Composite Decking VS Wood Decks
are Maintenance Free
Manufacturers stopped using “Maintenance Free” when describing
their products early on after law suits. Nowadays they refer to it as
you that the product will require cleaning a couple of times a year to
make it look good again. (Good—not, “Like New”)
leave the decking
looking powdery. They are
acidic and chemically strip
the finish and kill the mold for a time. Green clients should be aware
that to “maintain” these products it involves splashing chemicals
around your yard. A good stiff brush is required to physically scrub
Better than Wood
If it is
better than wood—why
are they trying to emulate the look of wood.
new products are quite convincing. Big hunks of plastic with wood
and variable colorants to emulate the look of wood
perfectly. Sure, it
will fade out, but when it is installed it looks just like wood.
Ipe or Mahogany will likely have a durability of 40
years if oiled yearly. A wood
deck can be refinished every few years to
look like new again.
refinish a composite
deck—you simply replace it. 5 years from now, your
deck will look like a 5 year old composite
scratches and stains. When you attempt to change a board or two--it is
more than likely that the new boards will be an entirely different
color than the faded boards you have presently.
buried in a landfill—composite
very well last forever. They say a plastic shopping bag will last 1000
years underground, I bet the composite boards
will also do just as
well. Long after you have tired of your stylish composite
won’t be recycled; it will go to the landfill with the plastic patio
chairs and the rest of the plastic packaging. This deck was
photographed by Glenn Stewart a
home inspector in California. www.TheHouseWhispererBlog.com
don't know the brand--but we know the result. I would suggest that
these are photos that no Composite Company wants you to see.
This is what
happens when composite decking goes wrong... do your research. We don't
even know who manufactured this decking.
Composite decking has lost ground vs wood in the
past couple of years, which is a reversal of trend. I won't bother
however I'd like to believe that we reap what we sow. When it comes to
local lumber yards, most have cut back on their composite
of the builders I know are apprehensive to install composites due to
omnipresent rumours of failures and unhappy clients. Composites vs.
kiln dried pre-finished red cedar, or Tigerdeck, (a 40 year
rated, sustainably grown tropical hardwood), for
price is a match. (for top names in composite decking--like Azek). It
is becoming apparent that after a few years composites simply don't
like they did when it was installed. The color fades and cleaning with
the harsh chemicals they recommend leaves the decking chalky
and porous. Many of the pre-finished wood decks and pergolas found in
our gallery were 5 years old when they were photographed, and look much
like the day they were installed.
had some serious color fading issues and one local deckbuilder had 2
failures within 1 year, (large decks). As a solution, they tried a new
product designed to bond to composite decking. I will be having a look
at the coating this summer to see how it is lasting and if it is
successful, we will tell you all about this coating system for
the leader in composite decking failures, though most are a couple of
years old and it doesn't reflect the recent product changes. With about
75% of the market, it does make sense we would hear the most complaints
about their products. We have
had about 15 phone calls and a few emails in the past year from clients
that need warranty service, had contacted Trex and were getting the run
around or just no response. You have to keep in mind that this is
the company with the most alienating warranty
service. Class action lawsuits have twice
been initiated, and one was completed that found them liable for
to thousands of clients. They also had a voluntary broad scale warranty
issue stemming from flawed composite decking from a now moth-balled
You really have to temper their marketing and warranty promises due to
history. Trex has since come out with a version
of their decking which is wrapped with a coating to address the mold
issue, though, being new, time will tell if it is a viable solution.
this article was written we have
literally had hundreds of
phone calls and emails expressing horror stories as a result of people
buying composite decks through builders. We get many calls from
clients that are looking for replacement decking and parts for
products that are no longer produced.
issue of Warranty is not being addressed by
the composite companies. All but one manufacturer
that I have seen excludes the cost of disposal and labor to replace the
decking from their warranty. This is the composite industry
telling builders that they do not value their time. This is akin to
pitting our clients against builders across
the country. If you are a builder recommending composite to a
client for their deck, you are putting yourself in a potentially
position of being libel for damages, ie. you may be bound
to supply your labor for free to replace faulty composite decking. Lets
face it--if you make composite decking that is faulty, you cannot
ignore the fact that to make the client that purchased the composite
decking whole, you need to cover labor and disposal of the defective
decking. These companies are relying on slick
marketing rather than reputation.
(Tamco), actually offers a 5 year warranty that includes
replacement costs--Not Disposal of Faulty Decking Product though, which
I find strange. Why not go all the way? Though with anything, you need
to do research before buying. I didn't find
many complaints about
Evergrain, when I searched, but you should do your own research before
buying any composite product. When you buy a man made product like
composite decking, you need to
weigh all the factors. Most builders like the product, but how many of
them have that decking that they recommend on their own home
and are still happy with it a decade later. Unfortunately most deck
return later to
see how the decks they build look 5-10 years later. I see this warranty
change as a serious positive.
Composite Decking Law Suits.
has settled a class
action law suit a couple of years ago, and it appears that they still
have mold issues.
Numerous people have called prior to signing a confidentiality
agreement with Trex agreeing not to talk
about it. Another Trex client sent the photos
below. Trex is likely the largest
company in the world and they have always made their
from a mix of materials. This photo was sent by a Trex Client
and he attested that it is 1 year old.
We have been in
contact with law firms recently looking in to ALL composite offerings,
but the two they mentioned primarily is Trex, and AZEK, (which is a
virgin vinyl product). Trex has to do with defective products as well
as treatment of warranty clients, replacement costs and exclusion of
mold from their warranty.
it comes to AZEK they have had reports of the deck getting permanently
stained by things like cooking oil and tanning lotion. Apparently if
you apply tanning lotion then lay on the deck to get some sun, there is
a "Shroud of Tourin" like image of your body left on the deck that
cannot be removed.
If you have had any
issues like this, please send us an email with your name and contacts
and tell us about your story at email@example.com
Closed in the past few years. (A list in progress)
a decking manufacturer closes, the implied warranty is
worthless. Maybe we need to asess their stock before buying to get an
idea of whether they will be there to honor a warranty.Correct
Filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and sold all of its assets to a
subsidiary of Building Materials Corporation of America (BMCA) in
see a large set of comments about Correct Deck (click)
(composite decking warranty--Contact CorrectDeck Directly)CPI
Went through a restructuring and could not meet its financial
comittments, was liquidated by the creditors in 2009 (composite decking
limited lifetime warranty--Worthless)Xtendex
Manufacturing plant in Barrie (Carney Timber Products)
closed and was liquidated. 2007Dexx
Composite decking plant in Bolton Ontario burned
to the ground in 2005. For some reason they never resumed production.ProCell
Purchased by AZEK 2008GeoDeck
Original company no longer operating, Name has been sold to 2
companies since and warranty is no longer valid.Brite
Bankrupt in 2007, business closed in 2008
(no warranty service)Elk Cross Timbers
Purchased in 2007, Closed in 2011Monarch
(Green Tree Composites)
Closed in 2008Life Time Lumber
Business Closed 2011
There are literally
hundreds of now defunct composite decking companies, this is a list of
the largest companies. Please let us know if there are other defunct
companies that should be added to this list.
Coupling Vinyl with Wood
strong but flexible product without as
much temperature growth over time. They missed a couple of factors
however. The “Pulp” wood
they use is made up of fiber (small wood
particles) that is of species not known for outdoor durability such as
pine, spruce and bark from these trees. It’s basically the wood
over that isn’t good enough to use to make paper.
absorbs moisture, then dispels it
this creates a pocket within the vinyl that soaks up moisture every
time it gets wet. Over time… black mold—like an un-vented shower stall
and it will never subside. Cleaners may make it look alright for a few
days—but it will always come back. Apparently they still have issues.
it may be
prudent to steer clear of the product.
offered by composite
are notorious for pointing out their tragic flaws. Pool chemicals,
mechanical wear, mold growth are often not covered by their limited
when they test composite
durability and color-fastness they
test for the equivalent of about 6 months in the real world.
Furthermore manufacturers have told me that each batch of composite
will be a slightly different color. I haven’t personally seen a
testing that included testing for freeze thaw stability.
manufacturers are advertising their decking
as Fade Resistant. Again...
Since the testing is a vague thing, once it gets into the real world it
may simply be a different case. Here are photographs of Trex
Brasillia sent in by Robert Rackish this past year, 2010.
"Little did we know that it would fade and pick up stains
easily" he said in an email. He went on to say he has been
searching for a product that would restore the color and hasn't found
to show what the original color looked like. In the first photo
you can see the two scraps that are the original color on the faded
Is Composite a Structural
simple answer is that when you can legally use
it for joists and handrails then it will be deemed structural
materials. Most composite
hand-rails are not Building Code Legal. Most
composite manufacturers advise to create a frame that has the
joists about 12” apart, rather than the typical 16” since the materials
will tend to sag under it’s own weight.
get numerous people asking for composite
pergolas. Since we can’t
fasten to it securely, or span more than a couple of feet without
deflection designing one that works well is a challenge we just don’t
see as a sound investment.
Vinyl Decking (without wood
apparently durable and long lasting. One of our
builders says he decides which composite
is good by laying it on
something solid, hanging a 3” corner off the edge and giving it a good
whack with a hammer. If it shatters off—Don’t use it. He sticks to
Virgin Vinyl products and has had good luck. (EON by CPI is not Virgin
Vinyl, we would suggest it is a PVC product classed with PVC patio
does expand and
contract a great deal and this needs to be accommodated by using
different methods for fastening and leaving tolerances (spaces) to
allow expansion based on temperature. Variance of about 200 degrees F
should be standard in North America, which means up to 2 or 3“ of
expansion should be expected with some products.
something is just too cheap you want to steer
clear. Cheap gas will always contain water or toxic waste. Cheap
could have any number of horrors lurking within it especially
if it comes all the way from another continent.
that the vinyl fencing has improved over the years. If
what they say is true--Fantastic. However here are some photos
fencing failures. UV breaks down PVC. Spray paint will be
nearly impossible to remove.
Recommending Composites may be Libel for supplying free labor to
Speaking as a builder, we have a
tough enough time getting jobs
finished on a schedule and on budget. We work long hard days in the
elements to keep our customers happy, and when a warranty issue with a
composite decking company causes this important relationship with our
clients to be jeaprodized we as builders need to pay particular
attention to it and weigh the issues. Only Evergrain offers a 5 year
Limited Warranty that covers Installation Costs--but not disposal
visit with Tom Jacques from Hickory Dickory Decks
kind enough to show me around a few
installations in Burlington.
The decks looked good—that’s why he’s our competition in
many areas. He tells me that 90% of their work is composite decking.
offer a great thanks for his time showing me his work.
large company with many sub-contract
employees it is hard to keep a tight control on quality control so
there were flaws here and there. I think their work is quite good
the decks realistically did not look 3
years old, but they may have been close. At the time of this revision
we did not have disclosure as to how old exactly they were. Regardless,
there were flaws in some that indicated that they were likely in the
range of 3 years old.
decks I viewed had obviously been
professionally cleaned. Some of the composite
decks containing wood
showed evidence of mold growth and staining.
had caused some boards to shear screws,
and there were quite a few joints that didn’t quite line up. Plastics
expand when you heat them, and contract when you cool them. Unless the
temperature is the same as the date of installation there will be gaps
and/or pressure distortion.
expands when it absorbs moisture, and shrinks
when it dispels it. This factor has to be accommodated by leaving
spaces or using special techniques to minimize the visibility and
photographed this display fence in 2004 and we
understand that the company went bankrupt and was bought out by another
display, as you can see was listing badly. The
new owners removed the display—I guess they had better taste.
The entertaining part was
that their yard was fenced using steel siding rather than their own
products. The steel fence is still there, but keep in mind that
decision was made by the old management… not the new.
Careful out there!
the opinions expressed in these articles are simply an opinion of the
author. No malice is intended. If you have information or evidence of
errors or possible corrections we invite your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Decking can be
low maintenance Wood