I wasn't sure where to put this one. I guess chit chat is as good as any. Over the past couple years we've built a couple of pretty large decks on
the house. (one 20x30 and another 16x50 with 2 levels). We built the decks ourselves and along the way learned a number of things. One of the
biggest questions I've gotten is about composite / engineered decking materials. Another friend is building a deck and asked me about these
materials. I thought I'd share my insight to them.
A while back we were looking into possibly using some of these engineered materials for one of the decks we built. In the course of doing some
research we found a place here which claims to be the US's largest supplier of engineered materials (I can't validate this other than to say they had
mountains of the stuff, every manufacturer and just train loads of every size, color, texture and brand). They had done some pretty interesting
experiments to show different aging effects in side by side comparisons. All the big brands were represented, along with other not so big names.
They basically built this giant boardwalk like thing made up of sections of different manufacturers and materials. The only way to get to the
warehouse was down this boardwalk and it was outside in the Colorado sun (which can be brutal on materials). They were very open and objective about
all the different products and didn't hawk one over another. Here's what we found...
Every single one of the brands has some serious pros and serious cons. One will excel at stiffness, but suffer with cracking. Another will be very
color fast, but prone to scratching. It was amazing actually. Many of these systems had been sitting there for several years and tens of thousands of
people had walked on them, driven strollers, carts and other things over them, just totally brutalized these materials. They also had a demo area
where they would use hoses to simulate rain, great big heat lamps to simulate heat and even one area where they could make it cold and hot over and
over to simulate thermal cycling.
The most amazing part was every one had a very negative tradeoff you had to be willing to live with to get the pro component.
The biggest things we learned was...
1. Dogs are murder on engineered deck materials. If you had dogs, they recommended wood (and they didn't sell wood).
2. Non textured materials get slippery as snot when wet. Textured materials scratch, and once scratched they can't be repaired or refinished.
3. Some materials can be treated (stained, painted, etc.), and others can't.
4. Some materials can be sanded and/or refinished. Others can't.
5. The longest lasting materials tended to be the softer / spongy-er materials (i.e. lots of spring).
6. They all fade, some faster than others.
7. (this one was interesting) Pricing for engineered materials follows the price of oil. When oil goes up, so does the price of these materials. (now
would be a good time to buy).
8. Kind of intuitively, harder / stiffer materials crack and split over time.
9. Heat (from the sun, etc.) has a pretty dramatic effect on all of these materials, making them softer and much springier. Some to the point of an
almost unsafe feeling (no danger, just feels weird / unsettling). (Wood is kind of the opposite, and more influenced by water which these materials
Those were the big ones. No one brand stood out over another. Each had their own attributes depending on your application. The big take away for us
was...ask questions, and know what your application will experience the most of and get the product best suited to that.
Hope it helps!
edit on 5/27/2016 by Flyingclaydisk because: (no reason given)