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How Long Does Composite Decking Last?

Building decking and adhering to the maintenance required can be costly. If you are a homeowner or a commercial property owner, you will want to ensure that your decking stands the test of time and lasts as long as possible. This is one of the main reasons why people opt for composite decking over other materials, such as timber. Composite has proven to be a significantly more durable material over time, but the question is, how long will it really last?

How long does composite decking last?

Generally speaking, composite decking can last anywhere between 10 to 25 years if regularly maintained and cared for. There are also different types and qualities of composite decking that play a part in determining a decking board’s lifespan. For example, the generation of the composite decking board. First-generation boards have a wood-fibre surface layer, while second-generation have a capped or shielded PE layer. The capped layer provides the decking boards with more resilience against weathering, helping to absorb less moisture. This is important since a lot of problems associated with decking stem from moisture absorption. If a material absorbs too much moisture, it is more likely to begin to rot. Mould and mildew thrive in dark, damp conditions and can lead to the deterioration of the decking you were once proud of. Composite decking’s ability to withstand moisture and rainfall is just one factor that plays a role in the decking’s longevity. In this article, we look at why people choose composite and also look into detail at the factors that can affect the lifespan of composite decking.

Why do people choose composite decking?

Composite decking is a material produced from reclaimed wood fibres and recycled plastics. Besides being a better alternative than timber in terms of its environmental impact, composite decking has excellent durability in comparison. Due to their plastic nature and protective properties, composites are easier to maintain as there is no need for staining, sealing or painting. Simple cleaning with warm soapy water and a soft-bristle brush is all that is required to keep the decking looking good and last longer. Although you can achieve a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years with treated timber decking, you must perform regular annual maintenance with the potential to purchase replacement material during the wood’s service life. The question is, do you value your time more than your money? If the answer is yes, then composite decking is the right material for you.

Things that can damage your composite decking

Expansion and contraction – This is a process that occurs with every decking material due to temperature fluctuations throughout the seasons. Even aluminium decking can expand from heat,  between seasons. The rate decking boards expand is dependent on the material used and, of course, the weather. As we all know, British weather can be very unpredictable. It can be cold and wet for weeks and then suddenly experience a hot sunny day with temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius. These sudden changes in the climate cause the decking boards to expand and move. This is why expansion gaps must be factored in during the installation process. Ensure you read this article if you are unsure of the expansion gaps required. Expansion and contraction will only hinder your decking’s longevity if gaps are not included when installing composite decking.

Improper Cleaning – Using the wrong methods to clean your decking can also hinder the performance of your composite decking over time. For example, using a pressure washer too close to the surface of your decking can cause breakage and chipping of the decking boards. How far away should the nozzle be from the surface? If you are going to use a pressure washer, we recommend setting it to the lowest pressure and keeping the nozzle at least 8-12 inches away from the decking surface to avoid this damage from occurring. Another incorrect method of cleaning is using harsh and abrasive chemicals like chlorine bleach. Chlorine bleach can damage the surface of your decking board and cause colour fading.

The build-up of natural debris – Natural debris such as leaves, twigs and small tree branches can cause serious problems for your composite decking. These are breeding grounds for mould and mildew. Natural debris can cause pockets of shade on the deck, and when combined with wet conditions, there can be an accumulation of mould, mildew and green algae. This is not only an eyesore for you and your family, but as mentioned previously, it can eventually lead to the deterioration of your decking, which can hinder its structural integrity. If you notice a build-up of natural debris on the decking, it should be removed as soon as possible.

Water Pooling – The accumulation of puddles should be avoided on the surface of your decking. Factor in a sloped gradient of between 1% and 2.5% running away from the property to promote surface runoff and sufficient drainage. However, there may still be small amounts of water on the decking surface which can then turn to ice during the winter months. When removing ice and snow, you should avoid using metal shovels to avoid damage and scratches to the surface of your decking. Instead, use a soft bristle brush or a plastic shovel. Do not use sand or other abrasive ice removers, as these can damage the decking boards.

Carelessly dragging your furniture – Although composite decking may contain scratch-resistant properties, it is not scratch-proof. We advise you always to take care when moving items such as chairs, tables or couches on your decking – DO NOT DRAG, LIFT INSTEAD. Scratches are not only painful to look at, but if they are deep enough, they can also encourage the growth of mould and mildew. Deep scratches and ridges in the decking board cause pockets of shade and are likely to collect water and/or moisture, which will cause an accumulation of mould and mildew.

Conclusion

If correctly cleaned and maintained composite decking can last for decades, this surpasses their wooden cousins with a average life span on 15 years if maintained correctly. Capped composite boards has the possibility to last well beyond 25 years if well cared for with some suppliers even offering 30 plus years on there warranty. The key like any product or materials is care, if you follow the guidance we set their no reason why your composite deck can not last for multiple decades and beyond.

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