Best Material for Above Ground Pool Deck

Top Picks for Durability and Style

When choosing the best material for an above ground pool deck, there’s a lot to consider. Durability, cost, and aesthetics play important roles in the selection process. 

When we decided to build our above-ground pool deck, we looked into the pros and cons of the different type of materials available, taking into account our budget and the needs of our outdoor space.

Wood has traditionally been a favorite for pool decks, thanks to its natural appearance and relatively low cost. It’s also customizable through various stains and finishes. However, wood requires regular upkeep to prevent decay and isn’t the most durable option when it comes to moisture resistance.

Composite materials and PVC, on the other hand, are rising in popularity for their little maintenance needs and long life. These synthetic materials are not only water resistant, but they’re also designed to resist rot, mold, and sun damage, which makes them a smart choice for an above ground pool deck that will be exposed to the elements year-round. 

There are more and more varieties in textures and colors coming out every year, allowing for a beautiful deck with far less upkeep than wood. However, they often come with a higher price tag up front.

Overview of Decking Materials

Choosing the best material for an above ground pool deck comes down to balancing durability, aesthetics, and cost. Let’s take a look at the common options and how they compare.

Above ground pool deck

Pros and Cons of Different Materials

  • Wood Decking:
    • Pros: Wood is a classic for its natural beauty and comes in a variety of types with different colors and textures. Pressure-treated lumber is the most economical choice, while hardwoods like redwood or cedar are more durable and visually appealing.
    • Cons: Maintenance can be a deal-breaker for some, as wood needs regular staining and sealing to protect against moisture and UV damage. It can also splinter or warp over time.
  • Composite:
    • Pros: Composite decking is a blend of wood fibers and recycled plastics. It’s incredibly durable and resistant to fading, staining, and mold. Maintenance is minimal, usually just needing a simple wash.
    • Cons: The initial cost can be higher than wood, and if you’re after that authentic wood look, composites come close but are not quite the same. Also, composite material, especially in darker colors, can get really hot to the touch in summer heat.
  • PVC:
    • Pros: PVC decking is made from polyvinyl chloride and has no wood content. It is highly resistant to moisture, stains, and insects, and comes in several colors. PVC has the same issue as composite- it gets super hot in heat.
    • Cons: Like composite, the look may not be as natural as wood, and it can be more expensive.
  • Aluminum:
    • Pros: Aluminum, generally used for railings, is lightweight, won’t rust or rot, and doesn’t splinter. It’s also cool to the touch and slip-resistant.
    • Cons: Aluminum can be pricey and may not suit everyone’s aesthetic preferences.
Our aluminum railing.

Comparing Wood and Composite

When it comes to wood versus composite for an above ground pool deck:

  • Aesthetics: Wood has that unbeatable warm, classic look. Composite tries to mimic this, and while it has improved aesthetically, it’s still not wood.
  • Durability and Maintenance: Wood demands more upkeep, which can be a significant chore over the years. Composite wins with its long life and low maintenance requirements.
  • Cost: If you’re on a tight budget, wood is the go-to with its lower upfront cost. However, considering the long-term cost of maintenance, composite can be more cost-effective over its lifespan.
  • Sustainability: Many composites are made from recycled materials, which gives them a sustainability edge over wood that may not be sourced from managed forests.
Wood deck for above ground pool.

Practical Considerations for Deck Construction

When we built our above ground pool deck last summer, we thought about two main things: how long it’s going to last and how much work we’ll have to put into maintaining it. We also wanted to make sure it stayed in great shape against water which is, obviously, a big deal around pools.

Durability and Maintenance

For our above ground pool deck, we ultimately decided to go with composite decking because it doesn’t split, crack, or warp like wood can. It’s a blend of wood fibers and plastic, so you get that nice wood look without so much upkeep.

While pressure-treated lumber is cheaper upfront, it requires annual maintenance like regular staining, and can still succumb to rot or insect damage over time.

In our first house, we had a large wooden deck that we had to almost completely re-do, with new supports, stairs and deck planks. The memory of this huge project was most likely a big deterrent for us when it came to choosing wood versus composite material- we just don’t want to go through that again!

Waterproofing Solutions

Young toddler boy playing with water outside on deck.

For waterproofing, it’s not just the pool water splashing that’s the issue. Rain, snow, and ice (depending on where you live) also play a role. For wood decks, you an apply a waterproof sealant to keep the moisture out. This may need to be re-applied every few years. 

Composite materials are perfect for creating a completely water-resistent deck, and also have an anti-slip texture, another important factor when it comes to pool decks!

Pool Decking Temperature

This is actually a really big consideration that many people don’t think of- how to choose pool decking material that doesn’t get hot! Sitting out in the hot sun can make surfaces heat up- and a pool deck is no exception. Both wood and composite material both heat up in high temps, but composite can literally burn your feet if you aren’t careful.

There are materials that are heat resistant, like TimberTech Advanced PVC decking– however, even they admit that direct sunlight will eventually heat up their pool deck materials! 

There are some things you can do to mitigate the heat, though, when choosing your material. The lighter the material or wood stain, the less it will absorb heat. And, you can use waterproof mats and outdoor rugs over the decking to avoid standing directly on the boards.

While this is something to think of, its not the end of the world if your deck gets hot. We usually spray down the boards with a hose, and our kids wear sandals if its a particularily warm day.

Slip Resistant Materials

When it comes to the best pool decking for kids, looking for slip resistance is really important. Most of us, especially kids, are walking (and running, even when we tell them not to!) with bare feet on the deck, and having that peace of mind is super important.

Wood tends to have less slip resistance, making composite the best option when it comes to this feature. However you can add anti-slip strips as well as anti-slip decking tape.

Pool Design

Another consideration is your pool design- are you building a large or small deck? The larger your deck, the more you need to consider costs, of course, but also, maintenance concerns.

When we put in our new above-ground pool deck, we considered the size and totally cost. Larger decks are going to cost more no matter what material you choose, but they’re also going to require greater maintenance time and money in the long run.

boy floating in pool with water ring
Wood Decking: Photo by Oleksandr P on

Cost Analysis

Initial expenses and long-term spending can swing wildly depending on your choices like the size and design of the deck.

Initial Investment vs. Long-Term Value

The upfront cost of materials like pressure-treated wood, composite decking, and PVC varies considerably. For instance, pressure-treated wood starts cheaper, typically around $15-$25 per square foot installed, whereas composite and PVC options can be around $30-$60

However, composite often comes with a 25-year warranty and lower upkeep costs. They don’t need frequent staining or sealing like wood does. On the flip side, with wood, you might be spending $2-$3 per square foot every couple of years for maintenance. That adds up!

You can read more about our DIY deck costs with composite materials in this post

While the overall cost of materials is often less for wood, the labor costs difference can be more for wood decking. The cost of installing composite decking boards typically ranges from $10 to $14 per square foot. Natural wood decking typically costs $15 to $35 per square foot to construct.

Aesthetic and Design Options

When choosing the best material for an above ground pool deck, I think it’s important to consider how the deck will look and how it will blend with your home’s overall design. Railings are a big part of that since they’re one of the most visible features.

Above Ground Back Yard Pool

Choosing the Right Railing

Aluminum and wood are the two most popular materials, each with their unique aesthetics. Aluminum railing is sleek and modern, offering a variety of colors and finishes. Its low maintenance and durable, as it doesn’t warp, rot, or require frequent painting. A neat fact about aluminum is that it stays cool to the touch, even on hot days, which is great for sunny poolside areas.

On the other hand, wood railing are a classic that’s hard to beat. If you’re going for a natural look, wood is the top choice. It can be stained or painted to match any style, although it requires more upkeep than aluminum to prevent weathering and decay. However, the effort can be worthwhile for the charm and traditional design it brings to a pool deck setting.

We chose to go with aluminum for the same reason we chose composite decking for the deck boards- low maintenance! However, the upfront cost of aluminum can be more expensive than wood, depending on the material you choose.


Professional Installation vs. DIY

If you are building your deck yourself, you’re probably thinking about the best material for an above ground pool deck for ease of installation.

Composite decking tends to be more lightweight than real wood, making it a bit easier to work with on your own. Many composite decking brands offer hidden fastening systems, allowing for a quicker installation. It also doesn’t require staining or sealing so you can skip that step.

Building an above ground pool deck

Maintenance Tips and Longevity

Proper maintenance boosts the life span of your pool deck and keeps it looking great year after year. I’m going to run you through the essentials of caring for your deck and safeguarding it from wear and tear.

Routine Care and Maintenance

When it comes to decks, there’s nothing like consistent cleaning to prevent a build-up of debris and mildew.

For wood decks, sealing and/or repainting is important every 2 to 3 years to help with water resistance and to protect the wood from sun damage, which keeps the material durable over time.

Protecting the Deck From The Elements

The sun and rain are your deck’s main enemies, but here’s how to fight back:

  • Water Repellant: An annual coat maintains the integrity of the material.
  • UV Protectant: A UV-resistant sealant helps to prevent fading and wood degradation.

For composite decks, they’re generally more resistant to elements, but don’t neglect them. We use a specialized composite cleaner to address any mold or mildew and keep those planks as good as new.

best material for an above ground pool deck? It comes down to personal preference.

When it comes to the best material for above ground pool deck, it comes down to a variety of factors. 

  • Pressure-Treated Wood: Its main pros are the affordability and traditional look. It’s a champ for a cozy, woodsy vibe but remember, it does require regular maintenance.
  • Composite: This one is what we chose for less upkeep while still keeping that natural wood look. It’s a tad pricier, but the long-term benefits might just be worth the extra cash.
  • PVC Decking: If you’re after a near-zero maintenance option, PVC is my pick. It resists stains and moisture like a boss, though it can feel a bit synthetic underfoot.
  • Aluminum: A strong contender for durability for railings. It won’t warp, crack, or splinter. It’s sleek, sure, but also tends to be the most expensive.

For us, the ideal choice was to go with a synthetic product for our swimming pool deck. We chose it due to the easy installation, the non-slip material and the low maintenance requirements. However, wood decks still have their place, primarily a popular choice for pool owners looking for natural materials and lower up-front costs. 

Whatever you choose, the right pool deck can add a ton of fun and functionality to your summer poolside days. 

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