Not All Composites Are Created Equal

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Composite Decking

Composite decking has become the most popular decking in Regina and beyond. The primary reason for this is the low maintenance and long lifespan of today’s composites. But the word “composite” is used in a very general sense, and in reality, any product that is made from combining multiple materials is technically a composite. In the case of decking, this tends to be wood fibers and plastic. But even at that, it comes in a variety of options.

Brands

While there are hundreds of composite decking manufacturers, only a few really dominate the industry. Trex is the industry leader and the original composite decking manufacturer. Trex is the most widely distributed composite decking and can be purchased from many local lumber yards, and pretty much all box stores (although they only typically carry the low-mid range lines or limited sizes). Trex not only manufacturers decking, but also railing, lighting, and other deck accessories.

Fiberon is another industry giant that produces stunning composite decking and railing. There are a few lumber yards in Regina that sell Fiberon, but it is more difficult to find through a box store.

Another composite decking giant is TimberTech. While TimberTech is a little more rare to find in Regina, there are a couple lumber yards that do carry it. Their products are stunning and some of the higher lines do a very good job of replicating rustic handscraped hardwood.

MoistureShield is a great option for those looking for a more affordable composite deck option. MoistureShield is one of the very few composite decking materials approved for use in ground contact or water submersible applications, due to their unique manufacturing process.

If you have questions about what lumber yards carry these different types of composite decking, please Contact Us and we’d be happy to help!

Types

There are generally two types of composite decking. These are typically known as “composite” and “capped composite/capstock“. The word “composite” tends to be used interchangeably by many people, but there are some major differences between them.

Traditional Composite

MoistureShield composite decking

MoistureShield makes a fantastic traditional composite.

Traditional composite decking is 100% made up of wood fibers and recycled plastic through the entire board. The decking comes in different colours thanks to the different dyes used in the plastic, but you are still able to see flecks of wood fiber scattered throughout. The benefits of traditional composite are primarily price (as it is the cheapest of the options) and the fact that the colour is consistent throughout the board so cut ends or routed edges look just as good as the face of the boards. It also tends to be less slippery when wet, and a little cooler to the touch on a sunny day than it’s capped counterpart.

Unfortunately, traditional composite also has some drawbacks. Most notably durability, staining, and fading. Traditional composites scratch far easier than capped composites, and be careful of grease stains from your BBQ as those are likely there to stay if you happen to slop on your new deck. The sun also has harsh effects on composite decking, and while fade resistance has improved vastly from earlier generations, traditional composites still typically fade in colour more than capped alternatives.

Capped Composites

Capped composite deck cross section

Capped composite with PVC wear layer

To remedy some of these common composite issues, manufactures developed “capped composites.” The core of these products are exactly the same as the traditional composite: wood fibers and plastic. But that is also then encapsulated in a PVC wear layer around most or all of the board. This PVC layer GREATLY improves the durability, stain resistance, and fade resistance. It is must more difficult to scratch, far more resistance to spills and stains (if cleaned up in a reasonable time) and while some fading is inevitable, it is minimal and unnoticeable for the most part. Capped composites also come in a wider variety of colours and patterns, and can reach a much more realistic look of the wood that most people are looking for.

However, that comes at a cost. Literally. Capped composites are are generally 2-3 times more expensive than traditional composites and due to the PVC wear layer, cut ends are best hidden as routing is not an attractive option. They also tend to be quite slippery when wet, and darker colours get quite warm under the sun. But as far as aesthetic goes, they are far superior in every way to traditional composites.

Installation

Most composites have similar installation instructions, but of course, refer to each brands instructions for proper install techniques. Fresh Decks adheres to these requirements to ensure you are able to take advantage of the long warranties offered by these manufacturers.

There are a few common options for fastening. Face screwing, like one would with wood, is the most cost effective option but is not an attractive solution. There are colour matched composite screws that look better, and prevent “mushrooming” of the material, but those get expensive and are still very visible if used throughout an entire deck.

Hidden fastening system

Hidden fastening system

The most popular, yet expensive way to install is using a hidden fastener system. Most composites can be purchased in grooved varieties that allow a hidden fastener to be installed between the boards, and widely out of view, leaving the face of the deck board untouched and beautiful.

For more information on fastening options, please Contact Us!

Conclusion

This has been a quick crash course in composite decking. While not every question has been answered here, these are the most basic things to know when considering a composite deck. If there is an appetite for us to do a deeper dive into the world of composites, let us know in the COMMENTS and we will put that together for a later blog!

Fresh Decks has experience, manufacturer certifications, and a love for working with composite decking. It is a great low maintenance and long lasting option to keep your beautiful deck look great year in and year out. If you’d like to talk to us more about your project and the benefits of composite decking, feel free to Contact Us or set up a Free Estimate to chat about your project!

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