• 7 Small Bathroom Layouts
    7 Small Bathroom Layouts
  • All about Roofing
    All about Roofing
  • Video: Install a Fence
    Video: Install a Fence
  • Radiant Heat Comparison
    Radiant Heat Comparison
  • Find the Pitch of a Roof
    Find the Pitch of a Roof
  • Deck Design & Construction
    Deck Design & Construction
  • Magazine Departments
    Magazine Departments
  • 7 Smart Kitchen Solutions
    7 Smart Kitchen Solutions
  • Design Inspiration
    Design Inspiration
  • Remodeling Articles
    Remodeling Articles
  • 7 Trim Carpentry Secrets
    7 Trim Carpentry Secrets
  • Ultimate Deck Build 2015
    Ultimate Deck Build 2015
  • Clever daily tip in your inbox
    Clever daily tip in your inbox
  • Basement Remodeling Tips
    Basement Remodeling Tips
  • Master Carpenter Videos
    Master Carpenter Videos
  • Energy-Smart Details
    Energy-Smart Details
  • Video Series: Tile a Bathroom
    Video Series: Tile a Bathroom
  • Read FHB on Your iPad
    Read FHB on Your iPad
  • Tips & Techniques for Painting
    Tips & Techniques for Painting
  • 9 Concrete Countertops Ideas
    9 Concrete Countertops Ideas
Pin It

What’s the best decking?

Wood is still king, but composites are on the rise

In the good old days, decking retailers sold wood species such as cedar and redwood that naturally resisted decay and insect damage. They still do, but as supplies of old-growth lumber declined in North America, far-ranging forest-products companies began offering a variety of tropical hardwoods, such as ipé, that perform just as well or better than the old standbys.

Suppliers also have pursued a variety of other strategies to improve the outdoor performance of wood: They’ve juiced it with chemicals that deter insects and rot, baked it in 500°F ovens, infused it with sodium silicate, and pickled it with acetic acid. And that’s before we get to the many wood substitutes: wood-plastic composites in which wood flour is combined with molten plastic and squeezed out of dies like toothpaste, composites wrapped in a layer of protective plastic, and all-plastic decking that contains no wood fiber at all.

If you’re not wedded to the look of wood, you also can choose powder-coated aluminum decking, or even
modular stone or tile systems.

Composites on the rise
The most significant changes in the decking market have come with synthetics. Manufacturers of synthetic decking have had a steep learning curve over the years: First-generation wood-plastic composites would stain, get moldy, and even rot. But while updating their recipe to prevent these problems, manufacturers also have expanded their lineups with sophisticated alternatives such as cellular-PVC and capstock decking.

Synthetics need less maintenance than wood, but they’re not foolproof. Some have the unmistakable look of plastic. They’re generally more expensive than basic wood decking, and they’re not completely impervious to the effects of weather. There have been reports, for example, of swelling in the ends of capstock decking when water reaches the unprotected composite core.

No decking is perfect, but the sheer number of natural-wood and synthetic products is giving builders and homeowners a long list of options.

Learn more:
From Fine HomebuildingDecks and Outdoor Projects , pp. 44-50
Next Article
Next Article: Online Membership Required