Renovate Australia

Home improvement blog about renovating our Queenslander house in Townsville, Australia, and our home in Adelaide, SA

6 Advantages and 6 Disadvantages of Composite Decking

March 3rd, 2007 Bill Hutchison · 5 Comments


The use of composite decking really seems to be taking off here. While at the Calgary Home and Garden Show I had a bit of a chat at a decking booth. He told me that composite decking material is becoming more and more common. They are still building more timber/wood decks than composite decks, but composite decks are becoming more popular and common.

Below are a few advantages that they talked about with composite decking materials:

  1. No evidence of nails / nice flat finish
  2. Environmentally friendly, made from recycled material (plastics bags, milk bottles, etc.)
  3. Pre-coloured and never has to be painted, oiled or stained
  4. Easy to clean with a hose
  5. Smooth, splinter free finish
  6. Flexible material with many unique possibilites over wood / timber

All of those sounded too good to be true so I did a bit of research into composite decking material after coming home. There is a lot of good things about it, but there are also a few concerns that I found on the Internet about composite building materials. Here are a few of them:

  1. Can not be used for load-bearing or structural work
  2. Expands and contacts at different rates than material needed to be used for structure / frame
  3. If damaged or faded the material must be replaced
  4. It is very temperature sensitive and expands and contracts with temperature change
  5. Very new building material
  6. It’s a soft material and wears easily

Probably the best review of the material that I have read so far is from a deck contractor around Toronto in Ontario, Canada. From reading the article it sounds like he has done a lot of looking into it, and has had some experience with composite building materials, but builds primarily with wood / timber:

We won’t be using composite decking materials for our deck. We already have most of the hardwood decking material from when we removed the deck from our old house. We will probably still need to replace about 30% of the decking, but most of it’s already there, so I’m not in any hurry to replace all of it.

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Tags: Building Materials

3 comments
DON KUSS
DON KUSS

PLEASE ADVISE ON THE DECKING MATERIAL TO BE USED .WE WERE TO GOING TO REPLACE THE DECK. WE LIVE IN CALGARY ALTA.ASAP

psioni
psioni

I've also read that composite decking can have problems with mold: http://www.onlinetips.org/composite-decking-mold I think that as the new materials evolve, they'll get better marks from users. They seem like a great idea, especially the recycling of wood by-products.

Steve
Steve

FWIW, I agree. I've yet to see a composite deck that looked good after five years. One thing to add to the "disadvantages" list is not just that it wears easily, it also scratches and gouges easily... as my neighbor learned the first day he had his composite deck and dragged out his barbecue for a christening party. He got two deep gouges that he tried to sand out and only made it look worse. I've got the most durable deck made, as well as the ugliest unless you like "industrial". It's diamond plate steel, like a fire escape landing. It needs a power brushing and a new coat of paint every five years. That's about it. Fortunately, it's not in direct sun because it would probably cook your feet. However, if I was going to replace it I'd use a hardwood called ipe (also called ironwood). I built a deck table out of it and it's aptly named. It's so hard that saw blades and drill bits dull quickly and even 100-grit sandpaper is rubbed flat in about two minutes. But, man, is this wood durable as well as beautiful. And a lot cheaper than other hardwood alternatives like mahogany.

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  1. [...] I last wrote about Composite Decking material at the beginning of March 2007 in my article 6 Advantages and 6 Disadvantages of Composite Decking. [...]