You heard it here: Today’s composite decking materials are great — not perfect

West Central and SW Ohio composite deck builderWhen it comes to recommending a product or service, how far do you go with it? Nothing is perfect all of the time. It’s important to manage the customer’s expectations, but sometimes that’s difficult.

Let’s look at the newest generation of composite decking materials. These materials have improved over time since they were first developed. By “over time,” we don’t mean they’ve aged like fine wine. We mean the technology continues to advance and the products keep getting better.

Technically, what is composite decking? The boards are made of a mixture of plastic and wood fibers, sometimes referred to as reclaimed wood. Some are formed through an extrusion process, and others are formed by compression molding; the materials are heated and compressed to create a physical bond. Several of the newest generation boards also have the extra protection of a cap or shell around the board. To make comparisons even more interesting, some brands are capped on three sides while some are capped on all four sides.

What our clients need to know is this: not all composites are the same. Several different manufacturers produce these building products and compete for your (and our) business. Each manufacturer may have more than one product line at different price points. In some cases, a manufacturer produces a line of boards that are protected by that additional capping AND ALSO produces another line without the capping — this would be their “value” product.

When composite decking boards first hit the market, many homeowners were reluctant to use them. They looked too much like “fake wood.” Today’s composites look much more like natural wood — to the extent that homeowners no longer steer away from them based on appearance.

Wooden decks such as this PT deck in Centreville, OH have time to cure properly it built during the cooler monthsHow composites out-perform wood

Have homeowners been over-sold or over-convinced when it comes to composite decks? There has been so much buzz about these products they’ve taken on a “larger than life” reputation. To some extent this is a result of very effective advertising. Marketing campaigns have convinced consumers that composite decking is the answer to every discerning homeowner’s quest for the perfect deck, in every respect.

In marketing terms, word-of-mouth can be more powerful than paid advertising, but at some point it all runs together.

Archadeck of West Central & Southwest Ohio invites you to take a fresh look at the realities of composite decking. Yes, composites perform better than natural wood when it comes to these two important characteristics:

  • Composites are low-maintenance compared to wood. No sanding, staining, sealing required. Just wash gently with soap and water once in a while.
  • Composites are warranted against rotting, splitting, splintering, insect damage and material defects.

So, does that cover it? No, actually it does not.

Composites are not indestructible

To counter some of the hype about composites, if you are considering a composite deck, we recommend you read the manufacturer’s warranty before making a decision. Since there are several manufacturers, you can read several warranties, and you may find they are substantially similar. (Note: we are not lawyers.)

As we stated earlier, composites are warranted against things like rotting, splitting, splintering, insect damage and material defects. That’s great! But the marketers also boast their products resist fading, staining, scratching and mold. Hmm. What’s that word? “Resist.” This is not the same as a warranty. This is not a promise. Composites are not indestructible.

The new deck complements the Tudor architecture of this home in Cincinnati, OH.

Consider stains. How about red barbeque sauce hitting your beautiful driftwood gray composite deck? Check the manufacturer’s warranty. One such warranty states that the manufacturer cannot guarantee resistance to spilled food and beverages that are not properly cleaned up within one week. The onus is on the homeowner to see the spill and clean it up within a short time frame.

What about scratches? Accidents do happen, and if a person’s ring, watch or charm bracelet is somehow scraped against the composite deck surface, a scratch may result. On a wooden deck, a scratch can usually be sanded out unless it is extremely deep. The homeowner would need to apply fresh stain and deck sealer after sanding the wood, but the scratch will probably be a distant memory after the work is done. Meanwhile, scratches cannot be sanded out of a composite deck.

Composite or natural wood — making an informed choice

What’s our end game in providing this much information? We want our clients to be well-informed consumers. Composite decks are great, and we do recommend them for their easy maintenance, durability and longevity compared to wood decks. Some homeowners believe they can save money by choosing a wooden deck, but adding up the cost of 10-15 years of deck maintenance, they don’t always save money in the long run. Overall we build more composite decks than wood decks, and that trend is increasing.

We encourage all of our clients to do some research and know what you are buying so you will have realistic expectations.

Tim Stephens owner of Archadeck of West Central & Southwest Ohio

Tim Stephens owner of Archadeck of West Central & Southwest Ohio

If you are interested in redecking an existing deck, adding a new deck or combination outdoor living space to your home, we want you to become one of our well-informed clients. Contact Archadeck of West Central & Southwest Ohio today at (937) 848 – 7040 or (513) 897 – 2040, or via email at wcohio@archadeck.net.