Composite Decking

As homeowners look to have their deck surface replaced, they should at least consider composite decking. Today we’ll discuss the major consideration.

First off, composite deck boards are just for the deck surface. Composite materials do not have the structural strength to be the supporting beams and joists. The structure underneath must be built with old fashioned wood. Most people use pressure treated lumber as it is cost effective for something that most people will never see.

If you are resurfacing an existing deck, the structure already exists. One difference between a wooden deck surface and composite deck surface is that wooden deck boards will span 16” centers between joists. If using 2”x6” lumber, you can even span 24” centers on joists. With composite materials you are generally looking at smaller spans in the 12” – 16” range.

This means, when resurfacing an existing deck, that you must be prepared for the possibility of adding additional joists. Measure the nail or screw pattern of your ‘old’ deck material to understand the distance between the joist underneath. Then, compare that to the composite deck material you’d like to use and see if they are compatible, or if additional framing will be required.

An additional benefit of composite decking, as compared to wood, is hidden anchors. So, once laid, composite decking looks great. Your annual maintenance is greatly reduced, and it will never rot or splinter like wood. The better composite materials have fade and stain guarantees that are measured in decades. Standing water or constantly wet locations under porch furniture can develop algae. A light cleaning solution will take care of this. No pressure washing or staining will ever be required. Firepits and grills are not a good idea on composite decks. They are flammable, and the grease from grill will make it slippery and dangerous.

There are a number of reputable brands of composite material on the market. The most cost-effective ones are the ones ‘in-stock’ at the local home supply store. Special orders will cost you more but will increase your color choices. Most of these products are using recycled materials, making them good for the environment. While the lumber in traditional decking is also sustainable, the chemicals used for pressure treating and the periodic staining and sealing, are not.

For all the upside of composite decking, the downside is cost. You are generally looking at 3X – 4X the material cost for the decking, and potentially additional cost for additional framing. For this higher up-front cost, as compared to wooden deck boards, you get something that will require less annual maintenance, and which will look better longer. You should never stub a toe on an upturned board edge again.

If you’d like all the benefits of a composite deck surface without having to remove your old deck surface, adjust framing, and laying down the new composite deck surface, know that Mr. Handman is here to help. Or, if you just need to breath a bit of fall life into your existing deck with the replacement of a few damaged boards, and then clean and stain your existing deck – we can assist here also. Fall is a great time to get back outside, and decks are a great place for family and friends to gather.

Whatever your needs, Mr. Handyman can help.