A Complete Guide to Types of Plastic Decking: Composite, PVC, Vinyl and HDPE

Installing a new deck is one of the best ways to enhance your outdoor living space. When choosing decking materials, plastic decking options like composite, PVC, and HDPE offer durability, low maintenance, and longevity that traditional wood can’t match. This complete guide covers the key types of plastic deck boards, their features and benefits, and how to choose the right option for your next deck project.

The Rise of Plastic Decking Materials

Decking has come a long way since the days of using only natural hardwood options like cedar and redwood. The introduction of composite decking in the 1990s offered the first alternative to lumber boards. Composite decking combines recycled wood fibers and plastic polymers to create a durable, splinter-free, low-maintenance deck board.

Since then, advanced plastic decking materials like PVC and HDPE have been developed that avoid wood content altogether. These revolutionary decking products are engineered from plastic resins to achieve ultimate weather resistance, longevity, and performance.

There are now several types of plastic deck boards to choose from, each with their own characteristics and benefits.

Benefits of Plastic Deck Boards Over Wood

Plastic decking materials offer significant advantages over traditional wood decking:

  • Durability – Withstands weathering, moisture, rotting and insect damage better than wood
  • Low maintenance – Resists mold, stains, and decay without yearly staining
  • Long lifespan – Lasts 2-3 times longer than wood before replacement
  • Splinter-free – Plastic decking won’t crack or splinter like wood
  • Consistent quality – Plastic decking maintains consistent color and appearance over time
  • Fire resistance – Many plastic decking options are fire rated for safety
  • Eco-friendly – Composite and HDPE decking feature recycled content

While plastic decking often comes at a higher upfront cost than wood, the long term benefits for low maintenance, durability, and longevity provide great value for homeowners.

Key Types of Plastic Decking

There are 3 main classes of plastic decking, each with its own characteristics and composition:

Composite Deck Boards

What is it: Composite boards are made from a mixture of recycled wood fibers, plastic polymers, and other additives and binders. So they are both plastic and wood. The wood content is typically around 40-50%. Popular brands of composite decking include Trex, TimberTech, and Fiberon.


  • Realistic wood look and feel
  • Available in wide range of colors
  • Resists fading, stains, mildew, decay, and insect damage
  • No splinters unlike wood boards
  • Are made from recycled materials


  • Prone to mold/mildew growth if not cared for
  • Can develop stains over time
  • Higher price point than pressure treated wood

PVC Vinyl Decking

What is it: PVC decking contains no wood fibers and is made entirely of a PVC plastic resin. Major brands include AZEK, Fiberon Paramount, and TimberTech PRO.


  • Extremely durable and weather resistant
  • Won’t warp, rot, or splinter like wood
  • Resists fading and stains over long term
  • Low maintenance and easy cleaning


  • Up to 2-3 times the cost of composite decking
  • Can feel “plastic-like” rather than wood
  • Limits fastener choices due to material hardness

HDPE Decking

What is it: HDPE decking is crafted from high-density polyethylene plastic resin sourced from recyclable materials like milk jugs. Popular brands are MoistureShield, EverNew, and Latitude.


  • Made from recycled plastics – very eco-friendly
  • Extremely durable against weathering and wear
  • Won’t crack, twist, or be damaged by moisture
  • Stain, mold, and insect resistant
  • Lower cost than PVC and some composites


  • Prone to heat retention in hot climates
  • Very limited color and finish options
  • Not as realistic looking as wood plastic composites

Enhanced Plastic Decking

Some brands also offer enhanced proprietary formulations of HDPE or other plastics reinforced with fibers for maximum strength. These enhanced plastic decking lines combine advanced resins with materials like mineral or fiberglass fillers to achieve high-end performance capabilities. Examples include MoistureShield Vision and EverNew Extreme. They come at a higher cost but provide exceptional durability and lifespan.

What to Look for When Choosing Plastic Decking

With many types and brands to consider, focus on these key factors when selecting plastic decking:

  • Cost – Composite and HDPE are more budget friendly than PVC
  • Appearance – Composites better mimic wood grain than PVC or HDPE
  • Durability – PVC and HDPE offer extreme impact resistance
  • Stain resistance – PVC is very stain resistant while composites vary
  • Fade resistance – Look for UV protection in the polymer formulation
  • Slip resistance – Important for pool decks or wet areas
  • Eco-friendliness – HDPE contains high recycled plastic content

Be sure to compare warranties as they range from 10 years to lifetime coverage. Also confirm which hidden fasteners and decking clips work with each brand.

Installation Considerations for Plastic Decking

Plastic decking is simple to install generally using the same tools and techniques as wood. But there are some considerations to factor in:

  • Pre-drill holes for fasteners to avoid cracking boards
  • Allow for adequate spacing between boards for expansion
  • Follow manufacturer gaps spacing based on climate
  • Use hidden fasteners or clips to securely attach boards
  • Limit butt joints and use composite decking splines where needed
  • Follow manufacturer spans for 16″ joist spacing

For an eye-catching finish, incorporate lighting, planters, benches, and privacy screens that complement the decking color and style.


Q: Is vinyl decking slippery when wet?

Vinyl decking can become slippery when wet, especially PVC and composite decking which have a plastic surface. However, there are a few things to consider:

  • Texture – Decking with an embossed wood grain texture provides more traction. Smooth surfaces become more slick.
  • Color – Lighter deck colors tend to feel more slippery. Darker colors absorb more heat which can improve traction when wet.
  • Additives – Manufacturers are incorporating additives into vinyl decking to help improve grip. Look for slip-resistant formulations.
  • Coatings – Anti-slip deck coatings can be applied after installation for additional traction.
  • Railings – Having sturdy railings around your vinyl deck for support when wet provides safety.
  • Mats – Using outdoor mats in particularly slippery areas can improve traction.
  • Cleaning – Always thoroughly dry your deck after cleaning. Cleaners and excess water increase slickness.

With the right decking selection and additional traction treatments, vinyl decking doesn’t have to be dangerously slick after rainy weather or cleaning. Pay attention to the surface texture, color, certifications, and maintenance when choosing decking so you can still safely use your deck when wet. Discuss options with your deck builder if you have concerns about vinyl deck slipperiness.

Q: What is composite decking?

A: Composite decking is an outdoor decking material that is made from a combination of wood fibers and plastic. It is known for its durability, low maintenance, and sustainability.

Q: What are the benefits of vinyl decking?

A: Vinyl decking has emerged as a top-rated material for creating beautiful, durable decks and outdoor living areas. If you’re considering decking options for transforming your exterior space, vinyl provides compelling benefits compared to traditional wood decking.

Unmatched Durability

Vinyl decking is engineered to endure years of sun, rain, snow, and temperature extremes. The resilient material resists cracking, warping, and breaking down under heavy use and weathering. You can count on vinyl decking to retain its integrity and appearance season after season.

Low-Maintenance Ease

One of the biggest disadvantages of wood decks is the constant upkeep required to maintain appearance. With vinyl decking, all it takes is an occasional soap and water cleaning to keep your deck looking pristine. No more time-consuming staining, sealing, sanding, and painting demanded by wood.

Long-Lasting Elegance

While wood decking can quickly become faded and discolored, vinyl is formulated to resist the sun’s harsh UV rays. That means the vibrant color and natural-looking wood grains maintain their beauty year after year. Your vinyl deck will continue gracing your outdoor space beautifully for decades to come.

Unparalleled Safety

Vinyl decking offers an exceptionally slip-resistant surface that remains grippy even when wet. The integral traction ensures safety for your family by reducing the chance of dangerous slips and falls around pools or when exiting onto a damp deck after rain.

Customized Style

With a spectrum of color options from warm natural wood hues to bold contemporary colors, you can find vinyl decking to match your personal style. Various grain patterns and textures provide options to design your dream deck.

Eco-Friendly Investment

Many vinyl decking products contain recycled plastic content. By selecting vinyl over virgin wood, you reduce environmental impact. Investing in a durable vinyl deck saves resources long-term since it won’t need continual replacement like wood.

For gorgeous, carefree outdoor living, vinyl decking is the clear winner. Its durability, low maintenance, longevity, safety, customization, and sustainability make vinyl decking a wise investment.

Q: What are the different types of composite decking brands to know?

A: Some popular composite decking brands to know are Trex, Timbertech, and Azek. These brands are known for their quality, durability, and a wide range of color choices.

Q: How does composite decking compare to real wood decking?

A: Composite decking offers the look of real wood without the maintenance. It is more durable, resistant to fading and staining, and requires less upkeep compared to real wood decking.

Q: How is composite decking made?

A: Composite decking is made by combining wood fibers and recycled plastic. The mixture is then extruded into boards that resemble traditional wood decking.

Q: What is the difference between capped composite and uncapped composite decking?

A: Capped composite decking has a protective layer on the surface that helps prevent fading, staining, and moisture damage. Uncapped composite decking does not have this protective layer.

Q: Can composite decking be used for outdoor living spaces?

A: Yes, composite decking is an excellent choice for outdoor living spaces. It is resistant to moisture, mold, and mildew, making it perfect for decks, patios, and other outdoor areas.

Q: What are the best composite decking brands for 2023?

A: Some of the best composite decking brands for 2023 include Trex, Timbertech, and Azek. These brands offer high-quality products with a variety of color and design options.

Q: How much does composite decking cost?

A: The cost of composite decking varies depending on the brand, quality, and design options. On average, composite decking can cost between $8 and $12 per square foot.

Q: Is composite decking suitable for commercial applications?

A: Yes, composite decking is suitable for commercial applications. It is often used in hotels, resorts, and other outdoor recreational spaces due to its durability and low maintenance requirements.

Key Takeaways on Choosing the Best Plastic Deck Boards

  • Composite decking offers realistic wood look and feel at a reasonable price point
  • PVC decking provides extreme durability and stain resistance but at a premium price
  • HDPE is budget-friendly and eco-friendly but has appearance limitations
  • Enhanced plastic decking formulations deliver superior performance
  • Compare warranty coverage, appearance, fade and stain resistance
  • Follow manufacturer guidelines for proper installation

Plastic decking materials allow you to enjoy the benefits of wood without the downsides of constant maintenance, warping, rotting and splintering. Evaluate the different types of composite, PVC and HDPE deck boards to determine the best choice for your specific project needs and budget. With the right plastic decking, you can enjoy decades of outdoor living on a low-maintenance deck.

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