composite wood deck

All you need to know about composite decking

Deciding on a new deck is something that you may be struggling with. There are so many different types and prices that it can be confusing. One of the biggest questions people have is whether to use timber or composite wood decking.

So, today we are going to be answering some of the most popular asked questions regarding composite decking. Hopefully, by the end you will have a better idea if it is the right choice for you.

What are the different types of composite decking?

You may not be aware but there are 2 main types of composite decking available:

  • WPC, which stands for wood polymer composite, is a mixture of wood fibres and plastic and is formed into the shape of a plank of wood. Sometimes known as ‘non-capped’, this type of composite decking is an older version of what is now available and as such not really recommended. Although it is cheaper, it has its flaws as is prone to warping, colour fading and ease of staining.
  • Capped composite is probably the most common type now used. It differs from the ‘non-capped’ version in that the WPC forms an inner core which is then wrapped in a PVC sleeve that covers 1 or all four sides. This offers a durable, moisture-resistant board that keeps it safe from stains, warping and insect invasions.
  • There are also completely plastic versions available which we will go into further detail later on.

Can you paint composite decking?

Sadly, composite decking cannot be painted. This is because the plastic elements will make it very difficult for the paint to saturate and so the paint will simply sit on the surface for a while, before peeling and flaking off. Something you certainly don’t want!

Although this isn’t necessarily a problem for everyone, it does mean that if your taste changes over the years, you are stuck with the colour you originally chose.

How long does composite decking last?

composite wood deck

This is dependant on the type of decking you get and the amount of maintenance you put into it. Although composite decking requires less maintenance than traditional timber decking, you will still want to keep it free of debris and dirt as much as possible.

You can simply give it a sweep every so often during the Summer months, but we recommend giving it a good clean with a product such as Compo-Clean every 6 – 12 months or so. This will help not only to keep it looking better for longer but will increase its durability as well.

The main reason for a deck to fail is if there is not adequate draining. Without proper draining, you will find the underneath structure will decay and rot and it will only be a matter of time before it breaks entirely.

Given good care and proper installation, you should expect a composite wood deck to last somewhere in the region of 25-30 years – possibly longer.

Is composite decking good value for money?

It depends on the type of composite wood you opt for but generally speaking, composite decking is usually more expensive upfront. However, as the maintenance is very minimal you will find that composite decking usually works out to be cheaper. You will also save your self extra time by having smaller amounts of maintenance!

How much maintenance is required with composite decking?

As previously mentioned, composite decking requires very little maintenance when compared to natural timber. Regular sweeping and a good clean with a product such as Compo-Clean every 6 – 12 months should suffice.

You could always use a reviving product such as Compoxell should you deck start to fade slightly.

Should I use hollow or solid boards?

This depends on your budget and how you plan on using your deck. Both have positives and negatives which we will explain below;

Hollow boards – pros

Hollow composite deck board

  • As the name suggests, these boards are hollow and have channels or honeycomb spaces inside. This makes them significantly lighter than solid boards which will make transportation and installation a lot easier – especially if you are going to be working alone for the most part.
  • Hollow boards are a lot cheaper than solid boards.
  • They can be less damaged by the elements. As composite boards consist of wood they can expand and contract from heat and moisture. However, as hollow boards have more internal space to expand into, you are a lot less likely to have any warping issues.

Hollow boards – cons

  • Hollow boards require the use of caps on the ends of the boards which are not made of the same material and can be unsightly. Another problem with them is that they are not necessarily watertight and if water were to get into the boards, it can be extremely difficult to remove. If not maintained, decomposition of the boards will occur faster.
  • Another problem is that due to their thin nature, hollow boards are louder to walk on and much easier to damage. This isn’t necessarily a problem if you plan on using your deck to simply sit outside for eating or relaxing. However, if you plan on having something heavy placed on top such as a hot tub or shed, you may find boards breaking fairly regularly. This will be costly in the long run.
  • One of the last things some people do not like is that hollow boards do not resemble wood as well as solid boards. They generally look very uniform and does not give an overall look of natural timber.

Solid boards – pros

Solid composite deck board

  • Solid boards are a lot stronger than hollow boards. This is because there is no space for them to bend and flex making them ideal for if your deck requires more strength i.e if you are planning on putting a hot tub on it, a shed, a garden office space etc
  • They resemble natural timber a lot more. So, if you are wanting your deck to have the aesthetic of real wood, this may be a better option for you. There are usually a variety of grain variations as well as more colour choices available as well.
  • As the boards are stronger you will find maintenance a lot easier. So although you will likely pay more in upfront costs when compared to hollow boards, the maintenance costs will be very limited and therefore saving you money in the long run.

Solid boards – cons

  • Solid boards are significantly heavier than hollow boards. This could potentially be a problem if you are planning on transporting and installing the deck on your own.
  • They are usually more expensive than hollow boards.
  • Due to the fact that solid boards contain more wood in them than hollow ones and that there is less room to expand with heat and weather, there is a higher risk of boards warping if proper maintenance is not carried out.

What types of profile are available?

composite deck with hidden fastening

There are 5 types of profiles which vary to make the boards lighter, easier to instal, or both! The profile you choose is important as it will affect a variety of things such how it is going to be fastened (which will affect the overall look – do you want to see screw heads?), the speed of the installation and the overall costs.

  1. Slotted. These boards have a groove along both the lengths which are used for a hidden fastener system. This means there will be no visible screw heads but can be more expensive.
  2. Solid.  These types of boards can be installed with screws or a specific type of hidden fastener system. Both sides of the board are usually usable which can be very handy.
  3. Open flange. These are very lightweight and similar to hollow versions. This type can only be installed with a hidden fastener system.
  4. Scalloped. These are just as heavy and solid as the solid version and installs the same way, but only has one usable side usually making it a little cheaper.
  5. Hollow. Similar to the open flange, but can be installed with screws or a hidden fastener system.

Can composite wood look real?

If this is something that is important to you then it is possible, however, you will never get a composite board that looks and feels 100% like real timber. There are boards available that are very similar but these can be very expensive due to the extra work that needs to go into making them.

If you think having a real wood aesthetic is important to you, why not take a look at our previous post where we compare the pros and cons of Hardwood Decking Vs Composite Decking.

What is the difference between composite decking and plastic decking?

Composite decking is a mixture of wood and plastic. Some companies will take the woodchip from sawmills and plastic bottles from recycling centres to make their boards. Composite decking could be ideal for you if you are worried about your carbon footprint as most are made from recycled materials.

Plastic decking as the name suggests is made entirely from plastic. They are usually made out of recycled plastic but this will vary from company to company. Due to there being no wood in the boards, they will not expand and shrink and will not be subjected to insect damage.

It can be expensive upfront but in the long run can work out to be cheaper than timber and possibly even composite as the maintenance costs are extremely low.

However, you will not be able to change the colour once installed and they really do not have the same look or feel as real timber or composite. Plastic decks really do look like plastic!

Should I use composite wood or timber?

Composite deck replacing timber deck

This is a question a lot of people struggle with and is not something that should be answered with haste. There are a wide variety of pros and cons on either side. To make things a little easier we have created a post called Hardwood Decking Vs Composite Decking. This will help you get a better understanding of the differences and help you to make a decision.

So there you have it. Everything you need to know about composite decking! If you feel we have missed something out, please let us know down below. We love hearing from you guys!

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Owatrol Team
About Owatrol Team

Our team are ready and willing to support you with your requirements whether it is protecting your newly laid deck or renovating a luxury yacht, whatever the application Owatrol has the solution you are looking for.

One thought on “All you need to know about composite decking

  1. Good article. Although in my experience of,installing pvc decking (over 100) it expands and contracts far more than PwC composite.

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