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How to Choose the Right DIY Decking Materials

July 14, 2021
How to choose the right DIY decking materials by TimberTech

Once you’ve decided to DIY your deck build, your next step is choosing your deck materials. You likely want a material that’s easy to source, a great value, and straightforward to install. While wood is likely the first material you think of, it’s not the only — nor even the best — option. To help in your decision, we’ve analyzed three common DIY decking materials so you can choose the right one for your project.  

Common DIY Decking Materials

DIY decking materials include traditional pressure-treated wood

Traditional Wood Decking

Includes pressure-treated lumber, other softwoods like cedar, and hardwoods like Ipe.

DIY decking materials include capped composite decking

Capped Composite Decking

Boards made from a mix of recycled plastics and wood fibers.

DIY decking materials include capped polymer decking

Capped Polymer Decking

Boards made from fully synthetic material — no wood included.

A Closer Look at Traditional Wood

While all wood deck boards fall under the larger category of “traditional wood,” it’s important to note that there are, of course, different kinds of wood — with different properties and performance qualities.

Traditional Wood Decking, From Accessible to Luxury-Level

DIY decking materials include traditional pressure-treated wood

$ Pressure-Treated Lumber

Often made of pine, pressure-treated lumber has been infused with chemicals to make it moisture- and insect-resistant.

DIY decking materials include softwood decking like cedar

$$ Other Softwoods

Commonly either cedar or redwood. Both possess natural properties that make them moisture- and insect-resistant —with no added chemicals.  

DIY decking materials include hardwoods like Ipe

$$$ Hardwoods

Hardwoods, such as Ipe and mahogany, are incredibly dense — making them more durable than softwoods, but also far heavier and more difficult to work with.

You may think that the more expensive the upfront cost of a given category of wood, the better that wood will perform. After all — why pay premium prices for an exotic hardwood like Ipe if it’s not going to stay beautiful after you install it?

But here’s the harsh reality: Across categories, traditional wood can’t measure up to our capped composite and capped polymer DIY decking materials.

We’ll break down exactly why — and how to choose the right material for your backyard build.

Explore our Deck Building Resource Center to get insight on tools needed and best practices for your DIY deck. EXPLORE

DIY Decking Materials: What to Consider

To determine which materials are best for your outdoor living space, we ranked these DIY decking materials across four key categories:

  • Durability
  • Upfront Cost vs Long-Term Value
  • Installation Ease
  • The Best-Looking

Durability: Wood vs Composite Decking

Durability is about more than strength of material — when it comes to DIY decking materials, greater durability means less maintenance for you. And after all the work you put into installing your deck, you should be able to sit back and enjoy it — not worry about maintenance work.  

Most Durable DIY Decking Materials: TimberTech Decking

Durable DIY decking materials include TimberTech AZEK capped polymer decking

TimberTech® AZEK®: Capped Polymer Decking

Made of synthetic material from core to cap, TimberTech AZEK is one of the most durable decking materials available. 

Durable DIY decking materials include TimberTech PRO capped composite decking

TimberTech PRO®: Capped Composite Decking

With 4-sided synthetic capping, all sides of the board are protected from moisture and weathering.

Durable DIY decking materials include TimberTech EDGE capped composite decking

TimberTech EDGE®: Capped Composite Decking

A 3-sided synthetic cap keeps moisture out where it’s most likely to get in — a big upgrade from uncapped products.

As for maintenance needs? Both our capped polymer decking and capped composite decking need an occasional clean and rinse with the appropriate brush and our TimberTech® DeckCleaner™.

Least Durable DIY Decking Material: Traditional Wood

In terms of durability, traditional wood offers some variation between the different types, but all types are prone to rotting, warping, splintering, cracking, and fading.

DIY decking materials include traditional pressure-treated wood

Pressure-Treated Lumber

The least durable option, pressure-treated lumber will require regular sanding, staining, and sealing to protect the wood.

DIY decking materials include softwood decking like cedar

Other Softwoods

As softwoods, cedar and redwood are vulnerable to denting, scratching, and gouging — which means lots of sanding for you.  

DIY decking materials include hardwoods like Ipe


The density of hardwoods makes them a bit more durable than softwoods, but they are still vulnerable to cracking, splintering, and fading.  

With a traditional wood deck, the work doesn’t stop after installation. You’ll need to sand, stain, and seal the boards annually to keep your deck structurally sound — and even more often to keep it looking new and richly-hued. 

Composite Decking vs Wood

When you compare…there’s no comparison. See why TimberTech wins.

Upfront Cost vs Long-Term Value

For a fuller picture, compare upfront and long-term costs in the infographics below:

Ipe Hardwood vs TimberTech AZEK

Cost comparison infographic over 10 years between Ipe and TimberTech AZEK

NOTE: The estimated average cost of capped polymer deck boards and Ipe hardwood decking costs are based on the national average for a 16’ x 20’ deck. Meant for visual representation only. Actual costs may vary.

Pressure-Treated Lumber vs TimberTech EDGE

Cost comparison infographic over 10 years between pressure-treated wood vs TimberTech EDGE

NOTE: The estimated average cost of composite deck boards and pressure-treated lumber decking costs are based on the national average for a 16’ x 20’ deck. Meant for visual representation only. Actual costs may vary.

Best Long-Term Value: TimberTech Composite Decking

As you can see, capped polymer and capped composite decking wins when it comes to long-term value, meaning they save you money in the long-run.

How? TimberTech decking is designed with advanced materials science to retain its beauty and integrity for years, all with little upkeep from you.  

Plus, with industry-leading warranties, you can be sure your TimberTech deck will last, with little chance of repair or replacement costs.

Upfront costs are one-time charges for the initial materials — but when considering the overall costs of your deck, it’s not the only cost to budget for. Maintenance work and potential repair and replacement costs should also be considered.

Best-Value DIY Decking Material

DIY decking materials with the best value include TimberTech AZEK

TimberTech AZEK

As one of our most durable decking options, TimberTech AZEK boasts a Lifetime Limited Product Warranty.

DIY decking materials with the best value include TimberTech PRO

TimberTech PRO

With capping on all four sides, TimberTech PRO is designed to last with a 30-Year Product Warranty.

DIY decking materials with the best value include TimberTech EDGE

TimberTech EDGE

Our 3-sided capping option offers competitive value and durability with a 25-Year Product Warranty.

Least Long-Term Value: Traditional Wood

Initially, it might seem that pressure-treated wood — wins on upfront costs, but that’s not the whole story. High quality woods such as exotic hardwoods can be more expensive upfront than some composite options — and the costs don’t stop there.

As the least durable of DIY decking materials, all traditional wood options require the most maintenance and are highly vulnerable to frequent repairs or full deck replacement.

Traditional wood decking features accumulating costs for maintenance

The Accumulating Costs of Wood

As an organic material, wood is prone to deterioration and comes with very limited warranty coverage.

To maximize your wood deck’s lifespan, you will likely need to perform extensive maintenance work on an annual — or more frequent — basis, driving up your costs year after year. 

Installation Ease

Unless you’ve worked with composite decking before, you may think traditional wood is the familiar, easier route go.

Familiar — perhaps. But easier? Nope. The reality is that many installation best practices for wood are similar to those for composite decking.

Just like with wood, you will need to consider:

  • Deck board spacing
  • Joist blocking and spacing
  • Appropriate fasteners and tools for application
  • Appropriate cutting tools
  • Storage conditions

IMPORTANT: Do not attempt to install any TimberTech decking product without first carefully reading and reviewing the Installation Guide for your product. VIEW GUIDES

The Easiest Decking Material to Install

If you’re unsure about going with a wood alternative, fear not: Our TimberTech AZEK capped polymer boards offer a few extra advantages that will help set your project up for success.

DIY decking materials with easy installation include TimberTech AZEK

TimberTech AZEK Capped Polymer Boards

TimberTech Deck Board & Fastener Pairings

Your installation process will vary depending on the board material, board profile, and fastener you choose. Keep in mind, certain fasteners are only compatible with certain boards.

For already curated pairings, try these:

Cortex collated plugs hide screws for a fastener-free surface

TimberTech AZEK With Cortex®
Hidden Fasteners

TOPLoc color-matched screws blend into the deck surface

TimberTech AZEK With TOPLoc® Color-Matched Screws

CONCEALoc hidden fasteners fit between grooved boards

TimberTech PRO & EDGE With CONCEALoc® Hidden Fasteners

Get installation guidance and tips on the simplest method of installing a TimberTech deck. Learn more about the easiest way to build a deck.

The Best-Looking

The best looking deck material includes TimberTech decking

When you think of a good-looking deck, you likely think of one with rich hues and tonal variation. While premium hardwoods like Ipe are known for their natural beauty, as an organic material, they will eventually fade to gray — some after darkening first.

For DIY decking materials that are rich in color and exhibit minimal fading over time, ditch wood for good.

The Best-Looking: TimberTech Decking

Thanks to advances in decking technology, our deck boards achieve a higher level of design sophistication with nature-inspired aesthetics — plus, industry-leading Fade & Stain warranties so your build stays enduringly beautiful.

Timbertech AZEK Landmark Collection boards feature a reclaimed wood look
Pictured: TimberTech AZEK Landmark Collection™, American Walnut™

TimberTech AZEK

Choose from nature-inspired decking defined by sophisticated, real-wood looks.

TimberTech PRO Legacy Collection features cascading color blending for a rustic look
Pictured: TimberTech PRO Legacy Collection, Whitewash Cedar®

TimberTech PRO

Choose from boards featuring cascading color blending or chic solid colors.

TimberTech EDGE Prime Plus Collection features moderate color blending
Pictured: TimberTech EDGE Prime+ Collection, Coconut Husk™

TimberTech EDGE

Choose from moderately color-blended to monochromatic boards with a painted wood look.

Beauty That Fades: Traditional Wood

Regardless of how rigorous your maintenance schedule, traditional wood — from pressure-treated lumber to premium hardwoods — will inevitably fade.

Ipe Exposure Test

Ipe wood decking will fade with UV and weathering exposure

Pictured: Ipe control sample on the left next to a test sample exposed to weathering.*

What Causes Wood to Fade?

Wood is an organic material and is highly vulnerable to moisture and weathering.

UV rays, rain, wind, and snow can all wreak havoc on any wood deck’s surface — whether pressure-treated lumber or premium hardwoods — causing fading, staining, cracking, splintering and warping.

*Ipe exposure test demonstrates results of internal testing whereby the Ipe wood sample was placed on a rooftop and left exposed to the elements continuously for approximately 11 months.

HAVE QUESTIONS? We know a DIY decking project can be a big undertaking. Connect with a decking expert, or get quotes from up to 3 contractors, straight to your inbox. GET STARTED

The Best DIY Decking Materials: TimberTech Decking

When it comes to comparing DIY decking materials, TimberTech capped polymer and capped composite decking wins. With the high-performance and installation ease of TimberTech decking, your DIY project will result in an enduringly beautiful, long-lasting deck.

Get started designing your deck by ordering up to four free samples of TimberTech decking. Be sure to set the samples in the area your deck will be built — then, observe them at different times of day, in different lighting, to get a full picture of which suits your space best.

See & feel the TimberTech advantage

Our capped PVC and capped composite decking lines combine recycled material with all the beauty of traditional wood.

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