Decking – choosing the best low maintenance decking option
Decks add value, convenience and fun to any property they’re installed on. Whether you use your deck year-round for entertaining or just during the summer months as a place to grill, there’s no question that adding a deck to your home can really increase the functionality of your yard and the value of your home. Unfortunately, because the deck area is left outdoors in all climates and weather conditions, it frequently requires a lot of maintenance to keep it looking and functioning at its best. There are many options on the market when it comes to decking, but knowing which one will provide the least maintenance requirements while delivering maximum beauty and function can be difficult. Here we shed some insight on the industry’s leading products to help you determine the best decking for your yard.
Pressure Treated Wood
Pressure treated wood is a very common option in the realm of decking products. Consumers who decide on treated lumber for decking are often real wood advocates and very sensitive to price. Treated lumber is a great option for baseline budgets as it does tend to be the least expensive option, however it’s important to remember that when it comes to decking, like anything else, you get what you pay for.
Treated wood decking is a high maintenance choice. Even with the chemical treatment, it has a tendency to foster mold and mildew, so it requires regular cleaning. It’s also recommended that homeowners stain and seal their deck every 2-3 years to maintain its look and integrity, this leads to higher costs over the course of the deck’s life. Treated wood is not that right deck for a homeowner who seeks a low maintenance deck.
A couple other important factors include very limited protection from treatment warranties as well as the potential health concerns of being exposed to stringent chemicals that are embedded in the wood.
Composite Decking Materials
Composite decking gained a lot of momentum in the 1990s when the industry was calling for a new, lower maintenance decking alternative to traditional treated lumber. Composite decking is a manufactured product that’s made up of both natural wood fiber and plastic. Consumers appreciate that it doesn’t require staining or sealing and is available in a variety of colors.
In the very best cases, composite decking materials can be a lower maintenance option, however the better performing lines, with the longer warranties and look more like real wood can get very pricey. As for the lower priced options, many complain about the unattractive plastic look and limited color options. And while composites do offer more durability than treated lumber, they so still contain natural fiber and therefore as still susceptible to problems, like swelling, cupping and mold growth.
One final cautionary tale of composite decking is that the PVC coating most are wrapped in, to improve performance, can get very hot in the sun. This can mean make walking barefoot or laying on your deck difficult to withstand.
Composite was once considered to be a “revolutionary” in its technology, however there have been many improvements since its introduction and the pressure to maintain low costs over the years has led to the cheapening of quality in many cases.
Fiber Cement Decking
Fiber cement decking is a new product thought to solve some of the issues of composite decking materials. It’s very durable, requires little maintenance and it’s available in a wide range of colors and stains. It also has a woodgrain texture to it that can make your deck look more like real wood, which is something all wood alternatives try to emulate.
From a durability and maintenance standpoint, fiber cement does make a great option for decks, however from an installation standpoint, it tends to fall very short. Fiber cement is made from a mixture of cellulose fiber, sand, silica, glass and Portland cement, making it more durable and impervious to moisture. The downside is that it’s very heavy, dense and difficult to cut, making it tricky to work with. Cutting fiber cement requires special equipment and care as silica dust can be released into the air if not appropriately handled. Silica dust is known to cause health conditions like silicosis, lung disease and even lung cancer. These added difficulties can make the installation process very costly, on top of an already premium priced product.
Just like vinyl siding, there’s been a big trend toward vinyl decking in the last few years. On the surface this makes sense; vinyl doesn’t peel, chip, fade or rot over time. Unfortunately, it does react poorly to extremes in temperature, melting in hot areas and cracking in cold climates.
Vinyl decking is made from the same polyvinyl chloride – a type of plastic – as vinyl siding, however, since it’s installed in a horizontal application as opposed to vertical, the planks need to be thicker than vinyl siding. As can be assumed, this added material need drives up the cost. And while you don’t have to worry about resealing or painting your vinyl deck, you can’t avoid the fact that the fake wood grain looks like plastic masquerading as real wood.
Finally, like composite, vinyl decking tends to get very hot in the sun. Overtime direct sunlight can actually compromise the structural integrity of the deck as well, by making the boards softer and more likely to warp. Definitely things to keep in mind when considering vinyl for decking.
For a while there, many people thought that they answer to high maintenance wood decking was to use aluminum instead. After all, people are using aluminum roofs and siding with fairly good results, right?
While aluminum may not rot or peel, it has many other drawbacks that are rather deterring. Aluminum can dent very easily, even when not too much force is applied. So, if you or your kids enjoy being active outside, you may find several unsightly dents in your new deck before the first summer is out. Metal decks also tend to be pretty loud; just walking across your deck can send a series of echoing bangs across your property. And for typical summer parties, your deck could become an echo chamber of music and noise that your neighbors may not appreciate.
Aluminum also tends to fade in the sun. The powder coat coloring process will eventually break down, leaving chalky streaks behind everything that touches it, including you and your clothes after just a few years.
Finally, an aluminum deck is always going to look like what it is – a lightweight metal deck. It will never have the beauty or timeless good looks that a wood deck can bring to your yard.
Modified Wood Decking
Believe it or not, we are about to come full circle and return to a second real wood option. Modified wood decking might just be the best low maintenance option, for people who love the classic look of real wood, on the market today. This is the new decking revolution that has been gaining fast momentum in both the architectural and residential worlds. The notable industry leader in this category is Kebony, which has been outperforming competitors for years now.
Kebony takes real wood and uses a patented, bio-based liquid to transform the molecular structure of the wood cells, making a much stronger and incredibly durable wood decking. Like all wood, Kebony stays cooler in the sun and has a beautiful natural grain that can enhance the appearance of your deck and landscaping. Unlike other woods which require staining and sealing, Kebony’s rich brown color naturally fades to a coveted silver gray patina over time – a color that is much prized amongst homeowners and designer’s alike for its beauty and timelessness. The modification process also helps reduce splinters, so you can walk barefoot and worry-free on your deck at any.
Modified wood decking can withstand virtually anything that you throw at it, from parties and entertainment to whatever kind of weather different climates bring. While you pay a bit more for this level of performance, the assurance of knowing your will outlast any of your neighbors’, is well worth the investment. And because it’s real, natural wood, it will your backyard the rich looking upgrade you’re searching.
Finally, modified wood, like Kebony, is environmentally friendly. Made only from sustainable wood species you won’t carry any guilt from destroying rainforests like hardwood forestation does. And since it’s treated with a product that is non-toxic, you don’t have to worry about your or family coming into contact with any harmful chemicals or byproducts.
Make the Right Choice
Don’t be surprised by the turn the industry has taken in that natural wood, like Kebony, is now the best low maintenance decking option on the market today. As a result of technological advances and consumer demand for something that’s real, natural and beautiful; the creation of durable wood products was only a matter of time. Now that it’s arrived don’t settle for products that try to imitate wood and come with their own set of problems; only real, modified wood can give you the look feel, and function you need for your new deck.