We started out with Composite Decking in the lead; when it comes to color-matching, manufactured products definitely have a leg up on the competition. Then Exotic Hardwood Decking took the lead as we looked at other issues that specifically relate to safety and longevity: hardness and fire ratings, heat and slip resistance. Add in two more significant issues of strength and moisture resistance, and we’re starting with Composite Decking at a score of 1 versus Exotic Hardwood Decking with a score of 6.
Exotic Hardwood Decking Resists Scratching
Of course, we don’t really have to explain how real wood responds to scratching, do we? As a naturally occurring building material, Exotic Hardwood Decking has the strength and hardness necessary to resist most everyday wear and tear. And when it is subjected to a deep gouge or some other abuse, it can be sanded or planed and then refinished with no long-term compromise. (Of course, a single board can also be fairly easily replaced and refinished in order to blend in with the rest of the deck.) Not so with Composite Decking. The thin and weak outer plastic shell of a Composite Decking board can become scratched fairly easily, and it cannot be refinished.
Metal snow shovels are a definite no-no for such surfaces — never mind a snowblower or a plow! And the issue isn’t just shell-deep. Remember how we talked about the way the inner wood flour core responds to moisture? When the cap stock surface is compromised, it exposes the inner core to moisture and mold as a result.
Score Update: Composite Decking=1, Exotic Hardwood Decking=7
Exotic Hardwood Decking Experiences Predictable Movement
Like it or not, real Exotic Hardwood Decking — like all real wood — moves. With natural Exotic Hardwood Decking, movement occurs primarily along the grain and in ratios according to the specific grain.
But don’t for one second think that you can avoid the issue of movement by opting for a manufactured Composite Decking product. In fact, movement becomes even more of an issue when you take away the natural structures of real wood but retain some properties of wood by using wood flour and plastic, instead. You still have movement, but now that movement is no longer predictable. Of course, the cut ends of boards will absorb even more moisture and, as a result, swell even more significantly.
As the wood flour core of a Composite Decking board absorbs moisture and expands, so does the plastic cap stock. But when the core sheds moisture, the cap stock retains its deformed shape. The gap between the core and the cap stock not only allows for mold growth, but it also contributes to warping. The issue becomes even more significant where end-to-end joints are present, such as in wider structures like boardwalks.
Score Update: Composite Decking=1, Exotic Hardwood Decking=8
Continue with Part 5.
Learn More About the Lumber Industry
• Which Decking Installation Method Is Best?
• Comparing Douglas Fir with Western Red Cedar
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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