Few things embody summer like a back yard deck, conjuring images of family barbecues and lazy afternoons lounging in a hammock or on a chaise. But maintaining a wood deck can be a pretty major chore, from scrubbing and staining to repairing and replacing damaged boards.
You’re probably also no stranger to splinters in your feet, which can really put a damper on your summer fun. Wood decks have a certain charm, but if you’re not up for the endless power washing, sealing, staining, repairing and replacing that goes along with keeping it looking great, why not replace your old wood deck with composite?
If you’re not convinced, here are some of the benefits of composite decking, how it stacks up against wood, and what you should know before investing in a new deck.
About Composite Materials
If you have a low opinion of composite decking, it may be time to update your view. When composite materials first came out as an option for consumers, many jumped on the bandwagon in an effort to rid themselves of high-maintenance wood decks. But as with any new product, the first wave of composite decking wasn’t without its problems.
Early versions of the material tended to warp, leaving homeowners with uneven boards and unhappy results. But materials have come a long way since the early 90s. Quality composite decking has a lifespan of 25 to 30 years. Compare that to wood’s lifespan of 10 to 15 years and you can see one of the reasons why composite has become so popular.
Maintenance For Composite Decks
Compared to wood, composite decks are exceptionally low maintenance. But low maintenance doesn’t mean no maintenance. It’s important to understand how to care for your deck properly so you can extend its lifespan and keep it looking gorgeous for years to come.
Like any outdoor material, composite decking is susceptible to mold and mildew. But rather than cleaning, treating and re-staining as you might with wood, a pressure washing or annual scrubbing with detergent and a soft brush will do wonders to restore the surface of composite to its original beauty.
Like vinyl siding, composite decks do well with regular bouts of stress-free maintenance rather than leaving grime to accumulate over a long period of time and then doing a massive cleaning.
Benefits Of Composite Vs. Wood
Beyond its ease of maintenance and care, composite offers a number of other advantages over wood. It tends to be more eco-friendly since it’s made from recycled materials, and the process for manufacturing composites is less damaging to the environment than that of pressure treating wood.
Composites won’t splinter or crack, which is great if you have kids or pets walking around. They’re also stain resistant and easy to wash when spills do happen. That makes composites an ideal choice for families, especially if you enjoy cooking or dining outside on your deck.
Composite decking is also insect-resistant, won’t rot, and can stand strong against wind, rain, hail, snow and sun.
Choosing The Right Composite For You
Composite decking materials have low, mid and high quality varieties which correspond with cost. Quality affects the lifespan and durability of the product, as well as its resistance to fading and scratching.
Higher priced materials will be available in a wider variety of color and texture options, with a less repetitive “grain” that more closely mimics the look of wood.
There are two types of composite boards: solid and hollow. Understanding the difference can help you choose wisely. Hollow boards are less expensive, while solid boards tend to be stronger, sturdier, and look more like natural wood. Additionally, hollow boards can hold water internally, which in turn can lead to warping and decomposition.
Before you choose a composite decking material, consider your lifestyle needs. Composite is scratch-resistant but it can still be scratched, so if you have pets, be sure to choose a scratch-resistant variety that can stand up to Fido’s claws. The good news is that even if your deck does get scratched, you can easily sand the scratches out.
If your deck is in direct sunlight, then look for materials with higher UV protection, or consider covering it with a pergola or other overhang.
Like most materials that spend the day beneath the hot summer sun, composite decks can become hot. If you’re planning on walking on it with bare feet, choose a light color that will retain less heat, or a less dense material that won’t reflect so much heat back as you lounge in your recliner.
If your deck surrounds a pool or wet area, consider the texture and choose one that is non-slip.
Understanding your budget, lifestyle and weather conditions will help you choose wisely.
Replacing A Wood Deck With Composite
If the benefits of a composite deck are starting to sink in, you may be wondering what’s involved in replacing your old wood deck with a new composite. The answer depends primarily on whether you have a good foundational structure. If you do, the new deck can be built right on that foundation with minimal disruption. Better yet, you won’t need permits to start the project since you’re building on an existing space.
If you want to completely revamp your space, perhaps with a larger, multi-tier, or redesigned deck space, then it’s a matter of obtaining the proper permits, laying the foundation and then building your new dream deck.
In either case, be sure to hire a professional who understands how composite expands and contracts as the temperature fluctuates throughout the year. To combat potential damage, gapping or warping, a professional will lay the boards in the proper relationship to your home, fixtures, surrounding areas and each other.
If you’re thinking of replacing an old wood deck with a new composite deck, or perhaps installing a deck for the first time, call us at (732) 264-8166 or contact us online and we’ll visit your home for a free consultation and estimate.