Composite lumber comes from the manufacturer as a finished product. There is no need to stain, sand, or paint the material. Composite materials usually cost more than lumber, but their long life and low-maintenance requirements could make them more economical in the long run. Many composites are often made partially out of recycled plastics and waste wood, such as Trex Decking, which makes them an environmentally friendly, efficient use of resources.

The growth of wood-alternative products continues to fuel a debate about their environmental value when compared to wood, treated wood, metal and other alternatives. Many suggest that wood decking is made from a more sustainable ingredient and that it carries a smaller manufacturing carbon footprint. Others have claimed that the sawing of wood-alternative products during construction creates dust that will not biodegrade and that the wood-alternative deck boards, when they have outlived their useful lives, will not biodegrade in landfills.