PVC decking, also known as plastic decking, is made from 50% virgin polymers. Plastic decking is often confused with composite decking, which contains various percentages of plastic film, but they are drastically different products.
PVC decking is scratch-, stain- and insect-resistant. Most current generation products hold their color well and don't require painting or staining. It’s also sold in a variety of colors, textures and profiles. PVC decking is often priced at a premium over competitive wood-plastic composites, like Trex(R). PVC has also been known to discolor when used with rubber or PVC products, such as a welcome mat.
Outside of wood, two of the most popular choices for building a deck are plastic, or PVC decking, and composite decking. Both are made with plastic or plastic film, but they are not the same thing. There are important differences to note between the two.
Composite decking - such as Trex - is a blend of recycled plastic film and reclaimed wood fibers. The plastic film that goes into composite decking is called low-density polyethylene and combines with wood fiber - or wood flour - to create the board’s resilient core. The combination of reclaimed raw materials and a unique manufacturing process makes Trex one of the most sustainable and long-lasting decking materials.
When comparing composites and PVC, the main difference is appearance. Composites often better resemble wood with natural-looking grain patterns and more realistic colors. By contrast, PVC has a more synthetic appearance. Both offer multi-tonal or “streaked” products that are designed to mimic real wood.
Installation processes are nearly identical. Both can be installed with standard tools and can be installed with hidden fasteners, reducing the unsightly screw holes that come with wood installations.
PVC decking is resistant to moisture and rot because synthetic fibers are not absorbent. However, it can expand with heat and contract with cold. This can cause it to crack and make your deck potentially unstable.
Some PVC decking materials can fade or peel as a result of exposure to the elements.
Composite decking does not splinter or crack and does not become as slippery as solid plastic in winter months.
Trex composite decking products are infused with stain-resistant, fade-resistant color throughout the entire board to minimize the look of any surface scratches, giving uniform color all the way through.
PVC and composite decking are available in a variety of price points for every budget. The initial cost of a PVC board and composite board varies according to length, profile, material and performance capability. Board costs can also be impacted by market location.
Be careful when comparing boards. You can’t compare a premium PVC board with an entry-level composite board. Premium composite boards, for example, will be more expensive than a lower priced PVC board. It’s important to compare boards of similar quality and price range.
Generally, PVC decking is more expensive than composite decking. The average price of PVC decking ranges between $10 and $15 per square foot; composite between $4.50 and $13 per square foot.
Fastener, tool and installation costs should be relatively similar. Labor costs will vary and can be impacted by the location.
PVC is recyclable but is initially manufactured from mostly virgin materials. Not all composite decking is made from recycled material. Trex, however, is sustainably made from 95% recycled materials, including reclaimed wood fibers and plastic film. In fact, Trex saved 1 billion pounds of plastic film and wood scrap from the landfill in 2021. Trex boards can be repurposed after use but not recycled.
Trex composite decking is made from 95% recycled plastic film and reclaimed sawdust.
Trex kept more than 1 billion pounds of plastic film and reclaimed wood from the landfill in 2021.
As one of the largest plastic film recyclers in the U.S., our eco-friendly approach contributes to a healthier environment.
Composite decking has a clear advantage over wood: