Why Composite Decking is Better for Waterside Projects


More homeowners are choosing composite decking products for a safe, low-maintenance platform around their swimming pools and along waterfronts. Why?  Because, in addition to its durability, composites also offer homeowners better value and many other unique benefits that installers should talk to their customers about. Apart from the initial cost of installation, the advantages of a composite deck can far outweigh those of traditional lumber.

Here are a few key differences that deck builders should incorporate into their marketing and sales materials to help homeowners understand the many reasons why using composite decking is better than traditional wood, or PT wood, for their waterside application.

Fading – While decks used with traditional lumber may initially look great after its installed, keeping it looking that way requires a lot of work. After it’s seasoned for a year or so, pressure treated lumber needs to be protected and sealed with a high-quality stain to prevent discoloration from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. A gallon of stain can cost between $50 and $100 and must be reapplied every few years to keep it looking ‘fresh’ and new. Composite decking materials do not require staining or painting because they are manufactured with ingredients, including special UV inhibitors that resist staining and fading.

DuraLife™ composite decking takes this protection a step further by adding a layer of co-extruded polypropylene to the exterior surface of each composite board it produces and backs it with a 25-year limited warranty. Unlike pressure treated lumber and stains that can leech harmful chemicals into the environment over time, the capped technology of DuraLife composite decking minimizes moisture absorption, a thereby reducing problems typically associated with excessive expansion and contraction.

Chlorine and salt water staining – While both natural stone and traditional lumber are susceptible to staining from salt and chlorine, composite decking resists this type of staining because water simply drains from its surface.  Staining can be particularly noticeable along waterfront installations located near the ocean or by swimming pools as salt and chlorinated water evaporates and leaves these chemicals behind. Along with being ugly, salt and chlorine stains can also be damaging to the material beneath as well as to the sensitive skin of people and pets who may come in contact with it. Polypropylene capped composite decking is not harmed by these chemicals and simplifies the removal of these unsightly stains using just water and a soft bristle brush.

Made in Maine, DuraLife decking is designed to stand up to the harshest weather conditions – including year-long exposure to ocean sprayed salt water along its beautiful, rugged coast.

Slip resistance – There’s a Catch-22 when it comes to traditional lumber and slip resistance – the cleaner and smoother the surface, the more slippery it becomes. This becomes more of an issue amongst decks that are installed around swimming pools or near other sources of water such as along rivers and lakes, where people are more likely to walk in their bare feet.

Maintaining a smooth surface on a pressure treated deck is essential for preventing splinters and cuts – but this can also create a slippery surface for those walking or running across it. To make matters worse, traditional lumber is also susceptible to mold and mildew growth – especially in areas where water is present – that can increase the slip-factor even more.

Today, composite decking manufacturers can not only mix colors and materials to closely mimic the appearance of many hardwoods, manufacturers such as DuraLife use the higher coefficient of friction characteristic of polypropylene along with an embossed wood grain on its surface to deliver additional traction, even when wet. Unlike traditional wood, the enhanced texture of the grain is built right into the composite material itself, virtually eliminating the risk of splinters.

Longevity – The length of time that something will last can often be determined by how well it withstands the environment it inhabits. This resistance is formed through a combination of two things (1) the individual properties of each material being used (2) how well each of these materials are combined and complement (the strengths and weakness) of each other. For example, the properties of pressure treated (PT) lumber are designed to allow it to repel moisture and prevent insect damage far better than untreated wood. As a result, constructing anything outdoors with PT wood will typically last longer than building something with untreated wood. To increase its useful life even further, PT wood manufactures suggest that additional paints, stains and additives are also routinely added to it. The properties of the PT wood and the stain are designed to complement each other to increase its combined resistance to the weather. However, even the most well-made material can have its limitations if it’s installed or assembled incorrectly.

A pressure treated deck built on inadequate footings will soon bend and buckle with temperature and moisture changes. Nails and screws that are not treated (galvanized or stainless) to be in contact with the chemicals injected into PT wood will quickly corrode and fail to maintain a safe connection.

Structural integrity – Unless installed in a desert, wherever two pieces of wood are attached to each other outdoors, there’s a likelihood that moisture will somehow find its way between them. Where there’s moisture, there’s also the potential for wood to rot – and rotted wood is weak wood. Although any weak spots in a wood structure can become a safety hazard, these hazards become even greater when located around water. 

Especially dangerous situations can occur along the perimeter of waterfront decks or pools when rails and stairways become compromised. Proper framing techniques and code-compliant fasteners are essential in these locations to ensure that a strong, secure barrier is created and maintained between those enjoying the outdoor deck and the water located near it.

The Rockport™ Railing System from DuraLife is made using strong, extruded cellular PVC surrounding a sturdy (yet lightweight) aluminum reinforced core that meets both residential and commercial structural code requirements. Connected with hidden, stainless steel mounting hardware, DuraLife’s Rockport railings deliver long-lasting strength and a clean, maintenance free aesthetic appearance that PT lumber simply can’t match.

Consistent performance – Even the most minor detail, such as inconsistent or fluctuating deck board spacing, can cause dirt, debris and moisture to collect and cause wood to rot prematurely. Here again, composite decking materials naturally avoid many of these incompatibility issues. Because composite decking is made with a mixture of polypropylene plastic and wood fibers, it is inherently more resistant to damage caused by mold, mildew growth and moisture buildup caused by dirt and debris. Composite decking is also much less susceptible to movement caused by humidity and temperature fluctuation, insuring proper spacing (and water drainage) on the deck surface throughout the year.  

Lastly, a growing number of proprietary hidden fastening systems are allowing deck builders to install a complete composite decking solution that includes components that are specifically designed to work together. These systems, designed to reduce installation time (by up to 50%) are also delivering an unprecedented level of uniformity for the homeowner.

With its unique installation process, the DuraLife Step-Clip™ system not only creates a solid, seamless moisture barrier along each deck joist, it also automatically spaces each composite deck board a standard 3/16” apart.

Get samples of the DuraLife Step-Clip Fastening System as well as other DuraLife composite decking samples. Order yours now! 

This article is made possible by DuraLife.DuraLife’s unique polypropylene and hardwood composite decking materials simply outperform all other wood and composite decking products. More solid and safe under foot, DuraLife decking is backed by a 25-year warranty. It is stain and fade resistant, mold and mildew resistant, and is available in the colors and deck railing options you want. Get Samples, try our Composite Deck & Railing Visualizer, or contact DuraLife now to learn more.