Does Composite Decking Fade?
If you are thoroughly investigating and researching composite decking, you will undoubtedly come across the term “fading or fade”. Rightly so! This is by far the most common question Ultra Decking asked by decking installers and new clients planning their new decking project.
You need to be careful with low-quality cheap imitations claiming that their composite decking boards will not fade or bleach under the sun. If you are provided with this type of advice during the purchase of composite decking, you may want to question the integrity of that advice
1Sunlight (UV Rays)
It is worth noting that the sun breaks down most materials and their colours at an atomic level. It may sound too scientific for most people; there is no denying. However, the honest and short answer is almost all man-made materials will experience some form of degradation from exposure to mother nature’s elements, including the sun’s harmful UV rays.
To properly answer the question of “fading or bleaching”, you first need to understand the different types of 1st and 2nd generation composite decking currently available in today’s market
2First Generation Decking
The first generation of composite decking surfaces still being manufactured today is from wood fibres/powder and recycled plastics. Once installed, they will go through a natural weathering process (link) for the first 3-6 months of their service life. This is mainly due to the board’s surface texture which is made from 60% recycled wood to have a more natural appearance. However, as with all wood types, when exposed to mother nature’s elements, the colour will lighten over time.
The first natural process first-generation decking boards (or any uncapped decking board) will go through is called extractive bleeding. This happens because of the presence of natural wood oils in first-generation decking boards. Generally, this stage lasts within the first 8-10 weeks. Once installed, the wood oils are washed out by rain and moisture in the air. Most customers will not notice this process. Please note that lighter coloured first-generation composite decking boards go through the most changes as more natural wood oils are used to achieve colour.
The next stage of the natural weathering process is caused by the Sun’s UV rays. A high quality first-generation composite decking board should incorporate UV ray stabilisers because it will help control this natural process. Of course, this does depend on the quality of raw materials used to produce the decking boards. However, as with most woods, it will lighten over time.
To gauge the UV fade rate and colour stabilisation after the first six months of your composite deck life, you can place a sample next to your deck that has not been exposed to the elements. This should give you a true reflection of the colour difference and how your deck will look for the remainder of its service life.
As discussed, all first-generation decking boards will fade to a lighter colour. The rate of fade in the first 3-6 months is, on average, a reduction of 30-40% in colour. How aggressive and intense the fading or bleaching will be, depends on the quality of the raw materials used during the manufacturing process. Not all composite decking boards are made the same way. They may look similar. However, by conducting some home testing on the different board samples, you will get real insights into the board’s quality. The best home test to perform is boiling the samples for up to 10 hours.
After the first 3-6 months natural weathering process, the colour fade of the composite decking boards will stabilise. The fade will continue but at a much slower rate. In Ultra Decking’s experience, we often advise our customers that the most noticeable colour change will be in the first 6-12 weeks after this period; the composite decking boards will stabilise their natural lighter colour but again will continue at a much slower rate. Please note that when choosing your composite decking, all colours will lighten so bear this in mind when making your choice.
The second-generation composite decking slightly lightens in 25 years, meaning the colour you lay today from our signature collection will be the same colour you will have in 25 years.
One key factor to keep in mind is the quality of the composite decking you are purchasing. This truly does make a huge difference. Although some fading will occur over the years, you must consider that all materials are grade A and tested. If they are, you will have no issues with colour for decades. For homemade tests, follow this link.
The elements from Mother Nature including the sun over the years can be very aggressive and harmful to any man-made products. As discussed, the sun can break down colours at an atomic level with the surface of all first-generation composite decking experiencing fading during the first 3-6 months and then stabilise and continuing at a much slower rate. For lower quality composite decking boards, the fading will be accelerated over a shorter time. We do advice customer that they may want to bring the colour back to life after an estimated 6-8 years or even change the style with an in style colour. The first generation wood powder boards gives the flexibility of doing just this. Second generation composite decking with its shield or capped surface will experience almost no fading during its 25 years of service.