Decking Material Alternatives to Wood

Updated February 21, 2017

With the need for constant cleaning, repair and maintenance, wood decks can sometimes require more work than expected. Because of the work required, decking alternatives to wood have become increasingly popular. They offer low maintenance,easy cleaning and require little care. Many alternative deck materials are also good choices for "going green." Not only are they often made out of recycled materials, but they don't require harsh chemicals and solvents for sealing and cleaning, and they reduce the need for newly harvested lumber.

Composite Decking

Comprised of a mixture of real wood blended with a protective substance, such as PVC or Polyethylene, composite decking has perhaps the most natural look and feel of decking material alternatives to wood. Composite decking is more resistant to moisture, damage and ageing than natural wood, but does require some maintenance, regardless of early claims made by some manufacturers that it is maintenance free.

Composite decking can be cut, nailed and screwed just like natural wood, making it a good choice for do-it-yourself projects. It comes in two styles, hollow and solid centres, and a wide variety of colours.

High Density Polyethylene

Often used in marine applications, high density polythene, or HDP, is known for its long-term durability. HDP decking materials often come with a 50-year warranty, a reflection of the manufacturer's confidence in its strength and ability to stand up well to a variety of weather conditions. Like composite decking, HDP decking can be cut and assembled in the same way as wood, and according to American Plastic Lumber, it retains screws and fasteners 30 per cent better than natural wood. HDP comes in a larger variety of colours than composite decking. It is typically manufactured with a simulated wood grain to give the appearance of natural wood.


PVC decking may be one of the easiest materials to maintain and clean. It doesn't require any sealing, staining or painting, like some composite materials, and can usually be cleaned by simply spraying it down with water. On the other hand, PVC does not look or feel like natural wood. In fact, its appearance is described as being similar to vinyl fencing.

Many PVC deck components are strengthened by aluminium ribbing inside. They require special connectors and are not cut or assembled like wood. PVC decking is available in colours not usually found in composite decking, such as white and grey.

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