Vinyl Decking Basics and Designs

Unsure about the pros and cons of vinyl decking? This quick guide can help you sort out what questions to ask.


Decades ago, the only options for new or revitalized decks were wood or stone. But advances in materials have worked their way outdoors, and the result -- vinyl decking -- offers a great option in many situations. Here's what you need to know about choosing vinyl decking:

  • Vinyl decking is fairly hardy. Most stain- and scratch-resistant vinyl decking is also able to withstand insects, mold, and mildew without much maintenance.
  • Vinyl decking won't cause splinters. Because of its man-made composition, vinyl decking doesn't act like wood, meaning it won't need maintenance, like sanding in worn spots.
  • Vinyl decking mimics wood in graining. Many vinyl decking options closely resemble the grain of wood, which can be a plus for homeowners hoping for the advantages of man-made material but the look of traditional wood decking.
  • Vinyl decking comes in a range of sizes, lengths, and widths. Vinyl decking can be installed as tongue and groove or in planks; it is also made into rails, moldings, and other accessories that add the finishing touch to a deck.
  • Vinyl decking comes in a variety of colors. Wood decking can be stained to exactly match the palette of a home, but vinyl decking comes as is. Fortunately, depending on the type of vinyl decking, there may be a range of color selections that complement different styles and types of homes.
  • Vinyl decking can be slick. Planks for vinyl decking can come textured or smooth; if you can, opt for a textured surface, which is less likely to be slippery when wet.
  • Vinyl decking may fade. Unless factory-treated for fade resistance, vinyl decking will loose some of its color luster when exposed to prolonged periods of sun.
  • Vinyl decking needs to be regularly cleaned. As with any other outdoor surface, vinyl decking needs periodic cleaning in order to maintain its appearance and condition. Most surfaces can be cleaned with a simple scrubbing; any mold can be removed with a special solution for the vinyl decking.
  • Vinyl decking is more expensive. Although it generally lasts several times longer than wood, vinyl decking can also be several times more expensive. Many brands come with a warranty, which offers protection for homeowners initially hesitant about the up-front investment.
  • Vinyl decking finishes may increase the cost. Although most vinyl decking systems can be installed with traditional tools, the different fasteners or screws -- which lend the finished piece a different appearance -- may cost more. In addition, end caps and trim pieces may also add to the final budget. One of the advantages is that some systems have concealed fastening systems, so you no longer see screw holes through the top surface of the decking.
  • Vinyl decking has certain installation requirements. Most vinyl decking systems have particular connections and directions. In addition, during construction, any sawdust and shavings must be removed, because they are not biodegradable.
  • Not all neighborhoods allow vinyl decking. Before choosing a deck material, check with local building codes; some areas may prohibit vinyl decking.

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