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Composite/Plastic Decking
Old 07-17-2019, 09:56 PM   #1
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Composite/Plastic Decking

Looking for input and recommendations on composite and/or plastic decking. We will be adding some decking to increase our patio area when we redo the landscaping in the next 6 months.

The decision to go with composite/plastic was mainly due to much less maintenance needs. Also, we live in a high fire risk area so are hesitant to go with wood.

Have read quite a bit on the pros and cons, however, would love some input from members who have installed this type of decking. We live in the SF Bay Area, so Mediterranean climate if that makes a difference in deck performance over the years.

Our landscaper has suggested we read up on Timbertech. Haven't talked to him in detail, however, it seems to have good reviews on par with Trex and it appears to be much more competitively priced. Thoughts?
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Old 07-17-2019, 10:07 PM   #2
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I built a deck on my last house and surfaced it with Trex. It was really hot to the feet and I didn't care for it. And don't believe it not having maintenance as it also would get algae on it. I had to pressure wash it once per year.

The plastic style decking is now improved, but I still would prefer real wood. Those composite flooring boards are really, really expensive to use, but it's easy to install.

My last outside deck (under roof) was covered with porcelain tiles over 1/8" Wonderboard over Schluter Kerdi waterproofing membrane--all installed with thinset mortar. It's held up great since we're in a moderate (non snow) climate.
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Old 07-17-2019, 10:33 PM   #3
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Trex in the past did have problems, and faced a class-action lawsuit.

After researching, I installed Trex and bought the most expensive grade ("Transcend"), which had a top layer that was not porous. There are other manufacturers with similarly looking products, but Trex was what available in my area. Can't say how it compares to other brands, because I would not know.

I started a thread on this. After 3 years, the deck still looks like new. No washing at all in 3 years, except by the natural rain and snow. Repeat, absolutely no washing needed, although YMMV. I also really like the clean "no exposed screwhead" look.

PS. Yes, any composite deck will be hotter than real wood under the sun. I still prefer it to having to stain every year.

See: Deck Replacement
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Old 07-17-2019, 11:03 PM   #4
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Was one who was part of the Trex lawsuit. Things have changed. It’s much better. Timbertech is a very good manufacturer. Agree that it can get very hot in direct sunlight. I just refinished a cedar deck but will use composite decking in the future.
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Composite/Plastic Decking
Old 07-17-2019, 11:12 PM   #5
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Composite/Plastic Decking

I remodeled our deck about 10 years ago. Replaced the cedar deck boards with Trex. Also used Trex for our dock. Both are holding up well. I power wash them once a year to wash off mildew/algae. Trex is heavy and has a tendency to be wavy, so I would recommend framing at 12” on center. I screwed ours, but they have fasteners now that you can use to create a “screw free” look on the deck surface. Trex also has posts, railings, fascia boards, etc to match the deck boards. I used Trex post sleeves that slide over treated 4x4 posts. Cuts and works as easy as wood.
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Old 07-18-2019, 05:03 AM   #6
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Composite decking is awesome. Much more expensive, but little maintenance compared to wood.

Every 2 years we will spray it with this olympic deck cleaner. You use a simple sprayer that you would use for weeds, spray it on, wait 10 minutes, hose it off. No power washing required. Kills all the algae/mildew, makes it looks new again. Deck is around 10 years old.

If you have the money, get composite.
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Old 07-18-2019, 05:21 AM   #7
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We redid our deck last year with Trex. It looks terrific. We did powerwash it this season and it comes right back to its original look. We will powerwash it each year. We didn´t use any cleaner. The force of water alone was sufficient to clean it perfectly. Our contractor used fasteners, for the screw free look and it really is worth it I feel. Also the boards come is lengths as long as 24' i believe. Our deck is 20 feet wide, so we have no seems and that is another great feature that I would recommend you go for.
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Old 07-18-2019, 06:09 AM   #8
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When we remodeled our beach house, we used Trex. This was about 10 years ago, and we have been very happy with it and it still looks great.
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Old 07-18-2019, 06:49 AM   #9
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Last summer we replaced the boards on our 11x15 deck with Timbertech and absolutely love it. The only issue is that it can be slippery when wet, so you have to be careful going up and down the stairs if its wet. Heat does not seem to be a problem for us as the deck faces east and is shaded most of the day. We did the work ourselves and it only took a couple of days.
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Old 07-18-2019, 06:56 AM   #10
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I replaced my original wood deck about three years ago with Timbertech. I am very satisfied with mine. My deck is on the southwest corner of the house. Yes it can get hot but I can still walk on it barefoot.
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Old 07-18-2019, 07:04 AM   #11
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I used composite deck boards when I rebuilt my in-laws stairs about ten years ago. I don't know what brand they were but they were a solid composite that I bought from Home Depot. After ten years baking in the sun they developed a lot of cracks lengthwise, so I replaced them with cedar boards this time. Ironically, the 5/4x6 cedar boards were hard to locate now. I had to visit three different box stores to find some.

All of the current composite decking seems to have ridges on the underside and has a "wrap" of some kind on the outside. This may make the decking stronger or more durable, but it wouldn't look nice in my situation where the ends are exposed.

I was surprised how easy it was to break the old composite deck boards. I leaned them on a step then stood on the board to snap it into pieces small enough to fit in our garbage can.
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Old 07-18-2019, 07:11 AM   #12
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IIRC, about 3x as expensive as wood.

Hotter if it gets exposed to direct sun.

When my 20 year old deck (poorly maintained its first 15 years before we moved in) needed replacement I just went with wood.
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Old 07-18-2019, 07:23 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by ncbill View Post
IIRC, about 3x as expensive as wood.

Hotter if it gets exposed to direct sun.

When my 20 year old deck (poorly maintained its first 15 years before we moved in) needed replacement I just went with wood.
The heat factor, along with the much higher cost, was the reason I also went with wood when I replaced our 16 year old decking. Our deck is on the south side of the house and exposed to full south TX sun. After experiencing how blistering hot a friend's composite deck got in the summer I decided to stay with wood.
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Old 07-18-2019, 08:20 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Ronstar View Post
I remodeled our deck about 10 years ago. Replaced the cedar deck boards with Trex. Also used Trex for our dock. Both are holding up well. I power wash them once a year to wash off mildew/algae. Trex is heavy and has a tendency to be wavy, so I would recommend framing at 12” on center. I screwed ours, but they have fasteners now that you can use to create a “screw free” look on the deck surface. Trex also has posts, railings, fascia boards, etc to match the deck boards. I used Trex post sleeves that slide over treated 4x4 posts. Cuts and works as easy as wood.


Agree that the tighter the stringer spacing the better. Since I’m 24” on center I’ll need to double my spacers.
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Old 07-18-2019, 08:30 AM   #15
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I'm not a fan of composite...it looks fake to me. Plus it requires more support underneath as it's nowhere near as stiff as wood. If your deck is framed 24" on center expect sagging.

I used 5/4" wood deck boards 15 years ago and my deck still looks fine...that is, if you like the weathered grey look. If you want a more finished/stained look, then obviously that will require more regular staining and maintenance.

FYI...they also make hidden fasteners for wood decks.
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Old 07-18-2019, 08:34 AM   #16
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Trex boards come in 12', 16', and 20' lengths. At least that's with the Transcend line.

They also have a superthick Transcend line. I guess that may be for joist spacing of 24". The superthick boards are not available in "groove edge" for clip mounting. I used the regular thickness because I had 16" joist spacing. No problem with sagging.

About the deck getting hot under the sun, it may indeed be unbearable in the summer at lower elevations. At 7,000', it is not uncomfortable. I can still go out barefoot on the south-facing deck, but it does feel warm underfoot.

PS. I believe the intense sun at high elevation caused the fast deterioration of the previous wood deck, plus the wood siding. The difference in aging speed between the south side and the north side of the home is striking. The front deck is still the original wood. Low humidity and clear air of the SW plus the thin air at high elevation means stronger sun rays. It's easy to get sunburn here, particularly when it is cool and you are not hot.
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Old 07-18-2019, 09:27 AM   #17
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Just got our composite deck finished a couple of weeks ago. We went with Timbertech Azek brand material. It comes with a 50 year warranty. The salesperson showed us Trex next to Timbertech Azek and pointed out that the Azek boards are sealed on all sides and the ends. The Trex boards were not.

We also went with all aluminum rails with a drink rail on top of the railing. I wanted the rail newels and supports to be minimal and unobtrusive.

Besides not ever having to stain the deck you can go with custom colors and even create patterns if you like. Because our house faces south, and concerned about the boards getting hot in the sun we went with a light color (slate gray) deck material. We went with a darker contrasting color (island oak) for the stair backboards, drink rail, and fascia trim around the perimeter of the deck and the sides of steps. Our house is white so the deck attached to it looks fabulous.

It's been cloudy and rainy here so I don't have good sunlit pics of the completed deck, but I do have this pic of the stairs showing the use of contrasting colors.

Deck-Stairs.jpg
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Old 07-18-2019, 09:30 AM   #18
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Here's a pic of the deck the day after it was built and before the drink rail was attached to the top of the railing. Click on photo to enlarge.

Deck-SW-View.jpg
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Old 07-18-2019, 09:43 AM   #19
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Thankfully, our new home has concrete patios/decking. Our last house had a wood deck that was almost 1000 square feet and was an absolute PAIN to maintain. Had we stayed, the next "maintenance" action would have to installed composite deck and I wouldn't have cared if it cost $50K...I was NEVER going to spend an entire week each year dealing with a deck.

When hunting for the "forever home" there were some basic requirements:

-Single story
-Four Side Brick
-NO DECKS!
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Old 07-18-2019, 10:26 AM   #20
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...I was NEVER going to spend an entire week each year dealing with a deck...
Only 1 week each year? That's not so bad compared to what I did with mine, which was 900 sq.ft. for the rear deck. And there's the front deck, and the wood siding to be stained too, for the home and also detached garage.

After 10 years, decided that I did not want to spend the rest of my life taking care of the freakin' home. Composite it is.

Now, I do not even have to wash it. One year, I came up to see the deck covered with dust from a recent dirt storm. The next heavy rain and wind washed it all off.
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