What Should I Use: Natural Wood or Composite?

Home improvement is all about weighing benefits, like time versus money or long-term value versus short-term needs. One debate that many homeowners encounter, specifically when exploring decking options, is whether to choose natural wood or composite materials. Before making an investment in either, it’s best to know the facts.

An outdoor deck with wood and a stone firepit

Sleek And Simple Redwood Deck image

Sleek And Simple Redwood Deck | Photo Credit: California Redwood Association

As a licensed contractor, this is the advice I share with my homeowners who are interested in a deck:


One of the many benefits of working with natural wood is its lower upfront cost. You can install a natural wood deck for less money than you’d spend on the alternative – a great incentive for taking the natural route.

Wood vs. Composite Deck


Wood is naturally beautiful, period. Although composite materials mimic real wood, there is no replacement for the look, feel and smell of real wood. For me, there’s also the appeal of working amidst sawdust. It’s one of my favorite smells!

4 Myths About Wood Decks - Not Eco Friendly


Wood can easily be transformed by sanding and applying a new coat of stain. Since composites are manufactured, the appearance isn’t easily (or cheaply) changed. Considering the speed at which styles change, this versatility allows you to keep your deck from looking outdated.

Deck Finish image

If you choose to expand your wood deck or add a shade structure, simply purchase the same wood species and your addition will look seamless. If you want to expand your composite deck, you’ll first need to make sure the shade of your original composite deck is still produced. At which point, you could be left with the choice to have your addition not match the rest of your deck or, worse, start over completely.

Multi Level Cedar Deck image

Multi Level Cedar Deck | Photo Credit: Western Red Cedar Lumber Association

After Effects

Wood is a natural, renewable resource, and therefore, biodegradable. Wood decks store carbon throughout their lives, making for a much lower carbon footprint.

Unlike real wood, composites end up in landfills. Composite decking is typically made from a combination of different synthetic materials that are processed to give the appearance of wood. Considering decks are recreational, I feel responsible for choosing a source material that doesn’t just have minimal impact on nature, but will eventually return to it as compost.

While many people purchase a composite deck because they think it requires zero maintenance, that isn’t quite true. Any structure exposed to the elements will require some maintenance.

Pressure Treated Wood Deck image

Pressure Treated Wood Deck

Ready to start building with wood?

Get more inspiration for wood deck designs in our project gallery.

Kayleen McCabe is a licensed contractor whose skills were showcased on DIY Network’s Rescue Renovation.  She was also the 2009 winner of Stud Finder.  Kayleen is an ardent advocate of trade careers and education. Her goal is to shed light on the rising demand for trade professionals that’s outpacing vocational training – and to help restore America’s respect for the trades in the process.

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