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Deck material, Composite or Wood
Old 05-31-2009, 06:11 AM   #1
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Deck material, Composite or Wood

I currently have a ceder deck, or actually a covered porch on the back of the house. I am planning on adding some to it and I'm wondering if anyone has gone with the composite decks and if they are happy with them. I am way to busy in retirement to be wasting to much time with maintenance chores around the house.

At the minimum I am going to change the railings to something that does not have to be painted every year.

Are the composite decks worth the extra money?
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Old 05-31-2009, 09:13 AM   #2
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I currently have a ceder deck, or actually a covered porch on the back of the house. I am planning on adding some to it and I'm wondering if anyone has gone with the composite decks and if they are happy with them. I am way to busy in retirement to be wasting to much time with maintenance chores around the house.

At the minimum I am going to change the railings to something that does not have to be painted every year.

Are the composite decks worth the extra money?
IMO yes...
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Old 05-31-2009, 09:41 AM   #3
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If you can swing the cost go with composite.

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Old 05-31-2009, 10:01 AM   #4
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I agree, if you can afford it, composite is worth every penny.
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Old 05-31-2009, 10:09 AM   #5
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I'm going to go the other direction. I own a company that cleans up construction material. For the last couple years we have been removing composite decks for failure. Mostly in an area of the state that is sunny. 300 days of sun so sayeth the CofC.

But also some on the wet side of the state. Just yesterday on the Saturday home improvement show the handyman was asked about a failure of composite decking. He said to treat 2x's/yr. So I don't think that is much different than real wood.

I have pavers and LOVE em.
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Old 05-31-2009, 10:40 AM   #6
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I have pavers and LOVE em.
Don't pavers require ongoing maintenance? I thought you had to brush sand into the crevasses and treat them with some sort of surface application every so often?

And, as I live in an area with cold winters and clay substrates, I've seen some paved areas showing heaving and shifting, and occasionally, cracked/chipped pavers. Don't know if this is due to poor installation or what.

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Old 05-31-2009, 10:53 AM   #7
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Don't pavers require ongoing maintenance? I thought you had to brush sand into the crevasses and treat them with some sort of surface application every so often?

And, as I live in an area with cold winters and clay substrates, I've seen some paved areas showing heaving and shifting, and occasionally, cracked/chipped pavers. Don't know if this is due to poor installation or what.

omni
We're going with pavers, too. We have cold winters and clay soil, much the same as you. It is important to lay down an adequate sand bed to decouple the pavers from the soil underneath. There is also some new "sand-like" material that is made to be swept between the pavers when you get done laying them. After being exposed to moisture, the "polymeric sand" binds together and locks in place. This not only prevents it from being washed away in a big rain, but it locks out weed seeds and does a good job of preventing water from percolating through the pavers (be sure you slope the whole installation for drainage). In some cases, folks don't want this, as they want the patio to absorb rainwater, but it works well in my case because the patio will be against my house and this will help shed water away from my basement wall at that point.

Here's one brand of the special polymeric sand.

I suppose the soil under the pavers could heave in cold weather, but I don't think it would be any greater risk than a similar event in other parts of your yard. And, with pavers in the worst case if a hump or depression develops in a few years you pull out some of the pavers, add or remove a little sand, drop the pavers back in, and you're back in business. (At least that's the way I envision it now--real life probably involves pry bars, a carbide saw blade in a circular saw, a cold chisel and mallet, and some swearing).
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Old 05-31-2009, 10:54 AM   #8
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Our pavers are mortared in on a concrete edge & base. Mason I trust swayed me away from the sand base. Maintenence is scrubbing it down once a year if that.

I forgot to say that the composite deck was being removed and partly(?) paid for under warranty. So they know there is an issue.

Where this mostly is going on has tons of sunshine and UV may be breaking it down. But they also have snow in the winter that provides moisture for long periods.
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Old 05-31-2009, 11:07 AM   #9
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Here in Western Oregon we are on year 10 with an upstairs Trex deck. It's doing much better with the same (lack of) care than the cedar railing.
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dm, You Might Want to Check out (Recycled) Pastic Wood...
Old 05-31-2009, 01:45 PM   #10
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dm, You Might Want to Check out (Recycled) Pastic Wood...

...my wife and I added a covered front porch to our house, here in SW PA (near Pittsburgh) in the fall of 2005. The builder we used has an agreement with a local company that manufactures plastic lumber (and other plastic items) from recycled plastic - mainly the 1 gallon plastic milk jugs. This builder uses the recycled lumber and vinyl railings and posts as their "top of the line" deck material. Our builder said he could also use any composite we wanted or "exotic wood" (like IPE) for the same price.

We both love this front porch. All I've had to do is pressure wash the decking a couple of times a year, and wipe down the railings and posts to knock off the accumulated dust/dirt that blows onto the porch. So far, no issues with the plastic decking material or vinyl railings and posts.

There is no decking material that does not have some "issues". The exotic woods are rather expensive; and still need to have some sort of protective coating - although there is at least one deck builder from Oklanoma City who posts on a number of deck forums that says untreated IPE will naturally weather to a "nice silver-grey". Some people have very good luck with composites; others not. Trex has been sued at least once over mold and discoloration issues. Several composite deck board manufacturers have gone out of business after similar issues occurred. Apparently, if the wood material is not completely coated with the plastic, then the wood can start to rot or mold start to grow. Plastic wood has its own issues (mostly looks - "it looks too plasticy"). We went with the grey decking material, which I think looks just like the painted front porch floor of my childhood home.

You can do a Google search and readily find the issues and good points with each type of decking material - IPE (or exotic woods), composites, or plastic. I have also posted at the Porches & Decks forum at Gardenweb, where they have a lot of info on IPE and composite decking material: Porches and Decks - GardenWeb. Do a search there and you will get an idea of what some say about various deck materials.

One last note, on pavers. We had to replace our front walkway when we added the porch, as they had to tear out the existing concrete walkway to install the porch. We had a different contractor install a concrete paver walkway. He specializes in paver installations and used the specialized sand for pavers. We have also had this paver walkway since the fall of 2005 and have had no heaving or displacement of the pavers at all - and we have had some pretty cold winters and wet springs/falls. I agree that concrete pavers would be a nice alternative as well. By the way, you don't have to coat pavers - unless you like the "wet" look. In fact, my contractor strongly recommended we do not coat the pavers, as you then have to periodically recoat them to look good - he said the coating will wear off where people walk. We haven't had to do anything to the pavers to have them look like the day they were installed.

Good luck with your deck/flooring replacement.
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Old 05-31-2009, 08:21 PM   #11
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Thanks everyone. The deck is comming out the second story so pavers wont work. I do have pavers at the bottom of the deck. I'm going to meet with the contractor at the lumberyard tommorow and look at some samples. The contractor is a friend of mine and is suggesting that I go with ceder planks and composite, vinyl, or aluminum railing. But will install anything. He feels that the composite planks are just not worth the added cost.
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Old 05-31-2009, 08:34 PM   #12
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I went with a trex deck on a covered porch and love it. Definitely worth the extra cost up front by saving on maintanence
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Old 05-31-2009, 11:34 PM   #13
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I went with a trex deck on a covered porch and love it. Definitely worth the extra cost up front by saving on maintanence
+1 - your installer will use a couple more joists to support the floppy 5/4" Trex decking but will find that he can run deck screws in and heal them over with a hammer smack - or use a countersink and have them look good too. Trex routs very nicely for cut edge appearance BTW. We went with a bit under 1/8" gap between the boards and would suggest a greater gap - dirt & tree gunk tend to seal up the gaps on our uncovered upstairs deck. Again, the condition of the Trex is much better than the cracking weathered cedar railing installed at the same time. Nothing to gain by endorsing Trex, just saying what our experience has been with that product. Other composites or plastic decking or Ipe i dunno about at all.
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Old 06-01-2009, 05:32 AM   #14
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I built my dock with Trex 6 years ago, and it has held up very well. Now I'm going to redo my deck with it.
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Old 06-01-2009, 06:04 AM   #15
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Thanks everyone. The deck is comming out the second story so pavers wont work. I do have pavers at the bottom of the deck. I'm going to meet with the contractor at the lumberyard tommorow and look at some samples. The contractor is a friend of mine and is suggesting that I go with ceder planks and composite, vinyl, or aluminum railing. But will install anything. He feels that the composite planks are just not worth the added cost.
As you may have gathered from above, not all composite decking is created equal. Trex is among the best, but you really need to do your homework, there are obviously composite decking materials out there that are not worth it. High quality composite will last longer, require (far) less maintenance and might even be more environmentally friendly if that's an attraction.
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Old 06-01-2009, 07:33 AM   #16
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I'll take a look at the Trex, I was given some info on it and the lumberyard does carry it.
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Old 06-01-2009, 01:04 PM   #17
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I built our 500 sq-ft deck 9 years ago and we decided to go with heart-B grade redwood (which cost about the same as Trex at the time) because we liked the look of real wood. We would not make the same choice again. The maintenance required to keep a wood deck looking nice is tremendous; washing with deck cleaner and re-staining at least every third year.

We have seen Trex decks installed at oceanfront homes that still look great after ten years. We will definitely go with Trex or something similar in the future.
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Old 06-01-2009, 01:47 PM   #18
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I'm a big fan of EVERGRAIN composite decking- it is a realistic woodgrain embossed solid (not cellular) product that installs like wood, looks great, comes in 20' lengths (fewer joints), and best of all no maintenance.
Having built a dozen+ decks over the last 20 years, I would NEVER go back to natural wood decking again after seeing how easy this stuff installs and holds up.

Just my 2 cents. Take it for what it is worth.
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