What’s the Best Low-Maintenance Decking Material?

Sarah Coggan
Written by Sarah Coggan
Updated June 20, 2022
Happy family in sun on deck
Photo: Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Hardwood requires less maintenance than softwood.

  • Composite decking is easy to care for and comes in a variety of looks.

  • PVC material can be maintained with little effort but can look artificial.

  • Aluminum is resistant to pests and rot and stays cooler than plastic.

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When considering a new deck, it's easy to picture yourself enjoying it on a lovely day. You may conjure up images of yourself lounging with friends and family, cold drink in hand. But you probably aren’t thinking about the far less enjoyable aspects of having a deck—like sanding, sealing, and replacing planks. To keep the tedious stuff to a minimum, choose a low-maintenance decking material. Our guide will help you find the best one. 

Wood Is A Classic Choice, But Is It Low-Maintenance?

Wood deck and table
Photo: David Papazian / Getty Images

Wooden planks are a staple of deck construction. They are sturdy, easy to find, and customizable with various stains. Wood decking does require some maintenance, including sanding, staining, and sealing, but some types need less upkeep than others.

1. Cedar Wood

Cedar is less susceptible to rot and is less likely to warp, crack, or become brittle than many other types of wood. Cedar doesn’t require a stain, but it will need to be sealed every two years. And because cedar is a soft wood, it’s easier to scratch and dent.

2. Redwood

Loved for its rich, warm color, redwood is a dense wood species that naturally resists insects and rot. Many deck builders appreciate redwood’s ability to withstand weathering from rain and harsh sunlight. It is also far less likely to crack than other woods. 

Redwood trees are scarcer than they once were, so the lumber can be pricey and difficult to find.

3. Pressure-Treated Wood

Typically made with Southern Yellow Pinewood, pressure-treated decking is a lower-cost wood option. It’s chemically treated so that it will last longer (up to 20 years) and be more resistant to rot and pest infestation. But pine wood is prone to splintering, especially if it’s not maintained well, so you’ll spend more time cleaning, sanding, and sealing a pressure-treated wood deck than you would a deck made with a different material.

Composite Decking Looks Good and Saves Time

Sunny detail of deck
Photo: ronstik / Getty Images

Available in various colors, composite decking is a blend of natural wood fibers and plastic or other synthetic materials. The brand Trex is one well-known manufacturer. Composite decking doesn’t need to be sanded, stained, or sealed, and it doesn’t splinter. It’s also less susceptible to pests, mold, and mildew.

Composite decking is also easier to clean than traditional wood decking, and excess water will not cause rot unless it permeates through damage in the outer layer. It’s available at various price points, but some lower-cost options look plastic and artificial. 

Vinyl or PVC Decking Is Easy To Clean

PVC decking, also called vinyl decking, is another synthetic alternative to wooden decking; Azek is one well-known brand. Unlike composite planks, PVC is entirely human-made, with no added wood fibers. It does not attract pests or rot, and it is resistant to cosmetic damage from high traffic. 

This material is a breeze to clean (a bucket of soapy water and a brush is often all you need) and does not require sanding, staining, or sealing. But if you live in a very hot, sunny area, it’s possible that your PVC planks could warp or fade. 

Aluminum Decking Has a Long Lifespan

Aluminum decking can last a lifetime, and like the other materials discussed here, it’s resistant to insects, rot, and mold. But while plastic and PVC decking can become uncomfortably hot under intense sunlight, aluminum actually stays cooler, thanks to its hollow core.

Aluminum decking comes in many styles and colors but often has a noticeably artificial appearance.

What to Consider When Choosing a Deck Material

If you want a low-maintenance deck, consider where it will be built and how much foot traffic it will get. For a busy deck that will get a lot of use, composite or PVC may be a better choice than a soft wood that can dent or scratch. And for a deck that will get a lot of direct sun, aluminum, which stays cool, might make more sense than a composite material that may warp in the heat. 

And of course, your deck should complement the overall aesthetic of your house. If you are unsure which decking material is best for you, a contractor can help you narrow down your options and can also assist with installation.

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