Synthetic Wood Decking: What It Is And Why You Should Use It

A deck made from synthetic wood decking outside a bungalow. The decking material is mid-brown and has a black railing all around and an access ramp. The house's walls are clad with wooden siding and have large windows and sliding doors. Across the top of the photograph are the words, "Synthetic Wood Decking: What It Is And Why You Should Use It." In the bottom right is an icon showing a person with their hands raised in a questioning manner with three question marks above their head.

Are you an eco-conscious homeowner or builder looking for a decking option that doesn’t contribute to deforestation?

Look no further than synthetic wood decking – an eco-friendly and stable decking that aligns with sustainable building principles. However, what exactly is synthetic wood decking?

Synthetic wood decking, also known as composite decking, is a decking material made from a combination of waste wood fibers and recycled plastics bonded with adhesives. The resulting material looks like natural wood but is low-maintenance.

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss how synthetic wood decking is made to help you understand how it contributes to sustainability.

I’ll also discuss its main advantages to help you decide on decking materials.

So, let’s get started!

Making Synthetic Wood Decking

There are two ways of making synthetic wood decking:

  • Extrusion
  • Compression molding


A synthetic wood plank is made by an extrusion process. The plank is partly sticking out of the machine and looks like wood.
A synthetic wood plank being made by extrusion. Image courtesy of Oklahoma State University.

This is the primary way of making synthetic wood decking. It involves the following steps:

  1. Assembling the materials: Sawdust, wood fibers, wood chips, and recycled plastic (usually high-density polyethylene) are assembled, ready for extrusion.
  2. Mixing: The materials are then mixed in a proportion determined by the manufacturer and the expected qualities of the decking. In most cases, the materials are mixed to contain 55% recycled wood, 40% recycled plastics, and 5% additives like adhesives and color pigments.
  3. Extrusion: The mixture is fed into an extruder for melting under high heat and pressure.
  4. Forming: The molten materials from the extruder are forced through a die to form the shape of the decking boards.
  5. Cooling: The decking board is then cooled using a water bath or an air-cooling system. The cooling process sets the shape and texture of the synthetic wood boards.
  6. Finishing: After cooling, the synthetic wood decking is finished to meet the desired aesthetics. Some manufacturers will add a protective coating to the decking to help prevent fading, scratching, and staining. Other manufacturers finish their decking by embossing or texturing them for a more natural wood-like appearance.

Compression Molding

A photograph of a compression molding machine on the left of the image, with an example of gray synthetic wood decking being installed on the right.
A compression molding machine and some synthetic wood decking. Image courtesy of ScienceDirect.

Compression molding is another way of making synthetic wood decking. It involves compressing pulverized recycled wood and plastic materials in high heat and pressure inside molds.

The high heat and pressure fuse the wood particles and plastic to form a solid decking board.

Types of Synthetic Wood Decking

The following are the main types of synthetic wood decking:

Solid Composite Decking

These are first-generation composite decking boards made from solid materials. They have a higher density and strength compared to their hollow counterparts.

Due to their solid nature, they offer low-maintenance, long-lasting solutions for decking and outdoor structures.

Solid composite decking is ideal for permanent floors, pathways, and swimming pools.

A significant drawback of solid composite decks is that they are highly susceptible to warping during extreme weather conditions.

Moreover, they are difficult to install due to their cumbersome nature.

Hollow Composite Decking

Hollow synthetic wood decking is installed outside on a monobloc surface. The installation is with a yellow cordless drill and screws.
Hollow composite decking reduces the weight of the boards, making them easier to handle without reducing their strength.

These are lighter and cheaper than solid composite decking.

Hollow composite decking (blank composite boards) incorporates a honeycomb structure. This structure makes them lighter with excellent strength.

They are thus ideal for structures such as siding installations, balconies, patios, or event decks.

The downside of these boards is that they are not impact-resistant or as strong as their solid counterparts. Consequently, you must use them with caps or fascia boards for protection and an increased lifespan.

Capped Composite Decking

These are synthetic wood decking with a cap and a core.

While the cap is made from a synthetic material, the core is a combination of recycled plastic and organic wood fillers.

The primary role of the synthetic material is to enhance the decking’s resistance to stain, discoloration, and scratch.

As you would expect, capped composite decks are more expensive than the rest due to the added layer of protection.

Capped composite decks are ideal for swimming pool decks, garden areas, pathways, and other areas susceptible to extreme wear and tear.

Advantages of Synthetic Wood Decking

Synthetic wood decking has many advantages over traditional lumber decking. They include:

High Durability

Synthetic wood decking closeup photograph with cartoon overlays of a heavy boot hitting the deck and a hammer hitting the deck.
Synthetic wood decking is more durable than traditional wood decking, meaning it will last much longer and doesn’t require as much maintenance.

Synthetic wood decking is more durable than traditional lumber. The very nature of plastic makes composite decks resistant to cracking, scratches, rot, and elements like rain.

Although the sun’s UV radiation causes photooxidative degradation of polymer chains, the binding of plastics and wood fibers in synthetic wood decks helps protect against this.

The above explanation illustrates why synthetic wood decking lasts between 25 and 30 years while their wood counterparts last between 10 and 15 years.

Low Maintenance

Unlike wood decks, synthetic wood decking requires minimal effort in terms of maintenance and upkeep.

Generally, you only need to clean them using a water hose or mild detergent for the boards to look new again. This saves time and money since you can easily keep your deck looking like it did on the first day without much effort.

Cost-Effective in the Long-Term

I’ll be frank with you – the upfront cost of synthetic wood decking is higher than traditional lumber.

However, considering these boards’ enhanced durability and low-maintenance requirements, you’ll save money in the long run.

The reduced maintenance costs will compensate for the initial price difference over time.

Moreover, synthetic wood decks don’t require refinishing or staining yearly like their wood counterparts.

This helps you save more money in the long run.


Synthetic wood decking is made from recycled materials – usually plastic waste and organic filler. This makes them a great option if you’re concerned about the environment.

By recycling plastic, composite decking helps lower the amount of plastic that gets into oceans and landfills.

Moreover, manufacturing composite decks using sawdust and wood chips helps minimize deforestation by avoiding the need to harvest trees. This is in addition to the fact that these decks last longer than traditional lumber and thus don’t need regular replacement.

So, Why Should You Use Synthetic Wood Decking?

You should use synthetic wood decking because it’s incredibly durable, low maintenance, and environmentally friendly.

Moreover, they are cost-effective in the long term. Thus, you can’t go wrong with a synthetic wood deck if durability, attractiveness, and sustainability are your main concerns.

Just make sure you select a quality product and install it expertly to enjoy the full benefits of these fantastic decking materials.

A quality composite lumber decking should match your style, color preference, and budget and be compatible with your preferred fastener type. Get these things right and you’ll enjoy your deck for many years.

Did you know that a straw bale house can save you money in energy bills due to its excellent insulation? Read this article to find out how.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *