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Capped vs. Uncapped: Which Composite Decking is Best?

capped and uncapped composite decking

Julian Mossanen |

Composite decking has become an increasingly popular choice for homeowners and contractors alike, offering a low-maintenance alternative to traditional wood decking. Made from a combination of wood fibers and plastic, composite decking is designed to withstand the elements and resist fading, staining, and rotting, making it a durable and long-lasting option.

Choosing the right type of composite decking is crucial, as it can significantly impact the overall appearance, durability, and maintenance requirements of your outdoor living space. While composite decking offers many advantages over traditional wood, not all composite decking is created equal, and it's essential to understand the differences between the available options.

Capped Composite Decking

capped composite decking

Capped composite decking is the premium option in the composite decking market, offering enhanced durability and protection against the elements. This type of decking features a protective outer layer or "cap" that acts as a barrier against moisture, UV rays, and other environmental factors.

Features and Construction

The core of capped composite decking is typically made from a blend of wood fibers and plastic, similar to uncapped composite decking. However, what sets capped composite decking apart is the addition of a protective outer layer or cap. This cap is typically made from a more durable and weather-resistant material, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or acrylic.

The protective cap is co-extruded or bonded to the core material during the manufacturing process, creating a seamless and robust outer layer. This layer is designed to withstand the harsh effects of the sun, rain, and other environmental factors, providing superior protection compared to uncapped composite decking.

Capped Composite Decking Advantages

  • Enhanced Durability and Protection Against the Elements - Capped composite decking is designed to withstand the harshest weather conditions, including intense UV rays, moisture, and temperature fluctuations. The protective cap acts as a barrier, shielding the core material from these environmental factors, ensuring long-lasting performance, and minimizing the risk of premature deterioration.
  • Resistance to Fading, Staining, and Scratching - The cap layer on capped composite decking provides excellent resistance to fading, staining, and scratching. The cap is often formulated with advanced UV inhibitors and color pigments, ensuring that the decking retains its vibrant and attractive appearance for years to come. Additionally, the cap's durable surface helps prevent scratches and scuffs, maintaining a pristine look.
  • Low Maintenance Requirements - One of the most significant advantages of capped composite decking is its low maintenance requirements. Unlike traditional wood decking, which requires regular staining, sealing, and refinishing, capped composite decking is virtually maintenance-free. The protective cap prevents moisture absorption, minimizing the risk of mold, mildew, and rot, while also resisting stains and dirt buildup. Occasional cleaning with soap and water is typically all that's needed to keep the decking looking its best.

Capped composite decking offers homeowners and contractors a premium option that combines durability, low maintenance, and long-lasting beauty.

Uncapped Composite Decking

uncapped composite decking

Uncapped composite decking is an alternative to capped composite decking, offering a more affordable option for those seeking the benefits of composite decking without the added cost of a protective outer layer.

Features and Construction

Uncapped composite decking is typically made from a blend of wood fibers and plastic, similar to the core material used in capped composite decking. However, as the name suggests, uncapped composite decking lacks the protective outer layer or "cap" that characterizes its capped counterpart.

Without the additional protective cap, uncapped composite decking relies solely on the core material to withstand the elements and maintain its appearance over time. While the core material itself provides some resistance to moisture, UV rays, and other environmental factors, it may be more susceptible to fading, staining, and degradation compared to capped composite decking.

Capped Composite Decking Advantages

  • More Affordable Option - One of the primary advantages of uncapped composite decking is its lower cost compared to capped composite decking. By foregoing the additional protective cap layer, manufacturers can offer uncapped composite decking at a more budget-friendly price point, making it an attractive option for homeowners working with a tighter budget.
  • Natural, Wood-like Appearance - Uncapped composite decking often has a more natural, wood-like appearance compared to capped composite decking. Since the core material is exposed, the decking can showcase the unique grain patterns and textures of the wood fibers used in its construction. This can be appealing to those who prefer a more traditional, natural look for their outdoor living spaces.
  • Easier to Work With - Uncapped composite decking can be easier to work with compared to capped composite decking, particularly when it comes to tasks like cutting, drilling, and fastening. The absence of the protective cap layer can make it more straightforward to work with standard woodworking tools, potentially saving time and effort during installation and maintenance.

While uncapped composite decking may not offer the same level of protection and durability as capped composite decking, it still provides several advantages over traditional wood decking. It requires less maintenance than wood, as it is resistant to rot, insect damage, and warping. Additionally, uncapped composite decking is typically easier to install and maintain than wood decking, offering a more convenient and cost-effective solution for many homeowners.

When to Choose Capped Composite Decking

Capped composite decking is the premium choice for those seeking a low-maintenance, durable, and long-lasting outdoor living space. With its protective cap layer, it offers superior resistance against fading, staining, scratches, and harsh weather conditions, ensuring your deck retains its beauty with minimal upkeep. Although more expensive up front, capped composite decking can be a worthwhile long-term investment, especially for high-traffic areas, coastal environments, or when prioritizing a sleek, consistent aesthetic. However, for smaller projects or tighter budgets, uncapped composite decking may be a more cost-effective alternative. Also, note that not all capping is equal - TruNorth’s capping is 5x stronger than other popular brands on the market, which provides much better scratch resistance and durability. 

When to Choose Uncapped Composite Decking

Uncapped composite decking is a cost-effective choice for those working with a limited budget or seeking a natural, wood-like aesthetic. Its lower upfront cost and exposed core material make it appealing for smaller projects, low-traffic areas, or short-term installations. While it may require more maintenance and have a shorter lifespan than capped options, uncapped composite decking can be a practical solution for mild climates and homeowners willing to invest in regular cleaning and sealing. Ultimately, it offers an affordable alternative for those prioritizing budget or traditional aesthetics over enhanced durability.

Find the Best Composite Deck Boards at Composite Deck Direct

Elevate your outdoor living space with top-quality composite deck boards from Composite Deck Direct. Our extensive selection offers the perfect solution for every project, whether you're renovating your backyard oasis or designing a stunning deck for a commercial space.

With Composite Deck Direct, you can expect:

  • Premium Quality: Our composite deck boards are crafted using advanced technology and premium materials to ensure unmatched durability and aesthetics.
  • Variety of Options: Choose from a wide range of colors, textures, and finishes to complement your unique style and vision.
  • Environmental Responsibility: We are committed to sustainability and eco-friendly practices. Our composite deck boards are made from recycled materials, reducing waste and environmental impact.
  • Expert Guidance: Our team of experts is here to assist you at every step of the process, from selecting the right deck boards to installation tips and maintenance advice.

Transform your outdoor space with the best composite deck boards on the market. Order samples at Composite Deck Direct and experience the difference in quality and performance.