If you’ve been looking at the various decking products on the market today, then you’ve likely noticed an explosion of non-organic decking materials that have become popular in recent years. These options can be attractive because of their uniformity and supposed durability.
In fact, when I walked into my local big-orange-box retailer recently, I saw a display with the headline “Which decking material should you choose?” Beneath that question, there were materials labeled “good,” “better,” and “best.” Guess which material was listed as “best”? Composite decking, of course! After all, it’s perfect, right? Well, not so fast. Before you make what may seem like a no-brainer choice to forgo the time-tested beauty and durability of tropical hardwood decking in favor of composite materials, we encourage you to consider some of the downsides to composite decking.
The Fine Print
Often, this product will come with an attractive warranty that covers issues such as splitting, splintering, and rotting. Instead of simply being impressed by what such warrantees do include, however, homeowners and builders alike need to be aware of something composite decking warranties typically don’t include: the removal and disposal of damaged decking and the installation of replacement decking (source). These costs can add up very quickly, so that composite decking warranty might not be so attractive after all.
And where do you suppose this problem decking goes when it’s removed (at your expense, mind you)? Typically, this material simply sits in landfills. For a product touted as being “green,” that’s not exactly an eco-friendly solution.
In addition, composite decking companies have been misleading consumers for years. Where once their decks were advertised as “maintenance-free,” now composite material companies have been forced to change their tune, instead labeling their product “low maintenance.”
So why the sudden change in marketing? Well, consumers were beginning to catch on. Composite decks do require maintenance in the form of twice-annual chemical washes, so manufacturers of the product were no longer able to mislabel composite materials as “maintenance-free” when the decks clearly do require regular maintenance.
Even with such a cleaning routine, staining and fading are still a huge risk. Scratching composite materials is also quite common, particularly during cleaning, as the cleaning ritual requires hand-scrubbing with a stiff brush. Mold is also an issue with these products, and while the chemical washes can help prevent mold growth, additional treatments are often necessary.
Besides the hard work required to maintain a supposedly “maintenance-free” composite deck, owning such a deck also means splashing chemicals all over the space that your children, pets, and friends are meant to enjoy—not exactly the most environmentally conscious choice!
Due to lawsuits over durability, warranties, and false advertising, many composite decking companies have been forced to close in the past several years. What happens to your 20-year warranty when your 2-year-old deck has become unsafe or unattractive but the company that was supposed to replace it has closed its doors? It looks like you’ll be out of luck.
What’s more, these products are not intended for structural purposes, such as pergolas or handrails. In fact, most composite handrails do not comply with building codes at all. When a contractor does use composite materials for structural purposes, the suggested spacing is 12 inches, rather than 16 inches, since these products tend to sag under their own weight. So you might want to think twice before relying on this supposedly stable product to keep you and your family safe.
If you’re concerned about the possibility of your decking materials not being able to be matched, replaced, or easily refinished but want something that will stand the test of time, then premium tropical hardwood decking is the answer. While some lumber wholesalers rode the tide of popularity for a time and carried composite decking materials, McIlvain Company never stooped to that level. We chose then, as we have always chosen, to carry only the highest quality lumber sourced directly from mills with proven track records of environmentally and socially responsible practices.
For over 200 years, McIlvain Company has been a leader in the lumber industry. With a huge inventory of exotic and domestic hardwood and softwood lumbers, in-house millwork capabilities, and a staff exhibiting unmatched expertise, it’s no wonder that McIlvain is one of the country’s most reputable lumber dealers. For more information and to see McIlvain’s full inventory, click here to visit them online. And for insider tips and woodworking tricks, check out these selections from the McIlvain Lumber Blog: