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Which Is Better between Composite and Plastic Decking?

M. John

Homeowners have long used wood decking in their homes to construct a deck. The downfall of wood decking is that it is prone to a lot of damages. In recent times, homeowners no longer use wood decking as there are other decking alternatives. Plastic and composite decking are the two alternative flooring material homeowners can use instead of wood. These two have similar features, but they differ from each other. If you are new to installing these flooring material, you might be confused about which to install between composite and plastic decking. When comparing composite and plastic decking material, which is better?

Composite Decking Material

Which Is Better between Composite and Plastic Decking?

You might have wondered what composite decking is? Composite decking board is an excellent alternative to timber decking. When you hear the word composite, a compound material should come to mind. Such material consists of more than one component. Composite decking is a decking material that contains more than one component. It is not like wood that contains mainly wood decking, nor is it like plastic decking that contains 100% plastic.

Composite decking contains two different materials; they are recycled plastic material and wood fibres. This material undergoes a heating process in the industry and is cooled to form a composite decking board. Composite decking is available in various sizes and colours that you can choose.

The composite decking also has different textures and can be customised to have a texture that resembles that of natural wood. To determine which is better between composite and plastic decking, let us consider what plastic decking is.

Plastic Decking Material

When you hear the word plastic, what should come to your mind is a decking material made from plastic. Plastic decking is a flooring material that contains 100% plastic. It’s not like composite decking that contains a mixture of two different materials.

Plastic decking is made from polyvinyl chloride. It differs from composite decking in that plastic decking has a synthetic look. Plastic decking board comes in different sizes and colours that you can use for your outdoor flooring. Now that we know what composite and plastic decking are, which is better between the two materials.

Composite vs Plastic, Which is Better?

To determine which is better between composite and plastic decking, we need to compare the two together.

Cost

To know which is better between composite and plastic decking in terms of cost, the former is better. PVC is more costly than composite decking material. The amount to purchase PVC is like twice the amount to purchase composite decking. If you’re going for not too expensive material, composite decking is preferable to PVC.

Surface Texture

When you take a closer look at composite decking and plastic decking, you will notice that there’s a difference in their surface. Composite decking is a material that the Makers can customise to look like wood since it contains wood fibres. Homeowners who have used wood decking can surely tell that a composite deck has the same texture and looks like natural wood.

The surface of the composite decking board resembles that of wood decking. It makes composite decking more beautiful than plastic decking. No wonder composite decking is valued for its aesthetics compared to other decking materials.

Plastic decking does not have the look and feel of wood. Its surface does not look like that of a composite decking board. PVC decking has a synthetic surface that makes it different from composite decking. Comparing the surface of both materials, we can conclude that the composite decking surface is better than that of plastic.

Maintenance

When it comes to maintenance, composite decking and plastic decking are easy to maintain. These two decking materials do not require painting, sanding or sealing like a wood decking. Also, composite and PVC decking are very easy to clean. If there is any stain on the decking board, you can easily wipe the stain away with liquid detergents. So in terms of maintenance, no one is better between composite and plastic decking. They both require little maintenance, and you don’t need to spend a large amount of money maintaining both decking materials.

 Conclusion

Which is better between composite and plastic decking? Both materials are easy to maintain. But when it comes to the cost and aesthetics the former is better than the latter.

Is Composite Wood Waterproof?

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Water alone, can be destructive. Just like the climate, hot tubs and swimming pools are equally destructive to wooden decks and sometimes more destructive, because of its chemical content. We may be wondering how water destroys wood. Wood, even after it has been sawn down and cut into boards, store water in them. Twenty per cent of a dimensionally stable wood board contains moisture. When moisture reaches 30 per cent of the weight of the board, that means that the water is already between the board and not in its fibres anymore. That’s when problems arise. A freezing climate can make it even worse. If water expands between the fibres, fungi and other microbial life will soon grow. The more water is intruded in the fibre, the more it encourages other organisms to move in.

When choosing a decking material, it’s important to know that all decks use treated lumber for framing. This is the structural part of the deck that is not visible. Thus, deciding on the material of your deck relies solely on what the decking surface and its railing are made of. Deck material can either be natural wood or man-made products. These are the two main categories to choose from. Wood products can be treated lumber and cedar, while man-made deck material products are those that include composite, PVC and vinyl.

Most decks that are built today are made up of wood, simply because of their low cost however, those that choose composite decking think of the low maintenance it requires. You will be asking a lot of questions before deciding. Consider how the deck will be used. Will it be built in a shaded area? Do you plan to use this for a long time? Are you up to doing maintenance yourself? Or will you be hiring a company to do it for you?

Composite wood decking is made up of recycled wood chips and plastics, making it eco-friendly. If you are a person who follows a house theme, this comes in different styles and a variety of Earth tones. You can easily match it with your furniture or home. Aside from spending very little to no maintenance, composite dicking is friendly to the environment with its recycled materials.

Composite decking does not absorb water. When moisture gets trapped under the decking and on top of the wood joists, it stays there and keeps it from drying properly. This is different from wood which are more susceptible to rot and decay when not properly dried. If you are looking for quality waterproof composite decking materials, you should be very sceptical. The first-generation composite decking was made up of shredded plastic bottles and sawdust. They weren’t waterproof boards. Earlier, composite boards like these, fall apart. It may also be dangerous during the rainy season, as it gets slippery when wet.

Homeowners who are looking for waterproof composite decking materials should look for those that have special features. Boards should be surrounded with full capping (shielding) with a layer of waterproof material. This makes it fully protected. The capping material should provide a non-slip surface, making it safe even when wet. How do you make your board waterproof for a long time? The co-extruded capping is extruded together with the board as it leaves the mould to ensure that the capping and the core form a single unit. When the capping is not bonded to the core, it can crack or peel and could make the board vulnerable to water intrusion. To better resist moisture, there are no screws that were pierced into the board itself. Hidden fasteners are inserted at the side of the board and are screwed into the substructure of the deck. This also creates a smooth look and feel as there are no screw heads to worry about.

decking material

Ultra-Decking UK has Ultra Shield Technology on its Signature range of Wood Plastic Composite (WPC) decking boards. The Signature composite decking boards are resistant to UV fading, staining and mold and mildew, giving it a life span of 25 years or more. It creates a natural look with its natural wood grain finish. A lot of customers described it as a fabulous indoor flooring with all the benefits of outdoor protection.

We have enumerated several issues with the first-generation WPC like fading, staining, mold spots, mildew, cracking, crumbling and warping. The second-generation composite decking now has a plastic layer or capped shielded technology covering the entire composite decking board. This also guarantees that the colour of your decking stays for a long time and prevents dust and liquid from reaching the centre of the composite decking boards.

The 25-year warranty makes it all worth it. Ultra-Shield technology guarantees an ultra-low maintenance decking. Since the board absorbs almost no water, you don’t have to worry about spills of liquids, drinks and sauces. You simply wipe them away! It is also a protection against natural tough elements like mold and mildew. An additional feature would be its surface texture which is almost indistinguishable from real wood.

Is Composite Decking Hot To Walk On?

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Does composite decking get too hot to walk on?

Building a deck for your home does not only increase the value of your property, but it also provides a wonderful area outdoors where you may entertain your guests, family and friends. With this in mind, the use of composite decking as an alternative to natural timber is increasing in great extent due to its many advantages. Aside from being the environmentally friendly choice, it has many other advantages, including its low maintenance, its slip-resistant properties, its durability that prevents cracking, splintering or rotting and its availability in an extensive range of designs and colours. All of these advantages are brought about by the continuous technological improvements done in manufacturing composite materials.

It is therefore not surprising that more homeowners have decided to start using composite decking boards. However, there is one common question that keeps getting asked: “Does composite decking get too hot to walk on?”

In order to properly answer this, we need to look into several factors that may affect the temperature of any deck. These considerations include the deck’s degree of exposure to sunlight, the type of material used and the colour of the decking boards.

does composite decking get hot

Degree of Exposure to Sunlight

All kinds of material soak up heat when exposed to direct sunlight. Even natural wood decking becomes too hot to walk on barefoot when it is exposed to the summer sun over a prolonged period. However, once exposed to high temperatures, timber does not just get too hot to walk on, it may also splinter, crack or shrink. Composite decking boards, on the other hand, can withstand the heat without such drawbacks.

Even though the summer season may not be long enough, and you want to enjoy the sun whilst it’s out, you are most likely stepping indoors once it gets too hot outside. Nonetheless, if you want to extend your time on your composite decking outdoors, there are options and solutions to keep your composite decking cool. One way is to plant trees that will create a shade over your composite decking —although the trees might take years to grow. Another alternative is to build a canopy over a portion of your composite decking, but if you want a less costly solution, you can simply add a patio umbrella to minimise direct exposure to sunlight.

If you want to walk barefoot on your composite decking, you can place outdoor rugs that can weather the elements. These rugs will also add colour and style to your composite decking and comfort beneath your feet, and you can always roll them and store them indoors whenever they are not in use. You can also install a misting fan on your composite decking to help stay cool outdoors.

Material of the Decking

Another factor you need to consider is the material of the composite decking. Composite decking boards get hotter under the sun based on the amount of heat or solar energy they absorb and not reflect. The heat retained by your composite decking partly depends on the material it is made of.

Natural wood decking typically pulls heat deep into the board, making the board’s surface cooler but also retaining the heat longer even when the sun is gone. When tested for several hours under direct sunlight averaging 86 degrees, pine and cedar retained heat between 119 and 157 degrees. Some tropical woods retained heat from 135 to 149 degrees.

Ipe decking boards are made of very dense wood, allowing the material to retain less heat compared to its counterparts. During the test, ipe boards retained heat at 137 degrees and stayed coolest among decking materials.

Composite decking boards, specifically the capped composite decking boards used in the test, retained heat at 135 to 149 degrees, showing a minimal difference in heat retention between wood and composite decking. However, unlike wood that retains heat long after the sun disappears, composite decking boards cool off faster once under the shade.

Colour is Important

Aside from the amount of exposure under direct sunlight and the material of the decking boards, the colour of your composite decking also matters. The general rule is the darker the surface colour of your composite decking, the more heat it absorbs and the hotter it becomes. Composite decking boards with a lighter colour finish tend to retain less heat compared to darker coloured materials. Therefore, if you want composite decking that does not get too hot, choose light-coloured composite decking boards with a hollow core.

The Advantages of Composite Decking

All types of decking material, regardless if it’s natural wood, pressure-treated lumber, ipe, PVC or composite, retain heat when exposed to direct sunlight. There may be a difference in heat retention depending on the material, but this difference is minimal. The benefits of using composite materials for your decking outweigh concerns in heat retention.

To have the best time outdoors, choose light-colored composite decking boards with a hollow core since these are more resistant to extreme temperature and moisture. They closely resemble wood when it comes to heat retention and dissipation whilst offering all the benefits of composite decking.

Can You Stain Composite Decking?

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Composite decking has become an extremely popular alternative to timber over the past years because it’s environmentally friendly and it comes in many different wood grain patterns and rich colours. Aside from helping save forests and having the choice of aesthetic designs and colours, composite decking is known for its durability because it resists fading, scratching and rotting. However, even though composite decking can withstand wear and tear far better than real timber like cedar and redwood, like any surface exposed to the elements, composite decking is still prone to fading, greying, warping, and other undesirable effects. Composite decking is a low-maintenance option, but it is not completely maintenance-free. Composite decking is also prone to mold and mildew because it’s made of wood and plastic. To prevent these adverse consequences and unsightly appearances caused by damaging UV rays, weather and moisture, stain your composite decking to maintain it and keep it looking great throughout the years.

Before you start staining your composite deck, you need a composite deck cleaner or any high-quality wood cleaner and a composite deck stain to restore colour to your faded composite decking. Choose a deck stain with mildew-resistant coating (i.e. mildewcides or mold inhibitors) to protect your composite decking. Likewise, deck stains with zinc particles naturally fight against mildew. Avoid film-forming or solid deck stains because these begin to chip and peel away after a few months. Film-forming stains are also prone to mildew because they create a film over the surface that traps moisture.

You also need a bristle brush, pad applicator or roller, roller pans and a nap roller cover. For safety and protection, use chemical-resistant gloves and protective apparel. Also, prepare the following: broom, drop cloths, rags, hose, high-pressure nozzle, paint can opener, paint tray and liner, painter’s tape, plastic sheeting, pressure washer, pump sprayer and stir sticks.

Once you have all the tools and materials you need, clean the composite decking before applying the composite deck stain. The surface must be completely cleaned; otherwise, applying a stain to a dirty surface may make the composite decking appear dark and grimy because the composite deck stain will trap the dirt and make it impossible to clean. Sweep off dirt, leaves and other debris from the deck. Don’t use a shovel or any tool with sharp edges to dislodge fragments or accumulated dirt from your deck. Then, using a pressure washer and a composite deck cleaner, wash away all dirt, mold and mildew. Follow all label instructions. It is important to ensure all mildew is removed before staining the deck so that mildew is not sealed in below the surface.

After washing with the composite deck cleaner, thoroughly rinse all surface areas with clean water. Check that the deck surface is completely clean and dry before you apply the composite deck stain. In some cases, this might take a few days depending on the weather. Then, use drop cloths or plastic sheeting to cover plants, grass, furniture, deck trim, concrete and other items you don’t want stained.

staining composite decking

Use a high-grade composite deck stain that penetrates well. Stir the product thoroughly and make sure all colorants mix evenly into the stain. Similar to the deck cleaner, check that you follow all guidelines on the label. Use a brush, pad applicator, roller or a quality pump sprayer to apply a coat of composite deck stain. Do not over apply because any excess product will not just evaporate away. When using a brush, back brushing guarantees even application. Always spread the stain over vertical surfaces first and be careful to avoid dripping stain onto the floor and other horizontal areas. After half an hour, brush or roll excess stain that might have pooled on the surface of the deck. If the splotches of excess product are not removed, they might remain as sticky, shiny spots on the surface, making your deck look tacky.

Some recommend applying a clear sealer over the deck stain to make your composite deck more durable, but composite deck stains already contain UV-shielding pigments and mildewcides, making them an effective protective finish for your composite decking. Some clear deck sealers or finishes do not attach well to a composite deck stain and may cause premature peeling and flaking off from the deck. Stains and sealers are designed to adhere to bare wood but not to each other, so it’s not advisable to apply a sealer over a composite deck stain.

Clean up and properly seal and dispose of containers as well as used water, brushes and roller covers. Allow sufficient drying time before subjecting the surface to foot traffic and placement of furniture and potted plants. Your composite decking looks brand new and there is no need to stain in another two to four years, depending on the type of composite decking and how the deck was constructed, the amount of foot traffic, the constant rearrangement of furniture and exposure to heat and rain. You can maintain your composite decking using a composite deck cleaner at least twice a year. Also, keep your deck dry because standing water can stain your deck.

10 Top Tips for Composite Decking Installation

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After careful consideration as to whether you would choose composite decking, you are now at the planning stage of how to install your composite decking to ensure its long life in service. You may already have researched on the budget, advantages and disadvantages of composite decking, the fact that you are reading this article seems that you have already made that decision. Now that you are ready for installation, let’s give you some tips on the best methods to install your composite decking with ease.

1. Know your local building codes and follow them

Whether or not you are going to hire a professional to install your composite decking or you will be doing it yourself. Make sure that you know the local building codes when it comes to zoning and building regulations. As the homeowner you will be held liable to all concerns and risks that were related to the installation process so you might as well read up on the local building codes and make sure these are clearly followed.

2. Prepare your support and frame

Although composite decking is the best alternative to traditional wood decks it cannot stand alone. This means you will need to set up the supporting frame so that you can attach your composite decking properly.

3. Plan, plan and plan

It is basic advice, yet the most crucial and important part of the installation process. There are so many things to consider in advance and it is always great to be prepared. It will run smoothly if you already have a clear plan on how you want your composite decking to be. You should plan every single detail regarding sizes, colour(s), position etc, etc. One of the questions, to begin with, is how big do you want your composite decking to be? So that you will know how many composite decking boards you will need and what spaces in between rows are required for expansion and contraction which is subject to current weather conditions.

4. When you are all set. Start with a chalk line.

Yes, it might be very basic but if you started with this you are guided. You can set the distance and you can make necessary adjustments. The first step in the installation process starts with this.

5. Allow airflow under your decking

One of the considerations to look at in installing composite decking should be enough space for air to pass. This will prevent water absorption and save your composite decking from swelling and improve drainage. You do not want standing water on your composite decking. Careful planning and preparation is key to a beautiful long lasting composite deck.

tips for composite decking installation

6. Everything you need to consider about joists

The Joists or sub-frame are timber pieces that will provide support for your composite decking. The ideal spacing between joists is 30 centimetres and about 25 centimetres for commercial composite decking installations. Make sure before you use the joists in any composite decking installation that they are structurally sound and have been treated to preserve the quality of the timber. Treated timber joists also prevents rot leading to a longer service and protects against insect or fungal attack. The joists should also be wide enough (minimum 2 inches) to ensure your composite decking is supported.

7. Consider the Hidden Fastener Method

To fasten your composite decking you will need some special screws, screwdriver bit and composite decking plugs with the same design as your decking. It can give you a uniformed surface plus it will save a lot of time than adding some plugs on the heads of each screw. What you just need to do is to countersink the screws using the screwdriver bit. Hammer the plug of the same kind as your decking. It will be more polished and looks as if the fasteners are invisible.

8. Use colour matching fascia, L corner trims or end caps

You can use colour matching fascia, L corner trims or end caps to provide you with an easy and quick way to attach at the end of each cut on your composite decking panel. These provide a clean neat finish to the look and appearance of your new composite decking project. A job well done and in a more efficient manner.

9. Order a custom cut boards

There are manufacturers and suppliers that offer customised cutting especially if you are working in a big area. It can save more time than placing small cuts together. This is one of the advantages of having a composite wood deck. Measuring and cutting can cost so much of your time during the installation process which you definitely do not want.

10. Choose the off-season installation

Many professionals are mostly available during autumn and winter. They can focus on your project and save your time and money because during the autumn and winter season pricing for the installation of composite decking can be relatively cheaper than during spring or summer when demand is high.
These are our top ten tips for your composite decking installation. Don’t forget to look at the instructions on your manufacturer’s guide since there will be different rules and processes to follow depending on the materials and type of composite decking you will use. All in all, we hope that you enjoyed and find this top tips helpful in your installation.

Ultra Group Ltd

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