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Building with Composite Decking: Is it a Smart Choice?

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Composite Decking

As part of the building industry’s constant quest to make things better, more convenient and easier, composite decking was developed. There used to be just one option for decking—wood—but now there are a few choices available to suit any homeowner’s budget and preferences.

Wood decking needs regular maintenance and care, such as annual staining or refinishing, and this can be tedious for some people. Although there are kinds of wood decking materials such as ipe and other tropical hardwoods that require less maintenance, owning a wooden deck entails responsibilities.

Recognizing that a lot of homeowners might appreciate options that require less maintenance, some entrepreneurs came up with alternatives using materials such as aluminum, vinyl, and plastic. But the most popular option in the decking industry that has seen a lot of demand in the last decade is composite wood decking.

Also known as synthetic decking, wood-polymer composites and cheap composite decking, composite is quickly becoming the top decking material choice for many homeowners and builders.

Here are the reasons why:

  • It is environmentally friendly
  • Lightweight
  • Stain resistant
  • Insect/borer resistant
  • Weather resistant
  • Will not rot or splinter
  • Very low maintenance
  • Good workability and can be easily shaped
  • Does not need paint or stain

What in the World is Composite Decking?

Wood composite decking is a man-made material made from combined materials such as wood and plastic. First introduced into the decking market in the early ’90s, these materials are processed to emulate the appearance of wood. The wood component of this combination typically consists of lumber byproducts such as wood fiber, sawdust and chips.

The plastic components are often made from both recycled and virgin thermoplastic materials that include ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) and PP (Polypropylene). During production, these components are added with preservatives and pigmentation, and then heated in high temperatures to thoroughly melt.

How do They Make it?

There are two major production methods that also affect the strength and quality of the composite decking.

The first process is called extrusion, wherein the raw materials are mixed and melted and then forced through an opening that has the shape and size of a decking board. This process solidifies the mixture into a finished product that has a consistent shape and size.

The other process is called compression molding, wherein the molten materials are combined and placed on a wood grain mold. The materials in the mold will then be compressed under extreme pressure and heat to create a strong physical bond. They are then formed into lengths simulating wooden boards while they are being cooled.

The finished product can have a beautiful, wood-like look, and they often come in a wide variety of grain patterns, colors and composite deck prices. This type of artificial wood decking can give a homeowner the freedom to build a deck without the maintenance, as composite decks don’t have to be sanded, painted or stained.

To Cap or Not to Cap

There are actually two types of composite or synthetic decking: capped composite and uncapped composite.

Uncapped

This is the first generation type of composite decking and is less expensive than the capped type. It never needs to be refinished or stained, nor does it splinter or twist. It is, however, more prone to stains and fading, so it has to be periodically cleaned to maintain its beauty. It is highly recommended that the surface be swept clean, soaped, scrubbed and hosed down every six months.

Capped

This is the next generation composite decking. It has a plastic surface that serves as protection of the wood fibers from being exposed to the elements. It also prevents the boards from fading and staining. Capped composite decking is not porous, which means that liquids will bead on the surface and will not easily dry so the surface tends to be slippery when wet.

How to Choose the Best Composite Decking

There are a few important factors that should be considered when choosing the best composite deck for your home. These include composite deck prices, color availability and type of fastener system used. You can also narrow down your search for the best product when you determine your desired deck texture, deck location and how you intend to use the deck.

There are a few big names in the composite decking market, such as Trex composite decking, Evergrain, Veranda Decking, CorrectDeck and TimberTech. The composite market is constantly evolving as manufacturers continue to develop their products to provide homeowners and builders with the best combination that will eliminate stain, mold and fading issues from wood composite decking.