Vinyl decking offers a splinter-free, ultra-low maintenance alternative to natural wood decking. With many vinyl decking options now available, how do you choose? This guide compares the most common types – PVC, composite and capped composite – explaining the differences in materials, looks, cost, lifespan and features to select the best for your needs.
Understanding the manufacturing and performance differences between vinyl decking varieties helps narrow the options to pick the right balance of affordability and durability for your project.
Pure PVC Decking
Made entirely from polyvinyl chloride plastic, PVC decking contains no wood fibers or plastic polymers like polyethylene or polypropylene.
Composition – 100% virgin or recycled PVC plastic with color and UV stabilizers added. Hollow or foamed extruded cores reduce weight.
Appearance – Subtler grain patterns than composites. Cool underfoot. Stains less than composites. Many colors.
Cost – $$ to $$$. More affordable than composites but pricier than wood.
Typical Lifespan – 30+ years with fade and stain resistance warranties.
Maintenance – No sealing needed. Easy soap and water cleaning.
Top brands like AZEK and Koma offer premium-grade PVC decking for maximum durability and vibrant long-lasting color.
Composites blend reclaimed wood, plastic polymers, and binding agents into durable decking.
Composition – Mix of 40-60% recycled wood fibers and 30-50% plastic polymers plus additives. Extruded or compression molded.
Appearance – Realistic wood grain patterns. Prone to some fading over time when exposed. Stains can be problematic.
Cost – $$ Mid-range price decking alternative. Similar cost to quality lumber.
Typical Lifespan – 20-30 years depending on brand. Fade and performance warranties.
Maintenance – Periodic soap and water cleaning. Avoid high-pressure washing.
Trex and TimberTech are among the most popular and proven composite decking brands.
Capped Composite Decking
Capped composites feature a tough polymer sleeve or cap layered atop the composite core for enhanced protection and longevity.
Composition – Composite core shielded by a durable PVC or polyethylene sleeve around all sides.
Appearance – Improved color retention compared to uncapped composites. More stain resistant.
Cost – $$$ Most expensive vinyl decking but excellent ROI long term.
Typical Lifespan – 30+ year warranties against fading, staining, and decay.
Maintenance – Basic soap and water cleaning. Avoid abrasive pads.
Top choices include Trex Transcend, TimberTech PRO Reserve, and Fiberon Paramount.
Comparison Chart of Vinyl Decking Attributes
|Durability||Very High||Moderate||Very High|
|Scratch Resistance||High||Moderate||Very High|
Key Considerations When Choosing Vinyl Decking
- How long do you want your decking to last before replacement? Lifespan affects decisions.
- Frequent staining from cooking, grease, and living use favors capped composites or PVC over standard composites.
- Is having the most realistic wood look essential? Composites mimic wood grain more convincingly.
- Coastal or direct sun exposure requires maximum fade resistance. Seek capped composites.
- Colder walking temperatures call for PVC or capped composites rather than composites which heat up more.
By taking your specific needs and tastes into account, the ideal vinyl decking for your project becomes clear. Invest wisely and your new maintenance-free deck will delight for decades.
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