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Comparing Different Decking Installation Methods: Wood vs. Composite

Decking Installation Decisions: Wood vs. Composite

A deck with wood and metal railings.
A deck with a white railing and black railing.

Are you pondering the perfect platform for your outdoor oasis?

Are you wondering which decking installation method and material will best suit your backyard bliss in Milton, GA?

You’re not alone in this deck dilemma.

In this post, you’ll navigate the intricate choices between wood and composite decking.

We’ll lay the foundation of your decking installation knowledge, from planning and design to finishing and maintenance.

By the end, you’ll be equipped with all the insights needed to make a well-informed decision for your custom deck-building project in Milton, GA.

Get ready to step onto the deck of your dreams, understanding the full spectrum of possibilities that await.

Planning Your Deck Design

A premium deck design with a metal railing.

Embarking on a decking installation can be an exhilarating phase of your home improvement project.

For homeowners in Milton, GA, choosing the right material is the cornerstone of this journey.

Choosing Your Deck Material: Wood vs. Composite

When it comes to decking materials, the classic charm of wood competes with the modern allure of composite materials.

  • Wood decking, known for its natural beauty and time-honored tradition, is a popular choice.

  • However, composite decking is gaining momentum due to its durability and low maintenance requirements.

Each material has its pros and cons, influencing your decision based on aesthetics, longevity, and upkeep.

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each material:

Pros & Cons of Wood


  • Natural Beauty: Offers a classic, authentic look with unique grain patterns.

  • Variety of Choices: Available in various types like cedar, redwood, and pressure-treated lumber.

  • Cost-Effective: Generally less expensive upfront than composite materials.

  • Customizable: Can be stained or painted in a wide range of colors.


  • Regular Maintenance: Requires staining, sealing, or painting to maintain appearance and longevity.

  • Susceptible to Weathering: Prone to warping, splintering, and rotting over time, especially if not properly maintained.

  • Environmental Impact: Some wood decking options may have a significant ecological footprint, depending on the source.

Pros & Cons of Composite


  • Durability: Resistant to fading, staining, scratching, and mold.

  • Low Maintenance: Does not require painting, staining, or sealing.

  • Longevity: Typically lasts longer than wood decking with minimal upkeep.

  • Eco-Friendly Options: Often made from recycled materials, reducing environmental impact.


  • Higher Initial Cost: Usually more expensive upfront compared to wood decking.

  • Heat Retention: Can potentially get hot underfoot in direct sunlight.

  • Limited Refinishing: Cannot be refinished like wood; color and style are permanent.

Deciding on Deck Size & Shape

The size and shape of your deck are not just a matter of space but also a reflection of your lifestyle.

Do you envision a sprawling platform for large gatherings or a cozy nook for intimate family time?

The layout should harmonize with your yard’s space and the architectural style of your home.

A well-planned deck not only adds to your living area but also enhances the aesthetic appeal of your outdoor space.

Here at Story Custom Decks, we offer a custom deck design service in Milton that includes a 3D rendering of your deck and the opportunity to make multiple revisions to the design before construction begins.

Follow the link to learn how much a premium deck design costs in Milton, GA.

In this section of our journey, we’ve explored the foundational decisions in the decking project.

As we delve further into the details of installation and maintenance, keep in mind these initial choices set the tone for your entire deck build.

Substructure Best Practices

A second story deck with footings and support beams above a concrete pad

Venturing into decking installation, especially in Milton, GA, demands a solid foundation – your deck’s substructure.

This base is crucial for a long-lasting, safe deck, whether you’re revamping an old deck or breaking ground on a new project.

Inspecting an Existing Substructure

Before installing new deck boards, it’s imperative to inspect the existing substructure.

Key elements to scrutinize include joist spacing, signs of mold or rot, and the condition of the ledger board.

Ensuring these components are intact is essential to prevent future issues and maintain the integrity of your deck.

Building a New Substructure

If you’re crafting a new deck, adhering to local regulations in Georgia is crucial.

Building a sturdy frame involves ensuring proper footings, beams, and joists.

Georgia’s climate and soil conditions can impact these, so it’s vital to consult local building codes.

Local Building Code Requirements in Milton, Georgia

Local building codes dictate everything from the size of your joists to the depth of your footings.

These regulations ensure your deck is safe and durable, factoring in local weather and soil conditions.

Best Practices for a New Substructure

Building a new substructure involves careful planning and precise execution.

The key is to ensure even spacing and alignment of joists, stable footings, and a secure ledger board.

Building a Deck Over Concrete

When installing a deck over a concrete surface, additional considerations come into play:

Additional Considerations for Concrete Overlays

  • Installing a deck over concrete requires proper drainage to prevent moisture buildup.

  • It’s also vital to ensure that the deck frame is securely anchored to the concrete, preventing shifting over time.

Deck Board Installation

A composite decking installation in the process of being completed.

Installing Wood Decking

Wood decking, a timeless choice for homeowners in Milton, GA, involves a traditional installation process.

The classic beauty of wood deck boards requires precision and care during installation.

Tools like a circular saw and a speed square are essential for accurate cuts and alignments.

When laying the deck boards, maintaining an even gap between each board is crucial for proper drainage and to accommodate natural wood expansion due to moisture.

Installing Composite Decking

Composite decking offers a more modern approach to deck building.

The installation of composite deck boards is often more straightforward, with various hidden fastener systems available to create a sleek, seamless surface.

These fasteners ensure a uniform gap between boards, contributing to the deck’s aesthetic and structural integrity.

Best Practices for Composite Decking Installation

Installing composite decking requires understanding the specific requirements of the material, such as spacing for expansion and contraction.

It’s also important to select the right fasteners for your composite material to ensure a secure and lasting installation.

Make sure always to follow the specific composite decking manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Here at Story Custom Decks, we are proud to use premium composite materials such as TimberTech Composite and TimberTech Advanced PVC.

Replacing Wood Decking With Composite

Many Milton, GA, homeowners are upgrading their decks from wood to composite.

This process involves removing the old wood deck boards and replacing them with composite boards.

The advantage of this upgrade is the low maintenance and higher durability of composite materials.

Benefits of Composite Over Wood

Composite decking offers significant advantages over wood, including resistance to fading, moisture, and insect damage.

It requires less upkeep and retains its appearance for years, making it a cost-effective choice in the long term.

Installation Tips

When replacing wood decking with composite, it’s crucial to ensure that the existing substructure is sound and suitable for composite decking.

The installation process may require additional framing support due to the different weight and structural properties of composite materials.

Here at Story Custom Decks, we typically use pressure-treated lumber or light gauge steel to create durable support for the custom decks we build.

The specific foundation material we use depends on the size and weight of the deck, as well as local building codes, soil conditions, and budget.

In the next section, we’ll delve into the material handling and preparation vital for a successful deck build in Milton, GA.

Material Handling and Preparation

Various decking materials about to be installed surround a deck renovation project

Storage and Handling of Decking Materials

Proper storage and handling are crucial steps in any decking installation project.

For residents of Milton, GA, this means protecting your decking materials from the elements until they’re ready for use.

Store your wood or composite boards off the ground, ideally on a flat surface, and cover them with a tarp to shield them from sun and rain.

This precaution helps maintain the integrity and quality of the materials.

Protecting Materials Before Installation

Before you start installing your deck, it’s important to inspect each board for any signs of damage or defects.

For wood decking, look for consistent grain patterns and avoid boards with large knots or splits.

For composite decking, check for any manufacturing defects.

Remember, the quality of your materials will directly impact the longevity and appearance of your deck.

Material Application: Spacing and Span

Understanding the spacing and span requirements is vital in the installation process.

Wood boards will need space between them to allow for moisture expansion, while composite boards may have different spacing guidelines based on the manufacturer’s specifications.

Kiln Dried vs. Air Dried: Spacing Differences for Wood Boards

The moisture content of your decking material affects how much it will expand and contract.

Kiln-dried wood typically has a lower moisture content compared to air-dried wood, affecting how you space the boards.

Always follow the guidelines provided by your decking material manufacturer to ensure proper installation.

Ground Considerations

Vapor Barrier Under Your Deck

In Milton, GA, where moisture levels can fluctuate, it’s crucial to consider a vapor barrier beneath your deck, especially in low-lying areas.

A vapor barrier helps protect the underside of your deck from moisture, which can lead to wood rot or damage to composite materials.

For decks close to the ground, this step is particularly important to prolong the life of your decking.

Ground Clearance Requirements

When planning your decking installation, consider the clearance from the ground.

This space is essential for air circulation and moisture prevention.

Adhering to these guidelines helps maintain the structural integrity and appearance of your deck over time.

Minimum Height Recommendations

Different decking materials have varying recommendations for minimum ground clearance.

Generally, a clearance of at least a few inches is recommended.

However, always check the manufacturer’s guidelines or consult a professional deck builder to determine the best practices for your specific decking material and local conditions.

Fastening Techniques

Fastening Ipe and Other Hardwoods

When building a deck with hardwoods, such as Ipe, specialized techniques are required.

These dense materials need strong fasteners, like stainless steel screws, for secure attachment.

Pre-drilling holes is often necessary to prevent splitting.

For an elegant finish, some homeowners in Milton, GA, choose hidden fasteners that give a clean, screw-free surface.

Hidden Fasteners

A person installing composite decking using a hidden fastener system

Hidden fastener systems are increasingly popular for their ability to create a smooth deck surface without visible screws.

Hidden fasteners not only enhance the aesthetic of your deck but also provide a safer walking surface by eliminating protruding screw heads.

These systems often involve clips or fasteners that are tucked away, securing the deck boards from the sides or underneath.

These fasteners can be particularly advantageous for composite decking, where a seamless look is often desired.

Stainless Steel Face Screwed

A person screwing a stainless steel screw into a board.

For decks exposed to heavy use or severe weather, stainless steel screws are a robust option.

They resist rust and corrosion, ensuring a long-lasting and sturdy deck.

When using stainless steel screws, it’s important to space them evenly for uniformity and strength.

Finishing and Maintenance

Finishing Options for Hardwood Decking

In Milton, GA, finishing your hardwood deck is crucial for longevity and appearance.

A quality sealant or stain not only enhances the natural beauty of the wood but also provides a protective layer against weather elements.

It’s advisable to apply the finish to all sides of the deck boards before installation.

This comprehensive approach helps in preventing moisture penetration and wood decay.

Maintenance Requirements: Wood vs. Composite

The maintenance requirements differ significantly between wood and composite decking.

For wood:

  • Wood decks require more frequent upkeep, including staining, sealing, and inspecting for rot or damage.

  • Regular maintenance, such as cleaning and reapplying finish, can prevent common surface issues like fading, cracking, and warping.

For composite:

  • Periodic cleaning is usually sufficient to maintain the surface appearance of composite.

Safety and Installation Tips

Safety Concerns with Hardwood Lumber

Working with hardwood lumber in Milton, GA, requires careful attention to safety.

  • Hardwood’s density and toughness can pose challenges during cutting and drilling.

  • It’s important to wear safety glasses and gloves to protect against splinters and sawdust.

  • Hardwood dust can be irritating or harmful if inhaled. Always wear appropriate protective gear, including a dust mask.

  • Using ear protection is wise when operating loud power tools.

  • Finally, ensure your work area is well-ventilated and clean up sawdust regularly to maintain a safe environment.

Decking Installation Tips

For a smooth decking installation, proper planning and the right tools are key.

  • Use a circular saw with a sharp blade for precise cuts.

  • Measure twice before cutting to minimize mistakes.

  • When drilling, use high-quality drill bits suitable for hardwoods to prevent damage to the material.

Tricks for Efficient and Safe Installation

  • Plan Your Layout: Sketch out your deck design before starting. It helps determine material needs and installation steps.

  • Use Spacers: Utilize spacers for consistent gap spacing between deck boards, ensuring even gaps for expansion and drainage.

  • Pre-drill Holes: With hardwoods, pre-drilling holes for screws is essential to prevent wood splitting.

  • Check for Squareness: Regularly use a speed square or framing square to ensure your layout is square, keeping your deck aligned and aesthetically pleasing.

  • Leverage Decking Guides: Use installation guides or videos for step-by-step instructions, especially helpful for specific decking materials.

Not Ready to DIY? Transform Your Outdoor Space with Story Custom Decks

A multi-level deck with staircases built by Story Custom Decks

Throughout this comprehensive guide, you’ve gained valuable insights into the world of decking installation.

From selecting the perfect material to mastering installation techniques, we’ve covered everything you need to build a stunning deck in Milton, GA.

However, if you prefer a professional touch, be sure to compare different deck-building contractors in Milton before you choose. And remember–the lowest cost doesn’t mean the best value!

Whether it’s the natural elegance of wood or the durability of composite decking, Story Custom Decks is your go-to premium custom deck builder for crafting beautiful outdoor spaces.

Ready to embark on your deck-building journey?

Let Story Custom Decks turn your vision into reality.

Don’t hesitate to fill out our contact form today or give us a call to start your deck transformation!

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