For Comparison's Sake: Deck Material | Boating Magazine

For Comparison's Sake: Deck Material

Which dock & deck material can withstand the test of time the best?

Anything fresh (a boat, a shirt, a birthday cake) brings immediate gratification. The real test? How excited are you about that new product when it’s old? We inspected some aged docks and decks to see how the materials have stood up.

Pressure-Treated Wood

Age of Inspected Deck/Dock: 7 years

Upsides: Mostly cost. build a 300-square-foot project and you’ll spend roughly $500 on wood vs. nearly $1,500-plus for composites, vinyls or other alternatives. Wood can be cut into any shape and stained any color, and it feels natural underfoot. You can change the color, too, something you can’t do with the others.

Downsides: Needs to be refinished every two to three years. the whole deck or dock might last 20 years, or not even 10, depending on how much attention you give it. even with regular pressure treatment, we see rotting and warping. Watch for splinters and nail poppers!

Expect to Pay: About 75 cents per foot (1 inch by 5½ inches) at a lumberyard.

Composite Planks

Age of Inspected Deck/Dock: 4 years

Upsides: Almost maintenance-free. Composites like trex have a mix of 50 percent plastic (from grocery bags) and 50 percent wood scraps. You do not pressure-wash or refinish, ever. there’s zero sign of warping, and all 1,200 composite screws on the deck are seated without a single mushroom or popper.

Downsides: see “almost” maintenancefree above. Composites are prone to mildew stains, especially if they aren’t swept and washed periodically. the weight means you need more joist support than with wood. You better like the color because sanding, pressurewashing or strong cleaners can cause peeling — we saw it for ourselves.

Expect to Pay: low end of $2.60 per foot, but north of $3 at some yards.

Vinyl-Based Boards

Age of Inspected Deck/Dock: 16 years

Upsides: even lower maintenance than composite material. the vinyl planks are nonporous, so we saw no mold or mildew on the brock Dock we inspected, except where dirt and bird droppings had collected. Just sweep and hose it off. scratches and gouges are invisible because the color is solid all the way through. it's much lighter than the composite materials.

Downsides: Cost. it’s a choice of paying now or paying later (for upkeep). it has a plastic feel underfoot. Adjoining types, such as brock, are limited to linear designs and three colors. Newer Azek material (pictured above) comes in boards you can cut as you wish, and doesn’t have a hollow plastic feel.

Expect to Pay: $3.25- $4.00 per foot.

Composite-Vinyl Blend

Age of Inspected Deck/Dock: 0 years

Upsides: this new product, called transcend, comes from the makers of trex. We got a first look at it long before distributors got their hands on it (retailers won’t stock it until February). on the sample board we could see a vinyl-like shell on three sides to combat the mildew issues of composites, yet it looks like wood instead of plastic. Get this: it comes with an unheard-of 25-year warranty against fading and staining.

Downsides: Cost will be about 20 percent higher than composite’s low end. our first response when picking up a small sample was, “that’s heavy!” but it isn’t going anywhere once installed, so the weight is only a big deal when it comes to building a foundation under the planks.

Expect to Pay: A minimum of $3 per foot.

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