Composite lumber is a term that refers to any man-made substance that is comprised of a combination of wood fibers, polymers, binders, and adhesives. While composite lumber is widely used in construction (e.g. plywood), capped composite lumber specifically intended for composite deck did not enter the market until the 1990s.
Composite decking tiles have exploded in popularity as a wood substitute during the last several decades. Many modern decks are constructed using composite decking rather than wood, since manufacturers have convinced homeowners that their goods outperform any genuine wood.
While composite decking does offer a number of benefits, the typical homeowner may be unaware of them. Numerous homeowners have discovered the hard way that composite decking is not without flaws and often results in a frustrating, costly error.
Here are the five primary issues with composites that you should be aware of before investing thousands of dollars on a new deck or patio.
1. Mold is not prevented by moisture resistance.
Composite decking is often marketed as the closest thing to a waterproof material available. While modern composites are very resistant to water, this does not imply mold can not develop.
The surface roughness of the boards and the uncapped parts allow water to readily accumulate in the grooves. Because the water does not completely penetrate, it remains stagnant, eventually causing mold to grow. Despite the fact that composite is “low maintenance,” homeowners in humid/wet areas may find themselves cleaning their decks excessively to prevent mildew, fungus, algae, or moss development.
2. Warping and deterioration are not rare.
Another composite myth relating to its water resistance is that it would not swell when exposed to water. It’s worth noting that composite decking planks are more prone to shifting. Homeowners often complain about their composite decking boards expanding, moving, warping, or shrinking.
The reason for this is unknown, although it is speculated that the composite composition of the decking makes it considerably more susceptible to temperature and humidity fluctuations, as well as sun exposure. As a result, composite decking may be very variable, even among individual boards on a single deck.
3. Discoloration and color fading cause dissatisfaction.
The variety of colors available with composite decking is a major selling point. When combined with the fact that they are marketed as low-maintenance and do not need surface treatments, homeowners think their new deck will look the same for the duration of its life.
In fact, composite decking is susceptible to fading, particularly when exposed to the weather and sunlight. Numerous composite decking materials are also stain-resistant. Stains may be caused by anything from the tannins in a few fallen leaves to an extra spilt glass of wine or splash of ketchup.
The stains can only be removed by painting over them. For this reason, several composite producers provide matching paint. However, given that the overwhelming majority of composite deck owners chose this material because it would not need painting or resealing, this is a significant letdown.
4. Scratch-prone surface that can not be repaired
Composite decking is usually composed of more plastic than wood fibers, which results in a somewhat soft surface. Homeowners soon discover that their new deck is more prone to scratching than older wood decks. Patio furniture, barbecue grills, children’s toys, and even the claws of the family dog may all create gouges in composite decking.
Worse still, scratches and gouges on composite decking can not be repaired unless the whole board is replaced. If a scratch occurs on your wood deck, it may be sanded down. With composite, this is not an option.
5. The properties of the composite preclude its use.
Other features of composite decking restrict its use. Due to the fact that they are inherent characteristics, there is no way to prevent them.
Consider the slickness of composite decking when wet. This is because plastic is an oil-based material by nature, which causes water to pool on its surface rather than absorb like wood. Despite its roughness, the composite provides nothing in the way of stable footing around pools or swimming docks.
Another feature that may create issues is the ability to retain heat and feel hot on bare feet. Additionally, composite decking is not as robust as solid wood, as shown by the need for tighter joist spacing for the deck’s construction. While a hardwood deck may have joists spaced 16 feet apart, the majority of composite deck joists must be spaced 12 feet or fewer apart to avoid drooping.
Avoid composites and go for genuine wood.
In the early years, the primary rival to composite decking was pressure-treated (PT) timber. Composite decking does have certain benefits over PT wood. For instance, PT wood requires staining and/or resealing every few years, while composite wood does not.
However, it is important to note that just because a composite is a better option than PT wood does not imply it is superior to all woods. Modified wood is a genuine wood product that provides many more advantages than composites while maintaining the natural appearance of wood. Similar to composite, it does not need surface treatment and just requires routine cleaning. Additionally, modified wood is non-toxic to the environment and to humans.
Modified wood is more durable and stronger than composite, as well as more flexible. Modified wood is suitable for usage in any temperature or location, as well as beside water as poolside decking, piers, or docks. Additionally, insects, rats, and other animals will avoid your customized wood deck. Finally, treated wood matures gracefully (even becoming a silvery-grey color) and seldom splinters.