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Best composite decking 2023: Low-maintenance decking for your garden

Enjoy a fuss-free garden with our picks of the best composite decking to buy right now

If you’re planning to install decking in your garden, and don’t want to worry about constant upkeep, the best composite decking could be what you’re looking for. Composite decking is incredibly easy to install and while it might set you back a little more from the offset, it’s hard-wearing, long-lasting, and almost maintenance-free.

With minimal need to invest time and effort in its upkeep compared with the regular cleaning and sealing routine required with real wood, composite decking could work out to be a better value choice for you than traditional timber. And don’t worry, low maintenance doesn’t mean low quality or any need to compromise on the look of the finished area. In fact, composite decking is available in a wide range of contemporary colours and finishes – both realistic wood graining and grooved – to complement your house and garden.

Better still, even if your budget is a little limited, there are still plenty of attractive composite decking options out there.

Best composite decking: At a glance

How to choose the best composite decking for you

Developed in the 1980s as a man-made alternative to traditional timber decking, composite decking is made from a mixture of wood fibres, plastics and bonding agents. This mixture is heated, formed into lengths and cooled.

It’s denser, stronger and heavier than wood, and is available in a range of colours and textures that resemble different woods and finishes. Composite designs are often moulded on natural wood, so that the grain pattern appears realistic.

What are the advantages of composite decking?

Composite’s main advantage over wood decking is that it’s relatively maintenance-free, needing none of the repeated cleaning, sealing, staining or painting that wood demands every couple of years. Unlike their wooden counterparts, composite boards are resistant to damp, mould, rot, fading and insect damage, making them much more durable. Water absorption is also low, making them a safe choice around pools and other wet areas. Moreover, bare feet and hands will appreciate the absence of splinters and cracking, although they can be more slippery.

In terms of durability, composite decking can be relied on to last at least 15 years, with some manufacturers offering guarantees of up to 25 years. Once installed, though, it can last much longer than that.

The initial outlay is greater than real wood boards, but the reduced spend on maintenance in subsequent years should be taken into account: they may prove more economical in the long run. All you need to do to preserve composite decking is sweep it regularly, taking care to remove fallen leaves or other debris from between the planks. If necessary, remove dirt and grease by scrubbing with a brush and soapy water.

Should I buy capped or uncapped composite decking?

Composite boards can be capped or uncapped. Capped means boards have a plastic coating, which makes them resistant to fading and staining, but they may not look as realistic. Uncapped boards are cheaper to buy but may fade a little when exposed to the elements. Boards can feature hollow chambers throughout or be solid; the latter being stronger and heavier.

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How do you install composite decking?

Installing composite decking can be done in the same way as wooden decking, ie screwed onto a wooden frame, but some new designs have grooves in the side so that hidden fasteners can be used. This means that there are no visible screws in the finished deck surface.

Unless you’re an experienced DIYer or tradesperson, we’d always recommend getting in a professional to fit your composite decking for the best result. There’s nothing worse than spending hundreds or thousands of pounds on decking, only for it to not fit correctly.

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The best composite decking to buy in 2023

1. NeoTimber Essential: Best non-slick composite decking

Price: £7 per linear metre | Buy now from NeoTimber

NeoTimber Essential boards are designed with maximum slip resistance in mind and this extra protection is achieved by having a more textured finish on the boards. As a result, the etched finish of the “woodgrain” is deeper than other styles of composite decking, which also gives it a more realistic look.

These boards are also reversible, with a wood design on one side and grooved texture on the other. Both offer anti-slip protection, though the grooved side offers the best resistance. The range comprises four colours: grey, teak, chocolate and charcoal, all of which are gorgeous. The boards can be fitted however you like, but the company recommends laying them at right angles to the direction of the main foot traffic.

Key specs – Board length: 3.6 metres; Board dimensions: W145mm x D24mm; Board type: Hollow uncapped; Textures: Reversible grooved/ribbed and woodgrain

Buy now from NeoTimber

2. Hyperion Frontier: Best eco-friendly composite decking

Price: £13 per linear metre | Buy now from Envirobuild

The Hyperion Frontier range is supplied with an impressive 25-year warranty against fading and staining due to its solid construction and advanced protective capping. It’s engineered from a mix of 60% Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood reclaimed from post-industrial manufacturing, and 40% recycled high-density polyethylene. Adding to the environmental credentials of the range, it’s also produced using 100% renewable energy – ideal if you’re the eco-conscious type.

Better still, this particular range is available in four versatile finishes: dark brown iroko, mid-brown teak, mid-grey slate and light grey marble, making it ideal for both modern and traditional gardens. You can find everything you need to complete the job on the website, including matching fascias and bullnose edging, together with hidden fastenings.

Key specs – Board length: 4 metres; Board dimensions: W143mm x D22mm; Board type: Solid; Textures: Woodgrain

Buy now from Envirobuild

3. Eva-Last Apex: Best strong composite decking

Price: £13 per linear metre | Buy now from Wickes

Technically bamboo is grass, not wood, yet it has a higher tensile strength than steel and is harder than oak. It’s this increased strength that makes it ideal for composite decking and by using 60% bamboo fibre, a highly renewable resource, in its bamboo-plastic composite, Eva-Last has created an incredibly strong and durable wood alternative.

This range has an acrylic polymer cap, meaning it’s more resistant to colour fade and the surface is also designed to diffuse heat build-up from sunlight, making it more foot-friendly to walk on. It does only come in one colour, but if you’re looking for a natural wood stain for your garden decking, it’s ideal.

Key specs – Board length: 4.8 metres; Board dimensions: W24mm x D140mm; Board type: Capped; Textures: Sculpted grain/grooved

Buy now from Wickes

4. Millboard Weathered Oak: The best product for a real-wood look

Price: £26 per linear metre | Buy now from Millboard

Newly laid composite decking can look a little fresh from the factory, and since weather resistance is one of its key features, it will stay that way for a long time. If you want a more weathered appearance, to blend in with an older property, for example, a lot of composite decking doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Enter Millboard’s Weathered Oak range. It’s moulded from real, 100-year-old reclaimed oak for an authentic, weatherbeaten finish, with a deep, natural grain pattern. It’s also coloured by hand to achieve a realistic colour variation and comes in three finishes: Embered, in the style of the Japanese burnt wood-preservation technique; Vintage, a natural, weathered oak and Driftwood, with pale, sea-washed tones. This decking is pricier than the other options on this list, but if you want to achieve that “au-naturel” look, it’s so worth it.

Key specs – Board length: 3.6 metres; Board dimensions: W200mm x D32mm; Board type: Solid; Textures: Woodgrain

Buy now from Millboard

5. Dino Decking Classic: The best affordable wood-finish composite

Price: £6 per linear metre | Buy now from Dino Decking

Dino Decking’s Classic range offers a cost-effective way to get a weather-resistant, low maintenance and hard-wearing composite decking area with a woodgrain finish. It strikes a balance between quality and affordability and despite the price, still comes with a ten-year guarantee.

The range is available in a choice of seven colours – Savanna, Amber, Cedar, Mocha, Stone, Ash and Graphite – and all are reversible, with woodgrain on one side and a ridged pattern on the other. You can order two free sample packs, which are themed according to the colour groups (browns, greys, etc), to help you make your final decision.

Key specs – Board length: 4 metres; Board dimensions: W145mm x D21mm; Board type: Uncapped; Textures: Woodgrain and grooved/ribbed

Buy now from Dino Decking

6. UltraDecking Home Choice: The best budget decking

Price: £5 per linear metre | Buy now from UltraDecking

If you’re looking for a budget, entry-level composite decking solution but still want something durable and attractive, the Home Choice collection from UltraDecking is ideal. There are a variety of colours to choose from including a light grey, a dark Anthracite, as well as UltraDecking’s version of Black, which is more like a very dark grey.

Grey is one of the most popular shades of composite decking and for good reason, Its sophisticated, neutral tone complements most building materials and hard landscaping. All three colours are double-sided, but rather than a woodgrain finish, there’s a choice of a wide groove pattern on one side or the more usual narrow grooves on the other. Due to this, it’s not ideal if you’re after that real-wood finish, but it’s a great choice if affordability is your top priority.

Key specs – Board length: 3.6 metres; Board dimensions: W150mm x D25mm; Board type: Hollow core; Textures: Double-sided, narrow grooved

Buy now from UltraDecking

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