With its durability, rich colour options and low maintenance requirements, designers and landscapers are recognising the benefits of composite decking for commercial and residential projects.
The reasons are clear: composite decking systems, such as Trex, are versatile, long-lasting and look fantastic. What’s more, composite decking is easy to install, and is guaranteed not to split, fade, rot or stain, with only a quick wash required to bring it back to its pristine best.
However, with the proliferation of different composite decking brands and products becoming available in the UK, how do you ensure that you’re selecting the best product for your project?
The first step when selecting a decking product is to research the materials available and consider the differences in quality and price of products.
There is now a proliferation of composite products available, and while all composite boards are more durable and require less maintenance than timber decking, there is still a great deal of variation in performance.
For example, hollow boards are lighter than solid, and come at a much cheaper price point because less material is used to make then. Whereas solid boards have a performance advantage: they are much more stable, and as moisture cannot get into the centre of the board, are less susceptible to cracking than hollow boards.
Similarly, there are different surfaces and finishes , with fully and partially capped or uncapped boards available, which exposes the fibres – made up of recycled plastics and wood fibres – to the elements.
Uncapped boards were the first generation of composite to be launched and with this type the fibres are exposed to the elements which means they can still soak up moisture, making them prone to mould or mildew, which affects the longevity of the decking. Uncapped boards also fade and stain more easily, affecting the deck’s appearance.
Fully capped boards, on the other hand, lack breathability and, depending how they are made, may separate over time, leading to delamination – that is, the cap lifting from the board.
Trex boards are capped on three sides, leaving the fibres free to breathe on the underside of the deck. The top and sides of Trex boards are weatherproof so they won’t stain or rot, and the shell is thermally bonded to the product core, so there is no way of removing it.
One of the clear benefits of composite decking remains its sustainability: selecting a composite decking made from recycled plastics and wood fibres rather than virgin materials prevents those components from ending up in landfill.
Composite decking, like Trex, can be composed of up to 95 per cent recycled materials, so it is very environmentally friendly, a consideration that is top of mind with homeowners as well as for commercial projects.
While the choice of materials is vitally important to the success of a project, it’s also important to consider the decking provider’s warranty provision. Composite decking is a significant investment, so having the reassurance of a comprehensive warranty is essential.
Watch out for warranties that are only valid for a limited time, or which place unachievable time-limits on when the warranty must be registered – these can catch out end users who haven’t done their homework. Similarly, while Trex offers a 25 year warranty against staining and fading, this is not the case for all composite decking systems which could cause headaches in the future.
Doing your homework long before the first board is laid will ensure the best outcome for both installers and end-users.