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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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
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
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 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