If you ever thought about buying or building a deck made with composite decking than this small article is for you.
In times past it was much easier to build a deck, any deck for your house and the decision to choose the material was even more simple because there was only one material available: wood.
Today there are way too many choices regarding the materials used for decking, and the color choices and textures multiply the possibilities exponentially, also many different brands offer continuously improved versions of their decking at a ever increasing pace. What’s even stranger is that some of the components available to the contractor and the consumer today don’t even have any wood in it.
Do we even need that many choices and options? Man’s effort keeps improving thanks in no small part to technology and making our life better and more efficient.
In the not so distant past there was a common thread when it comes to wood decking, whether you are talking pine, cedar or redwood they all need extensive care and maintenance to keep up with the beating the elements bring like snow, rain, and the damage caused by the sun’s rays. Sanding the deck, resealing it and re staining are awful chores that cannot be ignored if one’s to maintain the deck.
Leave it to technology to find areal world solution to a real world problem. We call it composite decking.
Typically composite decking is made by combining different materials like wood by products and plastic and processing it to give it the appearance of real live wood. These materials themselves can be made out of virgin products or even recycled materials. Think of it as an amorphous pudding where the mix is heated first and by being extruded is formed into boards that look and feel like real wood.
Depending on the manufacturer a preservative may be added and also pigment or color. Preservatives are a must as this product is expected to last for many years. Color is added in various measure to bring the final look to mimic several different species of real hardwood flooring like walnut or redwood.
Composite decking in its final stage is heavier than wood and also not as strong but it makes up like a champ in the fact that it never needs upkeep, maintenance, will never rot or lose its color, it will not warp, nor you will catch any splinters from it, you will not even need to paint it or seal it or sand it. Pretty awesome qualities when you think about it.
The color of composite decking is subject to some discoloration due to the effect of the sun ultraviolet rays on composite materials and plastics in general, also homeowners should pay close attention to cleaning possible stains and keeping the deck clean. To this end a simple wash down with a hose twice a year would always be sufficient and scrubbing with a stiff bristle broom with soap and water.
Types of Decking
Typically there is only two main types of composite decking on the market today.
- Solid composite decking
- Hollow composite decking
Solid Decking is what you are most used used to see..it looks a lot like real wood, is very heavy and because of the increased mass it tends to expand and contract at a greater rate than the hollow version of it.
The hollow type decking on the other hand has a more artificial look and feel. It does not expand and contract in any significant way, but it is more delicate because the way it is built and tends to get damaged before and during the installation process. Installers need to be more careful handling this type of material.
The solid type of composite decking in the end is much more popular with contractors and homeowners alike because it is stronger than its hollow counterpart and more closely resembles real hardwood.
All decking regardless of type should always treated with anti-fungal chemical and a preservative chemical. It is a known fact that wood will rot in time when left untreated and left exposed to the elements. Of course this process is also sped up by an increase in moisture. Most people are not aware that even though the wood pulp materials have been mixed with plastic products they will still rot, especially if you think that some of the decking has wood content as high as 72%.
Fortunately some of the preservative work is done at the factory and chemicals like zinc borate are mixed in the manufacturing steps to prevent such occurrences.
When we look at the composition of Composite materials we see the following main groups:
- polyvinyl chloride – PVC
In our study we see Polyethylene based decking is being fazed out in favor of Polypropylene based decking mainly for its superior resistance to expansion and contraction. This type of products contains wood pulp in different percentages varying by brand.
PVC based materials on the other hand contain no wood product whatsoever, and thanks to todays technology are getting more and more similar to the real wood.
When choosing decking one of the main factors influencing customers is always cost, another factor could be the availability of color and a certain texture, and last but not least the presence of a hidden fastener technology.
The most expensive decking materials are the ones made of pure plastic and that have absolutely no recycled material.