Find a Branch

Lawsons are the largest independent timber, building & fencing merchants in London and the South East of England. Established in 1921 Lawsons now have a number of branches offering the complete range of building materials.

Find Your Nearest Branch

Composite vs. Timber Decking

Composite and timber are the most popular options for decking in the UK – both materials offer their own benefits and come with specific drawbacks. The right choice for your garden and family depends largely on your budget, how much time you will dedicate to maintaining it, how long you would like your deck to last, and the overall look you are trying to create.

Comparing Decking Costs

The cost of timber decking boards depends on the type of wood – softwood decking is considerably cheaper than both hardwood decking and most composite decking options. Hardwood decking is more similar in price to composite decking. If you choose to buy timber decking, you will also need to buy stains or oil to ensure that it looks its best for longer, and there will be some further spend required over the lifetime of the decking to maintain it.

Decking Life Spans and Maintenance

Well-maintained timber decking can last for a lifetime. Timber is easily sanded down and sections can even be replaced, so if you do suffer from rot or fungus you can treat that specific area rather than having to change your entire deck. However, you will need to look after your decking to ensure that it lasts for as long as the rest of your timber products at home.

Composite decking, on the other hand, will last around 20-30 years but requires less maintenance. The majority of composite decking just needs to be cleaned regularly, and there is no need to treat or stain it to prevent moisture damage. Due to the low maintenance requirements of composite decking, timber is by far the most time consuming material over its lifespan. However, due to the plastic content composite decking can be more prone to scratches, which are harder to repair than on timber since you cannot sand down a composite deck to deal with superficial issues.

Environmental Impact

Timber is one of the most environmentally-friendly materials you can use. All of our timber products are responsibly sourced to minimise your impact on the environment further still. Composite decking is made from a mixture of plastic and wood fibres – the wood fibres are often recycled and if you select your supplier carefully you can find decking made from recycled plastics as well. However, plastics typically have more of an impact on the environment due to the production processes, by-products, and the fact that plastics are generally made using cellulose, natural gas, salt, and crude oil.

Strength

One of the major drawbacks of composite decking is the strength, or rather the fact that composite decking is not a structural material and requires more support than timber decking. This is easily overcome by placing joists closer together to support your decking and prevent sagging or breakages, but the additional requirements can double the cost of your deck structure.

Look and Feel

Both materials come with a range of options and have their own benefits and drawbacks, depending on your taste. Composite decking is less slippery than timber and comes in a range of colours and finishes. The finish is also considerably more consistent – every board of a composite deck is the same colour and texture, whereas timber decking can have colour variations due to the natural wood and knots. Composite decking will keep the same look and colour for longer without the need for ongoing maintenance, so if you would like a hassle-free deck this is the better choice. However, many of our clients simply prefer the look and feel of real wood, or the luxury of a hardwood deck.

Timber decking can result in splinters if not properly maintained and can be slippery when wet. The colours available are also more limited, but you can change the colour of your decking with stains or even paint if required.

Ultimately, material choices come down to personal preferences. If you would like a non-slip and very child-safe deck that only requires an annual wash, composite decking is the clear winner. If you prefer a traditional look and natural feel that you will not need to replace, timber decking is probably the best option for you. Lawsons stocks a range of softwood, hardwood, and composite decking to suit any taste. You can find decking supplies online or come to your local branch to place an order or to help you decide between the two materials.