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Composite Decking – What is the Best Material?

March 20, 2017 | Comment


Your home’s outdoor space is an extension of the interior. It makes sense that updating the space can provide a peaceful retreat and boost the value of your home. The project can involve upgrades to better materials, and this means considering composite varieties on the market. Choosing a high-quality material can present a myriad of benefits, including longer life and low maintenance. Given that composites are created differently, here are some of the best materials to consider for your project.

Capped Composites

This is a new generation product that wraps the composite core with a tough plastic veneer known as capstock, of about 1/16 inches thick. The material is made of PVC. This is, in fact, the fastest growing segment of the decking market as it is known to be ultra-low maintenance. In addition to keeping moisture away, the material has more appealing faux-wood finishes, is durable, less prone to stain, scratches, mould, and has an easy-to-clean surface. The ends of these composites are exposed to limit the penetration of moisture. As opposed to the standard composites, the capped ones are a little more expensive but tend to carry longer warranties.

All-Plastic Decking

100 percent plastic is the other popular approach to ultra-low maintenance decking as it eliminates pesky wood fibres. The widespread popularity of Azek alongside other cellular products that are used for the exterior has driven the growth of PVC decking. The older version of PVC was designed from hollow extrusions that are similar to those of vinyl window frames. Today, this material has a solid core of cellular PVC that is condensed in a harder skin. Given that this material has no fibre, it does not have wood-related problems such as wood decay or mould. Its hard-outer skin offers realistic wood-grain textures and colour, and also gives resistance to fading, scratching and staining.

Choose the Right One

Decks to use in the hot sun- highly dense and dark coloured composites tend to absorb too much heat in the sun. Get several samples of different colours and set them in the sun to test the amount of heat absorbed within an hour.

The level of wetness- composites with smooth surfaces get slippery very fast. If you plan to use your deck near a pool, opt for materials with pronounced textures.

Building codes- before having your deck installed, check with the local building officials to ensure the material you choose is approved in your city. There are systems that have limitations in that they require certain framing in various applications. Ensure you know the type of fastener spacing required.

Your Budget- most lumberyards stock different brands and all come at varying prices. Even with the price variation, most of them give the same results and perform well. The differentiating factor is mostly based on design, the mix of plastic and wood, and texture. If you are fine with a limited pallet of colours and repetitive grain patterns, you will find a variety of low maintenance and cost effective products.

Composite decking presents a wide array of products, some of which have a decent track record and others still testing the market. The best way to determine the right material for your exterior is to visit a lumberyard to get samples of different varieties. Some of them look like plastic, while you may not tell the difference between some of them and real wood.

The lumberyard should advise on the best material for your application. It might be necessary to carry some samples with you. Try to stain them with oil and permanent markers and then clean them. This should tell you about what to expect from the material you buy.

Composite decking materials are constantly changing, and with the many technical factors involved it is difficult to evaluate the amount of wood, additives, cap materials and particle sizes used. Since you may not be sure of the condition of the product you are buying, it is important to bank on a manufacturer you can trust to ensure that they will be there to honour the warranty.

 

For more information about Composite Decking, click here.

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