How to Compare Composite Decking Brands and Materials


Composite decking products have been on the market as a category since the late 1990’s. Since then, a small number of innovative composite deck makers have introduced new materials, manufacturing processes and installation techniques that have dramatically improved all three aspects of the category – appearance, performance and price. The reality is that not all composite decking is the same and pricing doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story either. So, what do you look for when choosing which composite decking brands to present to a client?

Here are some of the most important things to look at when comparing the pros and cons of different composite decking materials for your customers.

Compare Composite Decking Raw Materials

Unlike composite decking buyers of the past, contractors have a number of different choices today. Differences abound in everything from colors and textures to stability and comfort underfoot. What they have in common is that fact that all composite decking is made from unique combinations of natural wood fibers and plastic. However, the type of plastic and the product mix varies significantly by manufacturer. 

Typically, manufacturers will use either recycled polyethylene, PVC or polypropylene plastic to give the material its superior resistance to moisture and mold growth. In general, these plastic composites will not splinter and crack like pressure treated (PT) wood is prone to do over time. 

Because of its widespread availability (and subsequent low price) polyethylene (PE) plastic (the stuff they make milk jugs from) has long been the plastic material of choice for many composite deck makers. However, over the past several years, consumers have begun demanding better performance from the composite decking products they purchase. While not having to paint, sand and stain composites like PT wood, customers are now looking for composite decking materials to have better structural strength, resist fading and staining, and remain cooler underfoot. 

Polypropylene (PP), used in DuraLife’s composite decking products, is much less brittle than PE plastic, making it a stronger material ingredient. Polypropylene plastic’s superior resistance to chemical absorption and high melting point mean that composites made with PP have increased durability, stain resistance, and are cooler underfoot.

Comparing Capped vs Uncapped Composite Decking Products

Earlier, first generation versions of composite decking were often susceptible to damage from everyday use and vulnerable to fading, mold and mildew growth. This was because the composite material was produced using the exact same material configuration throughout the entire depth of the product. Today, high-quality composite decking is capped. Meaning that it has a tough outer layer surrounding the inner material. Bonded with the inner composite material, DuraLife’s co-extruded polypropylene outer shell helps protect the material from fading and creates an impenetrable moisture resistant layer which prevents mold and mildew from attaching itself.

DuraLife® even goes one step further by installing a proprietary protective film over each board to keep it clean and protected during storage, shipment and installation. Once the composite decking is installed, the protective layer is peeled away, revealing a pristine surface for the homeowner.

Compare Installation Time of Composite Decking Products

Comparing the installation time of composite decking products is something that will be of particular interest to decking professionals. While DIY homeowners will also benefit from building with a composite decking system that installs quickly, the time savings for professional deck builders can have an immediate impact on their business’ bottom line.

What makes composite decking superior to natural wood – it’s high density toughness – can also make cutting and attaching it to framing material more arduous and time consuming. For most composite products, special screws are often required in order to penetrate the deck and attach to the PT wood frame below. Some manufacturers even recommend pre-drilling pilot holes in the composite decking before attempting to drive a screw through it. All these options are labor intensive.

Fortunately, some manufacturers like DuraLife have developed innovative alternatives to the traditional screw down method of deck building. These include a number of hidden composite deck fastener systems that use clips instead of screws to secure the deck to the frame. Decking professionals that incorporate the revolutionary Step-Clip™ system from DuraLife have proven that it can reduce the amount of time to finish a composite deck by as much as 50%! The DuraLife Step Clip system requires no new tools. A simple roofing nailer or hammer and nails is all that’s needed.

Plus, the Step-Clip strips protect the top of the joist from water damage, rot and decay, eliminating the need for joist protection tape. It also automatically spaces deck boards uniformly at 3/16" apart – another huge time saver.

Compare the Appearance of Composite Decking Boards 

The first generation of composite decking brands seemed to thrive by making it clear that it was not wood. As a result, earlier composite decking was typically smooth, with little to no variation in either color or texture.

Fast forward 20 years and the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. Today’s composite decking customer is more likely interested in a product that looks like natural wood. Fortunately, composite manufacturing processes and equipment have advanced in order to accommodate this shift.

Today, by intentionally blending different color pigments and other raw materials at precise times during the mixing process, high-quality composite decking companies can produce a material that looks just like a variety of different species of wood.

Composite deck manufacturers such as DuraLife go a step further by running the blank composite deck board through machinery that adds a variegated wood grain pattern to further enhance the natural look of its Hardwoods Collection.

Another unique feature of DuraLife composite decking is that each of its eight colors are available at multiple price/performance levels, as opposed to other brands that only offer specific colors at designated price points – something that can endlessly frustrate clients.

When comparing composite decking products from different manufacturers, customers are often frustrated to learn that the color/style of decking they want is actually available only as a “premium” choice – making it more expensive than anticipated or quoted.  DuraLife bucks this trend by giving customers access to every one of their composite decking color options in both their value (MVP) and premium (Siesta) profiles.

Compare composite decking warranties 

Lastly, composite decking customers are often interested in comparing differences in the warranties offered by competing decking brands. While a homeowner may have no intention of remaining in one house for 15 or 20 years, the fact that they could, and their decking material would still be covered by a warranty - is something that customers value. When it comes to comparing warranties of composite decking products, customers should note not only the duration of the warranty period but also pay attention to what’s covered – and what’s not. 

For example, a low-quality product would typically have a shorter warranty period than a product that was expected to last a long time. Otherwise, the manufacturer of the low-quality item would be constantly repairing/replacing items (under warranty) instead of making/selling new products. All DuraLife composite decking includes a 25-year limited stain and fade warranty that also covers the cost of labor required to replace any defective boards within the first 5 years.

Get samples of DuraLife composite decking and have them shipped directly to your door. Order your samples now!  

This article is made possible by DuraLife. DuraLife’s unique polypropylene and hardwood composite decking materials simply outperform all other wood and composite decking products.More solid and safe under foot, DuraLife decking is backed by a 25-year warranty. It is stain and fade resistant, mold and mildew resistant, and is available in the colors and deck railing options you want. Get Samples, try our Composite Deck Visualizer, or contact DuraLife now to learn more.