Vinyl Decking Vs. Recycled Plastic Decking


When looking to build a deck, two alternatives are vinyl decking and recycled plastic. As the name implies, recycled plastic is a composite material in which recovered plastic is one of the components. Recycled plastic may include wood. Vinyl decking is typically made from high-impact, weather-resistant polyvinyl chloride (PVC). While both products are more expensive than wood, they are popular material choices because they are more maintenance free in the long run.


  • Both vinyl decking and recycled plastic decking are designed to look like wooden decking. However, vinyl decking is typically hollow in the middle, while recycled plastic is constructed solidly, with the ingredients mixed and then pressed together. Because of this, recycled plastic looks like wood from all angles, even the bottom, whereas vinyl decking only looks like wood from the top.


  • Neither vinyl nor recycled plastic materials are strong enough to support a deck structurally. Because of this, the decking is typically laid over wooden posts and joists, and is fastened in place with clips and snaps rather than screws for durability. The decking is made of materials that do not need waterproofing, sealing or painting.


  • Both vinyl and recycled plastic materials may be cleaned with an ordinary garden hose. If certain spills that leave a residue are allowed to dry, such as coffee or tea, the residue can be cleaned with common household products such as Windex or Lysol. Recycled plastic materials will need regular cleaning to prevent mold and mildew from setting into the deck, while vinyl typically does not have mold problems.


  • While vinyl cannot be stained, recycled plastic material can be stained just as wood can. However, once you begin the process of staining your recycled plastic decking, you must continue to stain the deck. This is because the stain will fade on a recycled plastic deck. If a vinyl or recycled plastic deck is painted, both materials are subject to flaking and will need to be repainted periodically.

Time Frame

  • As decking ages, it can take on a weathered appearance. Plastic is subject to fading and cracking when left in the sun. One example of this can be seen when you leave a plastic lawn chair out in the sun for several years. To counteract this, many manufacturers of vinyl and recycled plastic material are including UV additives. Some vinyl decking only includes these UV additives on the surface of its decking. The sides or underside of the deck may still show signs of wear. Recycled plastic materials may include UV additives all the way through the deck material.

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  • Photo Credit "Looks refreshing" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: RealEstateZebra (Daniel Rothamel) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
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