Real Wood vs. Composite or Plastic Decking


Composite Decking

While some homeowners and builders opt for composite or plastic decking, pressure-treated Southern Pine is still the most popular choice for a variety of reasons. 

Beauty, added value, and comfort are just a few reasons why Southern Pine decks and porches are so popular, not to mention these “outdoor rooms” extend a home’s living space for open-air entertainment and relaxation.

But decking boards, the deck’s walking surface, have a tough job. Decking takes harsh day-to-day punishment from weather and foot traffic, and as the most visible part of the deck, they must meet high long-term fit, finish, and appearance expectations.

Wood is the best environmental choice for outdoor projects, as other decking products can require up to eight times more energy to produce than wood. 

Solid wood is a naturally grown and renewable product, unlike composites that are usually made from petroleum-based materials such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, or polyvinyl chloride.

If you’re tring to decide between Southern Pine decking or a plastic/composite option, consider the following:

  • Aesthetic
  • Cost
  • Durability
  • Environmental Impact
  • Longevity
  • Maintenance


Ultimately, the choice between wood and composite decking comes down to your priorities and preferences. If you value a natural aesthetic and are willing to invest time in maintenance, wood decking may be the right choice.

composite or plastic decking
QuestionReal WoodComposites or PlasticsWhat are the facts?
Natural Appearance?YesNoThere is no substitute for the look and feel of real wood. Wood decking looks warm, natural, and blends beautifully with the landscape. Plastic or plastic composites, even with faux wood grain, still look and feel artificial.
Comfortable under foot?Yes?Wood is a naturally insulating material and does not conduct heat or cold like metal or plastic. In direct sun, some plastic or composite decking can become much hotter than wood, hot enough to burn or blister feet.
Safe to use?YesYesPressure-treated wood is safe for people, pets, and the environment. Furthermore, advanced preservative formulations contain no arsenical or chromium compounds while being resistant to decay and termite attack.
Renewable?YesNoWood is the only building material that uses the sun’s energy to renew itself in a continuous cycle. Sustainable forestry practices ensure our supply of homegrown wood will be maintained for future generations. On the other hand, plastics are derived from finite petroleum resources.
Earth-friendly?YesNoManufacturing wood products uses less energy and produces less air and water pollution than other building materials. Manufacturing plastic decking requires more energy to produce than a comparable piece of wood decking.
Strong?YesNoWood can be up to four times stronger than plastic or composite products and possesses up to nine times the stiffness of artificial decking. Wood decking is not affected by heat, which tends to promote creep (sagging) in composites over time.
Needs maintenance?YesYesDespite claims to the contrary, all decking requires maintenance. Periodic cleaning and application of a water-repellant sealer is all that is needed to keep a wood deck in top shape. A good scrubbing usually removes most stains on wood decking, too.
Decay/termite warranty?Lifetime limitedLimitedWood preservative manufacturers typically offer a limited lifetime warranty against decay and termite attack in residential use. Plastic or composite deck manufacturers typically offer a limited warranty.
Standardized product?YesNoApproved inspection agencies monitor lumber production and pressure-treating facilities. These agencies operate under rigorous protocols to enforce uniform performance and quality standards approved by the American Lumber Standard Committee and/or the American Wood Protection Association.