Composite decking is the perfect choice if you are looking for a low-maintenance deck that does not require you to devote an entire day to cleaning. Not only does composite decking add visual appeal to any outdoor space, but it is also engineered to last.
This article will discuss why composite decking is considered low-maintenance and what you can do to prolong the life of your composite deck.
What is Composite Decking?
Composite decking has the visual appeal of a traditional wood deck but is engineered to be far more durable and long-lasting. Composite decking boards are made from recycled plastic and wood fibres. Combining these composite materials results in a stable, WPC decking board.
Composite capped boards have a protective outer layer that prevents any damage caused by moisture, heat, or pesky insects. In contrast to wooden decking, composite boards are UV-resistant and resistant to water, mould, and decay.
Another difference between wood and composite decking is that composite materials expand and contract according to temperature and moisture levels. Traditional wood decking expands when it absorbs water and contracts when it evaporates, causing damage to the wood by cracking, warping and splintering. Ultimately, composite decking will not be damaged by weather elements.
What makes composite decking so unique is its durability and the various colours and designs available.
Is Composite Decking Maintenance-free?
There is no such thing as a maintenance-free deck. There will always be some level of upkeep needed to prolong the lifespan of your composite deck. Although composite decking has an uncanny resemblance to natural wood, it does not require the high maintenance levels a timber deck or PVC decking material would.
Unlike conventional wooden decks that require staining, painting, and replacing, composite decking does not require this much time and effort to maintain. The only maintenance required would be to clean your composite deck surface and grooves with warm soapy water and rinse off the dirt and debris at least twice a year.
No matter the weather – rain, snow or extreme heat – composite decks will not succumb to fading, warping, splitting or splinters. This is not to say that composite decking is indestructible, however. You could damage composite boards using the wrong outdoor rug, not creating a heat barrier for a fire pit, or accidentally using a pressure washer with the incorrect setting.
Wooden vs Composite Decking Maintenance
Natural wood decking is the most labour-extensive to maintain and must be refinished yearly. The process usually includes sanding, staining or painting, and typically it is not recommended for a brand new deck until it has been dried for at least 30 days.
Staining & Painting
Once your wood decking starts to bubble, peel, or flake, you must repaint it. No matter what, wood will expand and contract at varying rates which causes bubbling, flaking and peeling. Painting or wooden decking must be done annually to maintain and extend the lifespan of wooden decking, whereas staining your wooden decking needs to be done every two to three years.
Composite decking expands and contracts to accommodate the weather elements; however, you do not have to worry about the decking surface peeling, bubbling, or flaking. Composite decking doesn’t need a coat of stain or paint at any point.
Both wood and composite decking needs to be cleaned at least once a year. The difference is that composite decking must only be washed with soap and water, and a quick rinse is done.
Wood decking on the other hand requires a pressure washer to remove stubborn dirt and debris. If your deck is made from pressure-treated wood, it needs to be cleaned with products specific to the wooden deck type to avoid any issues with sealants. Wood decks that are not pressure-treated must be sealed after every wash and only when the deck is completely dry.
Rotting & Warping
Unlike timber decking, the composite decking material is engineered not to rot, warp, split or splinter. Wooden decking warps due to temperature changes and exposure to moisture. Once the wood dries out, it splits, cracks and splinters and needs replacing. When water is absorbed and not given a chance to dry, your wood decking will rot.
Composite decking does not warp, is water-resistant, rot-resistant, and does not crack or split when exposed to weather elements.
The average lifespan of wood decking is between ten to fifteen years before it needs replacing. However, this will largely depend on the wood used for timber decking and how well it has been maintained.
Composite decking has a lifespan of twenty to twenty-five years and requires the bare minimum for maintenance.
Dos and Don’ts For Low-Maintenance Decks
Whether you have a wood deck or a low-maintenance decking option like uncapped or capped composite decking, cleaning it regularly will prolong its lifespan and maintain its visual appeal. Here are a few dos and don’ts for low-maintenance decking.
1. Do Sweep Your Deck Regularly
Regularly sweeping your composite decking avoids a build-up of dirt and debris. Use a vacuum with a brush nozzle to gently remove stubborn dirt. Be sure to also remove any dirt and debris stuck between the decking board gaps.
2. Do Clean Oil and Grease Stains Immediately
Leaving oil and grease stains from food debris can cause discolouration on composite decking. Add two tablespoons of mild liquid detergent to warm water and gently scrub away any grease and oil stains. Rinse your composite deck thoroughly.
3. Do A Deep Clean on Composite Decking
Deep cleaning of your composite deck only needs to be done at least twice a year. Use the soap and water method to wash your deck or a pressure washer with a fan nozzle to remove any stubborn dirt. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when power washing your deck.
4. Do Remove Ice and Snow
Use a plastic or rubber shovel to remove ice and snow from composite deck boards. Never use a snow blower or a metal shovel, as this can cause cuts and damage to composite decking. Use calcium chloride to melt ice on the deck before removing it with a plastic shovel. Always remove any traces of rock salt and calcium chloride.
5. Don’t Use Harsh Chemicals or Bleach
Harsh chemicals and chlorine bleach can cause irreversible damage to your composite decking. Bleach causes composite decks to fade and chip, while harsh chemicals will cause the colour to fade. Warm soapy water is all your composite deck needs.
6. Don’t Use a Pressure Washer on a High Setting
While a pressure washer is safe for composite decking, using it at the wrong setting will damage the boards. Always use a fan nozzle that will disperse water evenly, and never set the power washer above 1,500 pounds per square inch (PSI).
7. Don’t Use Hard-bristle Brushes
Always use a soft-bristled brush to scrub your composite deck gently. A hard-bristled brush could cause scuff marks and scratches on the deck’s surface.
Tips for Maintaining Your Composite Deck
Compared to wood and PVC decking, composite decks are virtually maintenance-free. Here are a few handy tips to help keep your deck in tip-top shape.
1. Unclog the Gaps Between Composite Decking Boards
Unclogging gaps between composite boards can avoid unnecessary leaves, pollen, and dirt build-up. Even though composite decking is mould-resistant, pollen, if not cleared, can cause mould to grow on the deck’s surface and in between the gaps.
2. Redirect Downspouts
Try redirecting rain gutters away from your composite deck. Despite the fact that composite decking is waterproof, excessive water could cause puddles that, in turn, could cause mildew and mould.
3. Consider Dryer Vents
Before building your composite decks, ensure they are not built close to a dryer vent. The warm, moist air from dryer vents can cause surface mould, mildew, and organic decay.
4. Use Outdoor Woven Rugs
The most cause of discolouration on the surface of composite decking is using the wrong outdoor rug. Try using a woven outdoor rug and avoid rug backings made from latex and rubber since this can cause discolouration.
5. Create a Thermal Barrier for Fire Pits
While installing a fire pit on your composite deck is perfectly safe, add a fire mat or a fire protection stand. Fire pits get hot, so create a thermal barrier that prevents damaging your composite decking.
6. Remove Standing Water
Composite decking is waterproof; standing water should be cleared to avoid mildew and mould. Environmental elements like mildew and mould need warm weather and air to grow. Standing water mixed with pollen, dirt, and debris will cause an overgrowth on the surface of composite decking boards.
Does composite decking stain easily?
Composite decking is stain-resistant, meaning it does not stain. Grease, oil, and harsh chemicals can cause discolouration and fade in composite decking materials, but they will not stain. Capped composite decking is easier to clean than uncapped. The Forma and Grande are resistant against staining.
What is the best cleaner for composite decks?
Mild liquid dish soap and warm water work perfectly well to clean composite decking. For stubborn mould and mildew, use a combination of lemon, baking soda, and distilled white vinegar to remove the grime.
Does paint stick to composite decking?
Composite decking materials are not designed to be painted. However, composite decking products allow you to prime and paint over your composite decking.
Does composite decking fade over time?
Composite decks do fade over time. However, choosing UV-resistant composite decking boards can avert such an outcome. If UV stability is essential to you, Ecoscape’s Forma Composite decking board range provides the highest level of UV protection, whereas the Clarity range will fade over time.
While there is no such thing as maintenance-free decking, composite decking requires minimal maintenance that takes little time to get done. Composite decking is a durable deck material that does not warp, stain, rot, or splinter and lasts twenty to twenty-five years, meaning you have more time to entertain friends and family.
If you’ve decided that composite is the decking material for you, why not browse our range of composite decking options? There’s sure to be something to take your outdoor space to the next level, and we also offer free quotes and samples.