What you need to know before you purchase your wood, vinyl, composite or aluminum decking material.

Posted on Nov 25, 2013

Which Decking Is The Most Durable?

All but the most exotic woods will twist, splinter and ultimately decay. Even cedar and pressure treated wood are susceptible to rot and decay. And don’t forget fire. Plastic and composite products will develop smoke and give off harmful gases like hydrogen chloride in a fire. Wood of course is an excellent fuel source for a fire, it develops lots of smoke and produces carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide gasses.

PVC, vinyl, and composites are all plastic. Plastic items left outdoors, subject to sun and weather will deteriorate. UV inhibitors are blended into the plastic compounds to slow down this deterioration. We’ve all experienced what happens to plastic products that are exposed to the elements. A little searching on the internet for terms like “composite decking failures” will yield interesting results. You’ll learn about several lawsuits and the many composite companies who are no longer in business.

Structural Failure of Composite Decking

Make no mistake, the only material that can stand the test of time is aluminum. It is used whenever strength and longevity are required:

  • Office buildings & condos – used extensively in the railing and exterior wall/window framing
  • The space station and the space shuttle and all aircraft
  • Many more examples of the benefits of aluminum are available

Will Aluminum Decking Support Mold & Mildew?

We all know wood is susceptible, but did you know that most composites have a poor mold rating? Check out Consumer Reports where aluminum boards were rated the best compared to wood, plastic and composites. (you must be a member of Consumer Reports to view their ratings). The wood dust or other natural fibers used in the composite makes it more attractive to mold and mildew.

1877-trex_deck_mold_probl

Whether mold or mildew forms on PVC or aluminum decks depends on local conditions, but there is no “food” in the decking itself to sustain it. It is usually a simple matter to clean it off. Consult manufacturers cleaning instructions.

Is Aluminum Decking Slippery?

Have you ever been on your wood deck just after a rain, or when the snow has melted? IT IS SLIPPERY! Plastic and composite boards may have a pattern embossed into them, but they are still plastic.

Not only does Craft-Bilt aluminum decking have tiny raised ribs for traction, but there is an embedded crumble in the powder coat finish. You have to see it and feel it to appreciate it. You will agree there is no wood or plastic product that comes close. Other aluminum boards may claim to be slip resistant but ask for a sample, you may find the finish is not much more than a textured paint. Ask for a free aluminum decking sample.

What Is The Strength Of Composite Decking vs. Aluminum Decking?

In Consumer Reports tests, ALL plastic boards were susceptible to sagging.

Plastic is not a structural material. To be code compliant, plastic and composite decking may require joist centers as close as 12” apart. Normal joists are spaced 16” apart. Craft-Bilt’s aluminum decking was tested using joists spaced 24” apart, and it far surpassed the building code requirement of 100 pounds/sf. In fact, we applied over 1000 pounds per square foot to our boards without any failure!

Will Heat & Cold Effect Aluminum Decking?

The freeze/thaw cycles of the Canadian environment can wreak havoc on plastic based products. Plastic based products have huge rates of expansion and contraction with changes in temperature, so much so that screws fastened directly through the decking have snapped off. Expansion and contraction of aluminum is almost negligible by comparison.

How strong will your decking be this winter? We all know that PVC gets brittle in the cold weather, aluminum actually gets stronger as the temperature drops.

So What Are The “Cons” of Aluminum Decking?

Here is a list of aluminum decking “cons”:

  1. Aluminum is painted. It can get scratched. That’s it.

A scratch can be touched up. Unlike steel, you can scratch an aluminum product all you want, it will never rust or corrode. It will still out live the people and the house it was built for. Craft-Bilt decking is painted with a superior “Super Durable” powder coat formula that has passed AAMA’s highest paint criteria, AAMA 2605, for things like adhesion, hardness, impact resistance, corrosion and much more. In fact, we left our decking in the salt spray test booth for over 1½ years and the paint finish was still intact! Many of our paint finish reports are on our aluminum decking web page under the Specifications tab.

Conclusion

While a nice deck can be made with plastic based products, the rules and warnings are enough to shake your faith in these types of products. Ask yourself… would they use plastic to build office tower glazing systems, planes, space stations or transport trailers? Have you ever seen plastic railing in a multi-storey building or a commercial setting? Search for “composite decking nightmare”, then search for “aluminum decking nightmare”. The results speak for themselves.

By

Bart Bremmers