In today’s market, manufactured decking is, without a doubt, the most popular choice for consumers. There have been many technological advances made with these types of decking and railing materials over the past 15 years. The best news is that manufactured decking materials just keep getting better and better! The main thing to remember is that while these products are very durable and are usually less maintenance than a traditional wood deck, they are NOT bullet proof and still require diligent cleaning and some limited care.
The following information will deal with the decking; or materials that make up the walking surface of the deck. There are currently three main types of manufactured decking available: 1) Composite (or Wood Plastic Composite, WPC); 2) PVC (Plastic) core with and without a PVC outer shell and; 3) Cap-stock or hybrid decking, which combines a composite (WPC) core with a protective outer shell (such as PVC, surylin, or similar coating, (think golf ball or an M&M). This type is also known as encapsulated decking.
Composite is the type of decking that has been around the longest and historically has been the least expensive product. There are many different manufacturers of these products, many of whom offer multiple grades or versions in their product line. The differences between the different versions are usually cosmetics and/or price point. Most of the major brands will perform somewhat the same over time as far as color loss, durability, and susceptibility to staining, scratching, etc. Composite decking is made usually of plastics and wood fibers mixed together. If you look closely at most composite decking, you can see the wood fibers in the surface of the board.
A few things to remember about composite decking are:
1) Since these products are all man made, there can be some differences in color batching between boards. This is especially true with any product line that uses recycled or reclaimed raw materials. Don’t be surprised if you see some slight color difference between some of the decking boards even when the product is brand new. We have found that the sun will cause all composite products to fade to a lighter shade and most, if not all of the color difference, may blend together.
2) If it is necessary to replace a board or boards on your deck for any reason, it is unlikely the new board or boards will color match the existing boards exactly now or in the future due mainly to the fading and color batching.
3) Scratching of the decking may also be a concern. With some composite decking, it is possible to scratch the boards simply by sliding one over the other off the stack or by moving tools and personnel around the deck. We try to use extra care when constructing composite decks and any scratches or marring of the decking made during construction should fade with exposure to sunlight. This will also be true of minor scratching caused by furniture, pets, children’s toys, etc. Sunlight is a great healer of composite decking.
4) It is possible to stain composite decking with foodstuffs, wines, grease, etc. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for removing stains. It is the wood fibers in the board that are being stained. Some stains may not be able to be removed.
5) It is possible for composite decking to absorb some moisture and swell slightly. For this and other reasons, we always gap our decking side to side at min. ¼” spacing. Some manufacturers are ok with a smaller gap, but we have found the decks easier to clean at ¼” gap.
6) Composite decking usually will not crack or split. However, it is possible to have small cracks appear near the ends of a board where there is a decking screw or a tight cut around a rail post. These cracks can occur even with pre-drilling of the boards for the screws.
7) Composite decking (or for that matter, all decking) must be kept clean. It may be necessary to clean your deck at least once, perhaps two or three times a year, depending on how nice you want it to look. Moss and algae will grow on composite decking just like anything else here in the Northwest. You may contact our office or the manufacturer of your product for cleaning tips. We can also recommend a company that will clean your decking for a very reasonable fee.
PVC and cap-stock (hybrid, encapsulated) decking will both perform quite the same and have a few advantages over most composite decking. PVC and cap-stock decking are very resistant to color loss (fading) and staining. In fact, most of these products can carry a stain and fade warranty. These types of decking are also far more resistant to scratching and marring. Up to late 2009, PVC decking was only available in plain, light colors and limited textures. However, it is now possible to get these ultra-low maintenance products in multi-chromatic colors that have true wood tones and deeper, richer palettes. We have also found these products to be very durable and stand up to cleaning and normal use better than composites. Many manufacturers have greatly reduced or eliminated their composite (WPC) product lines and are now focusing on the cap-stock/hybrid type of decking. This is why we feel the cap-stock type of board will be the wave of the future.
Under most residential applications, composite, PVC or hybrid decking will perform quite well and meet the consumer’s expectations. Of course, the real advantage of all manufactured decking products is that they never need an application of a protective coating or sealant. These products will not rot or decay and most are expected to last 30 or more years.
We feel that knowing this information about “what to expect” from your manufactured decking product is important. We also feel that manufactured decking is a great value and will provide a long-lasting, beautiful deck surface for many years to come.
Manufactured decking choices can be very confusing. Here is a helpful list of the four major manufacturers and their current respective product lines. The following web sites will provide more detailed information regarding manufactured decking.
The TREX Company – www.trex.com
- Accents – Long standing composite (WPC) – Colors are saddle, woodland Brown, maderia, and winchester Grey
- Escapes – All PVC, open cell core with PVC outer shell – Colors are acorn and pewter
- Solid Color Transcends – Cap-stock (hybrid) with composite (WPC) core and protective outer shell on three-sides – Colors are vintage lantern, tree house, gravel path, fire pit, and rope swing
- Multi-Color Transcends – Cap-stock (hybrid) with composite (WPC) core and protective outer shell on three sides – Colors are spiced rum and lava rock
TimberTech – www.timbertech.com
- Reliaboard – Budget priced composite (WPC) with “Scalloped” backside – Colors are cedar and grey
- Twin Finish -Long standing composite (WPC) – Colors are cedar, grey and redwood
- Multi-Color Earthwood Evolutions – Cap-stock (hybrid) with composite (WPC) core and outer protective shell on four sides – Colors are pacific teak, pacific rosewood and pacific walnut
- Solid-Color Earthwood Evolutions – Cap-stock (hybrid) with composite (WPC) core and protective outer shell on four sides – Colors are slate, grey, brownstone, brick
- XLM – All PVC, open cell core with PVC outer shell – Colors are mountain cedar, river rock, sandridge, rustic bark, harvest bronze and harbor stone
Fiberon – www.fiberondecking.com
- Professional – Budget priced composite (WPC) with different wood grain on each side – Colors are cedar, grey and brown
- Solid Color Horizons – One of the first cap-stock (hybrid) with composite (WPC) core and protective outer shell on four sides – Colors are slate and bronze
- Multi-Color Horizons – One of the first cap-stock (hybrid) with composite (WPC) core and protective outer shell on four sides in multi-chromatic colors – Colors are ipe, rosewood, tudor and castle
- Outdoor Flooring – All PVC, solid cellular core with PVC outer shell – Colors are jotoba, spanish cedar, mocha, driftwood and cedar
Azek – www.azek.com
- Azek Deck Harvest Collection – All PVC, solid cellular core with PVC outer shell – Colors are brownstone, clay, slate grey and white
- Azek Deck Arbor Collection – All PVC, solid cellular core with PVC outer shell – Colors are acacia, morado and redland rose, cobre, and silver oak
- Azek Deck Terra Collection – All PVC, solid cellular core with PVC outer shell – Colors are fawn, kona, sedona and tahoe