We’re here to walk you through choosing the best boards, evaluating prices, and installing and maintaining composite wood alternatives. The fact that composites lack the texture and appearance of real wood is irrelevant.
You have plenty of time to concentrate on your nap because once in place, they do their jobs and only require an annual wash-down.
Here is a comprehensive analysis of composite decking, with advice on how to pick the best boards, install them, and maintain them.
It is critical to select the best material for your outdoor deck before you begin construction. Suppose you live in a sunny and hot climate. Then you must select a decking material that will last throughout the summer. Compared to other outdoor composite decking materials, composite decking is ideal for full sun decking.
Thermal expansion can happen to composite decking, which normally heats up faster than traditional decking in the sun. Most composite decking contains natural fibers like sawdust, which explains why.
When it comes to choosing the best composite decking material, one tool that can be incredibly useful is the Decking Cost Calculator. This innovative tool helps homeowners and contractors determine the cost of their decking project based on various factors such as materials, size, and design.
The best composite decking material should offer a perfect balance of durability, aesthetics, and low maintenance. It should be resistant to rot, fading, and warping, while also providing a beautiful and natural appearance. Additionally, it should be easy to install and require minimal upkeep over time.
Table of Contents
What Are The Basic Components Of Composite Decking?
Adding pigments and borate preservatives, equal parts of plastic and wood fiber are combined. This mixture is then typically heated and extruded.
Before the surface cools, any texture, if present, is embossed onto it. Whatever we do, everything regularly exposed to the sun will eventually deteriorate. At a minimum, the best composite decking will have boosted defense against the sun’s deterioration.
Why Shouldn’t You Use Traditional Wood For Decking?
Conventional wood’s propensity to fade quickly over time is one of its biggest flaws. Unfortunately, ongoing maintenance and therapy are the only ways to reduce this. Composite has several advantages, but one of the largest is how little maintenance it needs.
However, if the deck’s color quickly dries out, it won’t matter much.
Numerous high-end composite board makers will cap the core of the boards. This hat serves multiple functions. To give the boards a complete appearance and feel is the obvious goal. The capping’s poor quality will cause the deck to age more quickly.
Traditional Wood Absorbs Heat Slowly
Heat absorption is one battle conventional wood frequently wins and losses. The explanation is that wood absorbs heat far more slowly than composites yet maintains it for longer.
Due to heat absorption, some decks can become so hot that it is uncomfortable for people or their pets to walk on them. A good composite and capping on a hot summer day should deflect enough heat to allow you to walk on the deck without feeling uncomfortable.
Traditional Wood Fades Aways Easily
Your deck will appear pale from constant direct UV exposure, which can cause structural damage and degradation.
Consider a deck made of untreated wood that splinters and fractures.
To stop this degradation, businesses have experimented with several different strategies. As you may expect, some work more effectively than others. For instance, Moisture Shield employs a protective coating that is afterward put on the boards.
Although it is a straightforward solution, it must be continuously recoated during the deck’s lifetime, just like a timber deck. To some people, though, that might be contrary to the idea of a composite deck.
Thermal Expansion Of Traditional Wood Decking
The potential for available decking options to warp into odd shapes due to thermal expansion may be one of their biggest drawbacks.
The material expands as it absorbs heat and can change shape during this expansion. Heat expansion is made possible by the narrow spaces between the rails. Without the spaces, the rails would bump into one another and perhaps harm the track. The same is true of a deck.
During hot days, a deck may warp out of shape if the proper fittings or expansion gaps are not used when installing the decking. For this reason, many manufacturers demand that authorized contractors install their warranties. However, some manufacturers have developed more effective techniques for limiting thermal expansion.
Types Of Wood Decking
Traditional Wood Decking
Traditional wood is an unsuitable material for full-sun decking for various reasons. UV rays can damage the honeycomb structure of wood decking, and when exposed to the sun, the wood will naturally weather due to UV radiation. Furthermore, traditional wood decking is more likely to absorb and retain heat.
However, direct sunlight causes the moisture in the wood to evaporate faster. This can lead to structural issues, such as cracking and splitting the wood deck. Furthermore, UV radiation can fade the color of wood decking, making full-sun wood decks more likely to fade.
- If you use pressure-treated wood decking, you will need to perform more maintenance to keep it looking good. You will need to pressure wash and stain the deck regularly and replace cracked wood decking as soon as possible. This also implies that you will need to continue investing money and labor after installing the wood deck.
- Decks with full sun to the south are the most weathered, followed by decks facing west. If you want to build a south-facing deck, you should think about using composite deck boards. One of the most popular decking materials available today is composite decking boards.
Composite wood decking is strong and durable, has a beautiful appearance, and comes in various colors. The composite decking material is also virtually maintenance-free, saving you significant money on maintenance costs.
There is no wood in cellular PVC vinyl decking; it is made entirely from plastic, which is safe for the environment. As a result, it is likely to last a lifetime and is even more durable than composite.
Except for the occasional cleaning, it hardly needs any maintenance and is splinter-free. However, it doesn’t always feel, sound, or look like wood. These decks squeak as you walk on them but also have intricate attaching mechanisms so that the components may move with temperature changes.
PVC decking costs more than composite decking but might vary based on the material’s quality and design.
Full Sun Decking with Composite Decking
When exposed to the sun, all outdoor decking materials become hot. Different decking materials, however, absorb heat to varying degrees. While early composite decking was extremely temperature-sensitive, technology has advanced to the point where composite decking does not become excessively hot.
Today’s composite decking is no hotter than traditional wood decking. Furthermore, composite decking cools faster in the shade than wood.
When considering composite decking for full sun areas, we examine how to select a quality composite decking material based on the three factors listed below.
- Cool composite decking
- No discoloration due to strong UV rays
- The amount of expansion and contraction due to temperature changes
We can better understand which composite decking is best suited for full sunlight with these three categories. Like any other home improvement, an outdoor deck must be visually appealing. You can enjoy life more if you have an appealing deck design idea. High-quality composite decking that does not fade is more likely to retain its pristine appearance for an extended period.
Coolest Composite Decking
In the sun, all decks become hot, and the more sunlight there is, the hotter the deck becomes. This is because decking is a flat surface that absorbs and reflects the sun’s heat as it is exposed. This is why decks are warmer, where the sun shines brightly.
It would be best to have an outdoor deck that would not burn your feet no matter how hot the sun is. The amount of heat absorbed by a deck varies depending on the material. As a result, we require cool-to-the-touch composite decking to improve the comfort of our outdoor living.
The hollow composite Decking series is a cooler wood decking that changes the material and gives a cooler touch than other composite decking brands.
In addition, the Hollow Composite Decking series has a hollow structure. The hollow structure promotes air circulation, which helps to dissipate heat in composite decking boards. The hollow structure also reduces the weight of composite wood decking, making transporting and installing outdoor decking easier.
You can also choose a light color to reduce further outdoor composite decking temperature—Grey composite decking, white composite decking, and so on.
Types Of Composite Wood Decking
All composites share a similar set of fundamental components and functional properties. The aesthetics are what distinguishes the differences most.
You’ll have to pay more if you want additional color options and a wood-like appearance.
Basic Composite Decking
These 5-inch broad, 1/2-inch narrower than more expensive boards have deep, coarse-graining. Red, brown, and grey are the only colors available. Only one side of the board is functional since the bottom has ridges pressed to make it lighter.
Medium-Range Composite Decking
It features two usable sides and a surface grain pattern that is more subtle than on a standard board. There are four options for colors.
High-End Composite Decking
The appearance of tropical hardwoods is simulated by adding streaks of a different colored pigment to the mixture. Although they are slip-resistant, these 51/2-inch-wide boards have little surface texture. It also offered slots.
Benefits Of Composite Decking
Strong UV rays will not cause it to fade.
UV rays from the sun can cause severe fading of outdoor wood decking. As a result, your outdoor design becomes unappealing. As a result, it is critical to select high-quality composite deck boards that will not fade.
Fade-resistant composite decking is available from most of the manufacturers on the market. They have added UV inhibitors to the composite decking formula to provide better UV protection. You can also choose capped composite decking, which is more environmentally friendly than uncapped composite decking.
The Low Rate of temperature expansion and contraction
Thermal expansion and contraction affect almost all materials. When the sun shines brightly on the floor, outdoor decking experiences greater thermal expansion and contraction.
And what does an outdoor deck’s thermal expansion mean to a homeowner? It means that if you do not allow for adequate deck spacing when building your outdoor deck. Thermal expansion may cause the outdoor deck to be squeezed and deformed.
This implies that when we select composite decking. We must select composite decking brands that are guaranteed high quality. With large temperature changes, high-quality composite decking will expand and contract relatively less.
However, when installing composite decking, you must still allow adequate expansion joints according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Requires Low Maintenance
Put an end to the need to stain and bleach wood every other year. In roughly five years, you may pay back the additional cost of composites with the money you save by forgoing the need for these coatings and cleaning supplies.
Long Life Span With Low Fading
Composites can’t warp or check, they don’t decay or draw termites, and you can walk around barefoot without worrying about getting splinters. After two to three months in the sun, all composites gradually lighten in color before the fading ceases.
What Are The Drawbacks Of Composite Decking?
High Installation Cost
Price-wise, low-end composites are more expensive than pressure-treated pine. The cost of premium composites is comparable to tropical rainforest-grown hardwood decking.
Prone To Scratches And Stains
Grease and food can readily discolor the wood fibers. The hardwood can initially produce uneven reddish tannin stains when wet in many mixtures, although these stains usually fade. The abrasion of new composites is caused by moving furniture and dirty shoes. Light scratches can’t be sanded out, but they eventually blend in.
Heat Up Easily When Exposed To Sun
Dark composites heat up in the sun, just like dark hardwoods do. More barefoot-friendly boards include lighter colors and deeper grooves.
While some boards are better than others at imitating wood, a close examination of touch reveals the difference.
Factors To Consider For The Right Installation Of Composite Decking
- Composite decking doesn’t necessarily sag as wood does. If joists are placed more than 15 inches apart, composites will droop—the location of the screws. If face stitching is done too near an edge, composites may break.
- In hot weather, boards lengthen, while in cold weather, they shorten. As a result, monitor the temperature throughout installation and strictly adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended spacing guidelines.
- The likelihood of stains and mildew, as well as the likelihood that boards will become wet and prematurely deteriorate, increases when narrow gaps become plugged.
Maintenance Needs Of Composite Decking
Since composites require little maintenance, you will have plenty of time to handle any issues.
- To allow water to drain freely, sweep or blow any debris out from between the boards.
- The best defense is a swift action. Pour Dawn dish soap or another degreaser on oily stains, and use hot water and bleach to remove fruit and wine stains. A good precaution is to put mats all around the grill.
- Use oxalic acid-containing cleansers to scrub. A board with significant scratches or melt marks needs to be replaced, although superficial scuffs eventually blend in.
What Is The Best Composite Decking Material?
Since Trex has been around the longest, it has steadily gained recognition as one of the top composite decking manufacturers. Trex composite boards are constructed from recycled plastic bags and sawdust, and they are then capped on the top and sides to increase strength and lower maintenance requirements.
Various colors and price points are available for each of their three lines. Trex boards may not have as many options as other brands, but customers still adore this company because its products endure year after year.
Before entering the composite decking market, you should get used to paying prices that are frequently much higher than standard or conventional wood options. This raises the issue of whether the best option might not be to use conventional wood.
Rapid growth is being seen in the composite decking business. By using inventive and unique designs, many of the initial difficulties and drawbacks are reduced. A deck’s exposure to constant sunshine is a major factor in most of these disadvantages.
Warping happens because composite decks tend to absorb more heat, making them hotter. In addition, they frequently deteriorate and fade over time. As a result, the best composite decking choice should be one that manages all of the difficulties of direct sunlight as well as possible.