Durability of Composite Decking

LESLIE: Now we’ve got Johanna from Michigan who wants to get out and enjoy the deck and has a question about the durability of composite decking. How can we help you with that project?

JOHANNA: Hey. We’re getting ready to put a deck on the back of our house. It’s going to be about 20×20. And we’re looking at the composite products and in doing some research, I have come across some hair-raising images of black mold, chipping, cracking, crumbling and so on. And I would just like to get your opinion on the composite decking and if it truly holds up the way it says it does or if there are things we need to look out for.

TOM: I think it absolutely does hold up. Originally, the very first composite products that were out there had wood fiber in them, as well as the plastics. And the wood fiber would tend to grow sometimes algae and things like that and people didn’t like that.

I think durability of composite decking is a perception issue. If you think that there is zero maintenance – “I’m never going to have to do anything at all” – you’re not going to find any product like that. Because even though it’s composite, it’s going to get dirty, it may grow a bit of algae and need to be cleaned once in a while. But realistically, I think it’s going to stand up a lot better than pressure-treated.

Just give you an example. My son completed his Eagle Scout project years ago. And his project was to build a 30-foot bridge across a stream. And we chose, for that project, composite decking. This is going to be in a park, it’s going to get lots and lots of foot traffic. That was up for a year and it still looked as good as the day we put it down.

So, I think composite is a good choice. Stick with a name brand; stick with Trex, for example. Good product, good history. And I think it’s going to cut down on the maintenance overall because of the durability of composite decking and it’s going to look terrific at the same time. And you won’t have to paint it and stain it and all that.

Now, you realize that you do – the framing of this is all done through standard pressure-treated, right?

JOHANNA: Right, right. And we will have benches and stuff built in and we’re going to use, I think, cedar for that.

TOM: OK. Well, I mean you can use composite for the built-in benches, too. Anything that’s going to be exposed like that, there’s no reason not to use the composite.

JOHANNA: And it’s a very sunny area, so …

TOM: Yeah, if you have a lot of sun, you really won’t have a lot of problems with mildew and algae growth, because the sun is a very natural mildicide. It’s usually the real shady decks that have the issues.

JOHANNA: Yeah. The images I saw were from ’07, ’08. So it made me think, too, maybe there was a bad run at that time?

TOM: And you know what? Composite has changed in the last five years, too.

JOHANNA: OK. Well, good. Thank you very much.

TOM: Alright, Johanna. Good luck with that project and let us know when the party is, OK?

JOHANNA: Hey, it’s next Friday.

TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

JOHANNA: Thanks.

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