As most everyone is aware by now, there have been wood alternatives available for decking and outdoor projects for some time now. What can be confusing however is the overwhelming number of different brands and products that are available today. As a professional deck builder, McWhorter Outdoor Living has been here for all the changes, and worked with all the materials out there, and would like to share some of our opinions with homeowners trying to make sense of what is available in the low-maintenance decking market.
Available Low-Maintenance products on the market today are mainly divided into 3 categories:
1. Composite Decking
Composite decking was the first to replace wood, and while it eliminates a lot of the maintenance required with a wood deck, it still has major problems with fading, staining, and scratching. Composites are still half wood and all those wood fibers will soak up anything you drop on them. Ketchup, grease, leaves, berries, etc will permanently stain a composite deck. The wood chips also fade and weather just like your old wood deck, so the dark red composite deck you have today, will be a light red-speckled white deck after two of three summers. The soft composites will also scratch if you drag anything heavy over them, shift a chair, wear high heel shoes, etc.
2. Cellular PVC decking
PVC decking first came about when all the problems of composite decking began to surface. PVC decking has all the advantages of composite decking, but is extremely resistant to fading, staining, and scratching. It is about half the weight of composite decking, and stays much cooler to the touch than composites. The price is slightly higher, but the benefits far outweigh the cost.
3. Capped composites
One of the new products seen in the market today is a capped composite. This is a traditional composite plank that has a tough plastic coating over the top and two sides. While this coating takes care of the fading, scratching, and staining issues of uncapped composites, it still gets very hot under the sun, is extremely heavy, and is limiting to work with as it cannot be routed and does not take screws well. The price of capped composites is comparable to that of most PVC decking.
So, to summarize:
• Twin finish
So if you are looking for a truly low-maintenance product for your deck, we would suggest a cellular PVC product such as Azek Deck, Trex Escapes, or Timbertech XLM. Be aware that there are many deck builders out there today that are still offering composite decking to keep their material costs low. These decks are going to weather, fade, and stain as bad or worse than any wood deck, and there is no way to bring them back to their original appearance.
Most importantly, call a local deck builder like McWhorter Outdoor Living who is familiar with working with these low-maintenance products, and can guide you through your selection process. Based in Clarksville, MD, McWhorter Outdoor living has been building decks, screened porches, and sunrooms in the central Maryland area for over 10 years, and we have worked with every generation of every material that is out there today. Give us a call for a free estimate, we look forward to hearing from you.