July 2003 Edition

Composite Decks

Our deck is at the end of its life and we want to replace it with something that will last longer. What is the new composite material they are using?
Low maintenance decking is good news. Traditional wood decks look great, but you have to refinish or reseal them every few years to keep them looking that way. Low-maintenance alternatives now promise much of the same look and feel of wood but without the worry that they’ll crack, split or warp if you neglect them.
Wood composites (mixtures of wood fiber and plastic) are leading the way. In the following pages, we’ll introduce you to two types of composites—solid boards and a variety of hollow shapes. We’ll also tell you about vinyl and aluminum decking options that require even less maintenance than composites.
Solid Composite Decking
If you like the look of a traditional wood deck, solid composites are for you. They imitate the look, feel and workability of wood deck boards.

Decking1

They’re roughly the same size - about 1" to l-l/4" thick and 5-1/2" wide. They’re tough and durable, and they resist insect and rot. The finished deck will have a solid feel underfoot with minimal flex. Every composite board is identical and flat, without twists, warps or knots to slow installation time. However, composites may require an annual cleaning to remove mildew and dirt. They aren’t structural (use wood joists). In addition, solid composites are heavy and they’re a chore to handle if you’re working alone. Price is around $4.15 per sq. ft.
If you’re accustomed to working with wood, it’s easy to make the transition to solid composites. Frame your deck with pressure-treated wood joists 16 in. on center (12 in. o.c. if you set the decking at a 45-degree angle).
Solid composites are tough, so driving the fasteners requires oomph. Use either 2-1/2 in. screws or 2-1/2 in. nails.
Special features
Composites are surprisingly flexible, making them ideal for decks with curves.
Here are a few tips for bending boards:
• Composites are more flexible when warm.
• Use clamps to draw the board to the curve, then secure it with deck screws.
• Some brands will bend easier than others. Ask your supplier for details if you’re thinking about a curved deck.
Solid composites also work well for a ground-level deck where there’s high moisture and minimal airflow. They’ll resist cupping and warping and won’t rot.
Buyer’s Guide
AVAILABILITY: Lumberyards and home centers usually stock at least one brand of solid composite decking.

CORRECTDECK: (888) 290-1235. www.correctdeck.com

EVERX: (608) 326-2481. http://www.everxdeck.com

RHINO DECK: (800) 535-4838. www.mastermark.com

TREX: (800) 289-8739. www.trex.com

WEATHERBEST: (800) 648-6893. www.weatherbest.lpcorp.com

Other Composite Varieties

Consider one of these systems if you want a lighter-weight composite, a tightly spaced appearance or a simple hidden fastening system.

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Interlocking tongue-and-groove systems eliminate gaps and allow you to hide the screws as well as drive fewer of them. Several styles are stiffer and can span joists on 24-rn. centers. However, each system has "need-to-know details" to make the job successful, including how to cover the ends of the boards, how to rip boards, where to start the first board, and where and how to fasten them. Many require at least a 12-inch air space under the deck for ventilation. Study the details of each system at the lumberyard or home center before buying. Price: About $4.00 per sq. ft. Composite varieties include profiles that are hollow and thinner and connect with tongues and grooves (and hidden fasteners). Surface textures vary.
Like the solid versions, these composites are cut with normal carpentry tools. Installation details vary by brand; study them before you start. Ripped boards may require reinforcement. Cover the ends with special trim pieces from the manufacturer or a trim board. If using tongue-and-groove boards, slope the framing 1/2 in. over 8 ft. to drain any water away from the house and run the decking perpendicular to the house if possible.
1. Hollow versions: Drive screws through the surface as you would with solids. The installation guidelines tell you where to place them, so you don’t crack the surface. Don’t overdrive them.
2. Tongue-and-groove systems: Drive screws at an angle through one edge. The next board hides the screw head. These systems go down fast.
3. Clip systems: You loosely screw the clip in place, slip the next board in, then tighten the screw the rest of the way to clamp the board down. The clips let the board expand and contract freely
Special features
The tongue-and-groove style looks tight and clean (no fasteners) and partially protects the space beneath from rain. The lighter-weight boards are easier to handle and are often more suitable for rooftop decks. Some tongue-and-groove versions fit tightly and look more like a porch floor than a deck.
Buyer’s Guide
Samples and details are available at most lumberyards and home centers. Often you have to order the material.

CHOICEDEK: (800) 951-5117. http://www.choicedek.com

CORRECTDECK: (888) 290-1235. www.correctdeck.com

EON: (866) 342-5366. http://www.eonoutdoor.com

NEXWOOD: (888) 763-9966. http://www.nexwood.com

TIMBERTECH: (800) 307-7780. www.timbertech.com

ULTRA DECK: www.ultradeck.com

Source: The Family Handyman, April 2003


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