In the last decade, there has been a surge of innovation in the wood-alternatives market. Manufacturers have done everything from recycling plastic into wood-like boards to creating compounds from rice hulls. A more recent innovation is mineral-based composite (MBC) decking, but what is and is it worth it?
What Is MBC Decking Made Of?
MBC is a decking option that contains no organic materials such as wood by-products. Mineral-based composite is made from plastic polymers and minerals, including polypropylene and calcium carbonate.
The compound is then stretched through a set of dies. This stretching process causes cavitation (trapped air) inside the compound, resulting in a fibrous material with more or less the same strength to weight ratio as wood.
Mineral-based composite decking has the strength characteristics of wood but, unlike wood, is highly resistant to mould and rot.
Which Companies Make Mineral Composite Decking?
One of the front runners in creating mineral-based composite was a company called Eovations, which is a partnership with Deckorators. Being one of the first, Deckorators has become the dominant brand of mineral-based composite decking.
Like Trex is synomise with composite decking, the wood-based variety. Deckorators is to mineral-based composite.
But Deckorators is not the only mineral decking. Below are four more of which I am sure will become a growing lists as more companies see the advantages of mineral-base composites.
- Tangent’s Fiber Reinforced Lumber
So keep your eyes open for other brands popping up selling mineral composites. Or even more likely, the big brands like Fiberon or TimberTech adding an additional line of mineral-based composites. Similar to what Deckorators has done, both Fiberon and TimberTech currently offer full PVC boards and Wood-Based Composites but could add mineral-based.
The Benefits of MBC Decking
Mineral-based composite decking is a phenomenal breakthrough in the wood-alternative industry at risk of overselling. While it isn’t perfect, it has some profound benefits that set it apart from the competition.
1. MBC Doesn’t Contain Any Organic Materials
Although we mentioned it earlier in this post, it deserves emphasis. MBC doesn’t contain any organic material means that it isn’t subject to the same elemental degrading that affects those organics.
Consider wood and wood by-products that absorb copious amounts of water, quickly rot prone, and are subject to UV decay. In particular, growing mildew makes your deck look ugly and makes the decking more slippery.
These bad qualities are all but absent in Mineral-Based Composite decking. And while nothing on earth will survive the sun forever, MBC will last a good deal longer than wood.
2. Safe to Use Close to Water.
Because the minerals do not absorb water, it is an ideal decking for around water. Places like docks where the decking will regularly get splashed. This is why both Deckorators and WearDeck our on my list of best composites for docks.
Interestingly there are other composites beyond mineral-based that also perform well around water. But this is oen of the big benefits of mineral-based composites.
3. MBC Minimal Thermal Expansion
Thermal expansion is the bane of composite decking, and while options like rice hull composite do improve on the problem, MBC is currently the reigning champion.
Although it isn’t technically accurate to state that MBC experiences zero thermal expansion, it is correct that the expansion is typically negligible.
This is most apparent when compared with PVC decking, which also has a long life span and requires large gapping to allow for expansion and contraction. Butt joints are huge in the cool of the day. These large gaps also collect gunk, causing your joists to rot and just look ugly.
Even the simplest finishing move of mitring your picture frame on your deck needs to come with a disclaimer that the joints will open up and deteriorate over time.
Compare this with mineral-based composite.
Check out Shawn from Premier Outdoor Living, building a decking insert with an insane amount of mitres.
That is only possible with mineral-based composites.
4. MBC Is Very Strong
One of the most significant benefits of traditional wood over nearly all composites is its inherent strength-to-weight ratio (obviously, depending on what wood you use). Typically, composites have to be heavier and are more brittle to attain the same strength.
The stretching process involved in the manufacturing of MBC manages to create a fibrous, wood-like substance that has many of the same structural characteristics. So MBC tends to be stronger and lighter than competing composite options.
5. Mineral-Based Composite Decking Warranty
Lifetime is the best warranty you can get for decking. Which is one of the plus of mineral-based composite decking as a group. Four of the five companies highlighted have lifetime (50-year) structural warranty.
Mineral-based Composite with LifeTime Warranty
Which shows the strength of the decking. It will vary a little bit between brands overall. The mineral-based composite companies are confident their decking will not break under normal use.
To be upfront, unlike many PVC lifetime decking warranties, some fading and staining are often warrantied for a shorter time.
For example, Deckorators only warranties against fading and staining for only 25 years. The remaining 25 years of the structural warranty do not include the board’s appearance. Part of this has to do with the fact that the mineral additive affects the core of the decking more than the cap. This explains why the board’s appearance may not perform as well as the core of the decking.
The Downsides Of MBC Decking
Although, by this point, you may be thinking that MBC decking is genuinely the ultimate deck option, there are some negatives that you need to consider.
1. MBC May Not Be Readily Available
One of the issues with MBC is its currently limited production. Now granted, Deckorators the dominant mineral composite, is by no means a small, unknown company, and the product is stocked in many stores countrywide.
Nonetheless, you may find limited supply in a small town or stores that don’t stock or have minimal access to the product. Which can increase prices or create difficulties with aftersales support, should you need it.
Also, this may require longer lead times to get your decking on time.
Recenlty because of special order decking, I had to order the decking 2 months in advance and then work through delays as the decking was late to arrive. Making scheduling harder compared to in-stock products like Trex . If your favourite building supply store doesn’t have stock, you can just drive down the block and pick up the required boards.
2. MBC Doesn’t Resolve All Composite Cons
Mineral-based composite is still composite. Things like heat and scratching still impact the decking.
Buying mineral composite will not prevent these problems. Care still needs to be taken to avoid damage to your decking. Things like chair leg protectors and fire pit/grill mats are still required to keep your deck looking good.
Advantages Of MBC Over Wood Composites
Will your deck be better built with mineral-based composite instead of wood composite?
Is MBC significantly different than other composite decking on the market?
Are not both plastic-based synthetic decking with a filler. That is true. Both are plastic-based decking with very similar designs and appearances.
But there are three areas where mineral-based is superior to wood composite.
Just comparing Trex, wood base and Deckoroators, which is mineral-based. Deckorators is roughly 50% stronger. Making mineral-based composite that much less likely to break under heavy furniture.
Already mentioned this but the stability of mineral-based composite compared to other composites is a game-changer. Without having to design large gaps between boards and adjust the spacing during construction to account for the midday sun is great.It is a real plus of mineral-based composites.
Water is the number one reason for decking failure. Even with wood composites, you need to probably vent under the decking and provide sufficient clearance from water. With mineral-based composite, none of this needs to be a concern. The decking can be installed by water, in water and still remain strong for years.
Mineral-based composite decking is a game-changer with wood-alternative decking. Relatively new but is already rapidly gaining fans and improving decks everywhere.
Containing zero organic material meaning that it is resistant to mould, rot, and decay.
The stretching process through which it is made makes it similar to wood in strength-to-weight and a good deal stronger than competing options.
Unfortunately, a limited number of brands have embraced mineral over woods making availability limited.