Frequently Asked Questions: Composite Decking

Posted June 13, 2019 in Decks

As we all know, pressure treated wooden decks are becoming features of the past.  While not yet totally uncommon, many homeowners are shifting their focus to more sustainable and lower maintenance materials to achieve their beautiful outdoor living spaces.  For those just starting to explore options for their very own backyard transformation, we are sure many questions will arise…and it is our job and our pleasure to pass along helpful information to act as a guide along the journey!

It’s true that there are several composite decking brands, textures, colors and price points to choose from, so it is important to know all of the facts before you commit.  Here at MasterPLAN, we prefer to give the pros and cons of each, so our clients can make educated decisions for their family and their home.  With that being said, this week’s blog will focus on our most frequently asked questions on composite decking, as some of these may very well be jotted down in your own notepad to research!  Let us also note that not every manufacturer and line of composite decking is exactly the same, so we will be speaking in generalities for the sake of brevity.

What is composite decking?

Well, this seems like a great place to start.  Composite decking is a man-made material comprised of recycled wood fiber, recycled plastic, bonding agents (and a few other things like UV inhibitors) that is either capped or encapsulated in pvc.  Together, these ingredients form a low-maintenance, durable, versatile and aesthetic decking material that is heavier, stronger and has a longer lifespan than pressure treated lumber alone!

How does the cost of composite decking compare to pressure treated wood?

Valid question!  Yes, it is true that the upfront cost of composite decking is more of an investment than what you would spend on pressure treated wood, but you need to keep an open mind and evaluate the details.  You will find that the cost of composite decking is offset by its lifespan, warranty, resistance to rot/insects and splintering along with its almost non-existent maintenance will save you time, energy and money in the long run.  Who wouldn’t want to spend more time enjoying their deck than maintaining it?

Will my deck look like plastic?

Have you ever heard that saying, “You get what you pay for?”  Well, in this instance, it absolutely applies.  If you make the commitment to construct your deck out of composite material to reap its benefits, you should also make sure that you are not skimping on its quality.  The cheaper composite deck boards, will looks, well, like plastic and may give you more problems than what its worth.  There are brands out there that are taking amazing steps to have their boards mimic real wood in pattern, color variation and sheen.  Exploring different brands and their full available lines of composite decking will ensure that you fully understand each and are pleased with their look.

What is the maintenance of composite decking?

We did say that composite decking is low maintenance not no maintenance, however, you will be pleased with the process.  Unlike real wooden decks, you will no longer have to deal with broken or splintered boards that need replacing or sanding and staining!  To clean a composite deck, all you really need is some mild dish detergent diluted in warm water, a bristled broom and a hose…scrub it down and rinse it off!  Do not use a power washer on full blast or caustic chemicals or bleach on composite decking, you will certainly do more harm than good!

Does composite decking get hot?

We all know that our vehicle steering wheels and dashboards turn to lava when our car sits in the sun too long, but how does that compare to composite decking?  Well, while your young son or daughter may tell you the floor is lava, composite decking is certainly not that bad.  Let’s start off by saying that first generation composite decking was much more susceptible to retaining heat than the higher quality lines out today.  Newer composite decking has come a long way and is much more resistant to heat.  In fact, you will find that composite decking doesn’t get much hotter than traditional wooden decks.  Of course the same rules still apply, darker boards will be warmer than lighter colored composite decking boards…so keep that in mind if temperature is a pain-point.

What colors are available?

As noted before, all brands have different offerings, but you are sure to find a color that suits your home and your liking!  Most shades that resemble real wood and even shades of grey are available to choose from.  Consult your landscape designer if you are having a tough time deciding!

Can I install composite decking on my own?

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything!  At least that is what my mom used to tell me.  Yes, technically you can install composite decking on your own, but we would recommend that you leave it to the professionals.  Why?  Well, composite decking is a different beast than pressure treated lumber.  Professionals that install composite decks regularly have the rules for installation memorized and down to a science, making sure the deck is installed properly and in expedited time!  For example, installers need to account for the expansion and contraction of the deck boards in hot and cold weather, so the spacing needs to be just right.  Also, most composite boards are installed with a hidden fastening system rather than screws visible from the top of the deck board, so the installation is more involved than just making sure your screw gun is charged.

Adding a composite deck to your home will bring years of personal enjoyment to your family and will be an asset if you are to sell your home down the road.  Who doesn’t like a return on investment?  With a thoughtful design and low maintenance materials, you have a recipe for a solid investment.

Serving the Poconos, the Lehigh Valley through the Main Line of Philadelphia and western New Jersey, MasterPLAN Outdoor Living would love to sit down and discuss all options for your very own backyard transportation.  We understand that your backyard is also much more than a patio, pool or deck, it is the backdrop to your life and we want to make sure it is beautiful and functional for your family and your lifestyle!  If you would like to partner with an outdoor living design/build firm that is ready to take this journey along with you, reach out to MasterPLAN…we would love to welcome you into the family!

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