When you’re planning on building a deck, the first thing you’ll probably be considering is which material to use. There are several options to choose from, and it can be tricky to tell which one will be the most beneficial.
Composite decking has many different advantages over the other types of decking materials and is the ideal choice for any decking project.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at the main composite decking benefits to give you a clearer idea of why it’s the best option. We’ll also take a look at how some of the other most popular decking materials compare to it.
What Is Composite Decking?
Composite decking is an innovative and contemporary alternative to more traditional decking materials such as wood. It’s made with recycled wood fibres and recycled plastic polymers that make it both highly durable and eco-friendly.
During manufacturing, the recycled materials are melted down through a process called extrusion. The materials are then passed through an instrument known as a ‘die’ or ‘mould’ which shapes it into composite decking boards.
As it’s made with plastic as well as wood, composite decking is more durable and long-lasting than wood decking and has many other benefits as well.
There are two types of composite deck boards, capped and uncapped. Capped composite decking comes with an extra layer of polymer coating which gives it added protection against the elements and increases the longevity of the boards.
Uncapped composite decking boards have most of the same benefits as capped boards but are usually slightly cheaper.
There are a multitude of composite decking benefits when compared to other decking materials, which is why it has become so popular in recent years. As people look for a more long-lasting and sustainable material than wooden decking boards, they are increasingly turning to composite.
The Main Benefits Of Composite Decking
You may now be wondering why composite materials are such a good choice for deck boards. There are lots of reasons for this, and we won’t be able to cover every single one of them. So, let’s take a look at the greatest benefits of composite decking.
One of the biggest benefits of composite decking boards is that they require very little maintenance. They don’t need to be painted, stained, sealed, or treated. This will save you a significant amount of time and money over the course of their service life.
The only maintenance they need is an occasional wash with a power washer or warm, soapy water and a soft bristle brush. You only need to do this around once every 6 months.
Of course, if you notice that your composite deck has accumulated a lot of dirt or debris, then you’ll need to clean it when you get the chance.
If you need to remove stains from your composite decking, then you will need to use soap, hot water and a soft bristle brush. This needs to be done as quickly as possible after any spillage occurs.
Composite decking boards are highly water-resistant, which means that they’re also very resistant to rot. The plastic content in composite materials prevents water from penetrating into the core of composite deck boards so that rot is unable to form.
The rot-resistant properties of composite deck boards mean that they have a lot of longevity and typically last for between 25 and 30 years. Their durability means that they also don’t crack or split easily, and it’s rare that they need to be repaired.
Resistant to mould and algae
As well as being resistant to rot, composite decking is also resistant to the formation of mould and algae. This is particularly beneficial for wet climates and for composite decks that are built around bodies of water, such as swimming pools.
In the rare instances where mould or algae do develop on composite decking, it is very easy to remove. You can use a commercial deck-cleaning solution and some warm water to remove the mould or algae in a matter of minutes.
Or, you can use a homemade cleaner such as baking soda and vinegar. This takes slightly longer to do but is just as effective.
One of the many things that composite decking offers is increased safety for any decking project. Unlike traditional wood decks, composite decks are very unlikely to warp, crack or splinter. This means that there’s less chance of sharp edges developing, which can be hazardous.
Composite decking boards are also very slip-resistant, meaning they’re a safer option than timber decking boards. Due to their high level of water resistance, they typically dry out within 30 minutes of water exposure.
Contraction & expansion
As composite materials are a blend of wood and plastic, they don’t tend to contract and expand in the same way as some other materials. Composite deck boards do react to temperature fluctuations, but this shouldn’t be significant enough to damage them.
Composite decking expands in higher temperatures and contracts in lower temperatures. However, composite decking boards are designed to withstand these changes in size and won’t warp as a result.
There are a number of reasons why composite decking is a cost-efficient choice for any decking project. The fact that it requires such little maintenance means that you won’t have to spend money on expensive stainers or sealants during its service life.
As composite decking is so durable, you’re also very unlikely to have to pay for any repairs over the course of its lifespan, and as it lasts so long, you also won’t need to have it replaced for a very long time.
Another reason why composite decking is so popular is that it’s one of the most eco-friendly decking materials currently available. As it’s made with recycled materials, it means that no trees have to be felled to make it, and it helps reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills.
Many sealants, treatments and stainers are damaging to the environment. Fortunately, none of these are required for the maintenance of composite decking which means that it has less of an environmental impact than traditional timber decking.
Composite decking has a natural wood finish and a contemporary look which can revitalise any outdoor space. Also, composite decking benefits from a wide range of colours, including charcoal, walnut, spiced oak, and silver birch.
This means that you should easily be able to find composite deck boards that complement the style and colour scheme of your home and garden.
Composite decking is also UV-resistant, so it doesn’t fade much over time. So, you can rely on your composite deck boards to hold their colour and aesthetic value for many years once you’ve installed them.
Adding composite decking to your outdoor living space is also a great way to increase the value of your home in several different ways.
Firstly, it increases the square footage of your home by creating a separate, secluded area within your outdoor space. It also increases the aesthetic appeal of your home, which makes it more valuable to potential buyers.
Prospective buyers will often also find a composite deck more appealing than a wood deck, as they will be aware that it will last longer and require less maintenance.
As the recycled materials in composite decking contain plastic polymers, composite boards are inedible to insects. Due to this, insects will not burrow into them, which makes composite decking completely resistant to pests and insects.
As we’ve previously mentioned, composite decking is very resistant to rot. By preventing the damp and rotten conditions that insects thrive in, composite decking becomes naturally repellent to them.
The fact that composite decking is so long-lasting means that it typically comes with very long warranties. At Ecoscape, our Clarity range of composite decking comes with a 20-year warranty as standard, and our Forma range comes with a 25-year warranty.
These warranties are a testament to the confidence we have in our composite decking to withstand the elements and stand the test of time. It will also hopefully give you peace of mind that your composite deck will last for years to come.
Does Composite Decking Have Any Downsides?
As we’ve seen, there are many composite decking benefits, but as with any material, there are also some slight downsides. We believe that composite decking is the perfect choice for anyone who is considering installing a deck, but it’s also important to examine both the pros and the cons.
However, the positives far outweigh the negatives, and we think you’ll agree that composite decking is the best option for you.
Natural wood aesthetics
Although composite decking is crafted to have a similar finish to traditional timber, the fact that it’s man-made means this can’t be perfectly recreated. For most people, this won’t be an issue, but some will place a high value on their decking having the exact appearance of real wood.
However, composite decking has a much more contemporary feel and look than traditional timber, which brings a modern feel to your outdoor space. This contemporary aesthetic is one of the many reasons composite decking is so appealing to potential buyers and can increase the value of your home.
Can’t be repainted
Composite decking boards are already coloured when you purchase them and shouldn’t be repainted if you change your mind about your choice of colour later on. This makes them less adjustable when compared to some other decking materials.
As long as you take your time to decide on the right colour scheme to suit your property and outdoor living space, this shouldn’t be a problem.
It is also possible to ask the supplier to change the colours of your boards at a later time but this may be costly and difficult to do. This is particularly true of dark colours such as black, charcoal, dark brown, and dark grey.
One slight downside of composite decking when compared to other decking materials is that the up-front costs tend to be higher. The main reason for this is that the manufacturing process is more complex and time-consuming than it is for other materials.
Due to the extra labour and manhours needed to create it, the overheads are increased, which then increases the cost of purchase.
However, the higher up-front costs are offset by the fact that composite decking will save you money in the long term. This is due to the decreased maintenance costs of composite compared to other materials and the fact that it rarely needs to be repaired or replaced.
Dark colours may fade
One of the many composite decking benefits is that it’s UV-resistant and doesn’t fade significantly over time. However, darker colours of composite decking are slightly more susceptible to fading than lighter colours.
This is true of any material, and composite decking is far less prone to fading than other materials. Any fading that does occur will usually take place in the first few months after your boards are installed.
The process should then slow down so much as to be almost imperceptible or cease altogether.
If you’re particularly concerned about fading, it may be best to opt for lighter colours such as autumn, ash, or silver birch. You may also want to consider choosing capped boards instead of uncapped ones, as their extra layer of polymer makes them UV-resistant.
How Does Composite Decking Compare To Other Decking Options?
Although there are a huge amount of composite decking benefits, there are, of course, several other options when it comes to choosing a decking material. Some of them have their own benefits, but generally, the cons outweigh the pros when they’re compared to composite decking.
Let’s take a look at three of the other most popular options: wood decking, UPVC decking and aluminium decking, and see how they stack up against composite decking.
Traditional timber decking
Traditional wood decks are still a popular choice which is largely due to their aesthetic value. As timber decking has been used for such a long time, many people still prefer the look of a wood deck more than other materials.
However, traditional timber comes with many drawbacks when compared to composite decking.
Real wood absorbs a lot of moisture, meaning that it is very susceptible to rotting and developing mould. This means that its longevity is nowhere near as good as composite decking, and it usually needs to be replaced every 10 years.
A traditional wood deck also requires much more maintenance than a composite deck as it needs to be treated, stained, and sealed to reduce the risk of it rotting.
This increases the costs of a timber deck over the course of its lifespan and also makes it less eco-friendly than a composite deck. This is due to the fact that the sealants and treatments used to maintain wood decking can be harmful to the environment.
When it comes to factors such as longevity and water-resistance, UPVC decking is fairly similar to composite decking. As it’s 100% plastic, it is not susceptible to rot and is also insect-repellant.
However, UPVC decking does come up short in several areas when compared to composite decking.
For example, UPVC is one of the least eco-friendly decking materials. This is because harmful chemicals are released into the environment during the manufacturing process, which contribute to air, water, and land pollution.
UPVC decking is also harder to install than composite decking and often requires a specialist contractor if the outdoor space is raised or an unusual shape.
Aluminium decking has great longevity and doesn’t usually require too much maintenance. One of its main drawbacks is that most people find it to be far less visually appealing than other decking materials as it can’t be given a traditional wood finish.
It is also less slip-resistant than composite decking, and ice can form quite easily on its surface. This can be very hazardous and is particularly detrimental when aluminium is installed in countries with wet climates, such as the UK.
Another downside to aluminium decking is that it can be quite noisy. This is especially true if it’s used in areas with high footfall. As it’s a metal, it can make loud ‘pinging’ noises when people step on it or if items are dropped onto it.
How Much Does Composite Decking Cost?
On average, composite decking costs between £80 and £120 per square metre. However, our composite decking boards cost between £41.55 and £66.12 per square metre, depending on which type of boards you choose.
Traditional wood decking is still cheaper than composite decking in terms of the initial costs. However, you’re guaranteed to save money over the course of your composite decking’s service life due to the lack of maintenance costs.
In terms of installation costs, composite decking is fairly easy to install, so you can do it yourself.
However, if you’d rather pay a contractor to do it for you, the average cost will be between £900 and £1,400 for a 15-square metre deck. This is due to the additional labour costs and will be higher if the deck area is larger than 15 square metres.
Does composite decking get hot?
All decking material will naturally get hot when exposed to the sun for long periods of time. Composite decking is no exception, and during high temperatures, it will be hot to the touch. If you choose lighter colours, heat retention will be slightly reduced, but it will still be hot underfoot.
However, exposure to the sun will not damage composite decking as it is built to withstand the contractions and expansions that come with fluctuations in temperatures.
Can I seal composite decking?
Although composite decking boards don’t need to be sealed, it can still be beneficial to do so. Using a composite sealant will give the boards added protection against the elements and should increase their longevity.
Can I paint my composite deck?
We don’t recommend that you paint our composite decking, but it is possible to paint composite decking in general if you wish to do so. You would need to use a bonding primer and then a coat of acrylic paint.
However, this then means that you will have to repaint the decking periodically which will increase the costs of maintenance and negate some of the benefits of having composite decking in the first place.
In almost every metric that matters, composite decking has a clear advantage over all of the other popular types of decking materials. It has more longevity than wood, more slip-resistance than aluminium, and is far more eco-friendly than UPVC.
Although it may cost more up-front than some other materials, it makes up for this with its lack of maintenance costs and will save you time and money over the course of its long lifespan.
Clearly, composite decking is the ideal choice.