Photo by: Azek
Wood-free synthetic decking is made from a variety of plastics, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polypropylene, polystyrene, and polyethylene. Some manufacturers use recycled plastic in their decking, but others do not. Because they contain no wood fiber, these materials don’t have the same moisture-related problems as wood and wood/plastic composites.
Wood-free plastics come in several forms, including solid and hollow-core rigid planks, and in 5/4-in. and 2-in. thicknesses. With lengths of up to 20 ft., seams and waste can be kept to a minimum.
Different types of plastic have different properties. High-density polyethylene, for instance, is relatively flexible, so 5/4-in. planks may require joists 12 in. on center. Some 2x PVC planks, however, can span 24 in.
A number of companies now make decking from cellular PVC, which is a solid, foam-like material full of tiny air bubbles. The manufacturing process gives the material roughly the same weight and feel as softwood, such as pine. It works easily with conventional tools and has low water absorption
and good stain resistance.
Wood-free plastics don’t require any maintenance beyond periodic cleaning, and they weigh less than wood/plastic composites. On the downside, some planks have the unmistakable look of plastic. Beauty, however, is in the eye of the beholder.
Pros: Low maintenance; fade and scratch resistant; lighter in weight than composites; splinter-free
Cons: More expensive than composites; some look like plastic