Composite decking – What is it?
When you think of your ideal deck you probably imagine lounging poolside under the burning sun or dozing in a hammock under as the sun sets over a warm summer day. Your deck will host family get-togethers, backyard barbecues and the occasional poker night. What you probably have not imagined however the hard work required to build and maintain that deck.
We all love the idea of those all-American wooden decks gleaming under the summer sun, but with the man-made composite decking we no longer have to slave away bleaching and staining a big spread of wood. Composite decking also lessens your chances of wasting a morning replacing rotten, warped or splintered wood.
But is composite decking all it’s cracked up to be? Honestly…it depends. What is important to you when building a deck; getting the exact style, color and design you want? Or do you want to build a deck without breaking the bank? These are the factors that will help you decide if composite decking if right for you.
A Brief History
Many homeowners began gravitating towards composite decking during the 1990’s when it first became available. Despite the limited color choices (grey) many homeowners loved the low maintenance plastic composites. But, as these things tend to happen, composite decking became more. These days you can get composite decking that looks like a beautiful cherry wood or sophisticated Brazilian walnut without worrying about future greying.
Today many deck builders are flocking to composite decking because it is an environmentally friendly way to build. This sustainable material is made mostly from waste so a big fancy deck for you means a lot less waste in your local landfill.
What Is It
Most composite materials are made up from wood dust and shredded plastic, along with preservatives, pigments and ultraviolet inhibitors for sun protection. This is perhaps what most appeals to those who choose composite decking and if you care more about sustainability than you do about style, you will find composites an ideal material.
The one area of composite decking that divides deck builders is cost. Despite the fact that these materials are made from waste, the processing required to turn them into planks means a higher cost for you. Builders should expect to pay anywhere from $4 to $10 per square foot depending on size and color or finish.
The good news is that many composite decking manufactures offer some type of warranty. The bad news is that very few of these warranties cover the type of damage composites are likely to encounter such as scratching, stains and fading.
Probably the primary reason some homeowners choose composite decking over wood is that it requires less maintenance. Composites generally require a few washings per year to keep it looking clean and new, which is just a few less steps than wood requires. But if you don’t want to waste time painting or staining a deck every few years, a simple scrub may be best for you.
What’s Good About It
- Composite decking has a long shelf life, thanks to the shredded plastic and preservatives contained within it.
- Twice yearly washings will leave it looking good as new. No more trying to convince friends to help you bleach, repaint or stain your wooden deck.
- Composite decking doesn’t fade as much as wood after the first few months of sun exposure. Unlike old school composites your deck won’t turn grey after the first summer.
- It is made from many waste materials so reusing them is a great way to help out the environment.
What’s Not Good About It
- Cost more than your typical wood planks. Whether you use low or high end products, the overall cost of composites is more than you will pay for its wooden counterpart.
- Plastic is a major component of composite materials and it is not biodegradable so, while reusing them is a great way to help out, this deck is not necessarily “green”.
- If you drop a greasy burger or spill soda on composite decking you will likely stain it. These materials are prone to staining and can leave an uneven color when there spill occurred.
Where To Get It
The good thing about the rise in popularity of composite decking is that it can be found just about anywhere you find regular wood. Big box stores, home improvement and hardware stores often stock various types of composites because it is a highly sought after building material.
However you should weigh the pros and cons carefully before deciding if composite decking will give you the deck of your dreams.