The phrase “you get what you pay for” has stood the test of time for a reason. Almost all of us have fallen for a “deal,” only to regret our choice later. Still, it’s a lesson that many people keep on forgetting, especially when making a major purchase. Adding a deck as a home improvement project is one of those purchases where people sometimes make that mistake and end up re-learning that lesson the hard way.
When you’re planning your deck, besides deciding the color, style and size, you’ll need to pick the material it will be made of. Generally, your choices will be wood, composite, and cellular PVC decking. The first difference that you’ll probably notice is that wood is typically the least expensive, composite the second and cellular PVC the most expensive.
Economists (at least the good ones) not only look at the initial cost of an action, but the future costs as well. When shopping for a new deck, you need to shop like a good economist. How long will your deck last before needing replacement? How much time and money will it take to maintain your deck? Even though you can’t put an exact price tag on it, I’d argue that potential molding, warping and scratching is a monetary cost as well because those problems will reduce the perceived value of your deck (and consequently, your home as well).
When looking at pure wooden decking, you’ll see many varieties of wood available. These deck boards range from simple pressure treated lumber to exotic timber from South America. The biggest draw of wood decking when compared to composite and cellular PVC is the initial price. However, making a decision based on the initial cost is short-sighted. Wood decks require quite a bit of costly maintenance in order to last. Power washing, sanding, and resealing costs quickly add up year after year. Even with proper maintenance, wooden decking will eventually be vulnerable to mold, insects, and weathering (especially in climates with harsher weather conditions) which reduces your deck’s value. Most importantly, decks made of wood will need to be replaced much sooner than decks made of other materials.
With its initial price typically in between wood and cellular PVC, a casual observer might consider composite decking a great middle ground. A good economist would once again say otherwise. Composite decking contains wood as well as PVC. As a result of having this organic filler, it’s still quite susceptible to many of the same disadvantages as a wooden deck. Aside from those downsides, composite decking is also susceptible to scratching because the wood makes it softer. The problem is, you can’t fix scratches on a composite deck like you could with a wooden deck.
Cellular PVC decking is the highest quality option, and despite its high initial cost, it provides the greatest value over time. It avoids the mold, insect, and warping potential that wood and composites have, and has even greater fading and scratch protection to help maintain its value over time. The maintenance consists of simply using soap and water which saves additional time and money. Most importantly, it lasts the longest without needing replacement.
A new option in Cellular PVC decking has added another dimension to selecting deck materials. New solid core cellular PVC deck boards made with recycled post-industrial PVC provide the benefits of traditional cellular PVC, but at a more affordable price point (Gossen’s new Trailways decking line is a good example). The only drawback to recycled cellular PVC decks is that its color selection is typically not as extensive.
Despite the fact that cellular PVC decking will usually cost more initially than its wood and composite counterparts, its low-maintenance and longevity make it the best value in the long run.
This is a guest post from Anthony Esh. Anthony writes about home improvement for Gossen Corporation in Milwaukee, WI. Gossen Corporation produces cellular PVC home exterior products including cellular PVC decking, exterior moulding and porch flooring. More of Anthony’s writing about outdoor living can be found on Gossen Corporation’s Blog
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