Composite products have become extremely popular recently, in regards to decking, fencing, and even docks. Composite usually is a mixture of Polyethylene which is a recycled plastic and wood fiber. The Polyethylene allows the boards to be bent and curved unlike lumber. Occasionally you will find a composite made of Polypropylene which is virgin plastic, this composite is much stronger however you cannot put this into a curved application.
The major myth right now is that Composite means “no maintenance” this is stereotypical and untrue. Although it can mean lower maintenance, anything that you want to stay in good shape over many years needs standard cleaning and care. So the question is if you still have to care for composite why choose it? The follow is a list of reasons:
1. No annual painting projects. Composites come in many different shades and they are already coated so you do not have to spend the time staining your deck.
2. Less issues with rotting and termites. Due to the plastic that is coupled in with the wood fibers you do not have to be as concerned with termites or eventual rot.
3. You can usually obtain a warranty on composite where lumber you cannot. This product being man made has more backing its production.
4. Many Composites have a hidden fastener system so there are no screws or nails to get snagged on. Also the surface is pristine.
5. Composites have a great and long lasting durability, no splintering or excessive scratching.
However, composites are not perfect, and there are a few things you need to keep in mind before spending the money on such an expensive product.
1. Most composites come with application instructions and you need to follow them to the letter, so that your warranty is valid.
2. Composites seem to attract biological growth, so you have to make sure you clean them every few months.
3. If you do decide to paint your composite products you will have to do so annually because eventually due to the plastic within the boards it does not adhere as well.
4. Composite is not structural so you have to make sure you use treated lumber for all your structural pieces.
5. Composite will follow where the structure leads. With composite you have to be more aware of the substructure of your deck or dock. If it is a little off plumb, or settles uneven the boards will eventually warp into that pattern.
With composites it is always smart to consult a contractor before applying the product yourself. Although usually easy to install, it is not the same installation as a traditional deck. You do have to pre-drill most of the boards if face fastening, you have to gap them properly and give proper ventilation. With a contractor you can advise of your design and they can help you reach a plan that will give you what you want while assuring that the composite product will perform beautifully.