Water, sun, boats, and a good time, that is what a dock is all about. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small walkway reaching out into the local reservoir or where you dock your yacht it’s all the same.
A place to enjoy the water.
Enjoy not work is the primary goal. This is why you want to use the best low-maintenance decking on your dock. Composite decking is one of those low maintenance decking available for a deck, but not all composite decking is made the same.
“Composite decking is an ideal choice for marine and boat dock applications due to its durability and low maintenance requirements.”
Some composite decking will give you years of enjoyment on your dock. Others will make you wish you never owned a boat.
- 1 Which Composite Decking is Best for a Dock?
- 2 What are the Challenges for Decking on a Dock?
- 3 Evaluating Composite Decking Performance for a Dock
- 3.1 Comparing Levels of Water Absorption of Decking
- 3.2 Decking Resistant to Fungi, Mould and Algae
- 3.3 Damage by high levels of UV (Sun)
- 3.4 Comparing Decking Traction When Wet to Avoid Slips on the Dock
- 3.5 Decking with the Best Spanning Distance for your Dock
- 3.6 Composite Decking that is Barefoot Friendly for Your Dock
- 3.7 Composite Decking Lasting on Your Dock, Backed by Its Warranty
- 4 Best Plastic (PVC) Dock Decking
- 5 Conclusion
Which Composite Decking is Best for a Dock?
After comparing many different decking options for a dock, one stood out from all the rest.
MoistureShield is the best composite decking for a dock. Their Vision decking can be installed in water. The marine boards can span 24″ while reducing surface temperature with CoolDeck® Technology. Plus, MoistureShield is warrantied to last a lifetime, including minimal fading.
One aspect they fell short, no pun intended, was slip resistance. MoistureShield has good traction, better than the industry standard. But was lower than many other dock boards.
But after reviewing more than 30 decking boards, MoistureShield Vision still came out on top for a dock. Here are a few other decking boards to be considered for a dock and their best feature.
- Clubhouse (Best Traction)
- Deckorators (Lowest Water Absorption)
- Tivadok MARINE SERIES DOCK BOARD (Fade Warranty)
- WearDeck (Longest Span)
Let’s consider what is critical for decking on a dock and then how each board performed.
What are the Challenges for Decking on a Dock?
A dock is a particularly challenging environment for decking, including composite decking. Which makes selection of decking even more critical. Decking used on a deck must be
- Resistant to Moisture, fungi, mould and algae
- Not be damaged by high levels of UV (Sun)
- Provide excellent traction to avoid slips (Especially when wet)
- Be able to span larger spacing of joists
- Be Barefoot friendly
On top of all those, ideally, it will not be damaged by insect or sunscreen spray as they will often be used while enjoying your dock.
And let’s not forget, it needs to look good. Ugly decking makes an ugly dock destroying the beauty of your surrounding.
Resistant to Moisture, fungi, and mould
The very thing that we enjoy about having a dock is water. It is also the very thing that will make the decking unusable and ultimately destroy it.
“Special attention should be paid to composite decking that is manufactured with organic materials as they can be slightly more susceptible to decay caused by mold, fungi, or mildew than plastic decking.”
Decking used on a dock must not be damaged by a high level of water exposure or be prone to growing fungi or mould, making the dock unsafe. And over time will destroy the decking.
Not be damage by high levels of UV (Sun)
Next to the water, the sun’s warmth draws us out unto our docks. But the high level of Ultra Violet(UV) can also destroy the decking on the dock. It is critical if you want to enjoy your dock for years to come that the material used will not be damaged by the sun.
Provide excellent traction to avoid slips (Especially when wet)
When your wrangling in your boat, preparing for your next voyage or even doing a canon ball in to the water. Slips are not good.
Dock decking needs to have excellent traction to prevent slips and injuries.
With a dock, that addition of water will increase the possibility of slipping. Meaning the decking must have good traction even when wet.
Be Barefoot friendly
Many of us love to kick off our shoes when enjoying time outside. Especially if you are in and out of the water. Making the importance of barefoot-friendly decking a must on a dock.
There are two ways that the decking needs to be good to your feet.
First is no splinters.
Walking on your dock should be worry-free on any injuries, including a splinter.
Next to or including splinters is heat. The sun reflecting off the water already makes the dock a hot spot. Both in a good way and bad.
But when it comes to bare feet, you don’t want to be doing the chicken dance from the boat to the shore. Decking that stays cool even in the sun is ideal. Or at least cooler than other materials.
Able to span larger spacing between joists
Finally, is the issue of joists spacing and how far the decking can span. The less material required for your dock, the better.
Decking that can span a greater distance reduces the number of joists required for your dock. Decreasing cost, construction time and weight.
The weight of the decking is even more important with a floating dock. Where bouncy is important, and the less weight, the easier the dock floats.
Evaluating Composite Decking Performance for a Dock
Well, let’s get to it then. Comparing the decking’s performance for each of the challenges a dock creates for decking.
First up, water.
Comparing Levels of Water Absorption of Decking
The thought process is simple here. The less water the decking absorbs, the less it will be impacted by water. The winner is the decking that absorbs the least amount of water splashing on your dock.
|Composite Decking||%mass Water Absorption after 24 hours|
|Deckorators(MPC) Voyage, Vault, Frontier||<0.05%|
Well, this chart shows Deckorators Mineral-Based composite as the winner. Unfortunately, its not that easy.
In an attempt to be accurate and fair, I only want to use third-party test results. And not all composite decking is tested the same.
For example, MoistureShield’s data is based on 7 days soaking in water.
|MoistureShield||% weight gain after 168 hours|
With a much longer exposure time, MoistureShield’s Vision line is half of the amount of water as Fortress Apex.
“MoistureShield composite decking takes that durability a step further with Solid Core Difference™, our products can be installed on the water or underwater without damage from warping or swelling, even after cutting. With virtually no moisture absorption even in the most demanding environments”
MoistureShield is not just talking smack, but over 30 years of warranting their decking, they have yet to have a structural failure. So, experience backs their claim.
But to be fair Bearboard Lumber, Lumberock, and WearDeck also all claim not to absorb water. Or to be damaged by saltwater, the harshest of all dock waters.
But unfortunately, I don’t have any third-party testing to back up this claim, so I will give water absorption or the lack thereof to Deckorators (MBC) and MoistureShield’s Vision line. They both are practically impervious to water. So, splash on waves, they won’t be damaged.
And both are warrantied that they can be installed in water, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Decking Resistant to Fungi, Mould and Algae
This is where capped composite decking excels. It almost doesn’t matter which brand of composite decking you use, almost all capped composite decking will not grow mould or fungi on it. Or if it does it’s easy to wash off.
Helping the decking to look its best even with high level of water of it.
Damage by high levels of UV (Sun)
The first thing that the sun’s rays will damage is the colour of the decking. The faster the decking fades, the more the sun’s UVs are a problem.
Again, almost all composite decking is guaranteed against 5 Delta-E of fading. Varying between 25 and 50 years, depending on the brand.
Noticeably exception is MoistureShield’s Vantage line. Which is uncapped and will fade in the sun. Significantly in the first 6 months but will continue over the life of the dock.
Comparing Decking Traction When Wet to Avoid Slips on the Dock
Composite decking has been known to be slippery making it less than ideal for docks, but this isn’t always true. Here are some composite decking with better traction ratings.
|Slip Resistance (Dry)||Slip Resistance (Wet)|
Above are just a few to consider for your dock.
The best rated for traction is Clubhouse PVC boards. Both wet and dry, you will not slip.
When dry, Azek’s Vintage has one of the better ratings. It is fairly common with PVC decking to have high slip resistance, often rating better than many composite deck boards.
Vision has a good rating when wet but is less than ideal when dry.
The most consistent is Vantage, MoistureShield’s uncapped decking, which consistently wet or dry provides a good level of traction.
The same can be said about WearDeck, which provides roughly the same level of traction, both wet and dry.
But overall, they all will provide good traction keeping you from slipping on your dock.
Decking with the Best Spanning Distance for your Dock
This is where decking designed explicitly for docks and marine applications excel.
Most composite and PVC decking is designed for 16″ on centre joists, except most PVC decking manufacturers recommend 12″ on centre spacing to increase rigidity. Which isn’t ideal for a dock application.
Three boards that stand out, being able to span more than others, are MoistureShield, WearDeck and Tivadock.
MoistureShield makes Vision and Vantage 1.4″ thick able to span 24″.
The next level up is WearDeck, which is high-density polyethylene (HDPE) reinforced with fibreglass fibres. Those fibres with the denser plastic can span 24″. Matching MoistureShieldbut with a thinner board, only 1.05″.
The real overachiever is Tivadok’s aluminum-reinforce marine series boards, which can span a full 32″. Twice the span of most composite decking allows you to keep the weight of the dock structure to a minimum while still having a solid decking surface. But with most of the benefits of PVC decking.
Composite Decking that is Barefoot Friendly for Your Dock
One advantage for your feet with composite decking is no splinters. Making it one of the friendliest decking options.
But most composite decking is also hot on the feet in the sun. Which is often on a dock.
There are a few exceptions that are trying to design their decking to be cooler. Allowing you to enjoy being barefoot on your deck even when the sun is out.
They are Azek, MoistureShield and WearDeck, which we have already looked at for other decking reasons on a dock.
Azek with select PVC boards claims to be cooler than other boards. Azek’s Vintage with Coastline®, Weathered Teak® and French White Oak®. Upon closer examination, the biggest takeaway is colour. Lighter colour boards will be cooler boards.
“Up to 30 degrees [17°C] cooler than many competitive composite products.”
MoistureShield “CoolDeck® Technology” helps the board reduce heat absorption by up to 35%. Assisting boards to feel cooler to the touch.
WearDeck does both, but without claiming any hard temperature change. Making their decking with heat-reflective technology while offering a selection of lighter colour boards. Boards like Barefoot Grey and Barefoot Sand. The name says it all. Lighter coloured boards designed to be enjoyed without shoes.
The hard fact is third party testing of heat reducing decking designs has had limited results. Some boards are cooler by a few degrees, but generally, it ends up being a colour game more than anything else.
Whatever composite decking you pick for your dock, keep it light and be cooler to the touch.
Composite Decking Lasting on Your Dock, Backed by Its Warranty
None of us know the future but with a good strong warranty if it doesn’t live up to its promise. It will be replaced.
Let’s look at their warranties and installation instructions because they are often tied together. Especially concerning the issue of water on a dock.
“Trex decking contains no materials that will harm marine life and is safe for the environment. As long as dock is in intermittent contact with water, i.e., splashing and not in continuous direct contact with water, the durability of the Trex decking should not be affected.“
I like that Trex is upfront addressing dock installation but have some hesitation.
First, clearly, the decking should not be submerged in water. Limiting the dock design and increasing the potential for failure.
Second, I bolded it, but “Trex decking should not be affected”. That’s not a promise of performance but an out if something does go wrong.This is why I would not recommend installing Trex decking on your dock. A great brand that I have installed on numerous decks but not on a dock. It’s not designed for a dock.
We are looking for a stronger warranty and application for a dock.
But let’s switch to decking recommended for dock application.
MoistureShield Warranty for a Dock?
“MoistureShield products will withstand the most hostile environment, including incidental saltwater contact or spray in coastal areas. “
MoistureShield does not exclude water applications for its decking but offers a “lifetime”, 50-year structural warranty on all its decking.
Fading is a little different story.
- Vantage has no fading warranty
- Elevate™ has a 30-year warranty
- Meridian™ has a 40-year warranty
- Vision® has a 50-year warranty
Vision is the best and has a marine profile specifically designed for dock applications. I would not recommend using Elevate or Meridian for dock application despite the warranty.
Vantage will fade, which could be a problem if your heart is set on the decking colour. But if you are good with the weather lock and a more natural, self-healing surface, it has its advantages.
WearDeck Warranty for a Dock?
“Our boards resist the effects of salt and freshwater, severe weather, insect infestation, and the sun. WearDeck is rated for ground contact and underwater installation.”
For warranty, WearDeck stands behind their decking structurally. Promising a lifetime of enjoyment without deteriorating under your feet.
“WearDeck Reinforced Polymeric Decking product will not suffer structural damage from termites or fungal decay, and will not split, splinter or warp… lifetime of the original purchasers ownership”
The original colour is a little different story.
“(f) any variations in the original color, including but not limited to fading, discoloration and spotting”
WearDeck has no warranty against fading. Which I find interesting, since they include additives specifically added to reduce UV damage for 25 years. But I guess that’s not covered in the warranty.
Deckorators Warranty for a Dock?
“(Voyage) Ideal near water as it features textured embossing for enhanced traction”
Right out of the gate Deckorators is less bold with their claim of use of their decking near water. Unlike WearDeck and MoistureShield, Deckorators does not have a marine board designed explicitly for dock application. Its mineral-based decking can be installed near the water with minimal impact o the decking.
“Structural Limitations: ONLY the following Mineral-Based Composite may be installed in contact with the ground or submersion in water when a project design requires those conditions; Voyage, Dock & Deck, Vault, T&G Porch, Frontier and Pioneer.”
Making both wood and mineral-based composite care must be taken limit to only their mineral-based composite for use near water. Unlike WearDeck and MoistureShield which only manufacture decking that can be installed in water.
Deckorators warranty is straightforward. “Lifetime,” 50-years structural and 25-year fade and stain warranty for their MBC composites.
TivaDok Warranty for a Dock?
“Premium dock materials for all waterside applications”
Being reinforced PVC, TivaDok offers a similar structural warranty for their decking.
“The terms of this warranty shall extend fifty (50) years for a Residential Purchaser …will be free of defects and will not split, rot, splinter, delaminate, crack, excessively swell, or suffer structural damage from termites or fungal decay.”
Included in their warranty is fading. Limiting fading to less than 5 Delta-E for the life (50-years) of the decking.
All 4 are structurally covered for a lifetime, but the biggest difference is in fading warranty.
- WearDeck – no fade warranty
- Deckorators – 25-year fade warranty
- MoistureShield Vision – 50-year fade warranty
- TivaDok – 50-year fade warranty
Leaving us with a tie between MoistureShield Vision and TivaDok, both with a lifetime of colour protection.
Best Plastic (PVC) Dock Decking
If you are looking exclusively for PVC decking for your dock, sometimes referred to as plastic, TivaDok is your best choice.
Of all the decking specially designed for docks, it is the only one made from PVC. Overcoming PVC’s structural weakness by reinforcing the core with an aluminum rib, allowing the boards to span a full 32″.
Clubhouse is another PVC decking with excellent grip but requires joists at max 16″ on centre, but 12″ is better. Making TivaDok reinforced planks a better option.
Combining all these together, MoistureShield’s Vision decking comes out as the best well-rounded composite decking for docks. It is not always the best in every category, but it consistently performs well.
Deckorators MBC composite will absorb less water, but Vision is close and absorbs less than most composite material.
For the all import decking traction on your deck. This is one of the lowest-performing aspects of MoistureShield’s Vision. Clubhouse, Zuri and Deckorators all have better traction. But Vision does exceed 0.5 and outperforms most composite decking on the market.
In regards to the strength of the decking, Vision with their 1.4″ marine boards can span 24″, better than most composite decking. But again, not the best with WearDeck matching with a thinner board and TivaDok exceeding with 32″ span.
In regards to touch and feel, MoistureShield does perform better than most. With their CoolDeck® Technology reducing the temperature of the decking combined with their lifetime warranty against fading in the sun. Only TivaDok competes with a similar fading warranty.
As you can see, if you are looking for dock decking that will perform well over your lifetime, MoistureShield’s Vision is worth considering.
If you have specific concerns like traction or spanning, other options may suit your dock better.
Enjoy your deck out on the water.