for the time they spend buying the materials.

You can agree with the professional to build the frame for you. Once they do this, you can proceed and lay the composite decking and add other a few minor touches. Laying the deck does not require craft, it’s more of a chore, so this is something you can easily tackle on your own. Having a professional work on the frame will assure you that the deck is structurally sound and stable. In addition, this process will save you on labor cost significantly, and you will still be involved in the process of installing your deck.

These two hybrid approaches will enable you to save on labor charges that a contractor would have charged you to lay down the deck. It will also save you a great deal in the cost of materials. The best way to do this is to make sure that you work with a professional who is willing to accept this arrangement.

DIY materials and toolsDescriptionAverage costs
Cost of composite decking materials per square feet$10 to $30
ToolsHammer$5-$20
Chisel set$7 to $50
Sledgehammer$25-$70
Joist hangers – a packet $0.86-$5
Markers $1-$950
Handsaw$39-$135
Wrench$5.50-$40
A drill-electric$19.80-$1000
Measuring materials $1.50-$5
The average cost of building a standard deck16’x20’$3300-$9700

DIY Installation Tips

If you decide to install composite deck through DIY, it’s important that you do it right. Your deck should be structurally stable, strong and most importantly it should look presentable and appealing.

Here are some of the essential installation tips that will help you achieve a quality deck that meets the building codes and safe for occupancy.

Make Sure the Joists Are Flat

Composite decking materials are not rigid like real wood, so when being installed, they may not connect well to hide the imperfections in the frame as needed. If you install the boards without making sure that they are flat, some joists will be higher than others, and this will create a wavy look. When installing the joists, make sure they are flat and at the same level.

Use Enough Clips

The mistake that most DIY homeowners make is not using enough clips to fasten the joists. It’s advisable that you use a clip for each board especially where two of them meet against each other. To achieve a firm and strong joint don’t share the clip, let each board have its own.

Use Joist Adequate

When installing composite decking, you need to take measurements for joists spacing first. The recommended maximum spacing is about 350mm on the side from the center. If you are not sure about the spacing, you can consult when purchasing composite decking materials. Sometimes the product has the required spacing indicated, therefore make sure you read through the instructions before installing.

Create Room for Water Drainage

When installing a composite deck, you need to install it in such a way that it acquires a slight slope to allow proper drainage of water. This way you will avoid incidences of large water puddles foaming on the roof of your deck which have low chances of evaporation.

Mix  Colors to Create Contrast

This is simply mixing and matching different deck material or colors to create a contrast and make your deck appear more appealing. For example, you can match the railings color with that of the perimeter boards and use a different color for the posts. Composite decking products come in an array of colors, so you do not have to limit yourself to one color, the choices are many.

Do Not Let the Fascia Board Rest on the Ground

If you lay the fascia board in such a way that it runs directly in the ground you will have to deal with water damage and even pests damage. Raising the board slightly off the ground will prevent this problem. You can alternatively install a small level of concrete curb before installing the fascia board.

Use the Right Joist Size

One of the mistakes a DIY composite deck installer is likely to make while trying to save money and even time is not using the right size of joists. Your structure should be firm and strong. To achieve this, you have to use the right size of joists; large enough to ensure they are stiff. If the joists are not stiff enough, they will end up being springy when someone walks on the surface. Additionally, the structure is likely to sag in future.

These are just some of the essential tips that you should observe when installing a composite deck. If you opt to DIY make sure you follow the instruction and requirements of the product and make a point of consulting when you are unsure about a specific step. Your deck should be structurally strong and stable to ensure the safety of the occupants in future.

Important Installation Composite Decking Cost Tips

Before hiring contractor for composite decking, shop around to get at least two to three quotes. Typically, estimates are usually free, so it’s better to get serval estimates and make a price comparison. This way you will get yourself the best deal that fits into your budget.

Composite decking companies price their composite decking products and materials differently. This is because each company operates differently and have different operational expenses and other costs. So, when shopping around, the composite decking prices are likely to be different. Do your research before settling for a specific company to purchase composite decking products.

The best time to get low prices or discounted prices is in late fall or early winter. This is the down season for contractors, so the prices of composite decking products are likely to be aggressive with crazy discounts. Take advantage of this period and shop.

When budgeting for composite decking, it’s advisable that you add around 7% to 15% on top of your final budget. This additional figure will cater for any additional cost that may come during installation such as challenging patterns and configurations that may take more time than anticipated.

Shop around in as many shops for the specific composite decking products for price comparison. While at it, do not be afraid to negotiate for better prices and discounts. You can actually end up saving a good percentage of the total cost of materials.

Conclusion

Composite decking is an alternative to wood decking that is picking up rapidly among a majority of homeowners. It is a manufactured fabrication of recycled wood and recycled plastic. The two are combined through a process that results to a resilient building product suitable for decking.

Additionally, composite decking products are durable, strong, and require low maintenance. They are designed to resemble real wood, and some are molded with wood grains to acquire a textured look like that of natural wood. They are also available in an array of colors so you can actually match your deck colors with the exterior color theme of your home or color contrast that best defines your home.

Composite decking provides you an opportunity to create an exciting and functional outdoor structure that adds value to your home. Due to its low maintenance requirement, composite decking saves you from the tedious hours of sanding, sealing, and repairs associated with wood decks. It can last for decades, and you and your family can utilize this wonderful structural for your outdoor activities and enjoyment.

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