How Long Does Composite Decking Last: A Quick Lifespan Guide

When it comes to decking, you want to be sure you’re making the right investment. One of the critical decisions to making that investment is lifespan. So when applying this to your outside decking area, one essential question is how long does composite decking last?

 

After all, the longer it lasts, the more money you get for your investment, right? So how long should your composite decking last? Here’s the quick takeaway, then we’ll get into more of the detail...

 

In general, and in durability tests, the lifespan of composite decking is considered to be 25 - 30 years. With the right care, this can increase to 50 years. This is under ambient conditions and general wear and tear. Expect this to reduce based on heavy use, level of care, and harsh environments.

 

So as you can see, there is a “general answer” and an “it depends” answer. This rule applies whether it’s composite decking Johannesburg, or composite decking Durban ... or, actually, composite decking anywhere in South Africa!

 

We’ve been installing composite decking for years, we are veterans of the trade and it’s what we do all day! And we always like to be far more helpful than just a general answer.

 

So we’re going to go through some circumstances more thoroughly – on when the lifespan will differ, and how it compares to its wooden decking alternative. Plus some things you can do to maintain and even increase the life of your investment.

 

But first, let’s start with why composite decking differs from traditional decking – in terms of its lifespan.

The lifespan of composite decking vs traditional decking

I’m going to outline the comparisons between the lifespan of standard wooden decking and composite decking.

 

The easiest way to understand that is through this simple table below, it gives a simplified guide on how long composite decking lasts vs standard wooden decking.

 

 

Wooden Decking

Composite Decking

Standard lifespan

10 - 15 yrs

25 - 30 yrs

Heavy Traffic / Harsh Environment

8 - 10 yrs

15 - 20 yrs

Low traffic / Favorable environment

15 - 22 yrs

30 - 40 yrs

Adequate care and maintenance

Plus 5 - 6 yrs

Plus 10 - 15 yrs

 

As you can see, the number of years that composite decking lasts compared to wooden decking is quite dramatic, sometimes double the lifespan.

 

So let’s expand on our initial quick answer now that we’ve qualified it a bit more...

 

Composite decking lasts 25 - 30 years under average weather and usage. With heavy traffic and harsh environments, you can expect 15 - 20 years. Low traffic and favourable environments offer 30 - 40 years. You can then add or remove 10 - 15 years based on the level of care and maintenance.

 

So what would we mean by harsh environment vs favourable environment?

 

Well, this is largely down to common sense. Generally, mild seasonal variances in South Africa would not normally affect the condition of your decking. However, overly hot and continued summers for numerous years could be considered harsh. As could long damp conditions such as prolonged rain.

 

In terms of traffic, the average family home would be considered low traffic for composite decking. Heavy traffic would be examples where heavy equipment is dragged across it regularly such as lawnmowers or wheelbarrows. Large and heavyset furniture or building works using the decking as workspace.

 

Hopefully, that gives you a guide on the differences in environment and use.

Difference in lifespan

You’re probably wondering why there is such a difference in the lifespan of composite decking vs wooden decking ...and how that translates into benefits for you...

 

Well, to understand how composite decking compares to wooden decking in terms of the total cost of ownership (cost/years) then you ideally need to obtain a quote for your particular requirements, and then you can compare the results using the table above.

 

As for the reasons, aside from real-world testing, and along with our years of knowledge and experience, there are some fundamental reasons why composite decking lasts longer, so let’s cover a few of those next...

Why composite decking lifespan outperforms wooden decking lifespan

Here are the four main reasons how composite decking deals with the problems usually associated with wooden decking that can dramatically affect the lifespan.

Rot and mould limits lifespan and reduces safety

We mentioned that lifespan can depend on favourable conditions, one of those is the environment in which mould and rot are given time and the right circumstances to attack your decking. This leads to other issues such as infestations.

 

For wooden decking, mould can easily grow on the surface. Not only can this cause a slipping hazed, but it inevitably leads to surface penetration of the wood and over time the structure will be affected and decay.

 

Composite boards have an impervious barrier to mould. Mould simply cannot stick to or penetrate at a surface level. This greatly impacts lifespan and is one of the major reasons wooden decking is vastly reduced in years.

Damage and splintering reduces the lifespan

The engineering standards, quality materials, and up to date installation methods that we adopt for composite decking ensure its sealed and capped along all its edges.

 

Wooden decking board ends tend to splinter, it’s the nature of wood that it will dry out, chip and splinter. Typically under average circumstances, you can expect this to occur from around the 10 years mark. This is why you can expect a maximum of 15 years lifespan.

 

Composite decking is designed to avoid splintering and fraying of ends and edges. It just isn’t a limiting factor.

Fading and discolouration ruins the look of your decking

No one likes to look at something that has aged and looks more akin to old pallets! Faded, some dark or light patches, streaks and bleaching. This is often what leads people to repace their decking, knowing it’s the stage before further decay. Especially when you don’t have time to repaint it every other year.

 

Maintenance is a whole new article that we’ll get into more detail at another time.

 

Suffice to say, composite decking does not fade. It’s purposefully designed to maintain its colour and contributes towards its 30+ year lifespan.

 

The only question then is which colour and style would you like? Well, first, get some design and colour ideas and inspiration, so do that, then get a quote. It’s that easy!

How to ensure the life of your composite decking

Composite decking is indeed so much better than wooden decking. But it’s not maintenance free.

 

It doesn’t need washing or cleaning as much as wooden decking, it won’t need sanding or recoating at all ...and that’s without mentioning filling holes and shoring up splintered ends.

 

We’ll give you a few quick tips for proper care and maintenance to extend composite deck lifespan:

 

  • Ventilation prevents mould from developing on the underside of your composite decking
  • Use Woven rugs to prevent additional wear
  • Prevent rainwater from guttering splashing directly onto your decking
  • Remove dirt build-up from between boards to avoid lingering moisture
  • Sweep occasionally to remove dust and debris
  • Remove stones, mud and grit that might scratch and chafe the surface
  • Clean with a light soapy solution and soft brush, or power wash

More composite decking help

We hope this has provided you with a solid answer on how long does composite decking last. Simply put, composite decking is built specifically for the task and is designed to be hard-wearing.

 

Choosing your decking is both an enjoyable and personalized experience. We understand this all too well after so many years in the industry.

 

The experience, choice and design are almost always made easier when you get some professional advice. We’re happy to pass on our knowledge and experience to you. So be sure to contact us with your thoughts and ideas, and we’ll be happy to assist.