How to Choose the Right Colour Vinyl Decking

While helping my mom choose the right colour for her vinyl deck flooring in her sunroom, I took one look at the brochure and was so disappointed with the colour choices! And, I pretty much had to check my colour expert ego at the door. Here’s my advice if you, too, are considering sheet vinyl decking.

The vinyl decking at the AirBNB I stayed with my Mom (above)

Thanks so much for all your help and comments on both of the posts I wrote about my Moms Sunroom and front entrance.

We Chose Vinyl Decking for the Sunroom

She has decided to go for a four-season sunroom and it’s currently in production but I thought I would entertain you today with how I selected the vinyl decking she had installed.

I have never sourced vinyl decking in the 20 years that I have been in the colour world and now I know why.

I specify composite decking all day and all night in my New Build consultations but never vinyl. Oh, and here’s a post I wrote about the Best Permanent Colour for your Deck, Patio or Balcony.

Mom does not want tile. She wants it to be easy care and washable. She loves plants and wants to fill her solarium with them and doesn’t want to worry about the floor so this seemed like the best and most economical choice. After all, this brand new addition/solarium will be expensive enough.

Since I have now seen pretty much all that was available to me and I hated them all. Oh, and I will not mention any brands to protect the innocent.

How to choose the right colour for vinyl decking.

Here’s how it went:

The contractor building the deck arrived with the samples of sheet vinyl decking/flooring.

Vinyl Decking Colour Choices

I took one look at the brochure with 11 colour samples in tiny 2″ x 2″ squares and this is how the conversation went”

No.

I hate them all.

What other options do I have?

“Well if you find something better, let me know and I’ll get an account set up if I don’t already have one”.

Okay fine.

And then I went down the rabbit hole of looking at all the other manufacturers.

One company I called said they absolutely would not send me a photo of the ‘lighter brown’ shade they had available. Of course, I could drop by and look at them in person. Well, I didn’t want to drive 45 minutes to see a colour that I would probably not like anyway. [sigh]

Later when I asked our contractor why they were so unhelpful, he confided that it was because they really don’t care about the one-off deck a homeowner is building. Mostly their business is volume and that looks like decks for apartment buildings.

Then I found one company that looked like they had some better options than what I had been shown.

So I called him and asked about it.

He said “Well they are located in Kelowna I don’t have an account with them, and it will take time to order and ship here which will delay the project. I like the company I showed you because they are local, easy to deal with and their product is readily available”.

I will admit I next went on a bit of a rant, haha, and this is basically what I said:

“I don’t care, I’m an internationally known colour consultant, I CANNOT put an ugly vinyl floor in my Mom’s house.

It makes no sense to choose something ugly just because we don’t want to wait a couple weeks.

Who cares if I get it today, I have to look at it for 10-15 more years, NO WAY.

I feed bad for the unsuspecting homeowner who ends up disappointed in the finishes they have in their house because they were bossed around by their contractor or builder who just wants to make money, and by the way, UGLY IS ON SALE AND FOR YOUR INFORMATION, I’M NOT BUYING IT!!??!!

And another thing!! I have 400,000 monthly readers and I’m just not going to choose something ugly.

N.O. NO.

The end.”

He was so great with me, and repeated many times that he wanted me to be happy and to go ahead and tell me which samples I wanted to see and he would make it happen.

So, I went online and clicked on all the samples I liked to see what they looked like installed on a deck.

And, guess what, I hated them all too.

Checking my Colour Expert ego at the door.

So I sheepishly called him and said “Okay, I see that there’s actually nothing better out there so I’m going to choose from YOUR brochure”.

Well he got quite a kick out of that, haha. Here I am on a “Don’t you know who I think I am?” rant, only to come full circle right back to the few choices he had originally shown me.

I learned a lesson that day which is never show your arrogance until you have all the facts.

Wood Looking Vinyl Decking Colours

All they had in this realm was primarily blue grey and this dark green beige/brown looking one. I would have even taken something that looked a lot like a cedar deck. Or even white marble tile would have been a great option.

So here it is, the only one I could live with.

Sheet Vinyl Decking

So there you have it. We now know that the reason why vinyl decking companies don’t care about design and colour options is because this product is made for a builder who is covering a deck for a condo. And they pretty much just care about making money so colour/design doesn’t matter.

Here’s the product on the deck of the AirBNB my Mom and I stayed at earlier this month! I thought it worked because it matched all the orange cedar shakes on the house!

Over to you my lovelies!

And before you launch into LVP and tile, all that was way over my Mom’s budget. The decorating is more important anyway and once we have an outdoor rug down and there’s a look and feel in the room, the vinyl deck colour will not be important. I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t a bossy, overpowering colour and that is my advice to you when you are choosing one.

If you’d like to learn how to choose or specify the right colour/neutral undertones for your exterior projects, join my Exterior Masterclass here.

If you need help with your exterior or new build colours, those packages are still available. Due to high demand, our smaller packages are currently SOLD OUT.

I also created a video explaining what I talked about above but with more detail:

COVID update on my Specify Colour with Confidence Live Events: 

Also if you were already registered into one of my live events, you should have an email with the newest dates we have moved to later in Spring 2021.  If you didn’t receive one, please check your spam folder or let us know because sometimes they get bounced.

I am so sad to do this again, however the Canadian borders have extended their closure until the end of August, and everyone keeps talking about a second wave.

To keep the Fall dates, we have to think about quarantine, social distancing, team exercises and how that would work and the biggest concern is that the world gets shut down again this Fall.

So rather than have people book flights and hotels, AGAIN, we have pushed them far enough out into next year in the hopes that everything will be open once again.

We hope you are well and we’re sending prayers of continued good health and colourful prosperity!

Related posts:

How to Choose the Colour of your Gentek Shutters

Are Black Windows the Best Choice for your New Build?

Trend Alert: All Black and All White Exteriors

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  1. I’m a little confused about what this material is. Is this a Canadian thing, or maybe it’s a northern thing? The only vinyl decking I’m aware of are boards, like Trex. This looks like a sheet vinyl flooring.

    • I’m confused also because I’ve never seen this product on houses anywhere in the states.

      Is Trex decking vinyl or composite? The only thing I read about vinyl decking that looks like wood planks, is that it gets hotter than wood.

      I would find it very appealing install a deck that didn’t need maintenance. Everyone has wood decks where I live and the constant upkeep is too much.

        • SCIENCE GEEK ALERT:

          Some points of clarification:

          The terms “PVC decking,” “composite decking,” and “polymer decking” get tossed around interchangeably — even though the materials are different. It leaves many people confused. The term “composite decking” refers to engineered deck boards — meaning: any deck boards that aren’t 100% organic material (like wood).

          Trex decking is NOT a composite vinyl material. Trex is a composite made from two waste products: plastic film (largely grocery bags collected for recycling) and wood scrap, such as sawdust and tailings from furniture manufacturing. The plastic going into Trex is
          polyethylene.

          Vinyl is shorthand for PVC (poly vinyl chloride) – a totally different beast which contains chlorine. Timbertech AZEK is a PVC decking product that is comprised of PVC.

          There’s an interesting origin story to how Trex came about.

          Chemist and entrepreneur, Roger Wittenberg, made a career of transforming waste streams into revenue steams. During the 1980s, his enterprise manufacturing chicken feed from bakery leftovers led to selling breadcrumbs made from waste loaves. Although the breadcrumb biz was a money-maker, it did have its challenges, according to an interview he gave to Fortune Small Business in 2003. Using cheap, excess bread for his raw material left him with thousands of empty plastic bread bags each day. Solving the challenge of that waste stream eventually led to Trex.

    • Your confusion is understandable. It actually is an outdoor, waterproof sheet vinyl. I wonder if someone in the industry have coined the term “Vinyl Decking” to get away from the stigma associated with sheet vinyl being low end and undesirable?

  2. Frightful. I don’t understand about builders not caring how ugly things are, unless most people (whom the builders have to sell to) don’t care how ugly things are either. Can that possibly be true???

    • Genetically, 8% of men are colorblind, especially with the red/green type of colorblindness. Be kind, since a particular contractor or builder (or vinyl deck company president) may not actually SEE colors accurately. Worse, they may be oblivious if the problem is subtle. My own contractor was colorblind, knew it, and encouraged me to pick out surface materials as it was difficult for him. It’s just another variable to keep in mind as we proceed in life.

      • Yes it seems like these building product companies are run by men and the colours chosen by them also. Maria

  3. Like Melanie I am also confused as to what this product is. It looks like the stuff on the deck of pontoon boats.

  4. Well…tough choice. I would have loved to see the whole deck so I understand the context better. Sometimes close up comparisons are not indicative of the overall impression. Sort of like an Impressionist painting. I learned this the hard way.

  5. Hi Maria, I so enjoy your story telling voice of a “regular person” and not a “hoity toity design person”! Your vinyl floor dilemma is a perfect example of having to compromise because design just isn’t always perfect. I think part of the reason behind the poor selection of vinyl floor colors is that the vinyl likely doesn’t take color dye as well as other natural materials. It’s the same problem with inexpensive polypropylene rugs. The man made fibers just do not take the dye as well as natural wool, so you cannot achieve the more sophisticated, finely nuanced color selections, but the rug is cheaper and that is the compromise. I obsess over achieving perfection, and noticing imperfection, and often remind myself that there are much more serious problems in the world than decor being slightly “off”. But it’s always my goal to present the best possible options to my clients, and I applaud you for doing the same thing! Your Mom’s new porch sounds like it will be wonderful! Stay safe!

    • I love that perspective and I agree, however since they WERE able to come up with a trendy grey and trendy brown version it seems likely that something more timeless could also be created? Not sure but we can hope 🙂 Maria

  6. We are a 40+ year builder and we never never want to sell a customer something UGLY to make $. I resent your comments about builders. Many customers want “Instant” gratification — If you were willing to wait for something your really wanted, fine. OK with us! We want our customers to be happy and purchase an excellent product. If I think the product is “JUNK” I will tell the homeowner no matter if we lose the job. LVT is a great product. Suck up the $$$ and use Luxury Vinyl Tile!

    • Hi Kaye, you are a unicorn then because I have never heard a story about a builder who wasn’t interested in selling ugly to make money (unless they are really high end). We need more builders in this world like you! Thanks for your comment! Maria

  7. The realm of residential and commercial home/office/retail construction keeps plant growers in business, not you/me. In today’s world.

    Diversity of common plant materials lost post 2008. Won’t be returning in my lifetime. Pure ARROGANCE sneering at commercial wholesale plant diversity prior to 2008. Laughing at that arrogance, “I want THESE plants.” Now, “What plants can I work with on their availability list?”

    God Bless the commercial construction industry, they are my plant list. ARROGANCE turned into THANKFUL.

    A few decent nurseries with plant diversity, however, not suitable to the professional trade. My contractors cannot source from several nurseries spread across several states. Of course they can, but how much do you think your plants will cost?

    In fact, you don’t want to be on the end of the phone, like I have, with a contractor cussing me out for plant selections.

    In addition, seeing construction at building sites, I’m there only for Landscape, is hard on Earth. Materials are over ordered, on purpose, due to inability to aquire more, timely, once at jobsite. Doors, windows, paint, sheet rock, lumber, all over-ordered, on purpose. Sometimes someone can haul it home, renting 18-wheeler, mostly into the dumpster it goes.

    Deadlines, weather, scope changes.

    Jobsites are crazed.

    Yes Maria, few choices, to you & me for our careers.

    Looking forward to your mom’s new garden room !! The REVEAL………….

    Garden & Be Well, XOT

    • @Tara Dillard

      You post is very interesting. It’s making me think that a (quality) high production builder in my area is actually better for the Earth. They are able to order materials in such high volume that not only is the cost better, but they can reuse leftovers on other houses.

  8. I had never heard of it either. But found 2 companies (so far) Tufdek & Econodek, both in Canada. Hoping there are some USA companies that make or sell these products.

  9. I’m living this right now. I’m currently being bossed around with roof tile companies who don’t want to send me samples and our contractor only has a few to show me. So, yep, very timely post for me.

    • Elle – I’m not sure where you’re located but typically you can visit the commercial building supply house (i.e., distributor / dealer) and they’ll have displays of all the options. Most will give you or let your sign out samples to take home. Your contractor does or should know that if he’s buying from a from a commercial supplier and NOT from the local Lowe’s or Home Depot.

  10. I do so also believe in waiting for what you want. When we bought our first home (mid 1980s) most all appliance options were so ugly. But I found a fridge and stove without fake wood handles. I was putting in a white kitchen afterwards. Had to wait 3 months, going without a fridge and stove all summer–we camped out, lol. I would still like the look of those appliances today.

    Maria, I do believe I have the exact same vinyl decking as you chose for your Mom. We moved into our brand new home in Kelowna and the decking vinyl did not last. When I got it replaced, it turned out that the original installer had used the wrong glue which ate through the product. So durability was key to me, our balcony deck gets flooded with our hot sun from noon on. I like it and it goes well with our house colour.

    But these are products for outdoor use, that is why they aren’t so great looking for a sunroom. If it is going to be indoors like that, I would think that you could use other products? After 10 years of being in the very hot sun (can’t walk barefoot out there on days like this) it still looks great. Only problem for me is the sap from the pine trees is hard to get off, if you don’t catch it within a couple of days.

    • I agree that a more expensive product would have looked better in a sunroom but that was not in my Moms budget. Maria

  11. Melanie, look at the Duradek website. It is an application for outdoors, waterproof and long wearing. You can power wash it whenever you want to clean.

  12. Our Oregon coast home has a Duradek. It is sheet vinyl for outdoor use, We have it in a solid, light gray.

    We got this product because we have living space below and needed something waterproof that would wrap around the deck edges It’s 8mm thick. It is OK; it’s 9 years old and just out of warranty.

    Our problem with the product–from the very first–is that the underlayment was not properly prepped. You see every screw/nail head and all the plywood joints. (Not covered by the warranty.)

    We were told–later–that you can’t remove it without ruining the underlayment due to the glue. So when we need to replace it, I guess we are in for a BIG challenge! UGH!!! Wish we’d had a different option.

    • Wow sorry to hear about that! Yes I think a light grey is likely the least of the not awesome choices as well in terms of colour! Maria

    • Yes it is! And this is also a business, how I can continue to provide such amazing, FREE content year after year is because some people pay to get a custom opinion and I appreciate those folks! Thanks for your comment! Maria

  13. I am finding a similar issue with LVT for a bathroom makeover. I don’t have the budget for the hextile that I would like, plus it gets cold and can chip/crack. LVT seemed like the best option but I did not realize how difficult it was going to be to find something that doesn’t a. look like garbage, b. boss everything or c. have a blue grey, taupe or way off undertone d. have a wood look (I have real hardwood so don’t want a clash)! Can’t they just make a nice snap together hex LVT or just white/offwhite simple tile look? Is that really too much to ask?

  14. I did my due diligence with making a vinyl deck decision about 1 year ago. I was surprised too by the lack of selection. In our very damp B.C. weather, the qualities of a material that protect from moisture are the highest priority. Appearance is sometimes secondary.

    The selection issue is not surprising, but I am surprised by your actions and attitude toward the vendors and dealers. Aren’t there lots of things that don’t seem to be up to the expectation we want (especially these days)? ‘Pushing’ is sometimes the way to go, but it’s a fine line between that, and just acting entitled. You’re the only one who can judge if you handled the vendors the best way, but I’m guessing you don’t want to come across as ‘entitled’.

  15. I’m confused… none of the samples look to me like the flooring you chose. Can you tell us which one of the 11 it is? I think this is one of the reasons these choices are so difficult–especially for those of us who don’t have your training or your eye–what they give you to choose from ends up not being representative of what the product looks like when you lay it down on the floor.

    • Allison, I believe it is the sample that is on the bottom row, in the middle.
      It is a great choice. Hides dirt quite well and is very durable. With the correct installation it will last a very long time and be waterproof.

  16. We installed DuraDek two years ago as a roof-top solution over the garage. It gets HOT. I bought a few outdoor rugs at Costco for $19 each and have covered part of the 50′ deck where we hang out with them. They look great. We went with gray and white vinyl and it’s doesn’t show the dirt. I thought it would and I thought it was ugly and yet it has worked out well. Unfortunately, the contractor who installed it was not trained by the company as he stated and it’s not sealed properly and we have significant water damage around the edges. I have had quality contractors who were recommended by DuraDek look at it and it’s worse than I thought, and so I just filed a suit against him. Sigh

  17. My builder is another unicorn then!! I never had ugly pushed on me. I neither did I have over-priced. They provided thoughtful options & explanations- and they were open to products I found & guided me accordingly. I’ve used other builders in the past, so I had experiences for comparison.

  18. OMG Maria I think you should charge for some of your posts bc it is the best education one could get. There is so much humor in the comments that I laughed a lot. I especially liked your comment “Don’t you know who I think I am?” I love that!
    But seriously I really enjoyed the explanation and history of PVC and polymer which I have never known before.
    Being reprimanded by some of your followers made the post even better reading. Me thinks everyone needs to lighten up and not take everything so seriously.

    I absolutely love you and all of your enlighting posts!

    P.S. Your mom’s sunroom will be stunning when you are through with this journey.

  19. I, too am a little confused. Which sample on the page was the flooring you went with? Also, I thought you’ve stated in the past that pink beige is a very bossy color, which is why it’s best to avoid it, yet you went with a pink beige instead of the dark green beige/brown. I realize colors aren’t chosen in a vacuum, so could you explain a bit more why that was the best selection in this instance instead of the one that seems like a more versatile medium brown you often recommend? Thx!

    • Hi Sylvia, it is bossy but in this case it will still the best of all the rest which were blotchy, and trendy, and miserable. I’ll be installing a rug over this floor anyway so it certainly won’t be a colour I’m decorating around. As long as it’s light and disappears (which is mostly does) I’m okay with it! But this area of building products certainly needs design! Thanks for your comment, good question! Maria

  20. I wonder why they would make exterior sheet vinyl so ugly when other vinyl products can be so attractive. For example LVT vinyl planks can look amazing. My deck is boards, vinyl wrapped composite that looks like Ipe, and it’s gorgeous.

  21. Thank you for sharing your “humble pie” story. I could see myself doing that exact same exchange. Better you than me….lol
    Maribeth

  22. Maria, this is one of the reasons I hve followed you since the beginning – you are so damn authentic about who you are!
    I got such a laugh out of “check your ego at the door until you have all the facts.” Such a great lesson for us all.
    And the floor works okay with everything else. Thanks for always leading us down the best path, even if it isn’t perfect.

  23. Oh my goodness, thanks for the laugh! Perhaps we will be seeing the ‘Maria Killam” Vinyl Deck Collection soon?

    • Right? It’s sorely needed clearly but it sounds like they don’t care because builders are their primary buyer because sheet vinyl decking is mostly installed on apartments! Thanks for your comment 🙂 Maria