I love the appearance and low maintenance of composite decking. What I don’t like is slipping. Composite decking made from plastic can be slippery, leaving very little to grip your feet. Fortunately, not all composite decking is slippery. I have found some with an excellent level of traction, allowing you to enjoy your deck without worrying about falling.
The best decking for traction are PVC. Providing better traction than most composite and wood decking. The highest-rated being Zuri, a PVC decking with a clear acrylic coating with exceptional traction of 0.82- 0.86 when dry and 0.89 – 0.97 when wet.
These numbers are from CCMC, an independent third-party material testing organization. Ensuring that there is no bias in results. Which I will use for comparing other composite decking for traction.
“The CCMC provides code compliance assessments either as an alternative solution, which uses a proprietary CCMC-developed set of criteria to establish code compliance, or as an acceptable solution, that verifies if a product meets a code-referenced product or material standard.”
As a deck builder, I must admit that I have my favourite brands.
Composite decking that I love working with.
That is why I will rely on CCMC lab test results countering any personal bias I have.
But of course, I will still get my hand on the decking to better explain why certain composite decking provides better traction than the rest.
Something I highly recommend you do the same before building your deck. Fortunately, you can get samples from your local suppliers, especially decking specialize stores. You can also have samples delivered directly to your front door from manufacturers like Fiberon, TimberTech Azek, and Deckorators. Ensuring you pick the right decking for you and your deck.
Just be careful. Beauty can distract you from traction.
But here, we will stick to traction. Get it “Stick”?
Top 3 Decking for Traction Are PVC.
Of the decking, I reviewed Zuri has the best traction. With excellent ratings.
Two other deckings with similar traction are Wolf Serenity and Fiberon Paramount.
Not quite as high as Zuri but still well above the 0.5 minimum residential ratings recommended by CCMC.
Something that all three boards have in common is PVC. All three top decking boards for traction are PVC. Just one more reason that PVC is better than composite.
Please don’t ask me to explain the science, I am a carpenter and deck builder, not a scientist, but PVC decking is consistently better for traction than decking includes wood fibres.
Only Deckorators mineral-based composite competes with PVC decking for traction. In fact, it has better traction than Azek’s Harvest collection, which is made from PVC.
But not all of us want PVC decking.
Within the category of composite decking, there are differences in traction level.
(12) Composite & PVC Decking Traction Ratings
Here is a chart for quick reference of decking traction.
|Slip Resistance (Dry)||Slip Resistance (Wet)|
|Zuri||0.82- 0.86||0.89 – 0.97|
|Wolf Serenity||0.74 – 0.85||0.75 – 0.87|
|Fiberon [PARAMOUNT PVC]||0.80||0.75|
|Fiberon [Concordia Horizon/Symmetry]||0.40||0.31|
There are a multiple reasons why one decking has better traction than another. Which I will discuss more later, embossing and finish being the top ones.
An of course material like I already mentioned, PVC consistently scores high for traction.
This is not an exhaustive list, and we should consider some other decking not rated by CCMC but by evaluating their embossing and finish will indicate if they provide good traction or not.
Before discussing individual decking, we need to address traction rating standards.
“no surface finishes met the 0.5 criterion. This criterion may not meet all occupant expectations.”
This is from Fiberon CCMC report but almost all composite decking evaluated by CCMC has some version of it.
The expectation for flooring traction, including decking, is 0.5, which few composite decking meets. That does not mean that composite decking is unsafe. It is simply an acknowledgement that they do score low and may not be ideal in some applications.
For example, a senior’s deck where traction underfoot is critical. Where the impact of slipping is more significant, and the ability to react is less.
But for most people, a lower rating is not ideal but is not a deal-breaker.
I have built and walked on many composite decks with low traction ratings without slipping. Still, the better the traction, the better. Increase traction decrease the chance of falling on your deck. Which is always a good thing.
Without third-party testing you still can evaluate composite decking traction level.
What Makes Decking Have Better Tractions?
Despite composite and PVC decking all largely being made of the same material, the traction varies. The biggest difference between Good and Bad traction is cap.
The good ones have deep embossing with a gripping finish.
The Bad ones are smooth with shallow embossing. Giving little to grip your feet and draw rainwater off the surface of the decking.
Deep Decking Embossing Improves Traction
This is where Trex excels and is able to create more traction than many other composite deckings.
Trex Transcend has deep wood embossing. Giving something for the sole of your foot to sink into and grab.
Even comparing between Fiberon’s Paramount and Promenade, both PVC boards. But Paramount has slightly deeper lines, increasing the grip. Giving it a slight edge over Promenade.
Simply running your hand over Paramount decking, you can feel the increased friction and grip.
This is where Azek falls short and possibly causing you to. Azek going for a different look has a wire brush finish. Which is much smoother gripping you feet less. Harvest has slightly deeper wood grains than Vintage. Harvest, being PVC, has better grip when wet than most composite but is at the bottom compared with most PVC.
I find most interesting with Azek’s Harvest, the same is true with Armadillo because the traction is improved with water. Adding water doubles the decking grip.
Which is good. When it starts to rain, I run the fastest on the deck and need traction the most traction for I don’t slip off the deck running for the door.
Embossing may be added for looks, but it is phenomenal for increasing traction.
A little aside, the direction of the lines impacts traction so much that they will often give two different ratings during testing. One parrel with the decking and embossing, another for against the grain.
Perpendicular, rating higher with better traction.
With Transcend, this is the difference between 0.43 with the embossing and 0.52 perpendicular.
Armadillo, with very shallow, almost non-existing embossing, the direction changes little.
Grain embossing does make a difference. The more defined, the better for traction.
Decking with Rougher Finishes Have Better Traction
Running my hand over Deckorators’ Voyage, I would say this impacts traction more than embossing. This is probably why it is rated so high compared to other composite decking. Competing with PVC decking, which consistently ranks better.
This is a hard one to explain without feeling the decking.
But I think the best analogy is carpet vs laminate. Carpet gives better traction with its thousands of fibres, increasing the friction between your foot and floor.
With decking, these fibres are smaller and barely visible, but they are still gripping your foot.
So much so that despite Voyage have shallow embossing, it has good traction. The surface of the decking is not smooth.
Sandpaper verses Slip and Slide.
Which is the primary reason why Armadillo, Trex Enhance and Fiberon Symmetry they are just too smooth. Allowing your foot to slip along the board with not the grab it.
Not drastic, but between Transcend and Enhance, you can feel this slight texture difference and traction. Small but making a difference.
Deep Embossing Combined with Texture is Winning Combination for Traction
Fiberon’s Paramount is a winner for this. Paramount has both deep embossing wood grains and raised texture. Making it one of the best deckings for traction. Both wet and dry with little variation between the two.
Ironically, Paramount is the opposite of Azek’s Harvest. Adding water reduces traction. Not significantly, but still a change. Still, even when wet, it’s better than almost all other decking for traction.
Here Wolf Serenity is great for consistently. It matters little if the decking is wet or dry. The traction is practically the same.
Comparing Wood Decking and Composite for Traction
No decking review for traction would be complete without mentioning wood decking, which is still the lion’s share of decking. From Pressure Treated to Ipe and everything in between. Wood similar to composite decking varies in traction.
To start, most wood decking scores better than composite having better traction. On the other hand, PVC decking rated the best in our comparison of synthetic decking also rates better than most wood decking.
The challenge with wood decking is not only that different woods have different textures and traction, but to be maintained should be stained and sealed.
Sealing woods helps to preserve the wood but can also reduce traction. The glossier the finish, the slippery the decking is.
Sealing the decking minimizes water absorption, which is good to preserve the decking. But absorbed water raises the wood fibres increasing friction. Similar to what texture does for composite decking. So, the better protected the wood is, often means the lower the traction it will have.
More importantly, is not the wood decking itself but what is on the decking.
Mould and mildew of the surface of the decking is the single largest cause of slips on decking.
A safe wood deck with maximum traction is a clean deck. Making regular maintenance and cleaning all that more important with a wood deck. If you let mildew or mould grow on the decking, it will be slippery.
Like a banana peel under your foot is mildew on the decking.