Composite decking is a high-quality, durable and low maintenance alternative to traditional timber decking. It’s manufactured from plastic composites and reclaimed wood fibres, so it’s eco-friendly and can last for over 20 years.
It can even mirror wooden deck boards with its natural looking grain pattern. Below we explore what composite decking is, what it’s made of, the different types and how it compares to other materials.
What is composite decking?
Composite is a man made material. It’s manufactured by combining two or more materials that have different chemical and physical properties to create a superior product.
Composite decking is produced from plastic composites and reclaimed wood fibres to create a long-lasting, low maintenance and sustainable deck. With the combined properties, it offers many strengths that wood or plastic wouldn't be able to achieve on their own.
It’s manufactured to a high standard and retains the natural look of wood without the high maintenance and risk of damage from rotting, insects or warping. Composite decking manufacturers can even emboss a grain pattern into the decking boards to make it look closer to real wood.
How is composite decking made?
Composite decking is made of reclaimed wood fibres, plastic composite and additives. The wood fibres are collected from recycled wood, wood chips or sawdust, and the plastics are normally recycled or high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
The materials are combined in a controlled environment and any additives like pigments, UV inhibitors or anti-oxidants can be added before or after mixing. The material then goes through an extrusion or compression moulding process where it’s shaped into composite decking boards.
Extrusion is where the mixture is heated and fed through an extrusion to form its shape, and compression moulding is where the mixture is put in a mould, and heat and pressure forces the desired shape. The decking boards are cooled until they solidify, and then any finishing touches like embossing can be added.
What are the advantages of composite decking?
Composite decking is a popular choice which comes as no surprise. Here are a few advantages it can offer homeowners:
- Easy to clean: Composite decking only needs to be cleaned once or twice a year, and this can be done using household products like washing up liquid – saving you time and costs.
- Low maintenance: Unlike its rival wood decking, it doesn’t need staining, sealing or chemical treatments like water repellents, making it environmentally friendly and easier to own.
- Durable and long lasting: Composite decking is incredibly durable because of its composition, which makes it resistant to moisture, insects, decay, stains, discolouration, mould, splinters and cracks.
- Weather resistant: It can endure different weather conditions like rain or sunlight without fading or warping. It’s also anti-slip so it can be used near swimming pools and in wet climates.
- Environmentally friendly: If you’re concerned about your environmental impact, composite decking is a sustainable choice because it’s manufactured from recycled materials and doesn’t require chemicals for upkeep.
- Aesthetics: Composite decking looks luxurious and can transform your outdoor space, you can also get creative with designs because it’s available in different colours and finishes.
What are the different types of composite decking?
Composite decking is versatile and there are different types available to meet your needs, specification, goals and budget.
Solid composite decking
Solid composite decking is chosen for its strength and durability. Unlike hollow composite, It has a dense and solid core, making it long lasting and in some cases, better quality. It’s also rigid so it’s more resistant to warping and can maintain its structure.
It’s heavier compared to other types of composite decking, so you need to ensure that you can handle it, but this does make it suitable for high-traffic areas like restaurants or pools. It’s also less noisy to walk on because it's denser.
Capped composite decking
Capped composite decking has a protective layer over it – usually a polymer sleeve. It’s more water-resistant, so it’s perfect for wet or humid conditions including rainfall, and it’s less likely to have issues like rotting, swelling or mould growth.
This protective layer can make it more pricey compared to hollow composite decking, and if it’s in sunlight, it can retain heat so you may have to provide extra shade.
This type of composite decking generally has a longer life span because it’s more resistant against wear and tear, and issues like fading or stains. It can be available in a greater variety of colours and finishes, because the protective cap smooths the surface of the material allowing for more consistent and bright colours to be formed.
Hollow composite decking
Hollow composite decking uses a honeycomb core construction – a hexagonal pattern in the hollow space, making it strong and lightweight. It’s reduced weight means that it's easier to install and handle, which can potentially save you labour costs and time.
However, compared to solid composite decking, it doesn’t offer the same strength and it may have a lower weight-bearing capacity which can impact your furniture choices or footfall.
Because of its hollow core, It’s usually more noisy, but it does offer increased ventilation which can improve air circulation and reduce the risk of issues like mould. It’s generally more budget friendly compared to other types of composite decking because it uses less material in its construction.
How does composite decking compare to other materials?
Composite decking is generally stronger, more durable and longer lasting compared to wooden decking because it combines the properties of both wood and plastic.
It has an aesthetically pleasing and modern finish, and it can mimic the appearance of natural wood without the issues that timber decking brings like rotting, swelling or mould. Wooden decking however, has a natural and authentic look, and it can be painted or stained to change its appearance.
Wooden decking is higher maintenance because it requires treatments to keep it looking fresh whereas composite decking only needs to be washed with a soapy solution once or twice a year. Composite decking can also be more environmentally friendly because it’s manufactured from recycled materials and doesn’t require strong chemicals to upkeep it.
Depending on the type of composite decking you choose, it can last over 20 years, whereas wooden decking generally lasts around 10 to 15 years. Composite decking does have a higher upfront cost compared to wooden decking, but it requires less maintenance and lasts longer which can make it more cost effective in the long run.
It’s also easier to install because it has fastening systems and the boards are the same size and quality, because they are man made. Wooden decking can be challenging to install because the natural wood might be inconsistent, and it may require more labour because of its weight and natural imperfections like knots.
Is composite decking eco friendly?
Composite decking is environmentally friendly because it’s manufactured from recycled materials. Our Havana Forma composite decking is made of 55% reclaimed wood fibres and 45% recycled plastic, which makes it a great way to minimise your environmental footprint.
Unlike wooden decking, manufacturing composite decking doesn’t lead to deforestation and it also reduces the amount of wood waste going into landfill. It doesn’t need to be replaced or disposed of regularly because it’s long lasting, reducing the environmental impact associated with production. Moreover, chemical cleaning and treatment products aren’t needed to maintain it.
Does composite decking provide good value for money?
Composite decking does have a higher upfront cost compared to timber decking. But once it’s installed, it can last for over 20 years with minimal maintenance, enabling you to enjoy your outdoor space without worrying about upkeep.
The fact that it’s incredibly durable and can resist rotting, decaying and moisture makes it a popular choice for many homeowners. Depending on your budget, it’s available in different forms so you can choose one that fits in with your finances. Decking can also increase the value of your property depending on your location, whether it looks nice, is usable and its quality – which composite decking can deliver on.
It’s important to choose a trustworthy manufacturer who can offer you a high-quality product, and ensure it meets your needs. At Eurocell, we offer a 20 to 25 year guarantee to provide assurance that our product delivers on performance.
To learn more about the costs, read our guide: How Much Does Composite Decking Cost?
Browse Eurocell’s range of composite decking online to find out more.