Forget the image of plastic decks that look like recycled milk jugs. Composite decking has come a long way as an alternative to wood.
If you haven't taken a look at composite decking products lately, you're in for a pleasant surprise. Manufacturers have stepped up production of a broad array of stylish synthetic substitutes for wood.
Many of these products mimic the look and feel of wood but without many of natural wood's drawbacks. There's no painting, staining, sealing, or periodic refinishing required. These wood alternatives aren't likely to warp or split, and they resist insects and decay.
The major components of most composite deck boards are plastic resins and wood fibers. In many cases, the materials come from recycled products. Some manufacturers use reclaimed sawdust from woodworking operations and combine it with recycled polyethylene plastic from sources such as grocery bags.
Manufactures are able to produce composite boards that are uniform in appearance and quality. However, most cannot be used for structural components, such as posts and beams, because they lack the required tensile strength. So you'll still need real wood to build the substructure of your deck.
Some composite products offer a color and texture that resembles wood. It's best to shop around to find the look that suits you. Because some consumers want a wood grain on their deck while others want a uniform look, both options are easily available.
Certain manufacturers even offer planks with simulated wood grain on one side and a brushed surface on the other. Many products are offered in popular shades, such as cedar and redwood. If you want a specific color to complement your home, it is possible to stain or paint most composite deck products.
Most composite decking works like wood and requires no special tools. Simply cut your boards to length and attach them to the supporting structure just as you would with real wood. You can drill holes in the boards and drive screws through them.
Because the boards have no knots, curves, or splinters, spacing and installation is a snap--although composite boards generally weigh more than wood. For the ultimate finished appearance, some manufacturers offer underside clip systems to keep the deck screws out of sight.
When shopping for composite deck planks, make sure the manufacturer you choose also offers a complete package of matching posts and rails. After all, you don't want to have to stain and maintain wood railings to match your composite deck.