When we began designing and building decks and screen porches, the majority of customers were interested in wood with a small percentage intrigued about composites, or low maintenance decking. In the last 10 years, we have seen exponential growth in the low maintenance decking class in brands, color choices and styles.
Over the past 5 years, we have built approximately 70% of our projects in composites or with the newest technological advancement….PVC decking. If you are not familiar with wood/plastic composites or PVC decking options, here are some differences to consider including a couple recommendations on products and cleaning solutions.
Composite decking is nothing more than wood flour mixed with plastics and extruded into a “low maintenance” decking board. Please note I did not say “no maintenance”. Most composites contain 50% wood and 50% plastic. Natural products such as wood are affected by the elements. This equates to fading, scratching and contending with dirt, snow, rain, etc. which necessitates some cleaning. This may sound somewhat counterproductive, but it surely is easier than stripping and staining a wood deck every year.
My wife and I have 2 young boys, so we are constantly in man to man defense and they still spill drinks all the time! The simple answer is when it gets dirty, or you or someone else spills something, hose it off. Most soap and water solutions will remove the grime. You can use a power washer, but it is not recommended (have you seen what a power washer can do to concrete?). Should a “stain” go unclean for a longer period, it may need more “elbow grease”. Some recommended cleaners are:
- Cabot’s Composite Deck Cleaner
Mold and mildew is a different issue. Mold can grow on anything. The quality composites contain mold inhibitors which hinder mold spores from feeding. For more information on mold and how to remove it refer to this article written by the North American Deck and Railing Association. http://www.nadra.org/consumers/understanding_mold.html
Our most requested wood plastic composite is Timbertech. We have used many composites around the country and by far Timbertech is the top of the class in the category of wood/plastic composites. Their three products in this series are:
- Reliaboard is their newest product to enter the market. Colors are Cedar and Grey.
- Twinfinish is the standard and comes in 3 colors, Cedar, Gray and Redwood.
- Earthwood series is beautiful and includes black streaking within the product to give a look of exotic hardwoods. Colors include Teak, Walnut and Rosewood.
The products are listed according to price point, Reliaboard being the least expensive. Feel free to read their user-friendly website (link above).
This category of decking entered the market about 5 years ago and has grown in popularity. The main difference is there is no wood mix. They are solid core cellular pvc, or in other words, pure plastic. The advantages of this is they are more stain and scratch resistant than wood/plastic composites. With the lack of wood in the products, they are denser and less porous which means lower maintenance; simply clean periodically with a soap and water solution. Another advantage is they will fade less compared to composites (no wood in them).
The disadvantages of this type of decking is cost and, to some, appearance. They do have the look and feel of plastic. In addition, color choices are limited but lately we have seen additional darker colors choices including streaking to enhance the appearance.
Timbertech XLM (extreme low maintenance) entered the market 3 years ago. They have the most beautiful board, Desert Bronze (streaking included) but it is the most expensive. Other colors available in XLM are Sand Ridge, Mountain Cedar, and River Rock.
Azek is another option to consider. The Harvest Collection series offers basic colors, but in my opinion, are a little bland. They introduced two new series, the Terra Collection (2009) and the new Arbor Collection (2010) with darker colors. The least expensive is the Harvest Collection up to the Arbor series. Check out their website for more information.
There are many more choices to consider, such as Evergrain, Fiberon and Trex. We at Archadeck are the largest conglomerate of design and build services in the Decking and Screen Porch industry. The recommendations of Timbertech and Azek are Archadeck’s definitive favorites, especially Timbertech. Feel free to contact us should you have any questions!