Composite decking is one of the most stylish and versatile products anyone can add to their home. Cheaper in the long term, more durable, safer, more eco-friendly and with far less maintenance required, the benefits of composite decking far outweigh those over traditional timber.
There’s no denying it: when the sun shines, we Brits love to spend time in a good garden, terrace, beer garden, park or any other outdoor space. And with 2018 providing such a glorious summer, we’re desperate to make the most of it and spend as much time as possible outside.
In our gardens, over the past 10 years our patios have often been replaced with, or accompanied by, a decking area. Our love of decking goes back hundreds of years to great ships and colonial homes. But in the 21st century, decking has become an essential feature of UK home landscaping, providing a way to connect the outdoors to the indoors and extend living areas.
This modern way of living has led landscapers and homeowners to source decking materials beyond traditional wood. In fact, they are looking to composite decking instead. The term “composite” can mean different things, but essentially it usually means a plastic-based material, often combined with natural material such as bamboo or wood chips, to create a composite material that looks and feels like natural wood, but with significant benefits. Here is a rundown:
1. Low maintenance
During the British summer, time is of the essence. In bygone days we made hay while the sun shone. Now we’re more focused on lighting the barbeque before the cloud and rain comes. The last thing we want to do with our limited days of sunshine is power wash, re-stain and repair any loose or broken decking boards.
This is where composite decking comes into its own. Once installed, there is no need to paint, stain or seal the decking area. It is perfect for those of us who want a low maintenance decking solution.
Unlike timber decking, composite will not chip, fade or warp. All composite decking needs is an occasional wash to remove any build-up of dirt, or perhaps the remnants of last weekend’s BBQ.
So, with composite decking, you will never need to stain, seal or paint the decking like you will with timber decking. Since it is not a natural product like wood, it requires no protection against splitting, cracking or rotting. It will not warp in the sun, and is less likely to fade, stain or breed mould and mildew.
In short, the appearance and colour of your composite decking will remain in place for many years, perhaps for its lifetime, which is much longer than for wood. What’s more, most higher quality synthetic decking materials are sold with a warranty against splitting, cracking, rotting and insect damage.
2. Simple installation with invisible fixings
Most of us dislike the exposed screw fixings that are unavoidable with wood decking. This is another major benefit of composite decking, which can use invisible fixings that are purposefully engineered for quick and easy installation whilst maintaining a high quality finish, and also include spacing to allow for expansion and contraction with changes in temperature.
3. I can’t believe it’s not wood!
Wooden decking generally is built using soft woods, but hardwood alternatives such as Ipé and Balau have begun to become more and more popular. Such woods are often found only in tropical forests and thus carry strong environmental concerns over usage and production. Green they are not…
Recent innovations in composite technology mean that decking is now available in a range of natural wood colours, textures and finishes. There are even composite designs that emulate exotic woods which are no longer available on the natural wood market.
The most common softwood decking, which is pine, requires extensive chemical treatments and/or pressure treatment to ensure a level of durability is achieved for the seasonal climatic changes.
4. More eco-friendly
Many high quality composite decking ranges are manufactured from recycled materials including high-density plastic and reclaimed bamboo or wood fibres.
As such, the materials used in the manufacturing process are up to 95% ethically and sustainably sourced. This makes the process of formation almost waste-free. As concerns continue to grow over the amount of plastic waste ending up in our oceans and even in our food chain, it’s easy to see why more and more people are looking to composite decking. With composite, you won’t need to feel quite so guilty as you munch on that second burger during your summer BBQs…
5. Longer life span
Most leading manufacturers of composite decking should offer an extensive warranty on the decking boards. Expect at least 20 years, which is a much longer lifespan than wood decking, which even if maintained really well will only last for 10-15 years.
6. Safer and better for families
Splinters, loose or protruding screws and wet and slippery surfaces do not suit families with young children. Composite decking is generally non-slip, which is ideal for when a sudden downpour spoils the family gathering and you all have to run for cover.
7. Increase the value of your property
There is no doubt that, especially in the UK, investing in a high quality outdoor area is one of the most attractive and valuable additions that can be made to a home. It is estimated that homes with decking and landscaping are worth up to 20% more than similar homes without these features.
8. Creates a bold statement and a “wow” factor
Leading designers and landscapers are increasingly using composite decking to create a big impact on outdoor spaces, whether for domestic or commercial use. Not only does composite decking create a big impact, but it will also complement the exterior aesthetics of a building. It can be used to create a seamless interior/exterior space, or to ensure that the decking blends in with the natural surroundings.
A modern trend for homes is the use of coloured vinyl window frames, especially in shades of grey and black. New lines of composite decking have taken this trend on board, creating a fantastic range of ‘deck fashion’ that can complement most colour schemes.
There is also a wide range of natural decking finishes to choose from, including realistic hardwood grain patterns such as oak, birch and ash.
Then there is the decking design itself. Without having to paint every individual decking plank, composite decking allows you to pick complementary colour schemes that can create a striking design feature. There are so many different design patterns too, from traditional horizontal and diagonal, to picture framing, herringbone, patchwork, and diamond insets. Composite decking planks can also be used to create seating areas and hot tub and pool surrounds.
9. More cost-effective
We’re not going to lie - composite decking does cost a bit more than traditional wood decking to buy and install. We also recommend that you use a professional landscaping team who can fit your decking to a high standard and ensure your product guarantees are in place.
But there is no doubt that composite decking will work out cheaper in the long term. The 20-year minimum warranty of composite decking is a very appealing feature, especially since untreated wooden decking can rot, warp or splinter in just a few years.
It is reckoned that the minimal maintenance costs of composite decking compared to traditional wood mean that after about 5-7 years, composite will generate cost savings.
The final word
Those are nine good reasons why composite decking boards have become a very popular alternative to wood decking and patios for designers. We couldn’t think of a tenth, but we hope you won’t hold that against us.
So, if you’re looking for a low maintenance, long-lasting, easy to install, ethically produced, family-friendly, safe, natural-looking, bold and excellent long-term investment, then we suggest you take a closer look at composite decking.