How to Choose the Best New Decking Material for Your Home
There’s never been a better time to build a new deck or add new life to an existing one. Each season it seems like a new composite decking product, hidden fastener system, or outdoor dining and entertaining option is introduced that helps homeowners transform their plain old deck into a personal outdoor oasis. Aside from all the new innovations and options available for building a new deck, some of the most important decisions still comes down to selecting the best decking materials.
There are three primary types of decking materials, each with their own pros and cons. The most commonly used decking materials are composite decking, pressure-treated (PT) wood, and plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) decking. Deciding which material is best depends on a number of factors that are specific to each homeowner’s unique situation. While the factors themselves are pretty common – aesthetics, cost, convenience and performance – the value each family places on each consideration will vary from one household to another.
Here are a few things to consider as you select a material for your new or remodeled deck.
Why Wood Decking Materials? Speed and Convenience
Historically, because of its widespread availability, low cost and adequate performance, the vast majority of residential decks have been built using pressure treated (PT) lumber – typically pine. Additionally, PT lumber can be painted or stained to virtually any color, making it a logical choice for homeowners that have a very specific color scheme in mind.
The downside of PT lumber is that even when treated, it absorbs moisture and will eventually splinter and rot over time. In order to prolong the life of PT lumber, significant maintenance (sanding and staining or painting) is required annually. Wood decking that is not properly maintained can introduce safety issues as well, from simple splinters to deck collapse due to rot.
Bottom Line: If you want to get a new deck built quickly and relatively inexpensively, pressure treated lumber is the way to go. However, it will require a continued investment in maintenance over time in order to remain in usable condition.
Why PVC Composite Decking? Rot Free & Longer Lasting
Over the past two decades, the emergence of non-wood building materials have given home and deck builders the freedom to construct beautiful exterior elements in environments where traditional lumber would rapidly deteriorate. Plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) material became popular largely because of how easy it is to clean and its resistance to stains. It’s enhanced resistance to mold and mildew growth – having no organic material to attach itself to – also make it a popular choice, particularly in marine environments where moisture is abundant and sunlight scarce.
That said, while PVC does provide moisture resistance, it is also more susceptible to cracking and splitting – especially when exposed to cold temperatures. It’s typically more expensive than other materials as well. While cracking and splitting may be less of an issue for PVC materials attached to solid, immobile home exteriors (for example, non-load bearing trim boards or clapboard sheathing) this rigidity can be problematic when attached to framing and supports made of traditional PT lumber.
When selecting a PVC decking material, consumers should make a point to ask the contractor to provide a sample of the actual product. Not all products are made the same way and appearances can vary from one product to the next. Also, since PVC decking does tend to flex and sag more than traditional lumber (and wood composite decking) it will require additional framing support.
Another concern that some homeowners may have with building a new deck with PVC decking is adding more plastic into an already substantial waste stream. With an average useful lifespan of 30 years, the first wave of used PVC (installed mostly as plumbing in the 1980’s) is now having to be disposed of. Because of its high levels of chlorine – which gives PVC its higher mold and mildew resistance – recycling polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic is a cumbersome process.
Bottom Line: PVC delivers great moisture resistance over the long-term but it requires additional framing to prevent sagging and is prone to cracking and splitting. Another consideration is whether recycling can keep up with PVC ‘s end-of-life.
Why Composite Decking? Best Long-Term Value & Performance.
A relatively new alternative to building an “all wood” or “all plastic” deck can provide homeowners with the best of both worlds. Polypropylene-based composite decking, including the DuraLife® lineup of high-quality composite decking and railing products are made from a combination of reclaimed plastic and wood fibers. The strength of composite decking comes from the natural wood fibers embedded within the product, allowing it to be installed over existing PT framing. Along with its superior resistance to mold and mildew growth, another advantage of composite decking is that it will never crack or splinter, making it more comfortable underfoot – even in bare feet. Unlike some PVC decking products that can become slippery when wet, DuraLife composites are made with a deep, embossed wood grain combined with a co-extruded surface that provides traction even when wet.
Another important benefit of composite decking is that it is made up of up to 90% post-industrial and post-consumer waste, reducing its environmental impact. Additionally, unlike PT lumber that must be regularly cleaned with harsh chemicals before repainting, capped composite decks only require occasional washing with soap and water. Backed by DuraLife’s 25-year limited stain and fade warranty (with 5 years of replacement labor) this high-quality composite deck choice can easily last 25+ years and still look and feel great.
Bottom Line: Composite decking offers the best combination of features for a sustainable solution and the best long-term value.
Order your Samples of DuraLife Composite Decking now and have them shipped directly to your door!
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.