Composite Decking Material Review

The most common question we encounter on is; "What is the best composite decking material?" Unfortunately there isn't a simple answer. There are multiple categories of products. You can start your research here with these manufacturers.

View our composite decking pictures. Each category has literally dozens of different brands to choose from. Low maintenance decking manufactures have made many advancements in creating more attractive products that perform better than the old products from the 80's and 90's. The new products are less likely to fade, stain and breed mold and mildew. There is a tremendous variety of natural looking colors to choose from including many variegated tones that imitate realistic exotic hardwood grain patterns. New lines of colors are added so often many deck builders now refer to the ever expanding design choices as "deck fashion".

The main benefit of low maintenance decking is that you will never have to stain, seal or paint the decking like wood materials. Most higher quality synthetic decking materials are sold with a warranty against splitting, cracking, rotting and insect damage. Your local building department may require that the product you install has an evaluation service report from an accredited materials testing laboratory to provide proof that the decking will meet certain architectural standards. You can find a complete list of the ESR reports here. Another consideration is the installation instructions. Some low maintenance decking boards can be simply screwed down with special reverse thread screws to prevent the material from "mushrooming" on the surface. Other decking systems have a grooved edge to provide a surface to attach hidden fastener clips.

Most low maintenance decking products use polyethylene (HDPE or LDPE) plastic or PVC (polyvinyl chloride) as the base material for their decking boards. Composite decking is created by mixing polyethyle with wood fiber, rice hulls or other fillers as well as a blend of chemical additives. Most low maintenance decking planks are available in 5/4x6 dimensional boards in 12', 16' and 20' lengths. Some composite products are hollow and others are solid.

PVC or vinyl decking has become a popular alternative to composite decking in recent years. Some composite companies have created new products that encapsulate the composite material with a thin layer of PVC capstock for a hardened exterior shell that protects the material from stain, mildew, scratching and UV fading. As the material is extruded it is usually given a textured surface for slip resistance and appearance. Some products have reversible boards that have a wood grain side and a brushed finished side.

Most low maintenance decking materials can be machined and cut just like wood decking. Always read the installation instructions before framing your deck. Most composite decking is designed to be installed horizontally over 16" on center framing or diagonally over 12" on center joists. Most low maintenance materials are recommended to be installed at least 24" above the ground to allow ventilation below the deck. Most low maintenance decking companies also manufacture their own matching railing systems and accessories such as trim boards and low voltage lighting.

Remember there is no such thing as a truly no-maintenance material. Any outdoor living space will require occasional cleaning of dirt and debris.

Materials - Composite Decking