When it comes to comparing Composite Decking products with real Exotic Hardwood Decking, it may seem like Composite Decking must be the better choice simply because it’s newer. Well, just like there’s a definite distinction between worthless and priceless, there’s an important distinction between trendy and timeless. Of course, we argue that real, natural lumber has a timeless appeal, despite the trendiness of Composite Decking products. In our comparison thus far (see Part 1), we’ve considered color matching, hardness, and fire ratings, giving Composite Decking a score of 1 versus Exotic Hardwood Decking with a score of 2.
Exotic Hardwood Decking Beats the Heat
The term “Composite Decking” might not sound like a problem; after all, it is a product manufactured for the purpose of outdoor decking, right? Well, we’re going to let you in on a little secret: the primary component of Composite Decking is actually something you probably don’t want anywhere on your high-end deck: Plastic. Yes, for real. Most Composite Decking products have an outer shell made from pure polyethylene (the low-quality plastic used to make disposable water bottles). Some blend plastic with the “wood flour.” No matter where the plastic is, it’s there. And in direct sunlight, plastic gets hot. Now, let’s think about it: what happens when plastic gets hot?
Not only is hot plastic an uncomfortable surface for bare feet, but it also ends up breaking down more quickly. As plastic breaks down, it becomes weaker and may also exude oils and let off gases. In addition, plastic retains heat for longer than real wood, extending the breakdown process until far past sunset. The most significant result, however, is that your plastic deck won’t last nearly as long as your neighbor’s deck, which is made from exotic hardwood.
Score Update: Composite Decking=1, Exotic Hardwood Decking=3
Exotic Hardwood Decking Isn’t as Slick
We’re not trying to revive a ‘50s cliche, here: we’re talking about “slick” in the literal sense. Again relating to the all-important fact that Composite Decking is made from plastic, the surface can easily become slippery, especially when hot or wet. While some manufacturers have attempted to stamp decking boards with a woodgrain-type texture, even that won’t eliminate weeping oil.
With slip-and-fall accidents commonly leading to workers’ compensation claims and lawsuits (particularly for the 55-and-over-crowd), this issue is especially significant for public decks and docks. When you consider the fact that flooring materials contribute to over 2 million slip-and-fall injuries each year, including half of all accidental residential deaths, I think we’ll all agree that this issue is pretty significant.
Score Update: Composite Decking=1, Exotic Hardwood Decking=4
Continue with Part 3.
Learn More About the Lumber Industry
• Understanding the NHLA Grading System
• How To Find the Quality Plywood You’re Looking For
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
The McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import & domestic lumber industry since 1798. Headquartered just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods. As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for high profile construction projects worldwide. Call (800) 638-9100 to speak with a J. Gibson McIlvain representative.
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