The Advantages of Composite Decking Materials

Our unique Northwest weather presents a challenge for homeowners, particularly when it comes to outdoor structures such as decks. Choosing the right decking material for your climate makes a big difference in determining the lifespan and attractiveness of your deck, which is why many homeowners are turning to composite decking for a solution.

Composite decking material is made from a combination of wood fibers encased in plastic. The result is a deck that’s more durable and easier to maintain than many other types. Composite decking is often made from recycled materials, which, combined with its Samples of dark brown outdoor composite deckinglong life, has made it an increasingly popular choice among homeowners.

Here’s a rundown of what composite decks have to offer and how to choose the best composite decking for your home:

Benefits of Composite Decking

Weather resistance: The plastic in composite decking makes it less susceptible to changes in temperature, which would normally cause the wood to expand and contract. This reduces wear and tear on your deck and prevents warping. The synthetic material encasement also protects the wood from rot and decay caused by prolonged exposure to moisture.

Durability: Decks made from composite materials last two to three times longer than those made from solid wood. They also continue looking good much longer and with much less work. Although they initially cost more than solid wood, they make up the price difference over time by eliminating the need for expensive maintenance and replacement of rotting or splitting boards.

Maintenance: Unlike traditional wood, composite decking does not split, is resistant to insects, and does not require paint, stain, or a sealer. The best way to maintain a composite deck is to keep it swept, hose it off at least twice a year, and attend to stains promptly with household cleaners or commercially available composite deck cleaners.

Comfort: Because composite deck material does not splinter, it is safe and comfortable for bare feet and kids.

What to Look for in a Composite Deck

Environmental impact: Composite decking first emerged in the early 1990s as an answer to some of the typical complaints about traditional wood decking. It was initially developed to be both durable and environmentally friendly. Early composite decks were made from recycled milk jugs and discarded shipping pallets. Today, while some companies now use virgin plastic and wood or a blend of virgin products and recycled materials, others continue to offer decking made from 100 percent post-consumer content.

porch composite decking Appearance: People often choose composite decks for their uniform color. Whereas a traditional wood deck will fade if it isn’t stained and sealed properly, a composite deck is treated with colorant and can be molded to have a wood-grain look. Manufacturers can also add preservatives and UV stabilizers, which help maintain your deck’s appearance.

Construction: Composite decking materials are built either solid or hollow. Solid decking more closely mimics the look of wood and has greater durability and strength than hollow composite boards.

Warranty: Many manufacturers will offer a full warranty against insect damage, splintering and splitting. These warranties can range from 10 to 20 years. It’s best to choose a deck package with a strong warranty to ensure the long life of your deck.

Wood versus plastic: While all composite decking is a blend of wood and plastic, the amount can vary between brands, from 50 percent wood and 50 percent plastic all the way up to nearly 70 percent wood. The higher the wood content, the more susceptible your deck can become to problems such as mold, rot and insect damage.

Installation: Deck packages can vary, from full installation to largely do-it-yourself projects. Composite decks require good drainage and airflow, and they differ from wood decks in gapping, or the amount of space between planks, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s specifications when installing your deck.

Because it’s a manufactured product, composite decking is constantly being tested and improved upon. Advancements are frequently made to improve the realistic wood look and to keep colors bright and even. Ask your builder for the latest information about composite decking.

Ben Anton, 2009

Find WestStar composite decking materials and information on installation on Rick’s Fencing website for vinyl, cedar and composite decks in Oregon and Washington.

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