Composite decking has been on the market for several years but has been met with mixed reviews. However, recently composite decking material has seen an increase in popularity due to changes that have improved its aesthetics and made it a “green” choice. Many of the reservations that homeowners and builders had about these products in the past, such as mildew and aesthetic problems, have been corrected, leaving composite decking as a highly viable option for homeowners.
What is Composite Decking Material Made of?
Composite decking material is a mixture that is usually made from wood fibers and plastic. The wood fibers come from wood waste products, like saw dust, pulp, and scrap wood. The plastic added to the mixture is usually recycled and can be either polyethylene, which comes from reused plastic soda bottles, or polypropylene, which is used in textiles and plastic packaging.
The wood fibers and plastic pieces are mixed together and color pigments are added. The mixture is processed until a homogeneous composition is created.
Then, it’s pressed or poured into its final form. The process to create composite decking can yield both hollow shapes and solid composite lumber pieces.
What is the Cost of Composite Decking?
One reason people avoid using composite decking is the price. Composite decking can be two to three times as expensive as its common alternative, pressure-treated decking lumber.
However this comparison isn’t entirely fair, as it doesn’t account for the money that homeowners spend to maintain a treated lumber deck, such as the cost of sanding, staining, and sealing the deck annually. There's also the added cost of replacing lumber planks that are damaged. When these extra costs are amortized over the lifetime of your deck, the composite decking actually comes out as the less expensive option after only a few years.
What Are the Benefits of Composite Decking?
There are a number of benefits to composite decking that homeowners are unaware of or have misconceptions about.
Composite decking doesn’t require sanding, staining, or sealing. In fact, the only real maintenance that it will require is an occasional hosing off.
It’s also a durable material. It is naturally resistant to insect damage, sun damage, and the usual wear and tear. It won’t splinter or chip.
One unique benefit is that composite decking has color that goes all the way through the product. This means that if the composite decking material does get nicked or gouged, the damage will be less noticeable because there won’t be a color variation between the solid surface and the damaged area. This is also a helpful when cutting the pieces, as you won’t have to paint the ends.
What Are the Drawbacks?
The biggest downside is the high initial cost of composite decking material.
Secondly, the look of the composite decking is not exactly the same as traditional decking material. Fortunately, these problems are beginning to resolve themselves and in time will become less of an issue.