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    Best Composite Decking of 2024

    To determine which composite decking holds up, we evaluated planks from Azek, Fiberon, TimberTech, and other brands

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    Table and chairs sit out on composite harvest decking on a front porch.
    Composite decking, like the TimberTech Azek shown above, requires less maintenance than traditional wood decking.
    Photo: Azek

    Composite decking has a lot to offer that traditional wood can’t.

    It’s easier to maintain, for one thing. Composite decking—an amalgam of ground-up wood and plastic formed into planks—doesn’t ever need to be sealed, stained, or painted. Real wood may need to be restained as frequently as every two years and resealed as frequently as once a year.

    Composite decking has always cost more than wood. What you pay will depend on where you live, the decking you buy, and other factors. The price difference narrowed somewhat during the pandemic, as wood prices rose, but now the gap has widened again.

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    More on Decking Materials & Decks

    Composite decking is far more expensive than wood, but it has advantages beyond its durability. For instance, some materials are flexible enough to be heated and shaped, allowing you to create, say, rounded corners, railings, or a border for a kidney-shaped pool. That would be expensive to duplicate in solid wood decking.

    Aesthetics are a factor, too, especially if you like a uniform look. The woodlike grain lacks irregularities like knots that can show up in the real thing.

    And you have a choice of patterns, according to Li Wang, the engineer who tests decking for Consumer Reports. “Manufacturers usually use a few different molds to make their composites, so there’s some pattern variety,” she says.

    A number of manufacturers say their products are made primarily of recycled materials, such as plastic grocery bags. Note, though, that after a typical life span of 25 years, the boards are still likely to end up in a landfill.

    Best Composite Decking

    Composite vs. Wood Decking: CR's Test Results

    Our tests turn up benefits and drawbacks to using composite decking.

    Among the nonwood decking choices, which also include aluminum and plastic, we find composite to be best for providing the look of wood without the need for wood stain. Most composite decking models do a top-notch job of resisting staining from ketchup, mustard, and other common spills. 

    But some products offered far less resistance than wood provides when it comes to slips, flexing, and sag in our tests. And most choices are more expensive and heavier than traditional natural pine. (We also test western red cedar, ipe, and redwood.)

    The extra weight of composite planks can make them more difficult to handle if you’re doing the job yourself.

    And even a composite deck that resists staining will need to be cleaned periodically to rid it of everyday dirt and grime. Cleaning guidance varies, especially with regard to pressure washing, so check the maker’s website for tips about your specific model.

    For a look at all the considerations, start with our decking buying guide.

    How CR Tests Decking

    Ideally, the composite decking you choose will look good, and remain solid and safe for many years. Consumer Reports’ performance tests address these factors.

    We use specialized instruments to test each decking sample for resistance to flexing. That ensures that boards won’t bow or bend if you’re entertaining a crowd or if you park a heavy grill in a particular spot all summer long.

    Next, we size up which materials resist staining from spilled ketchup, mustard, and other common items you might use while eating outside. We also evaluate each sample’s slip resistance, which is very important if you’re installing a deck near a pool.

    We drop weights of various sizes on the surface of each board to see which samples dent on impact. And we send more than a dozen samples of each material to two areas with extreme climates: hot and dry Arizona, and Florida, where the humidity presents a different challenge to certain materials.

    We assess those samples yearly for three years, evaluating their appearance and retesting for all the attributes above, to see how age and exposure to the elements affect overall performance.

    Tobie Stanger

    Tobie Stanger

    Tobie Stanger is a senior editor at Consumer Reports, where she has been helping readers shop wisely, save money, and avoid scams for more than 30 years. Most recently, her home- and shopping-related beats have included appliance and grocery stores, generators, homeowners and flood insurance, humidifiers, lawn mowers, and luggage—she also covers home improvement products like flooring, roofing, and siding. During off-hours, she works on her own fixer-upper and gets her hands dirty in the garden.

    James K. Willcox

    James K. Willcox leads Consumer Reports’ coverage of TVs, streaming media services and devices, broadband internet service, and the digital divide. He's also a homeowner covering several home improvement categories, including power washers and decking. A veteran journalist, Willcox has written for Business Week, Cargo, Maxim, Men’s Journal, Popular Science, Rolling Stone, Sound & Vision, and others. At home, he’s often bent over his workbench building guitars or cranking out music on his 7.2-channel home theater sound system.