Guide to Composite Decking

  • By Jeremy Thompson
  • 03 Apr, 2012
Spring is a great time to start thinking about a deck addition. It will be installed before the entertaining season is in full force. And an early install guarantees you’ll be able to enjoy it for the length of the season. Up until about 20 years ago, decking retailers primarily sold wood species, such as […] The post Guide to Composite Decking appeared first on J. Thompson Builders.
Up until about 20 years ago, decking retailers primarily sold wood species, such as cedar, as a decking material. But in the mid-1990s the industry started offering composite alternatives. The popularity of these products continues to increase because of their convenience and durability.
Types:
Composite decking is typically made from a wood/plastic combination, with some products wrapped in an outer layer of plastic, called capstock. The amount of wood blended into the product varies as much as 10% to 60%. While not a true composite – called a synthetic decking material – some companies offer 100% plastic products .
Composite decking usually comes as either plain deck boards or shaped tongue-and-groove boards.
If you’re wiring your deck, use deck-and-rail systems formed to accommodate wires running within posts and deck boards.
Pros:
  • Near-zero maintenance. Just spray it with a hose to keep it clean.
  • An ecologically-conscious choice made from recycled plastic and wood chips.
  • Won’t rot, splinter or warp. It is impervious to insects and UV rays.
  • Splinter free.
  • Stain and scratch resistant.
  • Even color change, typically weathering to a light gray.
  • Stainable/paintable, but requires no sealers.
  • Cut and installed with standard carpentry tools and fasteners.
Cons:
  • In shady, damp areas it can turn dark.
  • More expensive than wood decking.
  • Cold on bare feet.
  • Some people prefer the appearance of real wood over composite. It can have a plastic look. If you are aiming for a true wood look, composites may not give you the intended appearance.
  • Building codes don’t always allow composite decking; check with your local building department.
  • Some wood/plastic composites still experience mold/rot problems.
*Composite decking is still a relatively new application. Some of the cheaper options have been known to move and shrink. Research products well and be leery of pricing seeming too good to be true.
Photo credit, Joe Shlabotnik

J. Thompson Builders Blog

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