In recent years, composites have been gaining popularity in the construction industry. Composites, also known as wood-plastic and composite decking, are materials made from blending wood and thermoplastics. It has many applications, even outside construction and building. Many use it for hardscaping, landscaping, fencing, and cladding, to name a few. But the question is, what makes it so popular? What are the advantages of using it over conventional building materials?
- Weather-resistant – One of the best features of composites is its resistance to weather damage. It has an exterior thermoplastic capping that protects it from moisture, UV rays, and other harsh effects of various weather conditions. Its colour is also long-lasting, even when exposed to sunlight. Conventional building materials, on the other hand, offer little protection from the weather, such as common structural wood. For this reason, many people use composite cladding, decking, and fencing, which are often subjected to rains, snow, strong winds, and UV exposure.
- Long-lasting – Any builder will want to use a material that can withstand wear and tear and can last for decades. In this regard, composites are better than conventional materials. It’s because of its superior durability and long lifespan. For instance, a fence made out of wood-plastic materials can last for at least 20 years, whereas a conventional wooden deck will only last 5 to 10 years. The same goes for other applications of WPC, such as decking, flooring, and siding.
- Fire-resistant – WPC materials are designed as wood alternatives. But one advantage it has over wood is that it has better overall fire resistance. Because of this, it’s a safer choice than most conventional construction materials. For instance, developers have used various cladding materials for high rise buildings. But with the recent fire incident in London, the government required builders to use fire-resistant materials. Because of this, non-flammable materials such as metal or composite cladding are now preferred.
- Low-Maintenance – Due to its PVC or polymer capping, wood-plastic materials are low-maintenance. Unlike wood, you don’t have to seal, stain, or paint it every few years. It’s also water-proof and stain-free, unlike stone and masonry. It also doesn’t require as much as upkeep cost compared to other conventional materials. Most of the time, a thorough wash is enough to keep it clean.
- Aesthetically Appealing – Another advantage of composites over conventional materials is its appearance. Unlike PVC and other synthetic plastics, it features a natural, wooden-like appearance. And unlike real lumber, it doesn’t lose its colour or fade to grey. With it’s resistance to UV light, it can maintain its colour and shine for decades. In recent years, many builders use WPC to create beautiful indoor and outdoor designs in place of traditional construction materials.
- Easy to Work With – As a wood-alternative, composites are as easy to work with as real lumber. It’s also very versatile, which can be used in various applications. You also don’t need special tools or new skills to process, cut, or saw WPC. And compared to wood, it’s more resistant to cracking, splintering, and breaking, which often happens when you see wood. You can easily use it as long as you have basic construction knowledge and skills.
- Environmentally-Friendly – Composite companies today are striving to use as much as recycled materials as possible to manufacture their products. Because of this, they don’t need to cut down more trees or produce as much synthetic plastic materials, which can be harmful to the environment. Instead, they use sawdust, wood chips, and other recyclable wood fibres from wood processing factories. As for the plastic parts, many use bottles, bags, and other plastics that would have ended in landfills. And the best thing is, many WPC today can be recycled into new ones. And unlike some types of materials, such as pressure-treated wood, it doesn’t require any checicals that can damage the environment.
- Cost-Efficient – Composites are significantly more expensive than conventional wood materials. Despite this, it is still more cost-efficient. As mentioned, it has a low upkeep cost requirement, can last for decades, and resistant to most forms of damages. In the long-term, you can save hundreds, if not thousands, because of how cost-efficient WPC materials are.
Are There Any Disadvantages of Using Composites?
Naturally, like any other construction material, wood-plastics also have a few disadvantages. But compared to conventional materials, it has relatively fewer drawbacks.
One of the biggest concerns with wood-plastics is its high initial cost. Whether it’s worth the added cost depends on how you will use it. For instance, it works best when used for composite cladding, fencing, decking, and even furniture making. But for general construction purposes that don’t require added durability or weather resistance, you have the option of using composites or not.
Overall, people are nor preferring to use higher-quality materials as opposed to conventional materials, especially in uses where extra durability, weather-proofing, fire-resistance, and longer lifespans are necessary.