Are you considering adding a new deck or porch to your home or replacing an existing one? If so, you may be weighing the options between wood and composite decking materials. Choosing between these materials is an important decision when starting on an outdoor living project. For many, cost is a critical factor in making a material selection. Although rising lumber prices can bring the two costs closer together, traditionally pressure-treated wood has a lower upfront cost than composite materials. In addition to the upfront savings, however, calculating the long-term costs of ownership is also important to consider and can make composite materials a more compelling choice.
For simplicity, we are refering to pressure-treated pine decking throughout this post. Brazilian hardwoods are another type of natural wood decking but they are typically less common, more expensive, and they require a different level of maintenance over time than pressure-treated pine.
Estimating the Cost of Wood Deck Maintenance
Sealing, Painting, and Staining
One of the key differences between composite decking and pressure-treated wood is that natural wood requires sealing and staining or painting. The first application is applied after an outdoor living structure is complete (this is not one of Archadeck’s services). Most of our clients prefer to let professionals seal, paint, and/or stain their pressure-treated wood decking, however, some choose to tackle this chore themselves. The average cost for this service in 2022 is $2.25-$5.00 per square foot, up from $2-$4 per square foot just a year ago.
In addition to the initial sealing, staining, and/or painting, pressure-treated wood will require whatever finish you choose to be reapplied over time. There are many factors that influence how often such maintenance will be required—two important ones are tree proximity and direct sunlight exposure. For staining and sealing, heavy sun exposure may require you to reapply the seal or stain once a year as UV damage from the sun will degrade the protective capabilities of the stain more quickly. If your deck is well protected, you may be able to go longer in between applications. One way to see if your natural wood needs a new coat of sealant, stain, or paint is to drop some water on it. If the water absorbs quickly into the wood, it is probably time for a reapplication.
In addition to the financial cost of sealing, staining, and painting, if you are doing the work yourself there is also the cost of time. When it becomes necessary to re-seal, re-stain, or re-paint, you’ll need to clean it several days beforehand to prepare the wood. You’ll then need to dedicate several days to applying the sealant and/or stain and letting it dry thoroughly.
Over time the costs of maintaining natural wood decking can add up. You can estimate the cost for sealing, staining, or painting your pressure-treated wood decking by multiplying the square footage of your space times the likely cost and frequency of treatment. For example, using the approximate figures we cited earlier, a 250-square-foot wood deck that needs to be sealed and stained at $2.25 to $5 per square foot could cost in the range of $562-$1,250 each time the service is required. If the structure is exposed to harsh weather and sun and needs annual treatment, these costs could accumulate to $5,620-$12,500 over a 10-year period (the average lifespan of a natural wood structure is 10-15 years).
Comparing the Cost of Composite Decking and Natural Wood
What is the most cost effective investment for your outdoor living project? How do the costs of composite and natural wood decking compare? In many cases, without on-going maintenance costs like those associated with natural wood, the higher installation costs of composite decking can be recouped after just 5-6 years of use. In addition to higher maintenance costs, a wood deck will need to be replaced sooner than a synthetic/composite deck, a more significant cost altogether. The average lifespan of a composite deck is 25+ years as compared to 10-15 years for one made with pressure-treated wood.
At Archadeck of Raleigh-Durham and the Greater Triangle, we are dedicated to helping our clients choose the right materials for their needs, tastes, and budget. If you are ready to build the outdoor living space of your dreams, give our team a call today: 919-973-1523. We look forward to working with you!