Arbordeck blog

Softwood and composite – can’t we all just get along?

Timber vs composite decking

The timber industry has long framed the landscaping market as a conflict between more traditional, earthy softwood decking and low-maintenance wood-effect composite options.

As suppliers of both Arbordeck timber decking products and Trex Transcend and Trex Enhance composite decking, we’re ideally placed to settle this question once and for all. Our position is simple: there’s plenty of room for both, as long as the customer is getting the right product for them.

Ultimately, the only conflict in the timber and composite decking market is between high-quality brands and products and cheaper options that simply aren’t up to scratch, and that’s why we want to help homeowners and businesses understand how to choose the right decking product for them.

When it comes to decking, the choice is yours

Softwood timber decking and composite decking both have advantages, and we know that some customers have a preference for one over the other, with some preferring the look and feel of timber, valuing the natural material despite the upkeep requirements.

Equally, for those who want low-maintenance and a deck that will last for years and years with minimal upkeep, composite decking is the ideal choice.

But how do you know what to look out for when selecting which decking brand goes in your garden?

Smooth and grooved reversible board - 27x145

With timber, it’s usually a matter of using your judgement and trusting the evidence of your own eyes, and the same rules apply to decking as any other timber product. High quality boards tend to be heavier, have fewer knots and be free of issues like splitting or rot, so you can check the quality of timber decking at a glance.

With composite decking, it’s a little more tricky, as the quality of the product is hidden in the decking board’s core and manufacturing process. With more than 40 composite decking brands available in the UK, it might seem impossible to establish the quality, performance and expected service-life for each one before it’s installed.

Trex board showing core

However, there are some simple visual checks you can perform to learn whether or not the product is up to scratch. For example, a co-extruded or shelled deck board would perform better than a non-shelled, and a solid board would be better than a hollow product so it’s worth checking these aspects with the vendor.

Other than that, it’s down to laboratory tests, and this was the main reason we chose to partner with Trex, which invented the composite decking category and remains the largest composite decking manufacturer in the world. Trex is a name our customers can trust to have done everything possible to make the decking product robust and aesthetically beautiful.

If you’re still not sure what to look for, your local timber merchant is a great starting point: the best merchants will have undergone product training and will be able to steer you in the right direction.

Installation matters

A great product with poor installation is no good at all, and we always recommend that businesses and homeowners wanting to install a deck consult with a professional who is used to working with the chosen product.

Lots of installers are equally at home with softwood decking or composite, but to get the best result we point people to our network of TrexPro installers, many of whom are working with Trex decking all year round.

Installing Trex Transcend Spiced Rum grooved composite deck boards

Consulting with an installer will help you to discover what your priorities are for your outdoor space. An installer will be able to find out, for example, if you want to install a deck for a short-term fix, making budget the most important factor. If so, they would likely advise you to opt for softwood timber decking. But if you’re looking for a stunning deck as the central focus of their garden renovation, they would be more likely to recommend investing in Trex.

Ultimately, we believe that giving good customer service and providing high quality products is the key to growing the decking market – which should be a priority for suppliers, merchants, and installers.

So, it’s time to move away from composite vs. softwood, and focus on ensuring that you get the best possible decking product for your project.

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