Backyard decks and patios face many challenges, including rain and humidity, frequent sun exposure, and a wide range of temperatures.
While both composites and aluminum decking eliminate many of the problems associated with traditional wood decks, each of these materials comes at a cost premium compared to wood.
As you compare composite and aluminum decking, consider the initial and lifetime costs to find the most economical material to meet your needs.
In terms of upfront material costs, composite decking costs less than aluminum decking. As of April 2013, composite decking materials range from $6 to $9 per square foot depending on quality, while aluminum decking ranges from $9 to $10 per square foot, according to Homewyse.com.
Purchasing the materials to build a 100 square foot composite deck would cost between $600 and $900, while the same 100 feet of aluminum decking costs $900 to $1,000.
Both of these materials cost about $1 per square foot to install as of 2013.
If you’re searching for the most economical decking material other than wood, composite lumber may seem like the obvious choice thanks to its low initial price compared to aluminum decking.
When you consider the lifespan of these two materials, however, aluminum decking might be the more economical choice.
Composite decks contain up to 50 percent wood fibers or wood dust, making them vulnerable to moisture, just like a wood deck. Due to this vulnerability, composite decking generally comes with a warranty period of 10 years, according to This Old House.
While aluminum costs more than composite, it’s two to three times stronger, according to Popular Mechanics.
This extra strength means that aluminum decking typically comes with a lifetime warranty, according to The Mining Journal.
Over the life of your home, aluminum decking is a much more economical choice than composites because it never needs to be replaced.
Composite Pros and Cons
Homeowners choose composite decking because they offer very low maintenance compared to wood, and don’t require refinishing.
Composites also offer a very woodlike appearance, and quality products can be difficult to distinguish from real wood.
Unfortunately, composite decking is also vulnerable to mold or decay over time and may provide relatively little traction.
This material also fades due to sun exposure and can lose 10 to 15 percent of its color over time, according to the Mining Journal.
Aluminum Pros and Cons
Despite its strength, aluminum decking is incredibly lightweight and can be cut using the same tools used for wood decks.
It also features an interlocking construction, which prevents any water from dripping to the space below.
Thanks to this feature, aluminum decks can be used to create dry storage or entertaining space below the deck.
One drawback to this material is it does not look like wood.
Aluminum decking also comes in a relatively limited range of colors and finishes, which can make it tough to fit into some design schemes.