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Some issues with composite decking!

Considering switching to composite decking? Here are some of the known issues and things to consider before you make the leap.

Are you considering rebuilding your deck the composite decking?  Here are some things to consider before you commit to this relatively new material.

I recently was on a home inspection for a home that was approximately 10 years old.  During the inspection I was looking at 2 decks that were part of the home.  These decks were constructed of a composite wood material that has become popularized as a maintenance free alternative to wood.  We had come across several issues during the inspection of the deck. One issue of note was that the boards where cracking and splitting along the edges.  I attribute this to spacing.  Like most decking wood or composite there needs to be some space for expansion and contraction.  The other issue that we noted was the deterioration of the wood joists under the composite decking.  This was due to the drying qualities of composite decking. Wood decking will absorb moisture and release to the air around it. Composite decking does not absorb water.  Moisture that gets trapped under the decking and on top of the wood joists would tend to stay there and keep the joist from drying properly.  Wood that is not allowed to dry properly will be more susceptible to rot and decay. 

Here are some other common issues with composite decking.

Cost:  Compared to traditional wood decking ($15/ sq. ft.), composite decking is considerably more expensive ($30-$36/ sq. ft.).  This cost is for materials.  The labor cost tends to be a bit higher due to additional steps that are required during installation.  Composite decking requires the joist to be closer together then that of traditional wood. If the composite lumber is not properly supported it tends to bow and warp.  Each board must be pre-drilled during the fastening process.  These add to the cost of materials and additional labor times.

Scratching:  Composite decking is made of a combination of wood and plastic. This combination is intended to reduce chance of rot and extend the life of the deck. T he material is not indestructible.  The surface of the boards can be scratched rather easily.  Composite decking cannot be resurfaced. I have read that you can use a heat gun and a wire brush, but I would not recommend this, you are more likely to further damage the material and cause melted and uneven areas.

Stains:  One of the most common complaints about composite decking is mold. Decking that is in shaded area or areas that tend to get wet frequently have been shown to grow mold and stain the deck. This is not restricted to composite decking.  Wood decking can grow mold, mildew and algae.  For wood decking, the remedy for would is cleaning and resurfacing.  Composite decking requires using special cleaning chemicals that will kill the mold and remove some of the finish.  This will leave the decking more porous and susceptible to more mold growth.

Color fade:  Many of the composite decking companies have beautiful brochures with images of elaborate decks of different colors and looks, many of these companies will not show you the deck several years later when it is faded from contact with the sunlight.  I know wood decking can fade too, but you can re-stain wood.  There are some products out that claim to restore the composite decking to near new conditions, I cannot speak to the validity of the products, but it might be worth some research.

Hot surface:  Probably the top complaint about composite decking is that it tends to get very hot in direct sunlight.  Some surfaces that are exposed to direct sunlight all day may be to warm to walk on with bare feet. This will depend partly on the color of the material.  Lighter colored decking will tend to reflex more of the heat, where darker colors will absorb the heat and tend to get hotter faster reaching higher temperatures.

I know that this is a very one sided article and I am not comparing composite decking to wood.  I am merely talking about some of the issues that have been noted with the material.  Composite decking is easier to maintain. It can be cleaned regularly with a garden hose and a soft bristled brush. Some manufacturers have had some success with the longevity of their products.  With this type of material price is a contributing factor.  In this instance the phrase, “You get what you pay for” may be very important.  If you are considering using a composite decking material, do your research.  Ask people that you know about the decks that they have installed and what issues they have come across.  Ensure that your contractor has experience with composite materials.  Make sure that you are comfortable with you decision before you commit to using this relatively new product.

More information on issues with composite decking can be found here. http://decks-fences.blogspot.com/search/label/Composite%20Decking


Please read my follow up article on some new options for composite decking. 

Decking 2.0

http://newtown.patch.com/groups/jason-horns-blog/p/composite-decking-20


Jason Horn is a home inspector in Newtown, CT and one of the lead inspectors at Stonehollow Inc., a home inspection firm with offices in Newtown and Stamford. If you have any home inspection related questions feel free to call him at (203)304-9140

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tony July 23, 2012 at 09:23 PM
I have a 6 year old composite deck and I have used water and a power washer to clean it every spring. No chemicals ever to clean or stain. Here...I will share the cons of Pressure treated wood...Pressure Treated Wood is poisonous to insects, fungus, and bacteria. It is also poison to humans and other life forms. It is listed by the State of California (and most other states) as a carcinogen. The basic elements involved are copper, chromium, and arsenic. All are hazardous to human health and the environment and do not break down into harmless substances. The arsenic salts are continually coming to the surface of the wood where they can easily be transferred to you or your children by contact.
Jason Horn July 24, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Tony, Thank you for taking the time for reading my article. What you say is absolutely true of older pressure treated wood (CCA). As of 2004 most wood manufactures have voluntarily stop using those chemicals for lumber intended for decking and outdoor playground. Today's alternative to these treated wood use Copper Oxide and an ammonium compound. If someone does have a deck built before 2004 the EPA recommends using a penetrating sealant to limit exposure to arsenic. As for the environmental concerns, many composite lumbers use plastic to add longevity to the product which can not be recycle and may last in landfill indefinitely. The harsh chemical cleaners I was referring to are for removing stains. I am glad that you are not experiencing any of the issues that I wrote about in my article. Good luck with your deck. For More information : http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/270.pdf
James April 03, 2013 at 09:12 AM
We are the renowned exporter and supplier of optimum quality wpc Flooring such as wpc Finish Wood Panel, WPC Decking Board Floor, WPC Facade, Swimming Pool Deck Floor, outdoor WPC decking & cladding etc. The offered floor is manufactured in complete compliance with international quality standards by utilizing top-notch quality wood and cutting-edge technology under the supervision of highly skilled professionals at our factory end. These floors are highly appreciated by our clients for their sturdy construction, superior finishing and high durability.contact with kiki@rainbow-wpc.cn
James April 03, 2013 at 09:14 AM
We are the renowned exporter and supplier of optimum quality wpc Flooring such as wpc Finish Wood Panel, WPC Decking Board Floor, WPC Facade, Swimming Pool Deck Floor, outdoor WPC decking & cladding etc. The offered floor is manufactured in complete compliance with international quality standards by utilizing top-notch quality wood and cutting-edge technology under the supervision of highly skilled professionals at our factory end. These floors are highly appreciated by our clients for their sturdy construction, superior finishing and high durability.Contact with kiki@rainbow-wpc.cn
Rick M July 17, 2013 at 09:17 PM
I just recently installed a synthetic deck but stayed away from composites for the reasons listed. I opted for plastic which can be made from high density polyetheylene or polyvinlychloride (PVC/Vinyl). The former is preferred but hard to get in this area and the latter is more available (got mine from Ring's End in Bethe;) Installation (done by a professional) went well and the deck looks great. Based on my research it should weather well and requirement minimum maintenance. Material is very similar to vinyl siding. Only downside is the flooring does not have the structural strength of wood so it feels a bit soft underfoot which for us is an advantage since the decking is primarily poolside. Today's 95 degree heat did not make it any hotter than my wood decking in fact it was a bit cooler
Nichol Brademen September 10, 2013 at 07:43 AM
Thanks for sharing this vital information with us.your post provide us basic understanding about composite deck.We also have Composite lumber that is used to decorate your home easily. http://www.alliedplasticlumber.com/
Andy Zhu December 13, 2013 at 12:58 AM
More info of WPC Decking & Fence & DIY tiles etc, please check www.royaltradechina.com or send us email: royal@188.com
Robert Bozeman February 17, 2014 at 08:36 PM
Has any one had problems with wood shades composite fence warping.

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