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    There are several decking materials currently available from wood, composite (wood-plastic blend) and vinyl/plastic. Wood has a tendency to have lower initial cost but more maintenance effort and price, specifically if the desired color is not natural weathered color. Wood seems like wood. Composites usually are in the center to high-end in initial cost, lower on maintenance effort and cost, and best for color retention. Composites don’t look just like wood. Vinyl/plastic tends to be the best in initial cost, longest in expected service life, lowest in maintenance cost and energy, and great for color retention. Vinyl/plastic also doesn’t look the same as wood.

    WOOD. Most decking installed in the U.S. is wood and many wood decking is treated pine. Treated pine is treated to prevent rot (CCA has become removed and it has been replaced using ACQ & other treatments). These are acronyms for your chemicals in the treatments. The wood most often treated is southern yellow pine. The nature in the wood itself, not treatments, causes it to be susceptible to twisting, splitting, warping and splintering. Some other woods used are cedar, redwood, IPE, Tigerwood, Massaranduba and Garapa.

    COMPOSITE. Composite decking is a distant second in popularity after wood but is now more popular than ever in new deck installations and re-decks (re-use old deck framing and replace old deck boards and railing with new composite materials). "Composite" signifies that the decking is molded or extruded from the secret formula that’s a combination of wood and plastic or vinyl. The wood can be a wood flour of varied grinds and species. The plastic is often times polyethylene or polypropylene. There are various ratios of wood to plastic and different mixtures of recycled & virgin plastic. All of these things affect performance characteristics. Composite decking will come in regular plank, tongue & groove, grain finish, solid colors, and mixed colors.

    VINYL/PLASTIC. Vinyl/plastic decking has become more popular and it is primarily taking share of the market away from the composite deck segment. Decking profiles are usually plank however with several manufacturers offering a tongue & groove. Vinyl/plastic decking comes in a grain or smooth finish, colors, and mixed colors.

    POINTS TO CONSIDER

    WOOD

    " Wood appears like hardwood as well as the initial price is dramatically reduced with pine and not necessarily so by incorporating with the other woods

    " Wood weathers and changes color – requires periodic cleaning and staining to keep a colour other than the naturally weathered color

    " Southern yellow pine splits, cracks and splinters with time

    " Exotic woods like IPE, Tigerwood, Massaranduba and Garapa can be more expensive along with split and crack like pine.

    " Wood should be replaced (usually before other materials) sooner or later which varies with exposure, maintenance and luck

    " Wood requires some maintenance for optimum performance and repair life – usually pressure washed to acquire clean

    " Maintenance costs time and/or money and will offset any initial cost benefits.

    COMPOSITE

    " Initial expense is significantly more than pine, but like the exotic woods

    " Longer service life

    " Lower maintenance cost and effort than wood – usually cleaned having a pressure washer or even a chemical solution wash & flush

    " No painting, staining or sealing

    " No splinters

    " Variety of colors

    " Variety of textures – embossed wood, grain, grooved, smooth

    " Mixed colors and grains

    " Hidden fasteners

    " May grow mold and mildew from the wood component – can be tough and troublesome to wash completely

    " May stain – cleaning methods vary with form of stain and wood component

    VINYL/PLASTIC

    " Initial price is the same or maybe more than composites

    " Longer service life

    " Least quantity of maintenance as well as – usually cleaned using a hose pipe

    " No painting, staining or sealing

    " No splinters

    " Maintains original look and color lasting

    " Variety of colours except for dark colors like brown

    " Variety of textures – embossed wood, grain, grooved, smooth

    " Mixed colors and grains

    " Hidden fasteners

    " No mildew or mold

    " No stains

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