how long does composite decking last

How Long Does a Composite Deck Last?

In Exterior Wood, Tips by Jamie

Composite decks are made from a combination of plastic and wood fibers, which means they are resistant to rot, insects, and weathering. They also require less maintenance than traditional decks and can last for many years with minimal care.

The average lifespan of a composite deck is between 20 and 30 years, as long as you maintain it properly. Regular cleaning and sealing of the deck can make it last even longer.

If you are having a composite deck installed, or if you already have one, it’s crucial that you know how to look after it properly. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the lifespan of your composite deck.

Is the Cost of Composite Worth it Compared to Real Wood?

A standard hardwood deck has an expected lifespan of 10 to 15 years, even when maintained properly. Sealing the wood may make it last longer, but it won’t last anywhere near as long as a composite deck.

Composite decking is more expensive than real wood. Real wood costs between $17 and $25 per square foot, while composite costs between $32 and $45. However, composite decking lasts much longer, so it’s definitely worth investing in. You get almost double the longevity with composite decking, but it doesn’t cost you double the price, so you’ll still make savings overall.

There are also the maintenance costs to consider. With real wood, you need to refinish it more regularly. Although not that expensive, those costs add up over the years, making composite the clear winner when it comes to value for money.

Does Composite Decking Require Maintenance?

Composite decking needs very little maintenance. You should sweep it regularly to remove any debris and then use a composite decking cleaner from time to time. This will keep it looking its best for years to come. A real wood deck, on the other hand, requires regular refinishing on an annual basis.

Over the years, your composite deck can still fade and it will experience general wear and tear from foot traffic. The good news is, you can bring it back to life by cleaning it and applying a composite decking stain. This will restore the color and protect the boards against moisture and UV rays.

Does Composite Decking Fade?

composite decking

Fading is a common problem with real wood decking. The sun can cause the wood to fade and turn a dull grey color. Composite decking doesn’t fade as much as real wood, but it will still experience some changes in color over time. However, it will last for years and years before you have a problem with fading. When you do, you can use stain to bring the color back.

Does Composite Decking Shrink?

Although composite decking has a lot of advantages, there are some downsides. One of them is that it shrinks more than natural wood does. With wood, you expect fluctuations due to temperature changes. However, with composite decking, it can be incredibly unpredictable and shrinking can occur randomly.

The amount by which it shrinks also tends to be greater. So, make sure that you take this into account when planning any projects with composite decking.

Does Composite Decking Scratch?

Yes, composite decking can scratch but it is not particularly prone to damage. Many composite boards are built to be scratch-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about it as much as you would with a real wood deck. However, it is still possible to scratch composite so you should take precautions to avoid it.

Regular sweeping will remove small stones and bits of grit that could scratch the deck when walked on. Be careful with any furniture you have on the decking too, especially when moving it around. You can buy some small rubber feet to put on the bottom of the legs to prevent scratches.

In the winter, if you are removing ice and snow from the deck, use a plastic shovel instead of a metal one, and don’t be too rough with it. If you use ice melt, make sure to find ones without grit in them.

Does Composite Decking Shed?

One of the problems with real wood decking is that it can often start to shed after a few years. This means that you’ll find little bits of wood all over your yard and it can be a pain to clean up. Composite decking doesn’t shed as much but it will still lose some fibers over time. You can minimize this by using a sealer on the deck once it starts to become a problem.

Does Composite Decking Warp?

Warping is another potential problem with composite decking, although not as much as it is with standard wood. The composite decking may warp slightly due to temperature fluctuations, but warping is usually caused by taking in too much moisture. The water-resistant nature of composite decking means that this is less likely to be an issue.

Can Composite Decking Crumble?

One of the biggest problems with composite decking is that it can often start to crumble after a few years. This is usually caused by the sun’s UV rays breaking down the plastic over time. Crumbling can also be caused by water damage. The combination of moisture and sunlight can cause the deck to decay over time.

Composite decking has evolved over the years and the materials used have changed slightly. This crumbling issue is more pronounced in older first-generation composite boards due to the lack of bonding agents and antioxidants used. However, it is less likely to occur with newer composite materials.

Can Composite Decking Melt?

Composite decking will get hot in the sun, just the same as wood decking does. The plastic in the composite means that it may get hotter than a natural wood alternative, but it won’t get hot enough to melt it.

However, in the case of a fire, it’s a different story. The fire rating of composite decking is not as good as some forms of hardwood, and it will also release toxic gases from the plastics as it melts.

Are there Ever Defects in Composite Decking?

Yes, there can be defects in composite decking. Just like anything else, composite decking can have manufacturing defects that may cause problems down the road. It’s important to inspect your composite decking before installation and address any issues you find.

You won’t find natural defects like knots in the boards though because they are not cut straight from the tree, they are artificially manufactured.

Can Composite Decking Be Laid Directly on the Ground?

No, it is important to build a frame first. Composite decking should not be laid directly on the ground because it will absorb moisture and may cause damage. The frame will protect the composite from contact with the ground and also help to keep it level.

Can You Lay Heavy Items on Composite Decking?

Yes, you can lay heavy items on composite decking. The materials used in composite decking are strong and can support a lot of weight without breaking. However, it is still important to use caution when placing heavy items on the decking and make sure that it can handle the weight.

Consider the profile of the deck boards too and how this will impact the weight. For example, don’t lay hollow boards if you expect to be putting a large amount of weight on the deck.

backyard composite deck and stairs leading into home sunroom

How to Extend the Life of a Composite Deck?

It is important to clean your composite deck regularly in order to extend its life. This means removing any dirt, leaves, or other debris that may have collected. You can use a broom, a hose, or a pressure washer to do this. If there is a lot of stubborn dirt and grime, use a composite deck cleaner. Avoid using bleach on composite as it will cause it to fade. If you want a natural option, vinegar works well.

You should also seal the deck once it starts to show signs of wear. Sealing will help to protect it from the elements and keep it looking good for longer.

What to do if Composite Decking Chips?

If composite decking chips, you can usually repair it by using a putty knife to fill in the hole and then sanding it down. You can also use a composite filler to do this. After filling the chip, stain the deck to blend the repair in and make it invisible. If the hole is too big, you will need to replace the board.

Alternatively, you can remove the board and check the bottom. If it is not damaged underneath, simply turn it over and screw it back in.

Final Thoughts

A composite deck will last between 25 and 30 years when looked after properly. It’s a very durable material, but it’s not indestructible, so make sure you have a good maintenance routine in place if you want to get more years out of your deck.

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