Adelaide | Brisbane | Melbourne | Perth | Sydney |

Composite Decking vs Timber – Costs, Durability & Sustainability


Quick takeaways:

  • Decking Decisions: Choosing between timber and composite decking hinges on aesthetics, long-term costs, and maintenance needs.
  • Investment Insights: Initial timber costs may be lower, but composite decking often presents greater value over time due to its minimal maintenance requirements.
  • Eco-Friendly Factors: While timber naturally decomposes, composite materials highlight sustainable recycling practices, offering an environmentally-conscious alternative.

Timber and composite materials are the two most popular decking choices for an attractive, long-lasting deck. Which is better?

In this blog post, we’ll guide you in comparing the pros and cons of each option to determine the best fit for your needs.

Timber vs composite decking materials

Timber decking is made from hardwood. Popular Australian timber species include Jarrah, Blackbutt, and Spotted Gum. The best wood depends on climate conditions, location, use, and level of sunlight. Some types of timber fade and weather faster than others, so this choice matters.

Composite decking also uses wood in combination with plastic. These materials are held together using a binding agent. Because of the combination, composite decking comes in a variety of colours. Also, since the materials are weather-resistant, factors such as placement and local climate are less important if you select composite decking.

Here’s a before and after photo showing weather damage to existing timber decking that has not been cared for and replacement composite boards that require very little maintenance whatsoever:

A before and after photos of timber decking being replaced with our composite product

For an introduction to composite decking, see What is Composite Decking?

Differences in appearance between timber and composite decking

Traditional timber decking has a natural appearance. You can use oils or other treatments to alter the colour tone. However, you must reapply the treatment every year to maintain the colour.

Timber decking typically turns grey if allowed to age without additional treatment (you can see this clearly in the before and after photo above).

Composite decking offers a broader range of design choices. Some products are textured, while others have colours and patterns resembling natural wood. Unlike timber, capped composite decking does not turn grey over time.

Composite decking has come a very long way since it first appeared on the Australian market. Premium composite brands like NexGEN are almost indistinguishable from timber decking.

Here are some of our most popular colours that offer a warm appeal and mimic various timber species:

Spotted Gum Jarrah Blackbutt
Spotted Gum composite decking boards Jarrah composite deck boards Blackbutt composite timber boards
Graphite White Oak Multi-chromatic
Graphite composite timber plastic boards White Oak composite deck boards Multi-chromatic composite timber boards

Click the following link to see complete range of NEXGEN composite timber decking.


NexGEN Decking


Can’t decide on a colour?

Fill out the form, and we’ll express post your free samples box of our composite boards to you ASAP!

Get Yours Here


Contact us to kick things off. This will be more fun than you think!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Composite decking cost comparison versus hardwood timber

You can compare composite decking versus timber costs in two ways: considering the initial price or the lifetime cost. Composite decking is slightly more expensive upfront. Composite materials are $350 to $500 per square metre, and timber, say treated pine, comes in at $220 to $260 per square metre.

Estimate the costs of your decking project with our free composite decking price tool.

However, timber requires additional investments in oil or stain every year. Sanding down splinters and other steps can also add to your overall ownership costs. When you consider these extra maintenance costs, capped composite products are the cheaper option over their lifetime.

The graphic below shows a comparison of the total cost of ownership per year for timber decking versus composite boards:

composite decking vs timber cost comparison

Timber decking costs at least $450 per year while maintaining capped composite boards can cost as little as $5 annually.

You can clearly see the financial advantages of composite decking versus the upkeep and labour costs of timber products.

Related: Why You Can’t Afford to Buy Cheap Composite Decking.

Composite decking installation process versus timber

Composite boards are a fully engineered product, which simplifies and speeds up the installation process. The installer will likely need to cut timber boards onsite when building the deck.

Installation requirements for both types of decking will vary depending on the structure, the supports, and extras like a waterproof drainage system such as NexGEN’s DryJoist system.

If you’re a keen DIY enthusiast, watch our YouTube explainer video on how to build a deck using NexGEN’s DIY DeckCell technology:

Maintaining your decking

As previously mentioned, composite decking requires very little maintenance. You don’t have to worry about painting, staining, or oiling a capped composite deck to ensure its natural beauty. These jobs are necessary with timber decking to maintain the natural colour and increase longevity.

The graphic below illustrates the sheer difference in time commitment for real wood vs composite timber to enjoy a beautiful deck:

Timber versus composite maintenance time difference

Extrapolate this out by 20 or 30 years, and consider how else you could be spending that time.

The amount of maintenance needed for timber decking depends on two factors: sun exposure and usage. UV rays dull the natural appearance of the wood, leading to the grey colour so common in older timber decks. Since composite decking is not affected by UV rays, it does not need this type of maintenance.

Hardwood decking can crack and form splinters with heavy use or exposure to harsh weather. On the flip side, composite timber gives you the comfort of walking on a deck barefoot without the worry of painful splinters.

Oil or stain can help retain moisture in timber decking materials, and sanding may be necessary to remove potentially harmful slivers from the wood.

How long will your decking last?

Composite and timber decking can have the same lifespan. However, the longevity of natural timber depends on proper maintenance. Heavily used wood decking exposed to excessive sunlight, moisture, or temperature changes will need extensive maintenance. Composite decks might require repairs or replacement of some boards over their lifespan, but they do not need the same level of ongoing care.

Decking made from higher-quality composite materials often comes with lengthy warranties of up to 30 years for residential customers.

NexGEN’s flagship Select range of capped composite decking boards has the industry’s first 50-year fade and stain warranty and lifetime performance guarantee. This means you’re protected against checking, splintering, delamination, warping, rot and structural damage from fungal decay.

NexGEN's Select composite wood decking installed on an alfresco area.

View the Select range of capped composites now

Our warranties and guarantees are why we’re one of the leading composite decking brands on the Australian market.

Not all composite materials are created equal. Be sure you’ve done your research before deciding on a supplier.

Want some free samples of our composite deck boards? Simply write us an email telling us about your project, and we’ll send you a box by Express Post.

Convenience and livability

Both decking types offer user-friendly features. The surface of timber remains cooler when exposed to direct sunlight. However, it can become slippery when wet.

Composite decking manages moisture more effectively and often features a slip-resistant texture, making it safer in wet conditions like around your pool area.

NexGEN's water resistant composite product is a smarter choice than a timber deck

For more information about pool decking, see Composite Decking for Pool Surroundings.

Speaking of moisture, timber is a natural target for mould and other fungi. Quality composite decking is mould-resistant. Mould removal can be complicated, and the unwanted fungi can expose you, your family, pets, and guests to potential health issues. This risk is especially dire for people with mould sensitivities.

What about insect damage? A wood deck is a primary target for pests. Termites pose a significant threat to timber decking. These pests can eat several times their body weight in the wood daily, and a swarm can quickly damage timber decking. If left untreated, an infestation could damage the structure of a timber deck beyond repair.

Termites are not attracted to the wood fibre and plastic mixture in composite decking, so this material is the obvious choice in areas prone to termite infestations.

Environmental footprint

The environmental impact of a new deck depends on different factors. Timber is biodegradable because it does not have a plastic component. In contrast, composite boards can be recycled, showcasing them as a renewable resource.

Composites use recycled plastic and other materials during manufacturing, lowering the overall environmental impact – leading to a more environmentally friendly choice.

The graphic below illustrates composite vs natural timber decking in terms of pest control requirements and the use of recycled plastic:

Composite timber boards are a sustainable choice for your next decking project

Other factors to consider include the source of the wood used in timber decking. Sustainable sourcing can lower environmental impact. However, the location of the materials also matters.

Natural timber or composite decking shipped from far away will produce more carbon emissions than products purchased from a local or regional company.

Which decking product is right for you?

Those seeking a rustic or natural look will likely opt for timber, which also provides a cheaper price for people looking to reduce upfront costs. However, in our view, capped composite timber is the better choice of decking material because it provides all the benefits including convenience, low maintenance, lower total cost of ownership, and longevity.

Simply put, composite decking gives you all the benefits of timber without the costs and regular maintenance.

Here’s a quick summary:

  1. Material Differences: Timber offers a natural look and is cost-effective upfront, but may require more maintenance over time. Composite decking, a blend of wood and plastic, provides durability, and various design choices, and demands less regular upkeep.
  2. Long-Term Costs: While timber has lower initial costs, long-term maintenance can make it more expensive than composite decking, which may offer better value over its lifespan due to low maintenance needs.
  3. Environmental Considerations: Timber is biodegradable but may have sourcing concerns, while composite decking uses recycled materials, making it a more environmentally-friendly choice depending on manufacturing and shipping practices.

What are the next steps?

If you are looking for the best composite decking in Australia, consider NexGEN Decking. We use Fiberon composites, which are made in North America and come in different styles, colours, and textures.

And while our composite decking prices are higher than some of our competitors, our products inspire confidence with a warranty of up to 50 years for residential customers.

NexGEN Decking has offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, and Adelaide and we deliver our products right across Australia.

Why not reach out to us today and learn more about our high-quality capped composite decking?

NexGEN Decking


Can’t decide on a colour?

Fill out the form, and we’ll express post your free samples box of our composite boards to you ASAP!

Get Yours Here


Contact us to kick things off. This will be more fun than you think!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.