Installing a new deck or redoing an old one is a great way to boost the value of your home. It’s also a great way to provide yourself with a space to enjoy barbecues, hang out with friends, and relax.
However, whether it’s because of inflation, budgetary restrictions, or other projects around the house, installing a new deck is expensive and something not everyone can afford.
In this guide, I’ll explore six of the cheapest decking materials available that are nice enough to give you the deck of your dreams. Let’s dig in!
- Some of the best cheap decking materials include pressure treated lumber, plywood, and composite decking.
- No matter what deck material you choose, it’s critical to perform the proper maintenance to ensure you maximize the life span of your deck.
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What Are Decking Materials?
Before we get too carried away with examining the best and most affordable decking materials on the market, let’s first define what decking materials are.
Decking refers to the floor portion of the deck that you can see and walk on. It does not refer to the underlying support system, beams, joists, and other components. Decking also doesn’t refer to the rails on the deck, as those can be a different material than the deck floor itself.
6 Best and Cheapest Decking Materials
Pressure Treated Wood
If affordability is the only priority on your pros and cons list, a pressure-treated wood deck is perfect for you. Pressure-treated wood is ordinary lumber that has been specially treated and sealed to withstand moisture, humidity, and other weather elements.
Typically made of pine wood, pressure-treated decking will cost an average of $2 to $5 per square foot and is one of the easiest types of decks to install yourself. As long as you take care of it, pressure-treated decking will last for several decades before you need to replace it.
The downside, however, is that pressure-treated wood decking requires a ton of ongoing maintenance. No amount of pressure treatment or sealing will make this wood permanently resistant to the elements, and it will require sealing on an annual or semi-annual basis.
- Extremely affordable
- Easy to install
- Readily available
- Requires a ton of maintenance
- Not as durable as other options
- Doesn’t always look the most appealing
Check out this guide to learn how to tell if wood is pressure treated!
If you really want to save yourself some money, you can opt to use plywood decking. Plywood decking has been a DIY decking favorite for many years thanks to how cheap plywood is and how easy it is to install. On average, you can expect to pay between $1.50 and $3.00 per square foot for plywood, which typically comes in 4′ x 8′ sheets.
The downside of building your deck out of plywood is that it lacks durability and aesthetic appeal. Additionally, unless you use plywood that’s a minimum of 3/4″ to 1″ thick, there will be sagging and rotting in several places.
You’ll also need to frequently seal and treat the wood to prevent premature rot and other issues.
- Easy to install
- Quick installation because of how big the plywood sheets are
- Requires constant, proper maintenance
- Not durable
- Doesn’t look great
Plywood is also one of the cheapest siding options for sheds and other buildings.
Although it’s not the cheapest option out there, composite decking gives you the most bang for your buck. It’s typically made of a blend of wood and plastic and consists mostly of recycled materials.
For example, if you’ve heard of the Trex brand, it’s one of the most popular composite decking materials.
There’s a wide price range that you can pay for composite decking depending on the types of materials used and the manufacturer. In general, however, you can expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $40 per square foot and beyond.
The advantage of composite decking is that it’s very durable, requires little to no maintenance, and comes in many different colors. It’s also a material you can install yourself if you want to save money on installation costs.
I’m a huge fan of composite decking if you have the budget because of how low-maintenance it is. You can also paint Trex decking to give it the look you want.
- DIY friendly
- Very low maintenance
- Aesthetically pleasing
- It can be slightly pricy
- May fade in the sun
If you want the look and feel of a true wood deck that’s still fairly budget-friendly, cedar wood is the way to go. Although it looks and sounds expensive, cedar wood is actually one of the more affordable softwood decks available. On average, it costs anywhere from $5 to $10 per square foot.
In addition to how good it looks, cedar wood is naturally resistant to insects, rust, rot, and other forces of nature. It’s also lighter and softer but longer lasting than other wood options such as pressure-treated lumber and hardwoods.
While you can optionally install cedar decking yourself, it requires a little more finesse and skill than other woods because it will show every mistake you make. You’ll also need to reseal or restain it annually or bi-annually, as it, like all woods, requires ongoing maintenance.
- One of the more aesthetically pleasing options
- Looks great, brand new, and through the years
- A fairly affordable wood deck option
- Requires frequent maintenance
- Because it’s a softwood, cedar can dent and scratch easily
Around 10 to 15 years ago, bamboo flooring started getting extremely popular in homes, and it’s made its way outdoors to decks. Bamboo is a popular, cost-effective decking option for several reasons, including that it looks great, feels great, is DIY-friendly, and is very durable.
While bamboo requires sealing on occasion, it’s more maintenance friendly than other types of wood. Bamboo is also naturally resistant to moisture, rot, and weather elements that typically damage wood.
There are several different types of bamboo wood that you can choose from, each one coming at a different price point. The most budget-friendly of these options is around $3 to $5 per square foot, while the more expensive options cost between $10 and $15 per square foot.
As with most things, the more you’re willing to pay for bamboo, the higher quality it will be, resulting in more durability, design options, and overall appeal. However, no matter what type of bamboo wood you choose, you’re sure to have a good, solid deck.
- Fairly affordable, depending on which type you choose
- DIY friendly
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Lightweight and weather resistant
- Higher-quality options are more expensive
- Requires occasional maintenance
Here’s a great video of the pros and cons of bamboo decking.
PVC Decking Material
PVC is all the rage right now when it comes to outdoor furniture, and it’s also available as a decking material. PVC, which stands for polyvinyl chloride, is made from a combination of recycled plastic, wood, and other raw materials that are combined with chlorine, ethylene, and carbon. The result is a material that’s resistant to moisture, rot, humidity, and salt and that theoretically lasts forever.
Additionally, a PVC deck will require virtually no maintenance through the years other than occasionally washing it to keep up appearances. It’s also available in a wide range of colors and is one of the best options if you like being barefoot on your deck.
With how great PVC decking material is, you’re probably wondering why it’s considered one of the cheapest decking options.
Unfortunately, pricing is where the good news ends in regard to PVC decking. On average, you can expect to spend anywhere from $10 to $20 per square foot for PVC deck boards, putting it up there with composite decking in terms of expensiveness.
However, although it’s certainly not the cheapest option on our list, it provides excellent quality and longevity and is cheaper than hardwoods and other luxury materials.
- Extremely durable
- Excellent bang for your buck
- No maintenance
- Can look similar to real wood
- Not DIY friendly
Which Decking Material Has the Best Value?
As you can see, there are quite a few great options when it comes to affordable decking materials. However, while affordability is important, you still want to choose a high-quality decking material that looks the way you want it to.
Additionally, if you skimp out too much on the material costs, your deck is more likely to require ongoing maintenance and repairs. There’s also a good chance you’ll have to replace your deck much sooner than you would with higher-quality materials.
Therefore, if you’re looking for the best overall value, pressure-treated lumber, cedar wood, and composite decking are the top options. Pressure-treated lumber is the cheapest of the three, cedar has the most aesthetic value, and composite decking is durable and requires minimal maintenance while still not breaking the bank.
Additionally, each of these materials is fairly easy to install yourself if you have the right tools and some construction experience.
Here’s a great video showing you the different kinds of decks and some tips to select the best for you!
Composite Deck Boards Vs. Real Wood: Which is Cheaper?
For most homeowners looking to build a new deck or replace an old one, composite decking and real wood are the top two options. These materials tend to be more readily available than others and are very DIY-friendly.
Composite decking and real wood are fairly similar in terms of looks, durability, ease of installation, and quality. While composite decking requires less maintenance than real wood, wood decking has a unique feel and texture that a composite deck simply can’t compete with.
Therefore, cost is often the deciding factor for homeowners debating between composite and wood decking.
Composite decking is usually cheaper than hardwoods and most softwoods, with the exception of cedar and pine. However, pressure-treated lumber and plywood are much cheaper than composite decking materials.
Which Decking Material is Right For Me?
With so many different options, you’re probably wondering which type of decking is the best decking material for you. While there are lots of factors to consider, such as looks, durability, and overall value, your budget will likely play the most significant role.
If you have a tight budget and need the cheapest decking material available in terms of installation and material costs, pressure-treated wood and plywood are your best options. If, however, you’re willing to pay slightly more and you want a material that offers durability and minimal maintenance, PVC and composite decking are the way to go.
For decking that’s a happy medium between these options, cedar, and bamboo are excellent alternatives. Their durability and cost are right between plywood/pressure-treated lumber and PVC/composite, and they require less maintenance than plywood/pressure-treated lumber but more than PVC/composite.
What is the cheapest form of decking?
Plywood is the cheapest form of decking in terms of installation costs and material costs.
What is the best cheap wood for a deck?
If you want a wood deck that’s cheap but still high-quality, pressure-treated wood is the way to go.
Is a cement deck cheaper than wood?
If you’re debating between a concrete patio and a wood deck, concrete tends to be cheaper than most types of wood, with the exception of plywood, pressure-treated wood, and some types of bamboo.
Any way you look at it, decking materials are fairly expensive, and the average deck costs around $5,000 to $7,500. However, by choosing more affordable materials, such as pressure-treated wood or plywood, and doing the work yourself, you can save a pretty penny.
Alternatively, if you have extra room in your budget and want to have less maintenance and more durability without breaking the bank, PVC and composite deck materials are great options.
Ultimately, choosing the right deck comes down to your priorities and how much leeway you have in your budget.
I’m a fan of using pressure treated lumber or plywood to save money, but some of the other options are amazing as well.