MoistureShield vs ChoiceDek vs TimberTech Composite Decks

moistureshield-deck-display.jpgI have thoroughly studied 2 different composite decking manufacturers at this point:

This, as part of my quest to determine whether composite decks make sense or not for our new log home.

What follows are the biggest differences between ChoiceDek (also sold as MoistureShield) and Timber Tech. Those are the brands I like best at this point.

 

Where I’m Coming From

I have met with sales reps who actually sell these products.

And I went straight to the top and have spoken at length (several times) with the manufacturers of these composite decks.

I have also seen, touched, and witnessed the effects of long-term weathering for both product lines.

Here is my summary of the similarities and differences…

 

ChoiceDek / MoistureShield

Fasteners: The screws are applied from the top side of the plank into the joists below. The end result is a series of tiny dots (screws) which are barely visible on the top of each plank.

Amount of “virgin plastic” used: The core of their business is recycling. So they use recycled plastic, rather than virgin plastic for their decks. Combined with real wood fibers, the end result is a super-strong and long-lasting deck.

The shape of the planks: The underside of the boards have a series of shallow channels grooved out. I’m told these are for a lighter weight deck, better ventilation & air circulation, and flatter lying boards over the course of time.

Color choices: There are relatively few color choices. Most are lighter, rather than darker (…and redder, rather than browner). However, you do get a few added color choices (and deeper color pigmentation) in their MoistureShield line.

Natural vs fake looking boards: The MoistureShield line definitely has more natural-looking designs than ChoiceDek. The “embossing” (wood-like effect that is applied to the boards) looks more like real wood in the MoistureShield product than the ChoiceDek line. That’s probably because the embossing actually goes deeper on the MoistureShield line.

moisture-shield-composite-deck-designs.jpgMatching rails and posts: In general, the posts and rails look identical to the deck planks. If desired, you could get posts and/or railings on your own somewhere else & just use the composite deck planks themselves. You definitely cannot paint or stain these composite posts & rails.

Spans between deck joists: The recommended joist spans are 16-inches on center, which is the same as wood.

Warranty: Their 50-year warranty protects against rot, decay, and insect damage. The coverage is pro-rated 2% each year after the first year. They pride themselves on the fact that they have never had what they call a “field failure” — where the product fails — for any reason. Thus, the MoistureShield warranty has never been called into question in the 18 years they’ve been making and selling composite deck materials.

Cost: On average, $4 a square foot is a ballpark figure for MoistureShield composite decking (…plus installation, if you don’t do it yourself).

The Dirt Test: The MoistureShield planks can be placed directly on the ground, or near dirt (think: deck planters can be made from this stuff). They put special inhibitors in the product to prevent mold and mildew.

The Key Test: Scratches remain one of the biggest “issues” with composite deck materials (particularly the darker colors). At MoistureShield they showed me how deep scratches are barely visible in their products (…even with the darker colored planks). That’s primarily due to the fact that the color is the same throughout the plank.

 

Timber Tech

Fasteners: You have 2 choices as far as fastener systems goes: 1) screws inserted at an angle between tongue & groove planks, with the next plank completely covering the previous screw; or 2) gap-fasteners inserted between each plank, resulting in precise spacing throughout the deck and no screws on the top side of the planks.

Amount of “virgin plastic” used: They pride themselves on using only virgin plastic in their composite deck materials. They use a variety of cellulose materials, wood flour ,and pure plastic resins instead of recycled materials.

The shape of the planks: Depending on which Timber Tech line you go with, the bottom of the boards will either have a series of very deep channels on the underside (Floorizon)… or the planks will have a solid core of equal depth from top to bottom — like “regular” wood boards do (Twin Finish and Earthwood).

timbertech-composite-deck-display.jpgColor choices: They have a number of color choices, and it sounds like they add a new color or feature to their product lines every year or so. They have some of the most “natural” looking wood colors as well, like Walnut and Teak.

Natural vs fake looking boards: Their the Earthwood line is surprisingly quite natural looking, especially when it fades a bit over time! At the same time, the embossing itself isn’t as “obvious” — it seems more ingrained into the plank, rather than simply on the surface. (Though I know for a fact that it’s only applied to the surface and topped with a “finish”.) On the other end of the spectrum, the Floorizon boards — and colors — look like fiberglass or durable plastic boards (such as for use a
round pools) rather than resembling wood boards in any way.

timbertech-boards-posts-railings.jpgMatching rails and posts: For the Floorizon and Twin Finish planks, you get perfectly matching posts and rails to complete your deck. But for the Earthwood line, you get a classier high-end plastic/pvc product that actually looks more like metal because it’s so well-constructed. But, if you prefer a different look, you could get posts & rails on your own. You could even paint the posts & rails if you like (…but then you’d have the upkeep with that painted surface).

Spans between deck joists: They have a maximum 20-inch on center load. This is a wider joist span than most other composite decks, which I’m told is a compliment to the strength and durability of the TimberTech product.

Warranty: Their 25 year warranty guarantees against termites, checking, splitting, decay, rot and splintering. It may also be fully transferable to a new owner, if you sell your house.

Cost: On average, $5 a square foot is a ballpark figure for the Floorizon and TwinFinish decks. It’s closer to $6 a square foot for their Earthwood line (…plus installation, if you don’t do it yourself).

The Dirt Test: The TimberTech planks should not be placed directly on the ground, or near dirt or moisture of any kind.

The Key Test: Scratching a key fairly deeply on the TimberTech products was barely noticeable until you tried it on the Earthwood line. I’m told that light scratches would fade over time and become less noticeable. Deep scratches could be covered up with a Minwax Stain Marker. (More on that later.) Overall, a series of scratches might be more noticeable than one would like with TimberTech’s Earthwood line. For the record, they did not think that my 80 lb dog’s toenails repeatedly walking (and running) on this product would result in obvious scratches.

 

My $.02

I’m pretty sure that no matter which composite decking company we ultimately decide to go with (if any), we would be in good hands with either MoistureShield or TimberTech.

And, in case you’re wondering…
For the most part, MoistureShield speaks highly of TimberTech. And, just the same, TimberTech speaks highly of MoistureShield. It wasn’t until I specifically asked the different reps for their opinion regarding a particular feature of their competitor’s that they would open up and speak honestly about the differences as they saw them.

I say that because I think they are both truly reputable companies with very knowledgeable reps and salespeople. I realize it’s their job, but everyone associated with these companies has gone above and beyond to be helpful to me. (And subjecting themselves to my million-and-one questions is no easy feat!)

I have certainly gained a wealth of knowledge about composite decks in general from both companies. And they both really seem to care about the customer.

If you want my opinion at this point… I prefer MoistureShield’s core product, excellent track record, and customer service and TimberTech’s beautiful Earthwood line — because it uses fasteners that make the most sense to me (for spacing & ventilation) and it looks the most like real wood. I am struggling the most with scratches… over time.

When it comes right down to it, if we don’t like the overall “look”, then it just won’t work for us (.. especially since we will be placing these composite deck boards next to a log home!).

I’m told that this list covers everything you’d want to know about the differences between composite deck companies and the degree to which each meets building code requirements.

 

Lynnette Walczak

I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money -- so I frequently write about "outside the box" ideas that most wouldn't think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed several years until switching gears to pursue things I was more passionate about. I've worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo -- to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun websites).

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  • SElms

    I have had Timbertech installed in my garden for just over a year. I would not hesitate to encourage anyone who is looking to invest in a composite decking material to install Timbertech. With no maintenance our decking still looks brilliant a year on. We could not be happier with the product.

  • SElms

    I have had Timbertech installed in my garden for just over a year. I would not hesitate to encourage anyone who is looking to invest in a composite decking material to install Timbertech. With no maintenance our decking still looks brilliant a year on. We could not be happier with the product.

  • Max

    I must say I have enjoyed your review of these two products. I myself am getting ready to replace my cedar deck of 22 yrs. I have been looking at all types. Trex timber tech, monarch,ever-grain, fiberon, weather ready. My thing is I live in a wooded area where you get just about everything you can think of on your deck. I have come down to one conclusion. For me anyway the product has to be some sort of PVC product. Reason is cleaning. The problem when you go to PVC to start getting a slick surface. If you stay with a standard composite you get crud that invades the material and hard to get out. I like the grooved system to fasten down the material. But if you look at the groove as on a PVC type only Timber tech has protection in the groove all others have the coating on the out side but then cut the groove and it is not protected. Is that going to make a difference I reallly don’t know. However in my case I have lots of trees that surround me and all I can think of is the needles getting into the grooves and starting some kind of bad growth problem. Trex for a long time has had its share of problems but you have to remember they are one of the first to start this type of decking. There newest product Transcend product has a heaver coating of material than all the rest and it seems more durable against scratches. However being it has more depth of a pattern it also means more places for dirt, moss, and mildew to hide out. I think if I were in an area with no trees that might be my first choice just because of the real wood look and the texture. But here again I am looking for something that will be easy to clean. I guess I am going to go with Timber Tech XLM series. I would go with the next line up but it does not come in as many colors and it doesn’t have the grooved profile for securing. I have been working on this for over 5 months now and leaving all the samples in the rain and sun etc,ect. I did find a couple that acted like they wanted to absorb the moisture. Not alot but enough to notice. However they also dried out fast. The problem is there is just to many brands out there to choose from and they all have there good and bad to them. Hope this helps someone else that might be like me having a hard time to decide. GOOD LUCK !!!!!!

  • Max

    I must say I have enjoyed your review of these two products. I myself am getting ready to replace my cedar deck of 22 yrs. I have been looking at all types. Trex timber tech, monarch,ever-grain, fiberon, weather ready. My thing is I live in a wooded area where you get just about everything you can think of on your deck. I have come down to one conclusion. For me anyway the product has to be some sort of PVC product. Reason is cleaning. The problem when you go to PVC to start getting a slick surface. If you stay with a standard composite you get crud that invades the material and hard to get out. I like the grooved system to fasten down the material. But if you look at the groove as on a PVC type only Timber tech has protection in the groove all others have the coating on the out side but then cut the groove and it is not protected. Is that going to make a difference I reallly don’t know. However in my case I have lots of trees that surround me and all I can think of is the needles getting into the grooves and starting some kind of bad growth problem. Trex for a long time has had its share of problems but you have to remember they are one of the first to start this type of decking. There newest product Transcend product has a heaver coating of material than all the rest and it seems more durable against scratches. However being it has more depth of a pattern it also means more places for dirt, moss, and mildew to hide out. I think if I were in an area with no trees that might be my first choice just because of the real wood look and the texture. But here again I am looking for something that will be easy to clean. I guess I am going to go with Timber Tech XLM series. I would go with the next line up but it does not come in as many colors and it doesn’t have the grooved profile for securing. I have been working on this for over 5 months now and leaving all the samples in the rain and sun etc,ect. I did find a couple that acted like they wanted to absorb the moisture. Not alot but enough to notice. However they also dried out fast. The problem is there is just to many brands out there to choose from and they all have there good and bad to them. Hope this helps someone else that might be like me having a hard time to decide. GOOD LUCK !!!!!!

  • Max

    I must say I have enjoyed your review of these two products. I myself am getting ready to replace my cedar deck of 22 yrs. I have been looking at all types. Trex timber tech, monarch,ever-grain, fiberon, weather ready. My thing is I live in a wooded area where you get just about everything you can think of on your deck. I have come down to one conclusion. For me anyway the product has to be some sort of PVC product. Reason is cleaning. The problem when you go to PVC to start getting a slick surface. If you stay with a standard composite you get crud that invades the material and hard to get out. I like the grooved system to fasten down the material. But if you look at the groove as on a PVC type only Timber tech has protection in the groove all others have the coating on the out side but then cut the groove and it is not protected. Is that going to make a difference I reallly don’t know. However in my case I have lots of trees that surround me and all I can think of is the needles getting into the grooves and starting some kind of bad growth problem. Trex for a long time has had its share of problems but you have to remember they are one of the first to start this type of decking. There newest product Transcend product has a heaver coating of material than all the rest and it seems more durable against scratches. However being it has more depth of a pattern it also means more places for dirt, moss, and mildew to hide out. I think if I were in an area with no trees that might be my first choice just because of the real wood look and the texture. But here again I am looking for something that will be easy to clean. I guess I am going to go with Timber Tech XLM series. I would go with the next line up but it does not come in as many colors and it doesn’t have the grooved profile for securing. I have been working on this for over 5 months now and leaving all the samples in the rain and sun etc,ect. I did find a couple that acted like they wanted to absorb the moisture. Not alot but enough to notice. However they also dried out fast. The problem is there is just to many brands out there to choose from and they all have there good and bad to them. Hope this helps someone else that might be like me having a hard time to decide. GOOD LUCK !!!!!!

  • Max

    I must say I have enjoyed your review of these two products. I myself am getting ready to replace my cedar deck of 22 yrs. I have been looking at all types. Trex timber tech, monarch,ever-grain, fiberon, weather ready. My thing is I live in a wooded area where you get just about everything you can think of on your deck. I have come down to one conclusion. For me anyway the product has to be some sort of PVC product. Reason is cleaning. The problem when you go to PVC to start getting a slick surface. If you stay with a standard composite you get crud that invades the material and hard to get out. I like the grooved system to fasten down the material. But if you look at the groove as on a PVC type only Timber tech has protection in the groove all others have the coating on the out side but then cut the groove and it is not protected. Is that going to make a difference I reallly don’t know. However in my case I have lots of trees that surround me and all I can think of is the needles getting into the grooves and starting some kind of bad growth problem. Trex for a long time has had its share of problems but you have to remember they are one of the first to start this type of decking. There newest product Transcend product has a heaver coating of material than all the rest and it seems more durable against scratches. However being it has more depth of a pattern it also means more places for dirt, moss, and mildew to hide out. I think if I were in an area with no trees that might be my first choice just because of the real wood look and the texture. But here again I am looking for something that will be easy to clean. I guess I am going to go with Timber Tech XLM series. I would go with the next line up but it does not come in as many colors and it doesn’t have the grooved profile for securing. I have been working on this for over 5 months now and leaving all the samples in the rain and sun etc,ect. I did find a couple that acted like they wanted to absorb the moisture. Not alot but enough to notice. However they also dried out fast. The problem is there is just to many brands out there to choose from and they all have there good and bad to them. Hope this helps someone else that might be like me having a hard time to decide. GOOD LUCK !!!!!!

  • Pete Maronge

    Thanks for the indepth assessment. Exteemly helpful. I’m leaning toward the Timber Tech Floorizon decking with a Builder Rail and Stair system. Our house is not a log home so the TT Floorizon look does not come into play as much. Also this is a replacement “top” for an existing deck with the lowest point over 36″ off the ground.. We are expanding the old deck and looking for lower maintnenance. Right now we are cinsidering Azek, Timber Tech and Tex decking in 20′ lengths. Need to verify the Choice Deck/Moisture Shield is in the same ballpark per sq.ft. $. TT seems to be the best for us so far.

  • Unhappy deck owner.

    I wish I would have investigated more before I bought the Timbertch Earthwood. It is terrible with scratches. The grill left tire track marks, so it had to go. We don’t allow the kids to play on it. Cheap chain store decking at our previous home was much more durable. Yes, it looks great. If you never plan to use it like a normal family would, then it’s fine. Neither Timbertech nor the company that sold it to us mentioned any issues beforehand and are non-responsive now. I asked about durability, but they were happy to not mention what would have to be an obvious ongoing problem when selling us a product that costs 3x as much as regular composite.

  • Bruce Hasenbank

    Not sure who at moisture shield told you the story about no “field failures” but please don’t buy it. I have been ignored for a couple years about my 2000 SF deck that failed. Lumbermans and Standard Lumber have both told me that they are receiving an “alarming” number of complaints on this product.

  • Denny

    I’d be interested in what your research found or what your company reps told you about mold and mildew staining.  I’ve been very unhappy with the incidence of mold and mildew staining and the stubborness that it has shown to being cleaned by “cleaner” products sold by Behr and by Olympic.  The mold and mildew stains seem largely resistant to cleaners and if a section does succomb to the cleaners, the stains quickly return.  My decks are now 4 years old and have requires annual HEAVY DUTY efforts to keep them mold and mildew stain-free.  Your thoughts?  Anyone else’s experience?

    • http://thefuntimesguide.com/ FunTimesGuide

      The only thing I was told is that they put “special inhibitors” in the product to prevent mold and mildew. Maybe someone else will have input on this from personal experience….