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Composite Decks

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Composite Decking Questions Answered

Have you considered composite decking before but disregarded the option because you did not know enough about it? Have you wondered how is it made and what is it made of?

You are in the right place! Here your questions regarding composite decks will be answered, and more. Composite decking has been around for decades, but there still seems a lack of familiarity with it. So let’s start off with the basics and look at the material a little closer.

What is Composite Decking?

Composite decking is a pseudo-wood product created from a mixture of recycled plastics and wood fibers. Color pigments and protective additives are incorporated into the mixture to form a traditional wood-like deck board but with added resilience that requires less maintenance than other decking materials.

There are several polymers used in manufacturing composite decking such as polyvinyl chloride, high-density or low-density polyethylene, and polypropylene.

Wood flour is then added to stabilize the plastics and also protect it from ultraviolet rays that may damage the plastics. Choose a brand that uses finely ground wood fiber as the consistency allows for a more uniformed look throughout the deck.

How is Composite Decking Made?

Most new generation composite decking products are manufactured using “extrusion,” a forming process wherein the melted mixture of wood and plastic are forced through an opening or a mold to produce boards that have consistent shape and size. It’s just like putty pushed through a mold.

Another popular manufacturing method used for modern composite decking is “compression molding.” The melted plastic and wood materials are placed in molds which are then compressed in extreme pressure and heat levels so that a strong physical bond is created.

The pressure squeezes out air pockets that might weaken the product and a highly compressed board is created.

What are the Benefits of Composite Decking?

We have a comparative review that discusses the benefits of composite decking vs. wood decking. But let’s talk about some of the benefits of composite decks when used for outdoor living.

Weather Resistance

Because of its density, composite decking has a high resistance to decay and rot caused by constant or prolonged exposure to the elements, especially moisture. And because there is less moisture in the boards the possibility of mildew, bacteria and insects are also reduced.

Durable

Composite deck boards are made to be resistant against stain such as food and beverage stains. You won’t have to worry about mustard, barbecue sauce, coffee and wine seeping through your decking. Cleanup is also easy. Because it is resistant to stains, the life and beauty of your deck is preserved.

Ultra-Low Maintenance

You won’t have to spend more just to have a long-lasting deck. Composite decking does not need stain, sealers or paint, so expenses for maintenance is greatly reduced. You just need to keep it clean by sweeping or mopping, remove stains with composite deck cleaners available commercially, and hose it off twice a year for general cleaning.

Complementary Colors

Many composite decking brands offer boards in a wide range of colors to complement any home. You won’t need to paint or stain the product because the boards already come in different beautiful colors to choose from.

Ten years ago, there were only about 10 choices when it comes to types and composite decking colors. But as the industry has grown over the last few years, more and more choices have become available. In fact, there are now over 50 composite decking products in the market.

Your Ultimate Composite Decking Resource

Knowing more about any product before you buy will greatly help in making an informed decision, and will significantly reduce stress and future regrets.

Sometimes we miss buying what’s best for us because we lack knowledge of it. So don’t be afraid to explore and don’t avoid composite decking just because you are not familiar with it.

Read on and find out more about the ins and outs of this product and get your information first-hand from Dallas Deck Craft, the decking experts serving the Texas counties of Dallas, Collin and Rockwall since 1980.

With more than 30 years of deck building experience, we share valuable insights that will help you with your deck building needs, not only on composite decking, but on many other decking materials as well.

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Is Pressure-Treated Wood the Right Choice for My Outdoor Deck?

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Pressure-Treated Wood Decking is Right in a Lot of Situations

If you’re still considering what kind of material to build your outdoor deck with, chances are you’ve encountered pressure treated wood, or also called Wolmanized pine as a potential option.

As one of the most commonly used materials in outdoor construction projects, pressure-treated wood has an excellent track record as a long lasting, affordable material, making it a deck builder favorite. Pressure-treated pine is commonly used for outdoor decking.

But what is it? What does “pressure treated” mean? Is it right for you? Let’s explore this common building material and find out.

What is Pressure-Treated Wood?

Pressure-treated wood is any kind of wood which has been saturated in a mixture of chemical preservatives. The wood is placed inside a closed tank along with the preservatives, and then the air is sucked out creating a vacuum which forces the preservatives into the wood.

These preservatives are specially designed to protect the wood from pests (such as termites), rot, and wood fungi.

It is important to note that pressure-treated wood still needs to be treated with a weather sealant, as the chemical preservatives generally won’t fare well against weather and aging.

Addressing Safety Concerns of Pressure-Treated Wood

Most of the concerns regarding the safety of the chemical preservatives used to create pressure-treated wood stem from old manufacturing processes which are no longer used.

For many years, chromated copper arsenate (CCA) was the de-facto preservative used in pressure-treated wood—which caught the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency in the early 2000s.

Even though there was some degree of controversy as to how dangerous the use of CCA was if the wood was properly maintained, it has since been banned in residential use, prompting the lumber industry to use safer and more environmentally-friendly preservatives in the creation of pressure-treated wood.

It’s important to remember that if you hear that pressure-treated wood is somehow unsafe, the source is likely using poor or outdated information, as pressure-treated wood using CCA as the preservative hasn’t been sold for residential purposes for at least a decade; it is, however, still used in a variety of industrial applications, which homeowners should be aware of when purchasing pressure-treated wood for their residential projects.

Deck Construction with Pressure-Treated Wood

Pressure-treated wood has been a long-time favorite for deck construction because of its affordable pricing, durability, and how long the wood will last when properly sealed and maintained. When compared to other common woods used in deck construction, pressure treated wood remains a common choice because of its pricing without sacrificing functionality—compared to, say, redwood, pressure-treated wood can cost 30 to 40% less while still retaining all of the benefits of redwood and/or other woods which are well known to be durable.

This comparatively low price bracket means that pressure-treated wood might be a great choice if your deck project is a particularly large one; the savings will add up with every square foot.

Pros and Cons of Pressure-Treated Wood

Pressure-treated wood is one of the most commonly used materials used in outdoor construction—and there’s plenty of good reasons for that. The longevity as well as the durability make it the perfect framing material regardless of what type of material you choose for your outdoor decking needs. While the pros certainly outweigh the cons in most situations, here’s a brief overview of both.

Pros of Pressure-Treated Wood

  • Long lasting, many manufacturers offer a 30 or more year warranty
  • Very affordable
  • Difficult to dent or scratch, strong
  • Prevents mold, fungi
  • Prevents insects from taking up residence

Cons of Pressure-Treated Wood

  • Can only be used outdoors
  • When burned, chemicals can be unsafe; poses a potential health hazard in the event of a house fire
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Wood Deck vs Composite Deck – Which is Better?

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If you’ve decided to have a wood deck installed in your backyard, chances are you’ve been surprised at just how many different options there are for the type of wood decking you can use.

Recent years have seen some positive developments in the quality of a composite deck and a plastic deck—but are they really better than the real thing?

Common Types of Wood Decks

To give you an idea of what we’ll be comparing against, let’s take a few minutes and discuss some of the more common types of wood decks used in residential projects.

Redwood Deck

Popular on the west coast but used country-wide, redwood is known for its longevity and beauty.

Although when it comes in contact with moisture or even concrete it can create a deteriorating process so it is recommended to use pressure-treated material for framing and support. If properly maintained by keeping a good weather sealant/stain it can last for many years.

Cedar Decking

Cedar is standard species used for many kinds of decking and construction projects. It has many of the same characteristics Redwood and as such needs the pressure-treated pine for the framing as well as the weather sealant.

Tropical Hardwood Decking

Ipe, tigerwood decking and red balau woods, from the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and Brazil, have become popular in recent years due to their extreme durability and density and are a great choice for a deck.

The tropical hardwoods probably have the best longevity of all woods. With the heavy density weather sealant is not required unless you don’t mind reapplying about every six months. Relatively affordable considering these types of wood are imported.

Pressure-Treated Wood Deck

Probably one of the most affordable, this type of wood has been treated with a chemical preservative to stave off rot, fungi, and pests and therefore has a great longevity.

You must maintain a good weather sealant/stain applied as needed to keep the appearance up on a pressure-treated deck. It also helps to minimize warping as well as checking.

Wood Decking vs. Composite Decks

There was once a time when any serious homeowner or contractor would shy away from composite decking—however, composite decking has made substantial improvements over the past few years, resulting in less fungal buildup, much slower decomposition, more longevity as well as a reduction in price.

Composite wood is made up of wood particles and plastic. The plastic is usually polyethylene, and may or may not be recycled, depending on the manufacturer. Certain brands of composite deck boards are hollow and therefore understandably cheaper but are generally not as strong or sturdy as solid composite boards.

Another consideration is that composite wood can get quite hot if the temperature outdoor gets high enough—as it does here in Dallas, Texas due to the plastic components of the material retaining heat. This heat can be lessened to some degree by the color of the composite wood.

The lighter the wood color the less heat it will retain. It’s still doubtful that anyone would want to walk around barefoot on a composite deck in the middle of August.

Composite decking performs quite well in very humid areas, of which there are a few in our region. The plastic isn’t quite as prone to the absorption of moisture as 100% wooden decking which can possibly lead to a longer lifespan.

Wood Decking vs. Plastic Decking

Plastic decking has been touted as being low or maintenance free—however, this isn’t necessarily true. As both composite and plastic decking will require a good cleaning at least once a year in order to prevent color fading.

Technically the deck would likely remain functional, but it sure wouldn’t be pretty if left unmaintained. Recent technology in the formula used for plastic or otherwise known as PVC has minimized the effects the sun can have on this material.

Cost of Wooden Decking vs. A Composite Deck

The cost of decking, either wood or composite varies quite a bit depending on the quality, brand, grade and type, but it’s safe to say that in most cases, composite materials are not necessarily cheaper than “real” woods. In the low to middle end of the spectrum, composite woods might be a little higher.

To give you an example of the price variances, a pressure-treated wood deck might cost as little as $10 per square foot, whereas a very high-end composite deck could run upwards of $40 per square foot. Ultimately, which material you choose for your decking will depend on preference and budget.

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Exploring the Benefits of Ipe and Red Balau Wood Decking

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Red Balau Decking or Ipe?

More and more homeowners are choosing to have their outdoor decks constructed with exotic, tropical, imported woods. This isn’t just a stylistic choice either—in many cases, these woods offer a lot of functional benefits in addition to a unique, aesthetically appealing look.

Two such woods are ipe and red balau. Let’s explore each wood and discuss why you might want to use one or the other for your outdoor wood deck.

What is Ipe Wood, and Why is it Good for a Deck?

Ipe (pronounced “Ee-pay”) has become quite popular in the past ten or so years, and for good reason. It’s a tropical hardwood from the rainforests of Brazil, and ipe decks have garnered so much attention stateside as a result of its beautiful appearance and extreme functionality.

The wood is very, very dense, and therefore it can last much longer than standard wood types when properly treated.

To give you an idea of how incredibly hard ipe wood decking is, the pieces will often come pre-grooved for hidden fasteners before your contractor installs the deck. While technically an exaggeration, the wood has often been compared to steel and called ironwood.

There are some other benefits of having an ipe deck to consider as well:

  • Ipe is generally considered to be environmentally friendly wood; it’s 100% natural and not a composite.
  • Surface scratches are rare and fairly difficult to inflict.
  • Have we made it clear how hard this wood is yet? The density doesn’t just mean ipe lasts a long time but it’s also resistant to mold, wood burrowing pests, weather damage, and even fire to a certain extent. (You would have a hard time building a campfire with ipe.) It also meets or exceeds fire ratings on many occasions.

What is Red Balau Wood, and Why is it Good for a Deck?

Red balau, comes from the tropical rainforests in Malaysia and is another very dense wood that’s become popular in recent years due to its extreme durability and attractive price.

Red balau is often compared to teak with the exception that balau is much cheaper and much more durable. Balau is often used in projects which require wood to be resistant to water, like bridges or watercraft ramps and boat docks.

Since red balau is a naturally oily wood, it must be properly sealed with oil, otherwise it can dry out and/or absorb spills quite easily. Modern sealants do a good job of protecting the wood but when the wood density it needs to be reapplied often. Red balau decking construction is a great option for homeowners looking to extend their living to the outdoors.

Also like ipe, properly sealed balau is highly resistant to scratching and scuffing. The density of the wood also helps prevent infestations from wood pests, weather damage, and mold.

Decking made of balau also offers homeowners a considerable range of appearance options, as the color of the wood can range from a pale off white to a dark brown, depending on species. The grain is generally coarse and beautiful when finished.

Other Considerations About Ipe and Red Balau

Even though ipe and red balau woods are both imported and shipped in from Brazil and Southeast Asia, respectively these woods are surprisingly affordable. Homeowners looking to improve the value of their property with an affordable investment should be aware that installing an outdoor wood deck is one of the most cost effective ways of raising a home’s value, not to mention it provides an added extension to the outdoors.

High density woods are becoming more popular for their longevity, strength, and comparatively low-maintenance needs. Replacing properly treated ipe or balau as a result of pests or weather damage is practically unheard of.

Whether you decide to go with ipe or balau for your outdoor decking project is largely a matter of preference and current wood pricing. Either of these fine imported tropical woods will serve as an excellent long-term investment into the value of your home.

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A Brief Overview of the Benefits of Composite Decking

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In the past decade or so, advancements have significantly improved the quality of composite decking, yielding a material that is stronger, longer-lasting, and less prone to warping, deterioration, and other common problems associated with outdoor wooden construction.

How is Composite Decking Made?

Composite decking is generally made from the combination of wood and plastic (hence composite). The wood is usually sourced from lumber byproducts such as wood chips, fibers, and sawdust. The plastics used are often recycled polyethylenes (but not always—you’ll have to confirm with the product manufacturer).

Producers of composite decking take the wood and the plastic products and heat them up, at which point coloring and a preservative agent are added to the “wood soup.” Finally, the mixture is poured into casts to form boards. Once it hardens, the composite decking is ready to be shipped to your local supplier.

The Best Uses for Composite Decking

Composite decking has become a popular choice for outdoor decks as a result of its durability and resistance to weathering. Composite woods are also more resistant to moisture, making them a great choice for humid areas or as decking for above ground pools.

There are two kinds of composite decking: hollow and solid. Hollow decking isn’t as popular as solid decking, as it tends to look less realistic and isn’t as sturdy as its counterpart, but it does carry the benefit of being less prone to temperature and moisture related expansion and contraction.

Solid composite decking can contract and expand more, but is generally more durable and strong. Which type you choose is largely dependent upon the intended use of the deck and the temperature conditions where you live.

The aesthetic appeal of composite wood has also substantially improved over the years—while a trained eye might still be able to spot it, as it’s not a perfect 1:1 replica of “real” wood, composite wood can often look very natural and pleasing.

A wide variety of grains, colors, and other options are available to homeowners—matching composite wood to the already-existing wood in your home is generally a fairly easy process.

Most composite decking comes with a fairly long warranty—as this material is designed to last quite a long time—but homeowners should be aware that in order to take advantage of the warranty, the deck has to be built according to the manufacturers directions.

Hiring a professional deck builder ensures that your warranty will be valid for years to come.

Composite wood can also be used for parts of your outdoor deck other than the deck itself; for example, suppose you had your deck built out of Trex composite decking. Trex also makes railing out of composite wood, meaning that your entire project can remain uniform.

As a final note, composite decking does require maintenance, though this maintenance is generally considered a bit less intensive than natural wood requires. Typically, composite decking must be cleaned at least once per year.

Composite Decking Prices

In addition to its improvements over the past few years, the cost of composite decking has also become much more affordable.

However, a common misconception is that composite decking is significantly cheaper than “real” wood—while this can be true, it isn’t always the case. Just like natural woods, the price of composite decking will vary based on quality and type.

Whether you decide to build your deck using composite decking or natural wood decking, you can expect to find prices similar to each other which offer different benefits—therefore, the smart move will be to base your purchase on the intended use of the deck (e.g., an above ground pool deck may benefit from composite wood’s resistance to moisture).

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How Installing the Right Deck Can Make Your Home Feel Twice as Big

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Outdoor Decks Expand Your Living Space

Maybe you have found yourself wishing that your home was just a little bit bigger? There are a lot of advantages to having more space in your home. The extra room can be more accommodating to your guests, serve as a new place to spend time with your family, or it can simply give you a great place for reading a book and relaxing.

But adding on a new room to your house can often invite more trouble than it’s worth. For one, it can easily approach the realm of being cost prohibitive. The addition of a room can take time, and during that time you’ll have construction workers, dust, messes and noise to contend with.

These are just a few of the many reasons why so many homeowners opt to have an outdoor deck installed onto their home – it’s considerably cheaper, faster, and generally results in a lot more usable space than a single room can offer.

A Deck Can be More Than Just an Extension to the Outdoors

To hire a deck builder for construction of a patio deck on your home provides you with more than just a simple extension to the outdoors, although for most of us that’s the main selling point. There’s nothing quite as enjoyable as getting some fresh air while checking your email on your laptop or phone.

A deck gives you a lot of new ways you can use your home:

  • You have a new place for outdoor dinner parties during the warm months.
  • A deck can serve as a place for outdoor crafts.
  • The perfect location for your new grill.
  • Your deck could quickly become an “outdoor living room.”

Installing a Deck is One of the Most Cost Effective Ways to Raise the Value of Your Home

It’s pretty rare for a homeowner to see an improvement pay for itself by the time they sell their home, but outdoor decking has long been one of the most cost effective ways a homeowner can raise the value of his or her home without breaking their wallets or taking an inordinate amount of time to do it, as deck builders are generally very affordable to hire.

In 2007, Remodeling Magazine had a feature called “Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report for 2007.” It sounds a bit dry, but perk up your ears if you’re considering installing a deck on your home as the article showed that in most cases over 85% of the cost of installing an outdoor deck was recouped by homeowners when they decided to sell their house.

This is quite an improvement over, say, bathroom remodeling (78% recouped) or the comparatively low 69% return seen on room additions. If you’re looking for a way to raise the value of your home, a deck is one of the smartest options at your disposal.

Deck Maintenance is Easier Than You Think

One of the primary concerns for homeowners considering installing a deck on their home is, fortunately, one that can be assuaged relatively easily as outdoor decks don’t require an intensive amount of maintenance and in most cases and homeowners can usually handle things on their own.

If you have a wooden deck installed, the biggest maintenance activity you’d have to undertake is ensuring that the deck doesn’t go neglected for years at a time—generally, this means nothing more difficult than cleaning the deck and reapplying a wood sealant to protect against weathering.

A homeowner might begin deck maintenance by clearing away any plants, furniture, or other items from the deck before giving it a good power wash (power washing units can be rented quite cheaply).

After the deck has been washed, a sealant is applied. Most of these sealants are designed to be safe and environmentally friendly.

For most homeowners, this is a process which demands no more than a single afternoon once every one or two years.