We all know the importance of getting a good price for our home improvement projects. The cost-effectiveness is crucial, especially if you want to do some experimenting with new materials! Are you toying around with the idea of using timber? Or, you may be curious to try out wood plastic composite (WPC) timber for your new deck. Whichever the case, value for money is a key determining factor. It helps to understand the difference between timber and composite timber & know their real cost. An accurate cost comparison considers not only the installation but also ongoing maintenance. Once you know how much money composite timber (WPC) decking can save you, you won’t think twice!
What’s The Difference Between Timber and Composite Decking?
Timber and composite timber sound similar, even look alike, but under the hood, they differ in materials, upkeep & price.
Merbau Timber Decking
Merbau timber is an attractive, slow-growing rainforest hardwood timber species from the Kwila tree that thrives in the tropics (think Queensland and the Indo Pacific islands). A Merbau timber deck uses this highly-valued timber decking material because it’s:
- termite and rot-resistant
- favoured for outdoor construction
- hardy against harsh weather and saltwater if well maintained
Composite Timber (WPC) Decking
As an alternative to traditional timber, composite timber looks like wood (or better) but offers so much more. It is more often made from a mix of recycled plastic & cellulose fibre. The cellulose fibre is typically a mix of—bamboo, rice husks or hard or soft wood sawdust but for overall performance, the better brands stick with hardwood sawdust and some rice husks. It is a solid substitute for timber, particularly for decking. As you’ve probably guessed by now, it reduces our dependence on the timber species, plus it’s also:
- quick and easy to install
- ecologically sustainable and environmentally friendly
- regular maintenance-free with no oiling or painting required
- available in numerous permanent colour options
- oil and rot free
Types of Composite Timber
Composite timbers can also vary according to the type, quality and quantity of raw materials used. The profile of the extruder (a specialised machine), quality of the tooling and the expertise of the manufacturer also play a large role. Hollow boards cost less but solid boards are much better suited to Australia’s harsh environment. So, before you pick your brand of composite timber, consider the company selling the product and ask plenty of questions including how the product is made. The finished look of your deck and how it weathers over time will depend on the overall quality of the composite timber decking used. It is also important to consider the various fixing mechanisms of the decking boards because not all of them are concealed or the same. In fact, some types of concealed fixings are pricey, time-consuming and even impractical – for instance consider using glue under each board, sigh. On the other end of the spectrum, with a complete deck clip system, you can reduce installation time and save on labour costs. To get a better idea, you can check out what these fixings look like here. Calculating the Cost: Timber vs Composite Deck
The cost of both hardwood timber and composite decking can be difficult to calculate. Thankfully, this handy decking calculator online tool takes care of all the heavy lifting in the background. Just enter some basic information like dimensions and materials and you’ll be on your way. Based on this information, it’ll provide an instant estimate that you surely don’t want to miss out on. So check it out now! Decking Calculator The Futurewood decking calculator (a.k.a cost calculator) is a comparison tool to help explain the cost of maintaining hardwood timber decking. It uses the average prices of hardwood timber and composite timber across various types & sizes which it feeds through a complex algorithm to give you a cost comparison between the two. To use the decking calculator, get started in these three simple steps:
- Enter the dimensions (length and width) of your deck in meters. If your deck is an irregular shape, divide the total area into separate areas and add them separately. And allocate your wastage percentage. Your deck dimensions or shape will affect wastage, but an efficient board design or layout will help you minimise this. If you’re not sure, allow for approximately 3-5%.
- Select your preferred decking material from the options provided. Don’t worry if you see composite options only – You’ll see a comparison with traditional timber in your results.
- Once you’ve picked your material, choose a colour to take an even closer look.
Get ready to be surprised. Your instant estimate appears instantly (pun intended) along with a comparison between the cost of composite timber (WPC) decking vs timber decking over a 10-year period. Cost Comparison: Timber vs Composite Deck The cost of a timber deck is not limited to the boards themselves it also includes decking oil and the additional labour of cleaning and applying these chemicals after the decking is installed. Composite decking timber often appears to be more expensive upfront. This is due to their material costs and the need for specialised manufacturing processes. But when compared to traditional timber over a period of say 10 years, the choice becomes obvious. With their short lifespans, you’ll be paying much higher rates over time to maintain your hardwood timber deck.
Let’s illustrate this with an example: Product Dimensions and Coverage A Merbau timber decking (140mm x 19mm) board vs a CleverDeck Original 138mm x 23mm board would use square metre calculations based on a calculation of 7 lineal/metres per square metre*. This includes a 3mm spacing for the 140mm wide Merbau timber decking board and a 5mm spacing for the 138mm CleverDeck board. Pricing Let’s start with an average price for a 138mm CleverDeck Original at $17.72 per l/m incl. GST. And, for comparison purposes, we’ll use the average selling price of $10.00 per l/m incl GST for Merbau timber decking 140 x 19mm. Finished Cost The finished cost of the hardwood timber decking includes the material cost as well as the cost for surface preparation and finishing. This also considers the average labour and material cost per square metre for:
- Preparing & applying two to three coats of oil; and
- Preparation of chemicals & applicators.
And, the cost for the composite timber option so far – still the same or cost for material only. Composite Timber – 1; Hardwood Timber – 0 Annual Maintenance Annual maintenance costs for hardwood timber consider one to two costs of deck oil per square metre as well as the average labour cost per square metre to:
- Clean the deck boards;
- Apply one to two coats of deck oil; and
- Preparing the chemicals and applicators.
As a conservative number, you can put this cost at $30.00 an hour*. And, the annual maintenance cost for Composite Timber, drum roll, $0. *While average selling prices will vary between outlets, regions and states across Australia, annual maintenance costs are based on mid-range oil prices & labour rates of $30.00 an hour. Composite Timber – 2; Hardwood Timber – 0 There you have it. A practical comparison between Hardwood timber and composite timber decks.
What Should I Pick: Timber Or Composite Timber?
If you’ve used our decking calculator, by now you should have an idea of the budget you’ll need for your next decking project. Each decking area is unique, so the installation cost will depend on the overall size, width and length of your deck. Factor in the materials you wish to use for your subframe and you’ll have a good estimate of the project cost. The Futurewood decking calculator gives you an instant estimate for the decking materials and maintenance costs over time. It also calculates the 10-year savings when using Futurewood’s low-maintenance composite timber (WPC) decking vs Merbau hardwood timber decking that requires ongoing annual maintenance. In summary, Composite Timber (WPC) Decking is an ultra-low maintenance option that doesn’t require any oiling or staining. And if you choose Futurewood’s composite timber decking, with its concealed fixing system, it’s so easy that you won’t even need all hands on deck with your decking installation project! And for the bonus? You won’t need to worry about any splinters. There will be no sap or tannins runs or rotting. Also, your composite decking will resist tiny critters by keeping the white ant/termites at bay. Contact the super friendly Futurewood customer support team to help you find the decking that best fits your budget and needs. We’d love to give you the perfect deck that you can enjoy using for many years to come and with the peace of mind that you are caring for the planet… and your pocket!