Composite decking is fast becoming the only choice for many people who no longer want to deal with the constant maintenance of wood. Though there are many manufacturers of composite decking out there, we’ve used TimberTech products and have had good results overall. We also found the TimberTech dealers we used to be responsive to any issues that have arisen. So, if you’ve had it with your wood deck, pulled one too many splinters out of your kid’s foot, refuse to replace another rotted board and think murder every time you’re forced to pick up the paintbrush and wood stain again — it may be time for TimberTech.
All composite decking is made of some type of plastic, often with wood products blended into it. And, all manufacturers offer grades of product, from an economical (TimberTech’s packages start with the “Reliaboard” deck planking) to a high end option (read not so economical.) As you step up from one decking package to another, it’s not so much the look of the material that changes (although some do look a bit more polished — hard to put a finger on), but the “fancy stuff” that goes with it — more dynamic applications. For instance, we recently used two different products of varying cost. When cleaning the debris from around the work area and the build up in the saw, there was no discernible difference between the two materials and both looked similar in place. (The “grain” was slightly rougher on the lower cost material.)
It’s the hidden extras that justify the higher cost, like pre-drilled rails which cut way down on layout time and hidden fasteners, (TimberTech’s brand name for its hidden fasteners is “CONCEALoc” ), that are designed to install into the tongue and groove of the decking boards, meaning no (or very few) visible screws. A nice perk when you’re running across the deck with bare feet and prefer not to have a toe ripped off.
A Helpful Note to DIYers:
(Composite decking generally needs to be installed at 16″ on center, although a few products are designed for a max of 24″ on center. Many older decks are 24″ on center, so a quick way to get them ready for composite decking is to insert boards in between, creating a 12″ on center platform. It saves a tear out anyway.)
Some Things to Watch Out For:
1) Though low maintenance, composite decking doesn’t necessarily mean no maintenance. Problems can occur. Pool areas can be tough because of the chlorine and composite products can and do fade or change color over time, just like real wood. The decking located directly in front of glass doors can also be affected (amplified reflection of UV rays) so it pays to look closely into each product and what it offers. (For answers to some common questions about TimberTech composite decking, see their FAQ page.) As an example, a couple years ago, we saw what can only be described as a “burnt” effect on the decking in front of a set of French doors. The TimberTech supplier was great about addressing the issue and replacing the damaged deck boards. Their warranty is 25 years for residential applications.
2) Composite decking is HEAVY. All manufacturers offer boards in 12′, 16′ and 20′ lengths. The 16 and 20 footers take two people to maneuver, not necessarily because of the weight (for all you he-men out there), but because they can snap.
3) All composite decking is priced per linear foot, which can really add up especially if your deck is a large one. A 25 cent per foot difference can mean a couple extra grand so be careful.
4) As green as these products are supposed to be (and I know that’s debatable for a lot of people), potential issues can arise requiring a remedy that may not be all that green. If composite decking is not installed properly, you can end up with some problems, for example mold and mildew. The product is designed to be resistant, but that doesn’t mean it’s an impossible scenario and the end-result is that some type of chemical might be necessary to alleviate the problem.
TimberTech Composite Decking is only available through licensed dealers and contractors. Find a dealer near you to obtain prices and a full list of products.