If you’re looking to build a new deck outside your home, you may have a few questions about which material is best.
The material that you choose does more than just affect the look of your deck, as it will also determine how much maintenance is required and the lifespan of your deck.
One popular form of decking that is often discussed when talking about low-maintenance options is composite decking.
But what is composite decking and is it truly as low-maintenance as advertised?
In this article, we will explain why composite decking is low maintenance and how it compares to natural wood decking.
We will also explain the maintenance it does need and give some tips that will ensure your composite decking looks its best.
What Is Composite Decking?
You may have heard the term composite decking several times if you’re planning to change your decking, but what exactly does the term mean, and how does it relate to how much maintenance the decking needs?
It’s called composite decking because it is made from a composite of materials.
Unlike wooden decks that are largely made of solid wood, composite decking has a mix of materials that all lend their own individual properties to the overall structure and strength of the finished materials.
Composite decking is commonly made from plastic and wood. But over the last few years has grown to include bamboo, rice hulls, fibreglass, minerals, and even used carpet fibres.
Under the greater umbrella of composite decking full PVC deck boards are often included.
The material often is recycled material like milk cartons, laundry detergents or plastic bags. Often the wood fibres are waste from sawmills. The rice hulls in True North decking are waste from food production.
So it is more eco-friendly than it first sounds.
Many types of composite decking have an outer layer of polymer, called a cap which contributes to its toughness. But this cap also helps to reduce maintenance by preventing mould and mildew from growing on the decking.
Is Composite Decking Low Maintenance?
When compared to decking made from wood, composite decking is very low maintenance.
Although some wood deckings are lower maintenance than others, in general, composite decking has the lowest level of needed maintenance of any decking materials.
Why Is It Low Maintenance?
The combination of recycled plastic and wood fibres makes composite decking tougher and more resistant than wood decking.
It is naturally durable and resistant to all types of weather, so you don’t need to sand or stain composite decking at all.
It will not split or splinter and doesn’t warp, either.
It doesn’t matter how tough the climate is where you live, composite decking can stand up to harsh sun, torrential rain, and heavy snowfall without getting damaged.
Natural wood decking needs to be periodically maintained to ensure it keeps looking its best and doesn’t get damaged.
This means that you will need to restrain and paint the decking from time to time and may even need to replace sections if it gets damaged.
You will not need to do this with composite decking at all.
What Maintenance Does Composite Decking Need?
Composite decking isn’t completely maintenance-free, but the maintenance it requires is more cosmetic than functional.
It can still get dirty so you may need to hose it down or use some soap and water to clean any mud or dirt from the decking.
It will still attract leaves and other debris, of course, so you may need to brush it from time to time to keep it looking clean and tidy.
How To Properly Maintain Composite Decking
If you want your composite decking to look its best all year round, then there are some steps you can follow to ensure it always looks fantastic.
Even following all of these steps will be less maintenance than natural wood decking requires, however, so don’t think that this section means composite decking needs lots of maintenance.
Sweep And Clean Your Decking
We would recommend that you sweep your composite decking regularly. You should also wash it occasionally to stop any dirt and debris from accumulating.
Composite decking is tough enough to withstand a quick blast from a pressure washer so you don’t need to worry about being gentle but do keep your tip 6″ or more from the decking.
As long as you keep the pressure below around1800 psi you won’t see any damage at all.
You should pick up any food and drink spills as soon as they happen.
Your composite decking isn’t going to stain if you drop a beer or coffee onto it, but removing them once they’ve dried will be far trickier than cleaning the decking immediately.
We would also recommend cleaning away any pollen buildup that may accrue during the spring and summer months.
This can get deep between the decking gaps and can lead to the formation of mould. This build-up of gunk can also cause the wood joist under the decking to rot.
You can prevent this from happening by occasionally sweeping and hosing down your decking, however.
Use Cleaning Solution For Tough Dirt
If you don’t regularly sweep and hose your decking, then you may find that the dirt that accrues can be tougher to move.
This would be the same if you left natural wood decking without any intervention and is an unfortunate result of leaving materials exposed to the natural elements.
Outdoor furniture, buildings, and pathways can also suffer a similar fate.
In these cases, you may need a tougher cleaning solution in order to restore your composite decking back to its original state.
As each type of decking is made from slightly different materials and formulas, it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best cleaning solution.
Don’t just try to use whichever solvents you have to hand as these can damage the decking, just like they can damage most materials when used incorrectly.
As long as you clean your deck regularly, soap and water will be sufficient and you will never need to use any stronger cleaning solutions.
Use Plastic Shovels
If your composite decking is covered in snow and you want to remove it, we would recommend using a plastic shovel instead of a metal one.
Plastic shovels can do the job just as well but they’re less likely to damage the cap on the top of the composite materials.
For a full write-up and recommended shovels for removing snow from composite decking, click the link.
Metal shovels can scratch and damage many different types of material if not used correctly and composite decking is no different.
You can also use products such as rock salt or calcium chloride to remove snow and ice from your composite decking if you prefer. But take care to clean up excess salt left on the deck and always check if the salt is safe for the composite decking.
For recommended salts on composite decking, click the link.
The decking is strong enough to withstand the use of these without becoming damaged.
As it is made from a blend of plastic and filler fibres, it is naturally resistant to harsh weather conditions and various types of damage.
You don’t need to restain or sand composite decking and it is less likely to need sections replaced compared to natural wood.
Despite it being a low-maintenance form of decking, it will require a little maintenance from time to time.
We recommend regularly sweeping your composite decking and occasionally hosing it down to prevent mould, dirt, and debris from accruing.
As long as you do this regularly, your composite decking will look fresh and new for years to come.
We hope that this article has answered all of your questions about whether composite decking is low maintenance or not.