Pros discuss decking decisions
Wondering about wood or confounded by composites? Three Indianapolis-area deck builders explain options for a greener way to enjoy the outdoors.
What different types of decking materials do you offer?
Troy Rhoton: I offer pressure-treated pine or spruce, cedar and PVC decking, which is an improvement over older composites that had problems with mildew.
Ralph Ford: The most cost-effective material is pressure-treated pine. I also offer upgrades to cedar or a few exotic woods and a large category of composites.
Steve Siminski: Treated pine in various grades is the most common and cedar’s available. There’s also a range of composites, all the way up to completely vinyl.
Are there environmental considerations to the different types or building methods?
Rhoton: For the pressure-treated decking, the mills we buy from — and most good mills — practice reforestation; so everything they harvest, they replant. In terms of PVC, the company we buy from, AZEK, uses some recycled plastics in its product.
Ford: The most eco-friendly product was old-school composites, with recycled wood and plastic, but they had problems. It’s too early to know the impact of new PVC decking, which are 100 percent vinyl. Pine is a rapidly growing product and they replant new trees.
Siminski: We build to even widths and lengths, so we don’t throw away as much scrap from the boards. Also, with composites, a lot of stuff they use is recycled. However, they do use a lot of chemicals to make it mildew proof and stand up to wear and tear.
How does the price and longevity compare on wood versus composite/vinyl?
Rhoton: PVC is more expensive. A $10,000 pressure-treated deck in PVC would be $16,000-plus. PVC lasts longer and requires less maintenance, an ongoing cost with wood. I recommend PVC if you plan to live there for decades.
Ford: New PVC decking generally costs 2 1/2 times more than identical pressure-treated pine. Simple wood decks start around $10 per square foot. The pine will last 25 years, depending on maintenance, but vinyl could last indefinitely.
Siminski: Composites cost more and take more time to put in. A 16-foot board of wood that’s $16 might be $55 for composite. If you’ll be in your house forever and can afford it, go composite. But many products can also help wood last.
What should homeowners consider when choosing decking materials?
Rhoton: Longevity. The pressure-treated flooring is going to need to be maintained and replaced within 15 years, whereas with PVC it’s wide open.
Ford: Homeowners want something that’s going to last and maintain its integrity so they don’t have to replace it anytime soon.
Siminski: Make certain you have a quality product and builder — check references, look at pictures of his work and make sure he has liability insurance.