The use of composite decking over timber decking is growing every year here in Australia. We lay around 150 decks per year, 3 years ago out of the 150 we would do around 10 composites, now we are completing roughly 50 composite decks a year. I put this down to 2 things;
- The product is improving, looking better, lasting better and now the manufacturers are putting warranties on their product.
- They are being marketed more and people are more aware of the product and more people have seen it around or at a friends place and can see it doesn’t look good once down.
The most common type of board we use is wood-plastic composite (WPC) deck products, although there are rice husk-plastic and other fillers, as well as entirely plastic versions.
The min advantage to composite is fairly obvious and that’s the little to no maintenance required to maintain the product. All it needs is a simple wash every so often and it will look like new for years to come.
Composite is really easy to lay as all the boards are the same length and most types are manufactured with a grove down the side and are fixed down with clip through the side, which means no pre drilling the boards. One down side to the boards when is installing is the weight. They are a lot heavier than normal timber and bend over your shoulder when carrying them, which make them a two man lift for the 140mm boards.
Being an imitation to wood, it is no equal substitute for real timber. However a growing variety of colours, styles and textures are now offered and timber imitation products are becoming increasingly comparable.
Commonly issues with composite decking products in the past have been scratching and splitting, colour fade and stains, and a high expansion rate. This is due to poorer material compositions like high ratio of softwood sawdust and soft polyethylene. Manufacturers say this was a problem with the earliest generation products and cheap imports, but improvements have been reported and warranties are now offered by suppliers to suit these advances.
In most boards colour fade is still a problem, but we have found that the produt NexGen Decking to hold up really well with the colour fading and staining due to its harder outer layer of PVC. This also helps with the stretching, mould and slip factor that can occur in other boards
Different boards require different installation methods and an important thing to look out for is the expansion gaps required to leave when installing. Composite is different to normal timber in that it expands along the length of the board not the width, and in most boards gabs are to be left along the end joints to allow for this movement. So be sure to check the installation instructions of the boards you are using.
DISADVANTAGE TO COMPOSITE
Other than the fact if you really love the look and feel of real timber you want won’t quite get this with any composite deck, As good as they are getting they still look like plastic. Another down side is the heat transfer, in direct sunlight on a real hot day they will too hot to walk on. Having said that so do a lot of surfaces like dark paving and even freshly oiled timber decking, If you throw some water over it that will cool it down for you. The last real disadvantage is the cost. The better composite are roughly around $80 more a sqm to lay but you will get your money back from not having to oil it every 12 months.