Durable composite decks gaining market share
Composite decking is making headway into the consumer marketplace. According to Consumer Reports, some 80 percent of homeowners still choose wood, but tests show that composite planks offer greater durability and are easier to clean and maintain.
Sold as a complete set or in tiles and planks, composites combine polypropylene or polyethylene plastic materials with wood chips. The greener products on the market use recycled plastic. You'll even find composite deck materials made with sustainable bamboo. Some products are made entirely without wood; however, they look great and feel just like natural wood underfoot.
Benefits of composite decking
Composite deck materials, unlike wood, won't warp, split, rot, crack or fade in sunlight. Some resist stains from spills, too. The range of colors--a selection of brown wood hues, grays and white--fits most architectural or landscape designs. You can also choose from among wood-grain patterns and textures.
The major selling point for synthetic decks is their ease of maintenance. Warm water and household soap washes off most dirt and debris. You can use a plastic shovel to remove snow and ice. Deck whiteners sold by manufacturers remove tannins. (Note: never use chalk on composite decks; it won't come out.)
The competitive field is growing fast and includes these manufacturers:
- Epoch Evergrain
- LP Weatherbest
Deck prices for composite materials
Manufacturers' posted prices are subject to change. You'll also need to decide whether to order an entire deck, pre-cut and installed, or individual tiles or boards to build from scratch. Here's a recent round-up of retail prices to give you an idea of the price range:
- Sears: Deck 'n Go, one-inch-thick, one-foot-square tiles that snap together are $10.39 per tile. Includes a 5-year warranty
- Lowe's: Trex 1-by-5 1/2-by-16 Square Brasilia Espresso in a bundle of 48 are $2,339.94 per set. Comes with a 25-year limited warranty
Ultimately, the costs vary whether you're doing the work yourself or bringing in an installer. Some manufacturers may require quality professional installation in order to protect the warranty. Since composite decking requires more support than wood, the project will require a greater number of joists than natural materials. And the installer must pay close attention to drainage and airflow considerations.
When you add up the low maintenance, durability, and ease of snap-together installation, composite decking has immediate appeal. No wonder it's beginning to grow as an alternative to wood. You may call some of the major manufacturers directly to explore the range of selections, but to find a local installer who can price your job and cost out materials, fill out the form on this page.