5 On Your Side

5 On Your Side reveals leaders in tests that rate deck materials

Posted October 28, 2019 6:55 p.m. EDT

— No matter where you live, a deck can add value to your home and enhance your outdoor living space.

Whether you’re thinking about building one, or know it’s time to replace your old deck, there are different options for material.

Consumer Reports is currently testing a variety of materials you may want to consider, including yellow pine wood, aluminum, composite, and vinyl.

Among the tests, sharp and blunt objects are dropped onto decking material to assess how it resists denting.

Another test determines how well decking material resists bending under a heavy load.

“After we test the decking samples here we send them out to Florida and Arizona where we let them sit out under the sun for a year at a time,” said Eric Hagerman, an editor with Consumer Reports.

Materials face different challenges based on where it's located.

For example, Florida residents grapple with humidity while residents in Arizona must contend with hot, dry heat, both climates are very harsh on materials.

Then the samples are sent back to Consumer Reports and put through the same tough lab tests. That cycle is repeated two more times for a total of three years.

Because CR has such a rigorous process, it’s going to be another couple of years before the overall scores for the products in the magazine's ratings are available.

But here’s a sneak peek at how things are stacking up:

  • The best for your money so far is Southern Yellow Pine. It cost about 70 cents a square foot, doesn’t bend under heavy loads, and is less slippery than most other materials. But it does soak up stains and is prone to surface damage.  And natural wood doesn’t come with a warranty.
  • On the other hand, current composite decking resists stains and stands up to surface damage better than pine. Consider Fiberon Horizon Composite Decking for about $2.90 a square foot.
  • A vinyl material also appears to be performing well so far in the magazine's testing. It’s the CertainTeed EverNew Decking, and it costs about $2.75 per square foot.
  • If you’re considering aluminum decking, Consumer Reports says it’s tough, rigid, and slip-resistant but extremely expensive, and no one would mistake it for wood.

The magazine expects to wrap up the full testing in 2020.

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