Deck Builders Austin

Cedar vs. Composite Decking: Choosing the Best Material for Your Outdoor Space

Cedar vs. Composite Decking: Choosing the Best Material for Your Outdoor Space

Choosing cedar and composite decking is pivotal when enhancing your outdoor living space. With its natural charm and resistance to pests, Cedar decking offers an organically appealing option that blends seamlessly with outdoor environments. Conversely, composite decking emerges as a robust contender, boasting unparalleled durability and minimal upkeep. This juxtaposition presents homeowners with a crucial decision: cedar’s rustic elegance or composite materials’ enduring practicality. Through examining factors such as maintenance requirements, aesthetic appeal, cost implications, and environmental considerations, this guide aims to equip you with the knowledge to select the decking material that best aligns with your lifestyle, budget, and design preferences, ensuring your outdoor space meets your vision of perfection.

What is Cedar Decking?

cedar wood deck

Cedar decking is a premium choice for outdoor spaces. It is crafted from the cedar tree and is renowned for its natural beauty and durability. This type of wood decking is favored for its rich, warm tones and the unique texture that adds a rustic charm to any deck. Cedar’s inherent oils make it resistant to decay, rot, and insect infestations, positioning it as a natural, long-lasting option for homeowners. Its ability to maintain a more excellent surface in direct sunlight enhances comfort during warmer months. However, cedar decking requires maintenance to preserve its appearance and longevity. This blend of aesthetic appeal and functional benefits makes cedar decking a compelling choice for those seeking to combine the natural with the practical in their outdoor living areas.

Benefits of Cedar Decking

Cedar decking stands out for its natural look and feel, offering an aesthetic that harmonizes with the outdoors. Its resistance to rot and insects is a crucial advantage, thanks to the natural oils that cedar wood possesses, ensuring a longer lifespan with proper care. One of the unique benefits of cedar is its excellent surface in the sun, making it a comfortable choice for areas exposed to direct sunlight. Additionally, the aromatic scent of cedar adds to the sensory experience of your outdoor space. It repels pests, enhancing the enjoyment and usability of your deck. These benefits make cedar decking attractive for those prioritizing natural beauty, durability, and comfort in their outdoor living areas.

Natural Look and Feel

planters and wooden dining set on cedar wood deck

Cedar decking is prized for its natural beauty. It offers a warm, inviting ambiance that blends seamlessly with outdoor environments. Its unique grain and color variations create a visually appealing and distinctively natural deck.

Resistance to Rot and Insects

Thanks to cedar’s inherent oils, it boasts excellent resistance to rot and insects, making it a durable choice for decking. This natural protection helps ensure your deck remains sturdy and beautiful for years.

Cooler Surface in Sun

Cedar remains cool underfoot, even in direct sunlight, unlike many other decking materials. This feature makes cedar decks a comfortable option for enjoying sunny days outside without the discomfort of excessive heat.

Aromatic Scent Repels Pests

The aromatic scent of cedar is not only pleasant for humans but also acts as a natural pest repellent. This characteristic helps to keep your outdoor space more enjoyable, reducing the nuisance of insects without the need for chemical repellents.

Drawbacks of Cedar Decking

While cedar decking offers numerous benefits, it also comes with certain drawbacks. The requirement for regular maintenance is a significant consideration, as cedar needs to be treated and sealed periodically to maintain its appearance and durability. Cedar is less durable than composite decking, making it more susceptible to damage over time. This can lead to higher expenses in the long run as maintenance, repair, or replacement costs accumulate. Additionally, cedar is prone to splintering and warping, primarily if not correctly maintained, which can affect the usability and safety of the deck. Homeowners must understand these drawbacks to make informed decisions that align with their long-term expectations and maintenance commitment.

Requires Regular Maintenance

person wiping cedar wood deck

Cedar decking requires regular maintenance to preserve its aesthetic and structural integrity. Homeowners must commit to periodic staining or sealing to protect the wood from the elements. This process demands both time and financial investment.

Less Durable than Composite

Although cedar offers a natural resistance to rot and pests, it is inherently less durable than composite materials. Over time, cedar decks may show signs of wear and tear more quickly, requiring additional attention and repairs.

Can be More Expensive Over Time

While the initial cost of cedar may be appealing, it can become more expensive over time due to maintenance, repair, and potential replacement costs. This long-term financial commitment is an essential factor to consider when choosing decking materials.

Prone to Splintering and Warping

Cedar’s natural properties can make it prone to splintering and warping, primarily if not meticulously maintained. These issues affect the deck’s appearance and pose safety risks, necessitating prompt and sometimes costly repairs.

What is Composite Decking?

composite plank

Composite decking is a modern decking solution crafted from wood fibers and plastics. This innovative material combines the best attributes of both wood and plastic, offering a low-maintenancedurable, and aesthetically pleasing alternative to traditional wood decking. Unlike natural wood, composite decking is designed to withstand the elements, resisting fading, staining, and decay without regular sealing or staining. Its variety in colors and textures allows for a customizable appearance that mimics natural wood or offers unique finishes. Composite decking’s resilience and ease of care make it popular for homeowners seeking a long-lasting, beautiful outdoor living space with minimal upkeep.

Benefits of Composite Decking

Composite decking offers homeowners a low-maintenance solution, eliminating the need for regular staining or sealing. Its durability and longevity surpass traditional wood, effectively resisting fading, staining, and decaying. With various colors and styles available, composite decking allows for greater customization of outdoor spaces, accommodating diverse aesthetic preferences. Additionally, it resists fading and staining, ensuring the deck maintains its vibrant appearance over time. These benefits make composite decking appealing for those seeking a practical, long-lasting, and aesthetically versatile outdoor living area.

Low Maintenance

Composite decking stands out for its low maintenance requirements. Unlike traditional wood, it does not need regular staining, sealing, or painting, making it an ideal choice for those seeking to minimize upkeep efforts and costs.

Durability and Longevity

two woven chairs with yellow, black, and white striped pads on brown composite deck

Composite decking is known for its durability and longevity. Engineered to withstand harsh weather conditions, it resists rot, decay, and insect infestation, ensuring a long-lasting, beautiful outdoor space.

Variety of Colors and Styles

One significant advantage of composite decking is its variety of colors and styles. This versatility allows homeowners to tailor their outdoor living spaces to match their style or mimic the look of natural wood without the associated maintenance.

Resists Fading and Staining

Composite decking is designed to resist fading and staining, maintaining its vibrant color and finish for years. This resistance contributes to a consistently attractive outdoor area that requires minimal effort to keep looking its best.

Drawbacks of Composite Decking

Despite its numerous advantages, composite decking has some drawbacks. The initial cost is higher than traditional wood decking, making it a significant upfront investment. Additionally, composite materials can get hot underfoot in direct sunlight, affecting comfort during peak summer months. While it offers a variety of styles, its appearance is less natural than wood, which could be a downside for those seeking the authentic look and feel of timber. Lastly, composite decking has the potential for static electricity buildup, a minor but noteworthy consideration for homeowners. Understanding these limitations is essential for making an informed decision that aligns with your preferences and requirements for your outdoor space.

More Expensive Upfront

brown composite deck

Composite decking requires a higher initial investment than traditional wood decking. This upfront cost is due to the materials and manufacturing process of creating these durable, low-maintenance boards.

Can Get Hot Underfoot

In areas exposed to direct sunlight, composite decking can get hot underfoot, potentially affecting the comfort of those using the outdoor space during peak summer temperatures.

Less Natural Look

Although composite decking comes in various colors and styles, it possesses a less natural look than real wood. This might appeal to homeowners who prefer something other than natural timber’s authentic charm and texture.

Potential for Static Electricity

Composite decking can potentially build up static electricity, especially in dry climates. While this is a minor issue, it can be surprising and is something to consider when choosing decking materials.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Decking Material

wooden planks

Selecting a suitable decking material is crucial for creating an outdoor space that meets your needs and preferences. Climate and weather conditions play a significant role, as some materials may be better suited to withstand local environmental challenges. Maintenance commitment is another crucial factor; those seeking low upkeep may lean towards composite decking, while lovers of natural wood might opt for cedar, accepting the need for regular maintenance. Aesthetic preferences also influence the decision, with materials offering different looks, from the natural charm of wood to the varied designs of composite decking. Budget considerations must be considered, as the cost of materials, installation, and long-term maintenance varies significantly. Consider deck usage and foot traffic; high-traffic areas may benefit from more durable materials. Balancing these factors will guide you to the decking material that best suits your lifestyle and outdoor living aspirations.

Climate and Weather Conditions

The choice of decking material should consider your area’s climate and weather conditions. Materials like cedar have natural resistance but may require more care in harsh climates. At the same time, composite decking offers robustness in varying weather conditions.

Maintenance Commitment

Your willingness to engage in maintenance significantly influences material choice. Cedar decking demands regular upkeep to retain its beauty and integrity. In contrast, composite decking offers a low-maintenance alternative requiring less frequent attention.

Aesthetic Preferences

wooden deck attached on white and brown house

Aesthetic preferences play a crucial role in selecting decking material. While cedar provides a classic, natural wood appearance, composite decking offers a wide range of colors and styles, allowing for greater customization of your outdoor space.


Budget considerations are essential, as the cost of decking materials can vary widely. Initial outlay, maintenance costs, and longevity should all be factored into your decision, balancing upfront expenses with long-term value.

Deck Usage and Foot Traffic

Consider how your deck will be used and the expected foot traffic. High-traffic areas may benefit from the durability and resilience of composite decking. At the same time, cedar can offer a softer, more natural feel for less frequented spaces.

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of decking materials is a critical consideration for eco-conscious homeowners. Cedar decking is noted for its sustainability, as cedar trees can be harvested from well-managed forests, reducing the ecological footprint. However, concerns about deforestation highlight the importance of sourcing cedar from responsible suppliers. On the other hand, composite decking is praised for its recyclability, incorporating recycled plastic and wood fibers, which contributes to waste reduction. Yet, the manufacturing process of composite materials and their carbon footprint warrant attention. Balancing these environmental factors is essential in making an informed choice that aligns with your values and the planet’s well-being.

Cedar Decking Sustainability

wooden deck with planters

Cedar decking is often celebrated for its sustainability. Harvested from well-managed forests, cedar provides an eco-friendly decking option that, when sourced responsibly, contributes to a lower ecological footprint.

Composite Decking Recyclability

Composite decking stands out for its recyclability. Made from a mix of recycled plastic and wood fibers, it reduces waste and promotes the use of recycled materials, making it a favored choice for environmentally conscious homeowners.

Deforestation Concerns for Cedar

While cedar is a sustainable choice, its use is associated with concerns about deforestation. It’s vital to mitigate these environmental impacts to ensure cedar is sourced from forests that are responsibly managed.

Composite’s Carbon Footprint

Despite its benefits, composite decking has a notable carbon footprint due to its manufacturing process. The production of composite materials involves energy-intensive procedures, contributing to its overall environmental impact.

Installation and Cost

yellow and black wireless drill, on brown wooden planks

When planning your deck, installation, and cost are pivotal factors. The initial cost comparison shows that cedar decking might be more affordable upfront. Still, composite decking offers long-term value due to its minimal maintenance requirements. Installation complexity varies between the two, with composite decking often being more accessible and quicker to install due to its uniformity and the absence of the need for sealing or staining. However, repair and replacement considerations should be considered; composite decking’s durability reduces the likelihood of needing repairs, potentially offsetting its higher initial cost over time. Balancing these cost factors with your project’s scope and long-term expectations is crucial for achieving a satisfying and cost-effective outdoor living space.

Initial Cost Comparison

The initial cost of decking materials can vary significantly, with cedar often being less expensive than composite decking. This upfront cost is an essential factor for budget-conscious homeowners.

Long-term Value

Despite the higher initial investment, composite decking may offer more excellent long-term value. Its durability and low maintenance requirements can lead to savings on repairs and upkeep over the years, making it a more cost-effective choice in the long run.

Installation Complexity

Installation complexity can influence the overall cost and timeline of a decking project. Composite decking is generally easier and faster to install due to its consistent size and shape and lack of need for immediate treatment, compared to cedar, which may require more time for proper installation.

person fastening composite planks for deck

Repair and Replacement Considerations

Repair and replacement considerations are crucial for evaluating the total cost of ownership. Composite decking’s resistance to fading, staining, and structural damage reduces the likelihood of needing repairs or replacements, unlike cedar, which may require more frequent attention to maintain its condition and appearance.

Conclusion: Making the Best Choice for Your Outdoor Space

Choosing between cedar and composite decking involves weighing various factors to determine the best fit for your outdoor living space. Cedar offers a natural, rustic appeal and a more excellent surface in the sun but requires regular maintenance to preserve its beauty. Composite decking, on the other hand, provides a low-maintenancedurable solution with various colors and styles. However, it has a higher initial cost and a less natural look. Considerations such as climatemaintenance willingnessaesthetic preferencesbudget, and usage should guide your decision. Additionally, the environmental impact of your choice, from sustainability to recyclability, plays a crucial role in today’s eco-conscious world. By carefully evaluating these aspects, you can make an informed decision that meets your desires for a beautiful, functional, and sustainable outdoor space.

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