How to Compare Composite Decking
What is Composite Decking?
Composite decking products have been on the market for more than 20 years. Since that time there have been innovations in installation, materials and manufacturing that have improved the appearance, performance and cost of these products. But the reality is, not all composite decking is the same and sometimes you can’t discern quality from pricing — so how do you choose?
Here are some of the most important factors to consider when comparing the pros and cons of different composite decking.
Composite Decking 101
There are many different choices of composite decking today — ranging from the variety of colors and textures to stability and comfort. All composite decking is made from unique combinations of natural wood fibers and plastic. However, the type of plastic and the product mix may vary significantly by manufacturer.
Typically, manufacturers use either recycled polyethylene, PVC or polypropylene plastic to give material its superior resistance to moisture and mold growth. In general, these plastic composites tend not to splinter and crack over time like pressure treated wood.
Because of its widespread availability and low price, polyethylene plastic used to be the popular choice among manufacturers. However, over the past several years, there has been a demand for improved performance from composite decking materials, including better structural strength, stain and fade resistance and cooler temperatures underfoot.
Polypropylene — used in composite decking products manufactured by DuraLife by Barrette Outdoor Living — is much less brittle than polyethylene plastic, making it a stronger material ingredient. Its superior resistance to chemical absorption and high melting point mean that compositedecking made with polypropylene increases durability, stain resistance and is cooler underfoot.
In fact, due to DuraLife’s CoolTracTM technology, our decking is over 18% cooler than traditional composite decking*, 136% more slip resistant than competition when wet and 56% more slip resistant than competition when dry.**
Capped vs. Uncapped
Earlier versions of composite decking were uncapped — meaning the board was made up of the same material throughout and did not have an outer coating to offer added protection. This made deck boards more susceptible to damage and fading. Today, high-quality composite decking iscapped, meaning that there is a tough outer layer surrounding the inner material. DuraLife’s co-extruded polypropylene outer shell is bonded with the inner composite material, which helps protect the material from fading and creates an impenetrable moisture barrier to prevent mold and mildew.
The high-density toughness associated with composite decking can also make cutting and attaching it to framing material more difficult and time consuming. For most composite products, special screws are required to penetrate the decking in order to attach the boards to the pressure treated wood framing below. Some manufacturers may even recommend pre-drilling pilot holes in the composite decking before attempting to drive a screw through it. All of which can be labor intensive!
Fortunately, manufacturers like DuraLife have developed innovative alternatives to the traditional screw fastening method of deck building. These include a number of hidden composite deck fastener systems that use clips instead of screws to secure the deck boards to the framing.
Decking professionals that use DuraLife’s revolutionary Step-Clip® system have found that it can reduce installation time by as much as 50%! The Step-Clip system also requires no new tools — all that is needed is a roofing nail gun or hammer and nails.
In addition to decreasing installation time, the Step-Clip system protects the top of the framing joist from water damage, rot, and decay — eliminating the need for joist protection tape. The system also automatically spaces deck boards uniformly at 3/16" apart – ensuring consistent spacing. This innovative installation system makes it so that homeowners can start using their new deck much quicker!
When composite decking first hit the market, boards were typically smooth, with little to no variation in either color or texture.
Today the trend in composite decking is to look more like natural wood.
Current manufacturing processes intentionally blend different color pigments and other raw materials during the mixing process to produce high-quality composite decking material that resembles a variety of wood species.
DuraLife goes a step further by running the blank composite deck boards through machinery that adds variegated wood grain patterns to further enhance the natural look of its Hardwoods Collection.
Another unique feature of DuraLife composite decking is that each of its eight colors are available at multiple price/performance levels. Other brands only offer specific colors at designated price points – which may limit color choices based on budget.
When comparing composite decking products from different manufacturers, customers may learn that the color and/or style of decking they want is available only as a “premium” choice – making it more expensive than anticipated or quoted. In contrast, DuraLife offers customers access to every color option in both its value (MVP) and premium (Siesta) decking profiles.
While a homeowner may have no intention of remaining in one house for 15 or 20 years — the fact that they could and that their decking material would still be covered by a warranty — is quite a value add. When it comes to comparing warranties, take note of not only the duration of the warranty period, but also to what is and isn’t covered.
For example, a low-quality product would typically have a shorter warranty period than a product that was expected to last a long time. Otherwise, the manufacturer of the low-quality item would be constantly repairing/replacing items (under warranty) instead of making/selling new products.
All DuraLife composite decking includes a 25Year Limited Stain and Fade Warranty that also covers the cost of labor required to replace any defective boards within the first two years.
Overall, today’s composite decking looks much different than it did a few decades ago. Now with a different look, increased durability and less installation time, the options are truly endless for homeowners to achieve the deck they’ve always dreamed of!
Get samples of DuraLife by Barrette Outdoor Living composite decking and have them shipped directly to your door. Order your samples now!
*Results based on testing of similar deck colors – tested via ASTM D4803.
**Based on testing complying to ANSI/NFSI standards.