Manufacturers have introduced a wide range of synthetic
decking products, most of which promise woodlike appearance
and low or no maintenance.
Most fall into a few categories
discussed below, but each has unique characteristics
and installation requirements. In all cases, review the product
specifications and, if possible, look at an installation
[Click any image to see an enlarged, detailed version]
This article series discuss best porch & deck construction practices, including choice of framing materials, decking or flooring choices & installation, how to select and use deck and porch structural and flooring fasteners, actual deck & porch framing construction details & connections, deck joist & beam span tables, how to build leak-proof rooftop decks, construction of covered & screened porches, deck & porch railing construction & materials, choices of finishes and stains for decks & porches, and past & current deck lumber preservative treatments with related health & environmental concerns.
Many composite deck materials, like Trex®, use a high percentage of recycled
Most wood-plastic composite deck boards have a solid profile and are sold in
sizes that match and install like standard wood decking.
The oldest solid composite decking on the market is Trex®,
but competitors now include Boardwalk® (Certainteed),
ChoiceDec® (Weyerhauser), and products from several
smaller manufacturers (see Figure 4-2 at left).
Other synthetic decking products are extruded into
a hollow 2x6 profile, such as WeatherBest® (Louisiana
Pacific) and TimberTech® (TimberTech Ltd.).
generally lighter and stiffer than the solid materials, allowing
spans up to 24 inches.
These typically fit together in
a tongue-and-groove fashion, have built-in drainage
systems, and use proprietary fasteners.
End caps and other
accessories are used to trim out these products, and some
include a modular railing system (Figure 4-3).
In general, composite decking materials are dimensionally
stable, impervious to the elements, and can be
worked more or less like wood. The solid products are installed
like wood decking. Special screws designed for
composite decking leave a clean hole without dimpling
around the screw head.
Most solid products cannot exceed
16-inch on-center framing, and they feel a little bouncy
underfoot due to the material’s greater flexibility (low
modulus of elasticity) compared to wood. Some have an
embossed wood-grain finish that may wear away over
With composite decking, no surface treatment is needed.
Once the surface weathers, it bears a strong resemblance
to weathered wood, but without the customary
warping and checking.
Although these deck surfaces are largely
impervious to the elements and contain no food source for
mold or mildew, manufacturers do point out that a dirty
deck can support mold and mildew growth and recommend
periodic cleaning with a deck cleaner to prevent this.
synthetic decking is vulnerable to oil and grease stains,
which can be difficult to remove if not cleaned right away
with a degreasing agent.
Vinyl and Other Plastics for Decks & Porches
A variety of manufactured
decking systems are aimed at the commercial and
do-it-yourself (DIY) markets. Materials include FRP
(fiber-reinforced plastic), recycled HDPE (high-density
polyethylene), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Most of these
products are available in a nominal 6-inch width and have
an etched surface to provide traction and a wood-grain
appearance. Most products are sold as a complete system
with integral fasteners, end caps, and other accessories,
making them well suited to the DIY market.
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synthetic decking manufacturers to avoid?
(Apr 10, 2014) bill c said:
we are about to replace a front porch and we are considering using composite boards. do you know of any manufacturer that we should avoid because of poor results and durability?
Thanks for the important question, Bill C. I have added citations and research information on the durability of composite lumber of several types into the article above at COMPOSITE LUMBER DURABILITY
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