Having access to your own deck in the backyard is one of the best parts of owning your own home. It works not only as an enjoyable addition to your home, but it can boost your property’s value. As a bonus, you can add a deck using a decking alternative to your home without it costing you a huge amount of money. For decades, wooden decks were the most popular option homeowners had, and depending on how large it was, it could be more expensive to create and install. They all need a large amount of upkeep to keep them looking nice year in and year out.
However, wooden decks aren’t the only type of deck that people are considering anymore. If you’re considering adding a deck to your home or upgrading your current one and you don’t want something that’ll blow your budget or have a huge amount of upkeep, you want to look into deck alternatives. We’re going to outline several solid choices that work just as well, if not better than, traditional wood.
Aluminum may be a slightly more expensive deck alternative when you compare it to wood, but you can get more out of this material to help justify the upfront costs due to how easy it is to care for and the durability factor. Aluminum decking is extremely durable, and it has a natural resistance to rot and infestation from pests. Also, it’s a great material for resisting scratches, and this allows it to look nice for years. Most decks that come made out of aluminum have a 20-year warranty at a minimum, and this gives you a good indicator of the material’s durability.
Aluminum is also a very nice deck alternative because it dissipates heat. So, this deck won’t hold heat, even if it’s in direct sunlight during the hottest parts of summer. Also, it can cool down much quicker than a wooden deck can, and it can hold up to a huge range of weather conditions for years after you install it. However, there is one large issue a lot of people have with it.
Aluminum simply isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as wood decking. Other people may have a problem with the price. On average, you can expect to pay around $15.00 a square foot for this deck alternative. Installation is another expense because you’ll most likely have to bring in a professional to complete it. Also, you have to take the noise into consideration because each time you strike aluminum, it’ll make a pinging noise. Finally, it can be difficult to source aluminum in some markets.
2. Artificial Grass
Although artificial grass tiles are very popular in landscaping projects, you can also use them as a solid deck alternative. This is one option that is very easy to clean, and you won’t have to do a lot of maintenance on it to keep it looking nice. Also, these artificial grass tiles can make your living space outside look even more inviting.
One of the biggest advantages of using this artificial grass tile is that it’s very convenient and easy to install. You can even DIY without having to bring in a professional team. It’s easy to cut it down to the correct size. Because of the quality, you can pull up the installed tile and move it to another area if you want to change the design.
This deck alternative works very well for small balconies and patios, especially inside buildings. It allows you to give the look of natural, real grass to your outdoor living space. Since it’s artificial, you won’t have to worry about having to water it. You also have to be aware of the downsides of this type of deck material. It’s not as durable, and the exposed edges can wear very quickly if you don’t take the time to seal it correctly. This is also not a good choice if your deck is more than 20 square feet because it can get expensive.
Bamboo is a very common material today, and it’s popular in several industries due to its durability and strength. It also has a great ability to withstand moisture without any damage. Bamboo has also really started making appearances as a viable deck alternative due to these properties. There is something about this material with the texture and look that draws a lot of people to it when they take on home design projects. Bamboo is also one of the top deck alternatives to traditional wooden decking, and this makes it a beautiful option for your home.
It comes with a gorgeous finish that you can’t replicate with other materials. It’s durable and lightweight, and it’s resilient and strong to dozens of different conditions. Since it handles moisture well, it can work in moderately rainy environments. However, it’s not recommended for areas that get a huge amount of rain or areas where the rain pools. It can harbor mildew and rot in these conditions. Also, you’ll have to put in regular maintenance to keep it looking new and fresh, or it can deteriorate like any one wood-based material. If you like how bamboo looks, it makes a great option over a traditional wood deck.
If you’re familiar with using plastic lumber, then you already know what composite decking is for. Composite decking is closely related to plaster lumber, and it’s one of the fastest-growing and most popular deck alternatives on the market today. Most of these decking materials feature a large amount of polyvinyl chloride or polyethylene, and you can choose from a huge color range when you shop.
5. Concrete Pavers
Concrete pavers are a much more cost-effective deck alternative than natural stone. The paving slabs are available in a large range of colors and shapes, and they mimic a natural stone or brick. You can set them right into the sand, and this allows them to shift and withstand a range of temperature swings without cracking. You can also purchase permeable pavers, and these types of pavers allow rainwater to flow through to help with on-site drainage.
You do need to know that there are several downsides to this type of deck alternative. For starters, they can fade relatively quickly or the surface pigment can be scratched to relieve the concrete underneath. The geometric shapes means that you can only create a limited number of patterns, and the spaces between each paver give areas for weeds to grow while making them uneven to walk on.
6. Interlocking Deck Tiles
Just like a puzzle, this deck alternative slots together to create a bigger covered area. They typically feature unconventional decking materials, but you can also find them made out of redwood or cedar. They’re very sleek looking, and you can use them to create a beautiful pattern or design. They give your deck a unique look that differs from a traditional wooden deck look.
One big benefit that drives homeowners to choose this deck alternative is that the interlocking nature of the tiles allow them to get installed over any older flat surface. So, if you already have an old pressure-treated decking foundation down and you want to redo it with an easy-to-install, beautiful, and low-maintenance option, all you have to do is lay the interlocking tiles over the top to create a gorgeous new deck.
7. Marine Flooring Composite
This deck alternative material features a high-quality EVA material in the design. They’re environmentally-friendly and elastic, and this makes them great to have outside because they won’t break down. As a bonus, this flooring type has good seismic resistance, chemistry resistance, buffering, non-absorbent qualities, and moisture-resistance. It is a great choice for boat building. This is due to the fact that it gives you a very efficient non-slip surface in wet and dry conditions, so it makes sense that it’ll work well for decking too.
8. Natural Stone or Porcelain
If the budget is a low concern, natural stone or porcelain are high recommended deck alternatives. You will pay more for these materials upfront, but you can rest assured that it looks great on your deck for several years to come. When you lay it, natural bluestone or limestone can look great and give you a very elegant touch.
Unlike other types of man-made deck materials, natural stone needs to sit in a solid base. This means that there is a lot of heavy excavation and groundwork to be done during installation. This makes it not great for a DIY project, but if you decide to, you have to be experienced with handling the materials. Natural stone is difficult to cut, move, and it’s very heavy. Even after you get the natural stone installed in your deck area, weeds can sprout and grow between the stones. You may also have an uneven surface to deal with, and this is a risk for anyone who is unsteady when they walk.
This decking alternative comes made out of 100% synthetic plastic polymer, and it has no wood content. In turn, this makes it more stable to have than composite decking, so you can expect to fade less over time. It gets classified by the all-PVC products from Fiberon and the Paramount PVC line, AZEK, Veka, and Genovations, this decking will weigh less than any composite decking. It will also never need to be stained or sealed to keep it looking nice year after year.
The completely polymer makeup on this product makes it very resistant to grease stains, and it will resist most stains, mold, and mildew issues. You will still want to wipe up any smudges as you see them, but you won’t have to worry about it leaving a permanent blemish on the deck if it sits for a few weeks. It resists mildew and mold better than composite decking, but you do want to rinse them with a garden hose to remove grime and dirt.
10. Poured Concrete
Poured concrete is another deck alternative you can have instead of a more traditional wooden deck. This is a very budget-friendly option that you may want to consider. Making your patio from poured concrete won’t boost your home’s resale value, but it’s a lot cheaper than installing a wooden deck in your house. If you know how to mix cement to create a deck, you can do it on your own. Doing it yourself also gives you the flexibility to create a patio of any shape and size. However, you have to mix it correctly because it has a reputation for cracking.
Along with the chances that your concrete patio will crack, there are also downsides to choosing this medium. It’s not as easy to maintain as other materials because you have to wash it routinely to retain the clean look. Even though it’s not as durable, it can last for 5 to 10 years after you create it.
PVC decking is durable and tough, and you won’t find scratches, dents, scuff marks, or stains on your PVC decking as you’ll normally see in softer wooden decking. More and more people are choosing this deck alternative for their decks to allow them to get more enjoyment out of them while having less repair time and overall maintenance. Wooden decks require regular staining, cleaning, and sealing, but you won’t have this with PVC options.
All you have to do is pick out the color and style you want, whether you pick one that coordinates to your home or colors that stand out. Once you install it, you can instantly have a deck that is ready to use with your friends and family. It’s durable enough to survive year after year with very minimal maintenance from you.
12. Rice Hull
If you’ve ever gotten a splinter by walking across your weathered deck and you don’t want your kids or pets to pick one up the same way, rice hull is a deck alternative that allows you to walk across it barefoot all summer long. It’s a beautiful material that is very splinter-free and durable. It’s one of the newer materials on the market, and it’s getting to be a popular choice for people who don’t want the traditional wood decking because it requires so much upkeep. It is very resistant to stains, and you can cook out all summer long without worrying about your deck taking a hit if someone spills something on it.
Rice hulls are relatively new to the market, but they’re extremely popular because they can mimic the look of wood without requiring any of the maintenance that traditional wood needs. First in Nevada, First in the World by Lake Mead NRA Public Affairs / CC BY-NC 2.0
13. Rubber Paver Tiles
Rubberized paver tiles are a slip-resistant deck alternative that you can use to keep your family safe. This is a weather-resistant and durable material that you may want to consider. It is made out of a micro-porous granular material, and this makes it resistant to wear and durable. It’s also a tile material that offers excellent elasticity, and it lets you have a cushion for your feet when you step on it. Also, since it’s a water-resistant material, it won’t cause you to slip when you walk across it.
Most rubber paver tiles also come with an interlocking design, and this allows you to install it without any adhesive. Since the installation process is easy and straightforward, you can do it yourself on a weekend without bringing in a professional. If the tile appearance worries you, you can pick out models that come in an eye-catching color. Some can look like real tile or brick. The maintenance process is very minimal with this deck alternative because they won’t crack or chip. You may also see it used in walkways, patio flooring, rooftops, aisles, and playgrounds.
14. Silca System
Silica system decking is a beautiful deck alternative over more traditional wood. This is a very durable plastic tray system that lets you put a huge range of materials over it. You can transform your raised wood deck into tiled, slate, paver, stone, or virtually any other deck type you can think of. You can also add a combination of materials instead.
The tray system creates a bond to whatever material you put it on so you can lay a single material anywhere you put the tray system down on. Another option is to combine a variety of materials to create a unique deck. You can systematically combine concrete and wood or brick pavers and slate, or another material combination to create your own design and look. The innovative tray system allows you to lay these materials where you could normally not, and you can do it inexpensively and more effectively with this system.
The final deck alternative is vinyl, and you’ve most likely seen it as vinyl siding on the deck. You can use the same durable material as a decking material, and it’s tough enough to handle a host of weather conditions like vinyl siding can. There is very minimal upkeep needed with this material to keep it looking nice. You will want to schedule a biannual cleanup at the minimum, but this decking can look good all year round for as long as you have it.
You can pick from a huge range of colors or shades to create your own design and look. If you want decking that is durable, easy to maintain, looks great, and lasts for years, vinyl is a great deck alternative to wood. It’s also very reasonably priced, so it won’t break the bank when you buy it.
Potential Deck Downsides
There are a few downsides to having a deck on your home. For a lot of homeowners, the biggest issue that arises is the cost. The price of your deck will depend heavily on the materials you want to use, but you can roughly expect to spend $30.00 a square foot when you use high-end deck alternatives. A wooden deck isn’t meant to last more than a few years because the wood will eventually rot.
You’ll have to consider the maintenance costs associated with decks because you’ll have to wash, stain, and seal them every other year at a minimum. However, you may want to consider looking for a practical alternative, like the ones we talked about above.
Deck Alternative Frequently Asked Questions
Fiberon Tropics composite decking by Fiberon / CC BY-ND 2.0 Since some of the deck alternatives on the list are newer to the market, it’s common for people to have questions about them. We’re going to help clear up a few common ones for you below.
1. What’s the best deck alternative for full sun locations?
The best alternative you can get to put in full sun is aluminum or plastic. They both work to stay much cooler with full sun exposure when you walk across them, and they’re much less likely to fade out over time.
2. What’s the best all-weather decking material?
The best deck alternative you can get for all-weather is concrete or fiberglass. Aluminum is also a good choice if you don’t live right next to the coast since salt can cause corrosion.
3. What’s the best non-combustible deck alternative?
The best deck material you can use with a high fire-resistance is aluminum. Other products like wood composite have retardants that stop the fire from spreading. However, they can melt once the temperature reaches a certain point.
4. What’s the best type of deck material for a balcony, patio, or porch?
The best material you can pick out for a balcony, patio, or porch is either a pressure-treated wood or a composite. These types are popular because they strike a nice balance between durability and affordability. The biggest difference between patios or decks is that a balcony or deck stands above the ground while porches or patios sit directly on the ground.
5. What material can help you create a lightweight deck?
The materials that weigh the least are PVC, composite, or aluminum. However, in some cases, the lower weight will mean that you get less support overall. This can be bad if you have a deck that is off the ground.
6. What is the most cost-effective decking material?
The most cost-effective deck alternative is usually pressure-treated pine, and it can cost between $2.00 and $3.00 a square foot. There are composite or solid wood options that cost between $4.00 and $5.00 a square foot. However, you do get what you pay for. Extremely cheap prices can indicate that you’re getting a lower-quality product.
7. What’s the best non-slip floor for a rooftop or pool deck?
Rubber is flexible, soft, and it helps to minimize any slipping. It works very well for pool decks where it’s common to fall once it gets wet.
8. Can I build a deck out of steel or galvanized metal?
Galvanized metal or steel typically aren’t popular outside of industrial usage. However, anything made from this material is very durable and strong. So, you can build a deck out of these materials, but it’ll be very heavy.
- Which deck alternatives come in the tongue-and-groove style?
You can find deck materials in the tongue-and-groove style when you shop for wood composite, wood, or plastic. Unlike on indoor flooring, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can install a floating floor. Grooved planks require hidden fasteners or screws.
10. What’s the most eco-friendly deck alternative?
The most eco-friendly deck material is either 100% recycled PVC or aluminum. They typically feature old material in the design, and they’re very easy to recycle when it’s time to replace them.
11. What’s the best railing material?
What material is going to work best for the railing depends on the design and the deck boards. Wood is the most popular option, but aluminum and wood also make an excellent combination.
12. What other deck building materials do I need?
- Balusters or cable railings
- Concrete bases for the posts
- Hardware like carriage bolts, joist hangers, lag screws, nails, or screws
- Substructures like the joists and beams
We’ve outlined 15 deck alternative options that can be better than a traditional wood material for you to consider if you’re going to upgrade or build a deck. They will help your deck last longer while looking nice, and they have minimal maintenance required for as long as you have them.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.