Do Composite Deck Boards Absorb Heat?

It's one of the first questions we often hear when someone is planning their deck: don't composite deck boards get hot?

The short answer? All decking materials will heat up in direct sunlight - that includes wood, composite, stone pavers, or PVC boards. Keeping your deck cool enough to walk on with bare feet is less about your decking material and more about the three biggest factors that actually cause deck boards to absorb heat.

A cool brown poolside deck stays cool in the sun

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What Causes Deck Boards To Get Hot?

Whether you've got pressure-treated wood boards or composite decking, there are three big things that cause your deck boards to absorb and retain heat: the color of your decking, the amount of direct sunlight on your deck, and the ambient temperature in your space.

Decking Color

Just like wearing a black T-Shirt on a sunny day will cause you to sweat, dark-colored deck boards will absorb more heat and sunlight than light-colored ones. That means a deck with dark brown decking will tend to heat up more than one with a light gray color.

If you're worried about your deck taking on too much heat and burning your feet, the best thing you can do is opt for a lighter-colored deck board, or lighter stain on a wood deck. Even if you love the look of rich mahogany, it might make sense to look for a light tan option instead.

A light-colored lakeside deck stays cool in the sun

If you're putting a priority on keeping your composite decking cool, you may want to check out TimberTech's French White Oak color, shown above, or Trex's Pebble Grey, shown below.

A light gray Trex Select deck is perfect for a sunny space
Browse Deck Boards By Color

Direct Sunlight

A sunny gardening deck complete with pots and planters

The more direct sunlight your deck gets, the more your deck boards will heat up.

That makes the sun a double-edged sword when it comes to decks. A bright, sunny deck is an amazing luxury that's great for tanning, relaxing, and planting flowers - but it also makes for a much hotter deck surface.

If your deck space gets a lot of direct sunlight, you could consider a shade structure like the pergola shown below to help keep your surface cool. The beauty of a pergola is that you can dial in the amount of sun or shade you want. A pergola with single beams like the one below will cut down on some of the direct sun on your boards without cutting off the sunlight entirely. You can also add a pergola shade for a more sheltered, less sunny environment.

A soft gray deck with a shade structure
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Ambient Temperature

A beautiful, sunny seaside deck

The air temperature around your deck will also affect how much your deck boards hold heat. On a cooler day, deck boards might absorb heat from direct sun, but they'll also cool down quicker. On a hot, sticky summer day, your boards will retain heat longer.

Unfortunately, there's not much any of us can do to control the local temperature. But the ideas above still apply: choosing light-colored decking and adding shade structures can help keep the ambient temperature around your deck boards lower.

A soft brown deck with seating in the sun

How To Plan A Barefoot-Friendly Composite Deck

If you're renovating or building a deck that you want to make as barefoot-friendly as possible, we've got a couple key ways you can plan your deck to keep deck boards as cool as possible:

Pick light-colored decking: This is the most important thing you can control as a deck owner. Light gray or light brown deck boards will stay noticeably cooler in the sun, regardless of material. As an added bonus, both shades are very on-trend right now!

Try PVC deck boards: Like all materials, PVC will still heat up in direct sunlight. But PVC decking does cool down quicker than composite decking as the sunlight dims.

Consider an outdoor rug: You can create a soft, cool footpath on your deck with a decorative outdoor rug. (Adding the soft texture will also give your deck space a whole new look!) If you're using composite or PVC decking, though, be careful not to choose a rug with a rubber backing, as this can damage your deck boards.

Add a shade structure: A pergola is an amazing stylistic addition to any deck or yard, and the added shade will also keep your walking surface cooler.

A multi-width deck board layout

Learn more about the basics of deck framing and building in our Deck Framing Guide and learn deck parts and terminology in the DecksDirect Glossary of Deck Terms and Lingo.

Browse more deck design and railing style notes to upgrade your backyard space and deck in the DecksDirect Railing Style Guide: the quickest way to learn if your home is more suited for a classic aluminum deck railing or a showstopping cable rail setup.

The more you know, the better your deck and backyard projects will be! Whether you're looking at a brand new project, a deck update, or a style refresh, give our deck project planners a call at 1-888-824-5316 or send us an email at hello@decksdirect.com. Our friendly team will help you get the information, products, and tools you need for an awesome deck completely personalized to your needs!