To find the answer, first take an objective look at the actual benefits of composite decking as opposed to traditional, natural materials.
Special lumber like Redwood and Cedar has historically been used to build attractive, long-lasting decks. These trees have natural insect-resistant properties, and they also hold up well in bad weather.
Then came pressure-treated lumber, which allowed a vast array of cheaper, more abundant woods to be strengthened for durability and lifespan.
But composite, being a blend of natural fibers and plastics, is simply more impervious to the environment than any natural material. With a traditional deck, you’ll be lucky to go 10 years without the need for serious maintenance and/or a complete teardown. Composite decks can realistically double that lifespan.
There’s also the question of upkeep. Decks made of natural wood need regular cleaning, staining, and refinishing. Composite decks allow you to forget most of this and focus on periodic cleaning. There are various cleaning methods discussed by composite decking manufacturers, the most common being warm water, soap, and a gentle brush. There are also certain chemicals you definitely should not use on a composite deck. The important thing is to heed the manufacturer’s instructions.
How are Composite Decking Materials Different?
When you begin to research your options for composite decking, you’ll notice there are many different types. Some of the popular manufacturers are:
Most of these (and other) brand names offer multiple varieties of composite decking. For example, Trex offers three varieties: Transcend, Enhance and Select. Transcend has more detailed and realistic grain patterns and comes in the greatest variety of colors. This is the “top tier” product from Trex. Enhance is the “middle of the road” offering, and Select is the most basic. Each of these products also comes in different thicknesses and shapes, in order to meet different design needs.
Fiberon offers even more variety, with eleven different types of composite decking (although the differences between the different types are less noticeable). As a homeowner, you have no shortage of choice when it comes to composite decking materials.
In terms of composition, all brands of composite decking are a combination of natural and synthetic materials. They may be blended or used in different ways: For example, some types of composite decking feature a synthetic “casing” with a composite core. Other varieties are over 90% plastic, with sawdust and wood fibers blended in for structure purposes.
Which Type Should I Choose?
Online reviews and consumer reports go a long way when it comes to choosing a brand and type of composite decking—but in the end, there’s no substitute for a professional opinion. If you can find a reputable deck builder who is willing to give you objective advice on what type of composite decking might work best for your property and budget, you’ll have a distinct advantage over someone who is simply picking their composite decking out of a hat and hoping for the best.
Either way, composite decking has a lot of promise—and if you choose the brand and type of material that’s really right for your project, you won’t be disappointed.