Composite decking has benefits and drawbacks like any building material. Buyers should be aware of common problems with composite decking. We list well-documented composite decking issues in this blog post. So buckle up and learn about composite decking's drawbacks.
Composite decking is a synthetic-organic alternative to traditional wood. Composite decking was widely adopted to avoid wood maintenance. Composite decking's composition hasn't changed over time. Wood and plastic are used to make composite decking; sawdust and post-consumer plastics are common recycled ingredients used in composite decking.
Before comparing composite and plastic decking, know the difference. Plastic outdoor decking is synthetic. Plastic decking doesn't contain wood, like composite decking. Composite decking's wood fibers affect its water and weather resistance. Many of composite decking's flaws come from the organic materials found within its make-up, which degrade.
Composite decking's upfront cost can be high.
Composite decking costs more than wood and this high cost can be a major drawback depending on your budget. Though, composite decking prices vary by brand and line and, not to mention, the price gap between composite and wood decking is closing as wood prices rise. Some wood deck boards, like exotic hardwoods, cost more than composite. And advantage to composite decking is that it requires less maintenance than wood, which can save homeowners a lot of time and money.
No maintenance - Beware
All outdoor decking needs maintenance to look new. Some composite decking brands tout zero maintenance. The claims can mislead buyers into thinking they won't need to clean their decks. Composite decking requires maintenance for longevity and appearance, but less than wood. If you've been told composite decking is maintenance-free, beware. Upkeep is required, even if it’s minimal.
The quality and performance of composite decking varies. The cheapest composite decking may be cheap, but it will probably need replacement in the upcoming years. That’s why buyers should compare products before purchasing outdoor decking. You can read reviews and look at board design to determine a deck's durability.
Additional note: Capped composite decking lasts longer. Capped composite decking protects wood fibers from the elements.
Composite decking mold and mildew
Mold and mildew can grow on composite decking's surface and in its core (just like wood decks). Popular composite decking brands have faced mold and mildew class-action lawsuits. When composite decking absorbs and retains moisture, mold and mildew growth can occur. Uncapped composite decking is less durable than capped. If the protective cap doesn't cover all sides of the board, moisture can reach the wood fibers through the exposed side. Even four-sided capped composite decking can be damaged by mold and mildew. Mold and mildew is also very hard to remove from composite decking.
Too hot to walk on
Just like all decking materials, sunlight can and will warm composite decking. Composite decking can exceed 150 °F at 80 °F. Hot deck boards can harm children and pets. Shade umbrellas and outdoor rugs can help, but won't avoid the risk completely. So, how do I avoid hot composite decking? Product research and color selection help will help immensely. Check decking surface temperatures and user reviews. We recommend ordering decking samples to compare their sun-baked temperatures. If your project is in full sun, use lighter decking.
It needs lumber
Composite decking may help you avoid some wood, but you'll still need some lumber. It’s also important to note that composite decking can't be used as a framework or load-bearing support. Understructure and framing must be made of wood or aluminum. Posts, beams, joists, and stair stringers are made from treated lumber. The wood in your project will degrade naturally, which you may have hoped to avoid with composite decking but this is unavoidable.
Composite decking's drawbacks and advantages
Consider composite decking's drawbacks when choosing an outdoor decking material. Composite decking quality and performance vary greatly between brands. One composite decking product may have many flaws while another has few. So we recommend heavy research before purchasing.