Busy homeowners who don’t have time for extensive deck maintenance are increasingly turning to composite decking, a low maintenance and highly durable alternative to cedar. In just the past couple of decades, the composite deck market has grown significantly, with $1 billion spent annually, and by next year it is expected to account for nearly a third of the deck marketplace CMILC.
Made from wood fibers encased in plastic, composite decking has more durability and protection from the elements than cedar. But not all composite decks are equal in quality. To ensure you get the best deck for your money, here’s a look at how composite deck brands can differ:
Recycled materials. Manufacturers can make composite decking eco-friendly by using recycled wood and plastic, but not all companies take advantage of this benefit. Composite decking materials can vary from 100 percent recycled content to 100percent virgin materials. WestStar composite decking, made specifically for the Pacific Northwest, comes from 100 percent recycled materials.
Wood-to-plastic ratio. The proportion of wood to plastic can also vary. Many manufacturers use an equal blend of wood and plastic, while other brands contain up to 70 percent wood. A higher wood level means the final product will be more vulnerable to mold and rot.
Plastic type. Composite decks made from recycled materials should contain High Density PolyEthylene (HDPE) plastics, which come from hefty materials such as milk jugs, detergent containers and soda bottles. These plastics don’t disintegrate as easily as weaker plastics, resulting in a longer-lasting deck.
Questions to Ask Your Composite Decking Contractor
Whether you’re having a deck installed for you or building it yourself, you should ask the following questions before purchasing composite decking materials:
What type of warranty does it have?
Composite deck warranties can range from a 10- to 20-year guarantee on materials to a lifetime warranty. Find out what problems are covered under the warranty, such as termite damage, checking and splintering. You should also ask what types of actions, such as painting, can void your warranty.
How will the deck boards be fastened?
Contractors typically use nails or screws to fasten deck boards to the framework. This can expose nearby wood fibers to moisture damage and cause cracks or splitting. For an additional fee, some contractors can eliminate such damage by using hidden deck clips to fasten the boards to the frame.