How to Install Composite Decking

More homeowners are choosing to replace their worn deck material with composite decking.

Composite decking is a blend of plastic and wood that is said to last longer than conventional wood decking. According to most manufacturers, composite decking resists splintering, corrosion and rot and is just as easy to install as conventional wood decking.

Check your existing deck frame for any signs of rot or instability. Boards that are rotting, warped or broken should be replaced. It's a good idea to have a building professional or building code enforcement officer check your deck frame to ensure it meets your local building code.

Place the boards in the direction recommended by the manufacturer. Some have tags on the ends, others have a mark stamped in the end of the board. Whatever the case, the marks or tags must all be placed on the same end to maintain a uniform look. After taking the measurements, use your circular saw to cut the first board. It is best to start on the house side and work your way out. If you're putting the deck on a house that has siding or flashing, use a putty knife to help slip the plank underneath the siding overlap. If you have a downspout that goes through your deck, you must use the jigsaw to cut a notch or a hole in the board for the downspout.

Drill the holes for your deck screws in the plank--one screw per joist--then use a countersink to make a small indentation in the plank so that the screws are flush with or below the surface of the plank. Make sure that the first board is parallel with the deck frame on the outer edge of the deck.

Drive the 'hidden' fastener into the plank using either a block of wood and a hammer or a tool supplied by the decking manufacturer. Use one fastener per joist. After each fastener is driven into place it is then screwed into the joist.

Measure and cut your next deck board. Butt it up against the hidden fasteners, then, while you or a partner stands on the plank, place a block of wood or wooden board against the plank and hammer on the board to drive the plank into place. Put another hidden fastener on one end of the plank, drive it into place and secure it with a screw. Now you can drive the rest of the plank into place using the hammer and board method. Screw the plank into place when you're done.

Continue to put each plank into place until you reach the end of your deck. When you're ready for that last plank--or in some case, last two planks, depending on your deck--you'll need to place a notch where each plank fits into the deck posts. In some cases the planks will need to be dropped into place because there won't be enough room to slide it into place. If that's the case, you'll need to cut or break off one half--the outside half-- of the hidden fasteners. Measure for your posts, notch the plank or planks out, drop them into place and screw them down.

Things You Will Need

  • Decking screws (or fasteners recommended by the manufacturer of your composite decking)
  • Cordless drill
  • Drill bit sized to accommodate fasteners/screws
  • Countersink
  • Level
  • Square
  • Circular saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Sander


  • Sometimes cutting the planks to fit will leave a sharp or rough edge. You can use your sander to gently round off those edges. However, be sure to sand a 'test' plank that won't be used first to ensure that you won't be discoloring the composite deck material by sanding it.


  • Make sure you wear safety glasses and hearing protection when using power tools. Be very careful and follow all manufacturer's instructions when using power tools - misuse can cause serious injury or death. When cutting or sanding composite decking, it's a good idea to wear a dust or filter mask. Before installing a deck, make sure you have all the proper permits from your municipality, and make sure the deck is up to code. If you're in doubt, hire a building inspector to check it out first.

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell has been a professional writer, editor and photographer for more than 20 years. His work has appeared in publications including "The Express-Times," "The Morning Call" and "The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review" newspapers; "Pocono World Magazine," "The Blue Valley Times," and more. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English.