Due to its durability, aesthetics, ease of use and environmental benefits, building professionals are increasingly using composite decking for residential and commercial new construction and renovation projects. With many composite decking options to choose from, it’s important to consider a few key characteristics when comparing brands. In other words, READ into product information and don’t assume all composite decking offers the same environmental and performance advantages. The following are a few features to examine.
Recycled content varies widely among composite decking brands. While most wood-plastic composite decking is manufactured with a combination of polyethylene plastics and wood fibers, only some are made with recycled materials and even fewer contain a significant percentage. If a composite decking product contains recycled content, find out how much, as the amount can range from a small percentage to between 90-95% (additives and color agents are typically included, preventing them from being considered 100% recycled content).
Depending on the amount of recycled content, some composite decking like MoistureShield, which contains 60% pre-consumer and 30% post-consumer recycled content, can help contribute toward green building rating points in LEED programs.
To ensure a product manufacturer is committed to being green, take a few minutes to visit their website or read through product literature to understand their processing practices, and what they are doing as a company to try to minimize their impact on the environment. For the companies that are doing what they say, there should be information to support their green claims.
Composite decking has come a long away in terms of appearance since it hit the market in the late eighties. With advancements in technology, manufacturers have been able to make boards that closely resemble real wood. However, some brands are more convincing than others. Be sure to see and feel a deck plank before making a final decision to confirm it will meet your goals. Additionally, ask to see a plank that has been outside in the sun for three to six months, as all composites turn a slightly lighter shade during this time.
Fastening is another aesthetic consideration. Nails, screws and hidden fastening systems are available to attach composite planks, but not all composite decking is compatible with each method. Be sure to check with a dealer and follow manufacturer recommendations.
Each composite decking manufacturer has its own processing techniques, making its products different from others in make-up and plank profile. Most commonly, wood fibers are blended with plastic and then heated and extruded into deck boards. How well the wood fibers remain protected by plastic can affect the decking’s durability and longevity. For instance, MoistureShield is made using a unique “total encapsulation” process wherein wood fibers are aligned and encapsulated in plastic. The way the plastic surrounds and bonds to the wood fibers makes it resistant to rot, moisture and insects, allowing it to be installed on the ground, in the ground and under the water and still be covered by the warranty.
Composite decking is available in solid, ribbed or hollow profiles, and with or without grooved sides for hidden fastening systems. Solid boards are the most similar to working with wood and don’t require trim or end caps. If unsure on what will work best for a project, speak with a dealer or manufacturer.
Warranties can vary widely and may or may not be transferable if the home or building is sold. Read through warranties carefully to determine what is included and covered to make sure you know what you are getting upfront.
A little research can go a long way when it comes to choosing composite decking. Understanding common differences between brands will help you narrow down the options and ensure you get the decking that best meets your needs.