Wood Plastic Composites vs. PVC Decking

What are the differences between composites and pvc decking and how to keep composites clean?

Timbertech XLM Desert Bronze, Columbus, Ohio

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.

Wood/Plastic Composites

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:

  • CorteClean
  • OxiClean
  • Cabot’s Composite Deck Cleaner
  • Jomax

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. 
Timbertech Twinfinish - Cedar
Timbertech Deck Columbus, Ohio
Timbertech Earthwood Deck Columbus, Ohio

The products are listed according to price point, Reliaboard being the least expensive.  Feel free to read their user-friendly website (link above).

PVC Decking

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.

Timbertech XLM Deck, Powell, Ohio

   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.

Azek Brownstone
Azek Brownstone with White Vinyl Rail, Columbus, Ohio
Azek Brownstone with Cedar Rail, Powell, Ohio

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!

Michael

Plan earlier for Spring!

Planning earlier for your deck, screen porch, pergola, gazebo to attain maximum use for warm weather.

Outdoor living is almost here!  We in the industry eagerly await the “season” to arrive.  We are implementing marketing plans, preparing or participating in home shows, developing action plans, meeting with potential customers regarding their plans and signing contracts.

It surprises me every year that more people don’t plan earlier for their project(s).  I know, like you we are caught up in the daily challenges of life; kids, work, homework and American Idol (I have to admit, it’s addicting).  Typically the phones really begin to ring (off the hook) by mid March and continue through October in this region of the country.  On average, by the time we meet, draw optional designs, implement contracts, submit for permits (including home owner associations and zoning requirements) and manage logistics, we typically cannot begin construction for at least 3-6 weeks once a contract is approved. 

On average a typical deck project takes about a week to construct.  For those that do plan in March, they can begin using their new addition by mid to late April.  What about the majority of our customers who wait till late April or May when it truly begins to get warm?  Unfortunately for those, it can be late June or July before they begin to use it.  Beware of contractors whom can start tomorrow!

My suggestion is to plan earlier.  If you are planning graduation parties, birthday parties or other events, please contact us earlier (or whomever you are thinking about contracting with).  Hopefully, contractors want to ensure they meet your deadlines.  I can assure you it’s vitally important to us. 

Did you know that Archadeck of Columbus can build year round?  Even though we experience cold weather, it doesn’t impede us from completing decks, screen porches, etc.  Annually we are fortunate enough to have business throughout the winter and build them.

Good Luck and I hope you attain your outdoor project this year and can use it all season!

Decking Trends

A review of decking and composite trends for 2010 outdoor living spaces

Carol and I are excited about contributing to the information age by assisting homeowners with their questions, concerns and product choices pertaining to outdoor living.

As winter nears its end (hopefully!), we are eager to begin another season of designing and constructing decks, screen porches, pergolas, gazebos and patios in the Columbus area.  We would like to take a quick moment to reflect on our accomplishments of 2009 and then share upcoming trends.

I just returned from Archadeck’s National Workshop and we were honored to receive three awards, the Customer Service Achievement Award, the Archadeck Design Award for one of our projects completed last year and the Performance Profile Award.  It’s certainly nice to be a recipient of any award, but we were especially grateful to receive the service award for the 5th consecutive year as this is the staple any business should strive for.  Too bad most forget this simple value. 

During the course of the workshop, I was again reminded how lucky I am to be part of such a professional community of outdoor living entrepreneurs.  The opportunity to interact and learn from each other is energizing and further re-enforces Archadeck’s commitment to each and every client.

On to trends, we continue to witness the growth of low maintenance decking options and color selections continue to evolve.  In addition, low maintenance pergolas and fencing options are available. Hidden fasteners are becoming more prevalent for those who prefer a cleaner appearance.    Composite (low maintenance) decking still remains our most requested product on our decks.  We highly recommend Timbertech http://timbertech.com and Azek http://azek.com decking as our most trusted products.  More on low maintenance products in future posts.

We also have seen an increase in deck and patio combinations. Normally this would consist of a deck design stepping down to a patio area.  Depending on materials, one can achieve this look without necessarily spending more money.  Instead of one large deck or patio, split the difference.  Now you can enjoy two distinct entertaining areas with different appearances!

Outdoor kitchens are continuing to grow.  We will be offering modular or custom designed kitchens through our new partner Outdoor Kitchen Creations.  Check out their website should you wish to consider:  http://outdoorkitchencreations.net

We are eagerly preparing for the “season”.  Should you wish, feel free to peruse our website, contact us or visit us over the next month at two upcoming home shows:

Home Improvement Show, Franklin County Veterans Memorial, Friday, February 19-21

Central Ohio Home and Garden Show, Ohio Expo Center, February 27- March 7

Thanks for visiting and we look forward to further postings.  Enjoy!