Composite Decking Reviews Reveal the Truth

Responsible and savvy homeowners are doing their research when it comes to composite decking problems and drawbacks. Composite decking reviews all over the internet show that there is a clear distinction between composite decking and other hardwood decking materials.

Although composite decking materials are heavily marketed and popular due its low cost, the fact of the matter is that composite decking cannot compare to hardwoods like ipe . But, what about the long term costs? To put it simply, those that say that composite wood is a viable and more eco-friendly alternative wood are not seeing the bigger picture.

Composite wood is detrimental to the environment due to the ingredients used to create it. In addition, the cost to constantly maintain, repair, and in many instances replace a composite deck means that your return on investment is actually worse than if you went ahead and installed an ipe deck instead.

When you do research on composite decking reviews, you are certain to find the following complaints:

  • Composite Decking Reviews Reveal Mold and Mildew ProblemsAbsorbs water like a sponge
  • Composite materials are made of oil-based products like polyethylene
  • Susceptible to mold, mildew, and fungi
  • Photodegradation – composite decks degrade due to UV exposure
  • The more plastic used in the composite decking, the more likely it is to warp
  • The less plastic used in the composite decking, the faster it rots
  • Termites and other insects feast on composite deck materials
  • Due to substandard construction process, planks and sometimes the whole deck needs to be replaced
  • Many lawsuits have been filed because of injuries
  • Use of resin may lead to the release of formaldehyde in the finished product

While it would be nice to say to your neighbors that you saved money with your brand new composite deck. I highly doubt you would be gloating if, after a couple of years your deck looked like the picture above.

In fact, I’d bet that you’d even stop inviting the neighbors over at all because you’d be worried about what people would think. Or worse, that someone would get injured on your property. The savings are short term, yet long regretted. When it comes to composite decking, the saying is definitely true, “You get what you pay for.”

Check out this video below which shows just some of the problems associated with various composite decking materials:

Update: Composite decking has changed a lot over the years, and manufacturers are constantly improving the product. Many of the problems that plagued synthetic decking in the past have been solved. But not all companies and products are equal; always do your research, and only buy composite decking from reputable brands!

44 thoughts on “Composite Decking Reviews Reveal the Truth”

  1. We installed a (MAJOR BRAND) deck 2 years ago in our dream home. In fact we have a quite large deck in the back and a smaller deck on the side of our new home. It is a disaster. It mildews and get awful, ugly, unsightly black spots so close together that when you look out our beautiful windows, it is repulsive. My husband who is turning 70 has to clean it every 2 months and it is not an easy job! We hate it and it cost a lot of money. DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT. Interestingly, we covered part of the large back deck and it does not mildew under the covered part. However, any board that is exposed to the weather and sun is a nightmare and awful. I wish we could do this again. WE WOULD NEVER, NEVER, NEVER USE (MAJOR BRAND) AGAIN. I CAN SEND YOU PICTURES OF OUR BIGGEST NIGHTMARE EVER, IF YOU CONTACT ME.

  2. I am also looking at deck alternatives such as composite, mahogany, IPE, other exotics, yellow pine, vertical grain douglas fir, (MAJOR BRAND), etc. The composites seem to be the worse. Displays at H&S, Carter, and Building Center show how awful these look after a few years. One store recommended against them. At H&S the composite looks okay under cover but it has faded and has black splotches out in the weather. I was told it was (MAJOR BRAND).

  3. Joseph,

    From my experiences in dealing with decking and customers that have shared their experiences with us, I can tell you that Ipe Decking is the best product on the market which is then closely followed by the Tigerwood and Cumaru Decking products.

    With a life expectancy of over 30-40 years. These decking materials require no yearly maintenance and will turn to a sliver gray and you will not see any rot mold mildew or splintering. If you were looking to keep the natural color, an oil finish can be applied with a paint roller once the deck is done then again about 6-8 months later and then every two years or as needed after that.

    Problems that you had mentioned with the composite decking market is why I have about 50% to 60% of our customers are ripping up their 2-3 year old composite decking and replacing it with one of our hardwood decking products.

    I have heard everything from the two class action lawsuits for mold and mildew issues to other companies recalling millions of board feet of decking due to it failing under normal working conditions. By failing I mean that people literally fell through their decking and in turn have filed lawsuits. Also, if you do some more research into the maintenance required for composite decking you will learn that it is far from maintenance free and may require the most maintenance out of all decking products available. Life expectancy that we have seen is 2-3 years.

    Mahogany isn’t a bad exterior decking product. It just requires a lot of yearly maintenance from sealers, stains and sanding. As well as the fact that most of your mahogany decking is Philippine and there is almost no regulations on forest management in South Eastern Asia so you run in to the Deforestation issues. Life expectancy is about 10 years.

    Yellow Pine and Doug Fur like any soft woods in an exterior application will see issues with in the first year of being down from rot mold and mildew issues to major splinters. These materials will require a very high amount of yearly maintenance from sealers and stains to anti fungal treatments and yearly sanding. Life expectancy is about 5-10 years.

    All in all, your best bet for decking materials is a hardwood decking product and the best of these is Ipe, Tigerwood, Cumaru and Garapa. This is due to there life pan, low to no required maintenance and most of all the very strict guidelines in proper forest management and selective harvesting. These programs have been put in place to not only help provide an income to a poverty stricken area of the world but also to help generate re-growth in the forest while also protecting huge areas of land from clear cutting cattle ranchers and soy bean farmers.

    Thank you for your time and please let me know if there is anything else I can assist you with.

  4. I have an IPE peck.Its 4 years old. When built we treated all sides with Sikkens Cetrol DEX This is a film forming produce, before building and top coated 6 months after build and again 6 months latter It was about 4 coats in 1.5 years. It looked great for a little over a year. It than started fading and peeling. It got so bad that after the winter 85% of the deck was peeling. The Sikkens rep said we had poor coverage and would need to strip/sand and start over. I stripped,sanded,cleaned,wiped with acetone as requested and applied Sikkens Cetol SRD This is a non film forming sealer. 6 months latter the deck looks awful. What product that is semi-transparent works on IPE. I love the way the wood looks but would like to find a sealer that will holdup longer that 5 months. My deck does get full sun all day.

  5. Ernest,

    There’s a reason we don’t sell these types of finishes… We don’t like complaints from our customers, the only finish we recommend for hardwoods like Ipe, Tigerwood and etc. would be Ipe Oil. It’s a UV Oil that maintains the rich color of your beautiful hadrwood decking, it applies easily and absorbs into the wood giving you long lasting beauty with out a peeling mess like other products. Ipe is one of the densest woods in the world and has it’s own natural oils in the wood that’s why most products like the ones you used don’t work well. Ipe Oil has been specifically formulated for hardwood decking and it’s the only finish we recommend for hardwood decking.

  6. Ernest,

    The product that we suggest using is Ipe Oil, this is a penetrating oil that seems to last for about 2 years. You will need to apply one coat once the decking is done and then a second about 6 months after that, then its about every two years after that.

    If you were looking to switch over to Ipe Oil, you will need to sand down the surface of the deck and then do a pressure wash to ensure all the saw dust and old finish have been removed.

    I hope this helps, if there is anything else that I can do for you please do not hesitate to let me know. Thank you for your time and good luck.

  7. Thinking of installing Ipe at the coast for our decks – how does it holdup under extreme heat and salt air conditions. Any advice would be helpful as to the best type of decking to use.

  8. Harriet,

    Ipe would be the perfect choice for your application. With it being naturally water resistant the salt water will not affect the material in any way. Heat also is no challenge for Ipe. I can confidently say this because we have the material installed up and down the east west and gulf coast. With applications including board walks docks and personal decks. You may also want to take a look in to one of our other products such as Tigerwood or Cumaru as these will also hold up with no problems in almost any environment you could think of. If you want to see one application that deals with year round sun, heat, and salt water conditions, check out our ipe wood decking over at the Secrets Resort in Jamaica.

    I hope this helps please let me know if there is anything else I can assist you with. Thank you for your time.

  9. IPE wood deck with hiddens fasteners approx 12 inches off the ground
    Project yet to be built. Getting some conflicting info Should all six sides be sealed with IPE oil or Messmers? Should deck boards be glued down with a water based glue such as Gorrila glue or a polyutherane construction adhesive? Would a landscape infiltration barrier be useful as a ground cover and should the joist loading be increased because of 70 lbs fre sq ft dead loading?

  10. Jeffery,

    With the decking being so close to grade I would suggest applying an oil finish such as Ipe Oil to all 4 sides of material (end-grain should be sealed with Anchor Seal). This will help to even out the moisture contents on either side of the board in turn helping to prevent any sort of major movement. Also being such a low ventilation application, I would suggest going with a 5/4 thickness for your board and personally if this where on a site of mine I would use 5/4×4 which is nice and thick with very low surface area.

    In terms of Ipe Clip use, the instructions call for a construction adhesive such as “liquid nails” to be used between the boards and joist. This will give a little more holding power while also helping to level the decking in turn preventing any chatter when walking over the boards.

    Your landscaping barrier may be helpful if it will help with drainage as well as ventilation. These are two big keys when building a deck so close to grade is you need water to drain from under the deck while keeping air flow at a maximum. Your dead load question would be based of what your local building code will require.

    I hope this all helps please let me know if there is anything else we can help you with. Thank you for your time.

  11. Well after reading this, I think I will explore stained concrete. I have no confidence in composite materials from any manufacturer. I’m looking for low maintenance and composite does not fit the bill, but costs big bills.

  12. We have a deck that is basically over a roof (on the joists that held a summer kitchen). After replacing the rotted joists (8x4s, ACQ) and underdecking (3/4″ ACQ ply, covered with ice and water shield and flashed with copper), we’re looking into decking material. A couple of issues:
    1. Because this is a essentially a roof deck, there’s no free path for water to the ground, so we rely on the pitch of the underdeck to carry the water off. That means that we can’t use caustic cleaners or finishes that might damage the ice and water shield.
    2. There are numerous trees in the area. The boards need to be close together to keep debris at a minimum (or we end up with trees growing out between the boards- we really experienced this!).
    3. We’d much, much, MUCH prefer wood over composite. Is ipe a good choice given our constraints?


  13. John,

    With this being a roof top deck would I would suggest using is the 5/4×4 Ipe Decking that is pregrooved for use with the Ipe Clips.

    This will need to be installed on top of a wood frame system and will leave a gap between the boards of 3/32″. You will need this gap to allow for proper air ventilation and both through the decking and under frame so that there is air flow under the boards. Due to the low ventilation of this application the 5/4×4 decking is a better option since it is a thicker material with less surface area. This, in turn, means it will be extremely stable and reduce the changes of an issue that may be caused by movement of the material.

    As for your other question…Without a doubt, Ipe is the best decking product for this application. Nothing on the market will come close to the stability that the Ipe offers for roof top applications as well as the 40+ year life span. I hope this helps answer some of you question please let me know if there is anything else that I can help you with. Thank you for your time and inquiry.

  14. Thanks for your reply- this is helpful. A couple of other questions-
    1. I was planning to use 2×2 floating sleepers on top of the roof membrane- floating because I don’t want to puncture the membrane. I’d expect that the weight of the decking would keep the sleepers in place, as they wood on a standard pine deck- is that right?
    2. Will the Ipe Clips work with the 2×2 sleepers, or would I need wider ones?
    3. I’m assuming that Ipe sleepers would be the way to go, but is it possible to use ACQ pine for this purpose?
    4. Finally, what is the delivery time and charge? FYI, the deck is basically 19×10 feet.

    Thanks again!

  15. John,

    1) A 2×2 will work for the sleepers, normally what customers due is use a 2×4 laid flat so you would have the same 1 ½” rise but a little more weight and rigidity side to side than with a 2×2. The weight of the decking will keep everything in place in theory but you will want to anchor the sleepers, check with your local building code to figure out how they will require them to be anchored.

    2) The Ipe Clips will work with the 2×2’s but again from a strength and rigidity point of view I would think about going with 2×4’s.

    3) ACQ will work just fine and will not have any sort of reaction with the Ipe. The ACQ will still be structural for 20 years or so, it won’t look good but will be covered by the Ipe any way.

    4) I can actually offer you free shipping on this as long as you are in the lower 48 states. But in general shipping will cost about 10% of your final cost. Timing on something like this will normally be about 5-7 business days after the order is placed until it arrives on site.

    Thank you again for your time and inquiry let me know if you have any other questions.

  16. Thanks again for your help! Good point about the 2x4s- just one (I think!) last question: once delivered, do you recommend letting the wood sit to acclimate to temp and humidity prior to installation? I’m in Philadelphia, so the climate is fairly moderate (this past summer notwithstanding!). I’d be looking for an early to mid-November install.


  17. John,

    Yes, we do suggest allowing the material to acclimate to the conditions in which it will be installed. You will want to stack the wood right where it will be installed up off the ground on blocks un-covered for a minimum of 4-5 days prior to installation. One mistake people make a lot is allowing the material to sit covered or in a garage. Problem with this is the material will be acclimated to being under the tarp or in the garage and not to the exterior conditions in turn you may see movement issues once installed. Let me know if there is anything else we can do for you. Thank you again.

  18. Just to reiterate: DO NOT BUY (MAJOR BRAND)!!!!!

    Molds within 1 year, needs specialized cleaner 2-3X a year. color fades within 1 year, NO customer service, and multiple class action lawsuits…I can’t believe the big stores still sell this garbage.

  19. Would your material be suitable for replacement of a second floor 4′ x 40′ porch with nine 4″ x 8″ Redwood counter levered supports spaced 43″ apart? Roof/ceiling also counter levered to illimnate load on porch. Iron railing with iron posts to sit on porch surface.

  20. Bill,
    Honestly, you will need to check to see if that span is accepted by your local building code. Generally speaking, to be at zero deflection, 1x material needs to be 16” on center or under, 5/4x material needs to be 24” on center or under, and 2x material can be 32” on center or under. Ipe, without a doubt, is one of the best products on the market for an exterior decking application due to its longevity and natural resistance to things like rot, mold, mildew and insects. So I can confidently say that Ipe is suitable for your application. Let me know about the building code and I should be able to recommend a size best suited for this application. Thank you for your time and inquiry.

  21. You recommended IPE oil finish on all 4 sides of a deck close to grade. You have also recommended acclimating the decking before installation. My question is should the oil finish be applied before or after 4 to 5 days of acclimating?

  22. Paul,

    You will want to allow the material to acclimate outdoors where it will be installed for about 5 days. This should be done up off the ground on blocks (neither above concrete nor in a garage). Let it acclimate out in the open uncovered. If you were looking to apply the oil finish to all four sides, you will want to do this after the material has become acclimated. If you do it prior to, your acclimation time will be significantly longer. The oil finish will need to be applied to the decking where the material has become acclimated in temperatures of 50 degrees or higher for at least 24 hours along with no rain for 24 hours. Then you should be good to install the decking.

  23. I live in mid -Michigan…I just purchased a home, where the deck was the worst of the home inspection (just 2×4 wood) When would be the best time to build a deck using IPE or the other woods mentioned if I have to apply or oil or sealer so long after the build? I would like to try and get a new deck build this fall, depending on the price.

  24. Amy,

    Most people choose to build or replace their deck in the spring, summer, and fall. You can oil the deck after it is installed. Here’s the guide to applying hardwood deck oil. Just be sure to wipe up heavy areas and footprints and you’re done.

    Chris Foreman
    General Manager

  25. Joe,

    Ipe decking is one of the best suited products for you climate. Ipe, being a product of Brazil, is right at home in hot and humid weather. We have sold many jobs into the state of Florida, both commercial and residential with perfect results. Below I have added a link to a section of our web page that shows a deck installed in Sarasota, Florida.

    Another product worth looking at for your area would be Cumaru. Cumaru is nearly as dense as Ipe and carry’s the same characteristics such as being natural resistant to rot, mold, mildew, water, and insects. Below is a link to a Cumaru Dock installed in Cape Coral Florida.

    I hope this helps, please let me know if there is any other questions or concerns that I can help you with. Thank you for your time and inquiry.

  26. We are looking to rebuild our deck here in Chicago. We looked into composite decking and after all the horrible reviews, we have decided against it. Would IPE decking work up here with all the ice, snow, heat, etc… Or is there a different product you could reccomend?

  27. Dave,
    We have a location in Buffalo, NY and while the winter there has been one of the most mild since the 1800’s, the material holds up just fine. That being said, we have this material installed in places such as Alaska, Northern Canada, and have sent containers to Russia.

    From cold to hot, Ipe decking can handle pretty much everything Mother Nature can throw at it.

    I would be happy to send out a sample for you or work up an estimate of price if you are interested. Thank you for your time and inquiry.

  28. I am about to replace a 3000 square foot deck and have a limited budget. I have looked at numerous composite decking samples and talked to lumber yards and big box stores about their materials. I have heard good things about a product and then talk to another person about the same product and get an entirely different answer. I am totally confused about what to believe. My contractor was supposed to remove a few bad boards on this large deck (on a lake) and had to remove all when each board was more rotten than the next. Now I’m left with a good structure to build on, contractors ready to work and no decision from me….a confused buyer at this point. Can you send a sample of this ipe you mention right away? What is the type shown in the picture with matching rail with black spindles? What is Cumaru? Garapa, Ipe and Massaranduba? Thank you.

  29. We have a large multi-level deck in deep shade under trees. Iowa summers are humid, winters are icy. My concern is mold and rot, coupled with ice and freeze/thaw. The last thing I need is a deck that comes apart after a few winters. Do you have any specific examples (pictures) of older installations in northern climes?

  30. I just ripped up my Trex deck after only four years and replaced with an Ipe deck. Our Trex deck was continuously molding over despite my constant efforts to keep it clean. Our new deck looks great! I look forward to a little less maintenance going forward.

    Ipe is the way to go if you want real wood. I’m told that if you want a composite material then go with Azek.

    Hope this helps.

  31. Our company was looking at install(33)486 sq.ft. 20’8 x 28’4 rooftop decks, using composite decking until I read all the negative reviews. We were looking for material that weigh less than hardwood, but I see the compromise is too great of a risk. Each deck will be made of (12)4×10 removable panels on 2×4 sleepers. Questions: In using your product, I would need to know the weigh of each panel using 1×6 10′ boards. And from the time the order is placed, how long before arrival to site. I am in Illinois.

  32. I’m getting ready to build about 1300 SF of deck on my house in the northwest. Many of the PVC’s and composites claim to be low maintenance but I’m not a fan of the aesthetics. If I use IPE I know that it will want to grey but I would much rather that it stay its natural color. How long does it take to grey and if so does it have to be bleached to be brought back to its original condition or will simply retreating do the trick.
    My builder warns against using pregrooved IPE and suggest bisketing every piece if I want to have hidden fasteners (for strength in 1″). I’ve heard that water can get in the grooved IPE and sit and rot. What do you think?

  33. just installed Evergrain Deck one year ago. The deck is GREAT, we love it, but the railing system which was supper expensive is a nighmare – the horizontal rails are splitting and Tamko is not very responsive in fixing this issue.

  34. We live in northern Virginia. About two years ago we had a screened in porch added to our home. The contractor installed a brick floor with no moisture barrier. Even though the porch has a roof, the bricks suck up moisture from the ground and are covered with moss etc. Can we cover the bricks with ipe and eliminate the moss problem?
    Also we are very concerned that we not support further destruction of the rain forest.I hope you are truly eco friendly.

  35. Hi,

    We live in the Northeast are rebuilding after the hurricane. Since we had to go up in air, we now are going to have decks. What is better for decking, 3/4 or 5/4 looking at Cumanu. Is it worth it for the additional; money for the 5/4 and if so, why? Thanks for any help.


  36. I am very excited to come accross your website and can relate to some of John’s questions regarding a roof deck. We have an existing floating redwood roof deck on top of our sunroom. It is L-shape with 8’W x 19’L on one side and 6’W x 14’L on the other side. It consists of 5 panels that can be carried by 2 people (my husband and I). This comes in handy when cleaning or replacing rotten wood. The panels sit on strategically placed 3/4 x 2 x 24’plastic sleepers’for elevation. In 13 yrs, this is the second time we are replacing rotten redwood. We love the deck but are tired of replacing wood and also sanding/re-staining the salvageable wood. We were looking at composite, fiber cement, and even plastic, hoping to make our lives a little easier (we’re no spring chicken). A 1x4x10 redwood costs $17 each. How much does the Ipe or other hardwood weigh? Considering that the L-shaped sun room underneath has floor to ceiling sliding glass doors, weight is definitely a factor. What would you suggest? How much will it cost us? I can send you photos of the deck for your reference if you prefer. Oh yes, we live in coastal SF bay area where there is fog, sea salt air, part shade and part sun. Mostly 50’s to upper 70’s year round. Your honest advise is appreciated.

  37. I’m replacing an old redwood deck that is on sleepers over a roof, and trying to decide between composite and tigerwood.

    Unfortunately, the total height of the sleeper and decking is only 2.25 inches due to doors (luckily there is proper sloping and drainage so the height increases quite a bit at the drip edge).

    Your site says not to install ipe or tigerwood over cement because it will cup due to moisture. Will it also cup over a roof?

    It seems like both composite and tigerwood need clearance to “breath”. Will using PVC pavers under the sleeper help at all? the bison and AWS paver systems would be limited to adding only a small amount of air under the sleeper. Between .25 inches near the building, and about 3 inches at the edge furthest from the building.

    The deck is southwest facing and gets blazing sun during the summer (and most of the year for that matter), luckily humidity isn’t bad, but we do get a fair amount of rain.

    Does tigerwood still make sense in this situation?

  38. Using thicker material (5/4x instead of 1x) will help deter cupping, as will proper acclimation. You could also consider using decking tiles, since they were designed specifically for this type of installation.

  39. We are considering Ipe or Tigerwood for a deck on the coast in San Diego. There is a moderate cost advantage to Tiger. Other than it being slightly more of a known “brand”, are there performance factors that make Ipe prefereable to Tiger?

    Also, our contractor was told that the deck have a recommended slope of 1/4 inch. We framed out everything for a flat deck, as we were going to space boards slightly, allowing water to flow between the boards. Is a slight slope important?

    Thanks — enjoying your site.

  40. Ipe is an overall stronger wood. You can expect ipe to last around 75 years while tigerwood will last around 30. Tigerwood also isn’t quite as stable as ipe; you’ll get more expansion/contraction.

    That’s not to say tigerwood’s a bad choice by any means. It’s still much stronger than most other decking materials.

    For the slope, that is something we recommend. The gaps are essential as well, but the slope ensures that any water that collects on the boards will flow into the gaps instead of just pooling.

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