For the last 20 years, composite decking products have grown in popularity primarily because of their long-term finished appearance versus wood decking, which takes a beating in the weather. Composite decking is typically comprised of wood fibers mixed with a base polyethylene plastic or PVC base material. The material is then shaped into solid or hollow deck boards about an inch thick.
The older generation of composite deck boards had many advantages, including the look and strength; however, it was very susceptible to stains and scratches because of the wood fibers in the product. Just imagine, you had a beautiful brown composite deck installed and during your very first party someone either dragged a chair across the surface, creating a deep scratch, or worse, the night ended with a huge greasy spot on the deck because someone dropped a hamburger.
Over the last couple of years, the next generation of composite decking has been developed, which incorporates a hard shell solid cap to seal the strength of the composite substrate while offering superior scratch and stain resistance benefits. Trex Company is one of the leading manufacturers in composite decking and their new line features shell technology, which fully wraps the composite decking. This new line of deck has a 25-year warranty against fade and stain while offering a surface that is significantly more resistant to scratches.
The new hard shell technology from Trex Company offers another huge benefit — the look of real wood. Older composite decking offered very little in a natural wood grain look, but the outer shell technology looks like wood that has been stained or painted. The system has opened the doors to new exciting colors.
With new hidden fastening systems, an all-capped shell composite deck brings a sleekness and elegance to outside areas, which should last significantly longer. New railing and lighting systems have been developed that are much easier to install but still offer a look featured at five-star resorts. Instead of manufacturers offering a composite deck board, they have developed complete systems that enhance a backyard lifestyle.
Most composite decking still lacks the strength to be used for the structural part of the deck, but the components are designed to mask the treated lumber or steel structural components. The next step in composite deck construction projects is Trex Company’s new Elevations structural steel system. The steel structural system is a truer and provides a more level surface for deck boards versus structural treated lumber, which is subject to crowning and warping issues.
If installed correctly, a little soap and water is all that should be needed to keep your new hard shell composite deck looking great for years to come. These new composite decking materials continue the trend in building innovations, which are creating products that appear more realistic, last longer and require less maintenance. The challenge for homeowners is to change old building paradigms of the past, especially in remodeling.
Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc., and he is also the host of the “Around the House” Radio Show heard every Monday at noon on My790AM WLBE in Leesburg.