This is a continuation from the article Comparing Today’s Composite Decking Prices in 2020. Below are some direct comparisons between the most popular composite decking brands available today.
When it comes to comparing composite deck board brands, it’s not as simple as choosing a brand based on price and looks. Each of the major brands has tiered products providing the consumer with good, better and best choices. You can also think of these tiers as good- ,better- and best-looking. That’s because lower-priced boards use basic coloring with simple wood-grain patterns and higher-priced boards introduce multi-color, more sophisticated wood-grain patterns that more closely resemble the real thing. Because each brand offers both value- and premium-priced products, in some cases, value-priced options from one manufacturer can be more expensive than the premium-priced ones from another. Before making comparisons, let’s get an overview of what each brand is all about.
Trex markets its good, better, best products under three brand names: Enhance, Select and Transcend. Each of these boards is manufactured from 95% recycled material and contains plastic and wood flour. The Trex company is considered the inventor of composite decking and brought its first products to the marketplace in the mid 1990s. Trex boards are capped on three sides–capped is an industry term used to describe a harder shell of material surrounding the core. Their lowest priced line (Enhance) is a single-density, solid color material with a simple embossed wood-grain pattern–it comes in just three colors. The underside of the Enhance boards are grooved–this means less material is used and translates to a lower price. Trex Select loses the bottom grooves and the realism of the wood-grain pattern improves. It also provides five color choices compared to three in the Enhance line. At the top end, Trex Transcend features multi-toned color streaking with a deeply embossed, more realistic wood-grain pattern, it’s also available in ten colors for the broadest choice.
Like Trex, Fiberon is also made from recycled plastic and wood flour. The three options from Fiberon are ranked by how they look, price and how they are wrapped. Wrapping refers to the hard shell that wraps the inner core of the deck board. Fiberon’s lowest-price option, Good Life, is available in two colors and is wrapped on three-sides. It has a scalloped profile molded into the underside that uses less material in the manufacturing process. Fiberon’s mid-grade board is called Advantage. Advantage loses the bottom grooves making for a stronger, heavier board and has a more realistic wood-grain pattern. Their top-tier product is Symmetry and is capped on all four sides–making it a good choice when the underside of the deck is visible. It comes in four colors. Timbertech Timbertech’s three deck board options are also made from mostly recycled plastic and wood fibers. All three boards are capped (wrapped) on all four sides. Similar to Trex and Fiberon, the lowest priced option, Terrain, uses less material in the manufacturing process as a result of the grooves molded into the underside of the board. Terrain offers basic wood-grain patterns and five simple color choices. A step up from Terrain is the Tropical line. Tropical loses the bottom grooves for a denser, heavier board and has more realistic wood-grain patterns in four color choices. At the top end, Legacy boards feature the most realistic wood-grain patterns and six premium colors.
Unlike the first three brands, Azek deck boards are made from 100% Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) plastic. They are also a wrapped (or capped) option, with a more durable outer shell wrapping a less-dense core. The basic Azek line (Harvest) has a simple wood-grain pattern and comes in three colors. Their mid-range offering, Arbor, improves on the wood-grain patterning and increases the color choices to seven. The highest tier, Vintage, looks the most like real wood and come in six colors.
If you’re seeing a pattern here, that’s no accident. Each of these manufacturers has carefully curated their collections to offer the broadest range of products catering to all budgets and you’ll recognize similarities in their strategies. Now that we know a bit about each, comparing brands is made a bit easier:
Both of these brands use similar manufacturing techniques and offer impressive warranties. With these two, the choice comes down to how they look and how they feel. Because these two attributes are so subjective, make sure you evaluate them in person and have an opportunity to walk on each of the boards get a sense for how they feel underfoot.
Trex and Timbertech also use a similar manufacturing process but Timbertech’s boards are all wrapped on four sides compared to Trex boards that are wrapped on three sides. This is important if the underside of your deck is going to be visible in the final installation. Apart from that, the choice becomes personal, which boards look the best to you, and how they fit within your budget.
This is where the choice moves beyond appearance. Trex boards use mostly recycled plastic and wood products. AZEK contains no wood, and uses about 50% recycled material. AZEK boards are also significantly lighter than Trex boards and absorb less heat. AZEK Boards are also more expensive than Trex boards–especially in their value-priced offerings. 100 sq. ft. of AZEK’s Harvest boards will run you about $900, while the same amount of Trex Enhance boards comes in around $500.
Both Fiberon and Timbertech are wrapped composite boards. But Fiberon’s good-looking and better-looking boards are wrapped on only three sides, while all of Timertech’s boards are wrapped on all four sides. Firberon’s best-looking option, Symmetry, is wrapped on four sides as well. Fiberon and Timbertech are more closely aligned in price, so the choice largely becomes how they look compared to each other. On the top end, Timbertech offers a couple more colors then Fiberon, so make sure you see and feel the products in person to help make your choice.
Comparing these two is akin to comparing apples and oranges. AZEK is a 100% PVC board and contains no wood. Fiberon, by comparison, is a composite material made from recycled plastic and wood flour. Overall, Fiberon boards are the more economical choice, with 100 sq. ft. of their mid-grade boards coming in at about $700 compared to AZEK’s mid-grade boards at $1000. AZEK boards are lighter than Fiberon boards of the same dimension and tend to stay cooler underfoot when exposed to hot sun. At the top end of the ranges, AZEK offers six color choices compared to Fiberon’s four.
If comparing price only, AZEK boards will run you about 20% more than Timbertech. AZEK is a 100% plastic (PVC) board while Timbertech is a composite board made from recycled plastic and wood fibers. Both of these products are long-lasting and virtually maintenance-free so the choice comes down to budget and appearance. Be sure to see multiple boards installed in a large enough area when making decisions about appearance. Judging textures and patterns on just a few boards is much more difficult than seeing multiple boards as they be installed.