Jim - I could not discern the area of the country in which you live. I operated American Building Products in Jessup, Maryland, for 17 years. We specialized in quality outdoor wood. There is a Home Depot, Lowe's or 84 Lumber on every corner around the Baltimore-Washington area (now a non-
contender for the 2012 Olympics!). The composites started impounding our market about 10 years ago. #1 grade pressure treated Southern Yellow Pine was our largest line and we held our own with western red cedar and California redwood.
The "big boxes" stocked only #2 grade framing and decking, with the exception of Premium grade 5/4x6 decking. They offered nothing longer than 16'. We typically stocked every dimension up to 24' in PT (pressure treated). Over the years we sold 100% vinyl, Trex, Boardwalk, Geodeck, TimberTech, Tech Deck, Fiberon, Epoch, etc. There was a new one every week. The bottom line is this: wood works very well and available in many species and grades. Grades are very important and an indication of what you will get in terms of appearance and performance. Plastic
(vinyl) gets VERY hot and "soft" in hot weather and is subject to substantial expansion and contraction. Colors are limited to white and ugly pastels. They stand out like a sore thumb. The composites (a mixture of wood fiber (such as the sawdust and drops from the furniture manufacturing industry) and plastics (either virgin or recyled such as grocery bags and milk and soda bottles)and are subject to staining.
Most will turn to a silver/concrete gray within a short period. I swear they have been known to turn color on my truck in transit to the jobsite!
We closed our lumber business in April, 2002. It wasn't fun anymore and new opportunity was pre-
sented. As a contractor-oriented supply yard, our customers kept asking for a product to keep the area under one's deck dry. We searched and searched for a product to fill the requirements of our customer base and could not find anything. So we decided to define one ourselves. For six years we investigated profiles, materials, substrates and installation methods. Some worked, some didn't. Happily, however, we evolved with a clear winner for the marketplace. We are pleased to introduce our product DekDrain. It has solved many problems over the short life of the product. Check it out at dekdrain.com.
In terms of your particular question "Decking -
Composite or Wood," remember what Grandpa always said: " Vinyl may be final and tin may be in, but I'll have WOOD if I could!"