Quite naturally there is a lot of interest in understanding what the best decking material for decking boards is. Should you build a wood deck, what is the best wood for decks, what of PVC or plastic decking, and composite decking – how does that work? We’ve put together a few words below to help you understand your options. It’s not unbiased, but we have tried to reflect fairly on the main issues in choosing a decking material.
When you consider having a deck installed the chances are that you’ll think first of timber. It is the most widely used material, probably because it’s often the cheapest, but unfortunately it also takes the most effort and involves by far the most cost to properly maintain. Timber in general, but especially the cheaper forms of it, is also prone to twisting, splitting and the formation of splinters. It also has the greatest potential to promote the growth of slippery algae that can be so dangerous for anyone walking on it. Treated timber is difficult to recycle because of the toxic nature of the treatments. The timber might come from renewable sources but having to burn it or send it to land fill at the end of its life as a deck is not a sustainable use of timber.
We of course have to declare an interest here – DekBoard is made of PVC. The good news is that PVC is waterproof and won’t crack, splinter or warp. It’s robust, easy to clean and doesn’t encourage the growth of algae. It lasts a long time and can be recycled at the end of its service life. The down side is that it costs a little more than timber but you have to weigh that up against the cost of maintaining a timber deck over a number of years. Do you have to maintain timber? The answer is – yes. Miss one annual maintenance round and you might get away with it, miss two and your deck could be in trouble. If you’ve also got a timber balustrade, well that’s a whole world of painting pain. Is PVC sustainable? If you have it recycled at the end of its working life it’s highly sustainable.
More Google searches are made for “Composite Decking” that any other material. A composite material is one made by combining a plastic resin with wood flour.
Why do that? A couple of reasons; firstly, when it’s done well it produces an interesting look and feel in the finished material and secondly it is a means of recycling timber and plastic materials into something useful that they couldn’t individually be made into. There is at least one excellent WPC (Wood Plastic Composite) material on the market and its British made. That said, it’s at the top end of the market and it’s not cheap.
Bear in mind the old adage that you get what you pay for. A lot of the cheaper WPC materials are poor quality imports which are produced in hollow section format and don’t have the strength or resistance to temperature extremes that you’d want. Ultimately WPC has timber in it and will absorb moisture where the timber is exposed. This can lead to warping and fracturing when the moisture freezes during the winter.