Composite decks are growing in popularity because they are so durable and can last a long time. However, because they are so much more expensive than natural wood decks, it's important to determine if one is really right for your home. These six tips can help you decide if a composite deck is worth the money.
The Boards Can Look Almost Exactly Like Real Wood
There are many options from which you can choose when selecting your composite wood deck. You can choose a board that mimics the look and grain of your favorite natural wood, and you can choose the perfect color. With a high-quality material, your deck can look almost like a real wood deck. However, you get what you pay for, so if you choose cheap materials, your deck could end up looking like plastic.
They Aren't as Wonderful as Manufacturers Originally Claimed
Composite decking was introduced about 30 years ago. At that time, manufacturers were sure it was going to be the future of decking, crafting maintenance-free decks that can withstand nearly anything and last forever. Unfortunately, this isn't completely true.
A composite deck does last longer than a wood deck, and requires significantly less work to keep it looking good. However, the decks aren't indestructible, and they do require some maintenance. Manufacturers now admit that the material may fade, scratch or stain, and you may need to re-seal to keep it looking great.
Composite Decks Require Good Drainage
Composite decks need good drainage, which includes on top of the deck and below it. On the surface of the deck, the boards should be spaced enough to allow gaps between the boards. This gives water a place to drain, so it doesn't stay trapped on the deck, increasing the chance of mold or mildew growth. Drainage under the deck is important for preventing a build-up of moisture on the wood joists. If these wood joists are exposed to moisture for too long, they can rot or decay.
Decking Comes in Solid and Hollow
Boards for composite decks come in solid or hollow. Both are strong and durable, but solid boards are generally a little stronger. Solid boards are also more desirable because they do a better job of capturing the natural look of wood.
Hollow composite boards don't expand and contrast as much in the heat, and they are cheaper than solid boards because they use less material. However, because they are lighter and hollow, they are more prone to damage when installing.
Poor Installation Can Cause the Boards to Sag
When installing a composite wood deck, it's important to find a contractor who is skilled in and knowledgeable about composite decking. The reason is that composite decks are more likely to sag and buckle than wood decks, and a big reason your deck may end up sagging or buckling is because of improper installation. If the joists aren't properly spaced during installation, the deck could end up sagging, especially when exposed to high temperatures or a lot of weight.
The Heat Can Negatively Affect the Composite Material
Besides increasing the chance of sagging and buckling, the heat has many negative effects on composite decks. If you live in an extremely hot environment—one that sees temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit—your deck could end up losing 45 to 50 percent of its strength, which increases the risk of damage or injury. The composite material won't melt in the sun, but it can get extremely hot, leading to injury. Last, even though composite decking is fade resistant, it can fade when exposed to sunlight for long periods of time. Unlike natural wood, however, it won't turn gray when exposed to sunlight. It will simply turn a lighter shade.
Composite decks aren't perfect, but they are a low-maintenance, durable and long-lasting alternative to natural wood decks. If your old wood deck is in need of replacement, consider switching to composite decking. For more information about composite decks, contact a decking specialist in your area today for more info.