Replace old pressure treated deck with composite
17 June 2006
A. Composite decking materials, mostly manufactured from recycled plastics with some wood or other cellulose fiber material, have been on the market for over 25 years and have sure come a long way. Your mention of Trex is one manufacturer that was probably the first and to many the most well known in the field. The first composite decking material that I am aware of being time tried, which I think was Trex, was performed at Princeton in New Jersey and after sitting out in the weather for 25 years was dismantled and lab tested. It was found to have become even stronger than the day it was erected.
The first decks I remember framing were either Redwood, Cedar, Douglas Fir, or even common framing lumber and as good as some of those materials were they didn’t last. In the mid-1970s pressure treated Southern Yellow Pine became the deck material of choice around here and though rot resistant it still weathered especially in direct sunlight and, as you know, after a number of years out in the sun can split, warp and generally fall apart. And even pressure treating against rot doesn’t stop algae, moss and mold from taking up residence on many decks. I see a lot of decking materials used now other than pressure treated lumber. After the most common pressure treating chemical, CCA-- which contains arsenic, was restricted, its natural wooden replacement is both more expensive and chemically aggressive toward the metals of the fasteners and flashings making alternatives more attractive. On the high end I see super hard tropical hardwoods such as Epe (pronounced Ee-pay) used for exterior decking but my sense is that the composites you’re seeking will soon be the most common. Yes, they are a bit pricier than treated wood but will last longer and be easier to maintain.
Just about time your question arrived so did my favorite trade magazine, The Journal of Light Construction. As I leafed through its pages I noticed a wide variety of composite decking manufacturers hawking their wares. This magazine targets builders and remodelers and isn’t normally available at your local bookstore (but is at some retailers like Home Depot). I pay attention to the ads as much as the featured articles as they tell me a lot. Looking at the end cuts of the decking m aterials shown I could see all had color running through the product so any color variation due to scratching might be a product of sun-bleaching. Most have UV inhibitors to keep the colors new looking and fastening the decking to the frame invisibly an d nail-free is a function of investing in a separate attachment system such as the type offered by Simpson-- the same folks who make a whole line of framing hangers and hardware. I went to JLC’s website and then to the product section and clicked on “Dec king Materials” and was told I had 336 choices! Each with its own website. I’m sure your eventual decking choice is among them. The next step is availability. Chose what you think you want and go shopping for it locally. You may even run across something you like better. Costs will vary. Then do your homework carefully and buy the right amount to do the job the first time so you won’t have to confront the possibility of a slight color difference between manufacturing runs. It happens.