Composite Decking is a great choice for those looking for a durable decking option which requires minimal maintenance. Over recent years Composite Decking has grown rapidly in popularity, and there are now a wide range of options available to suit all tastes and budgets.
One of the most common questions we get by customers considering Composite Decking is “Should I Choose Hollow or Solid Composite Decking?” Whilst this topic might seem like a fairly straightforward one, there are a lot of important factors to consider in order to get a proper understanding of this.
In this article we will go into detail about the different hollow and solid composite decking options on the market, what to look out for, and ultimately which option will likely be most suited to your requirement.
What Are the Key Characteristics affected by a Board being Hollow or Solid?
- Board Weight
- Cost of Decking
Solid Composite Decking Boards are obviously heavier than hollow, which means shipping is often more expensive and more effort is required during installation. Additional weight also has an impact on allowable loads on roof terraces etc.
Hollow boards obviously save on weight due to less material in the profile. This makes installation less effort, with the boards being easier to lift into place.
Cost of Decking
Solid composite decking tends to be significantly more expensive due to the additional material in the profile. Solid Composite Decking boards normally range from £80 - £120/sqm.
Hollow Composite Decking offers an attractive cost saving over solid boards, typically range from £50 - £80/sqm.
Strength of Decking Boards
Solid boards tend to be stronger than hollow boards, simply due to them having more material content. However, this is the case with all products, the more material they are made of the heavier and stronger they are, but there is a point at which is becomes unnecessary and counterproductive. Good quality hollow composite decking boards are very strong and more than adequate for all domestic and even most commercial applications.
Hollow vs. Solid Composite Decking – Busting The Myth
There is an occasional misconception in the decking industry that hollow decking, of any type, is inherently of inferior quality. This is absolutely not true!
This misconception stems from early 2000s in the early days of composite decking, when large volumes of very poor quality, early generation hollow decking was brought into the UK market at very cheap prices. Major quality issues followed with many hundreds of installations experiencing broken and splitting composite boards.
This issue was caused by a substandard composite material and not because the boards were hollow, but a lack of technical understanding of the product led to it being blamed on the characteristic that could be seen – i.e. the fact the board was hollow.
Even today, some suppliers of solid boards use this misconception to argue that any hollow composite decking is inferior, but this is not the case. It is typically an argument used to justify the higher prices of solid composite decking boards when compared with often better value for money hollow options.
When assessing the quality of Composite Decking, instead of using the flawed metric of simply whether a board is hollow or solid, the most important factor is the quality of the composite raw material in the product.
Wood Plastic Composite normally comprises a mixture of 60 – 70% Wood Flour, 20 – 30% Polymer, and 5 – 10% Additives (depending on the specific brand/manufacturer). However, each of these three key ingredients can vary significantly in both proportions and quality from one manufacturer to the next, meaning that the resulting product quality can be from one end of the spectrum to the other!
Products produced more cheaply or to a lesser quality will tend to contain less of the more expensive ingredients, namely the Polymer and Additive elements, and more wood flour content as this is cheaper.
And here’s the thing which makes it even more misleading – because it is very difficult to tell by looking at in the core of a composite decking board a) the proportions of the mixture of ingredients, or b) the quality of the ingredients in the composite mixture, it is very difficult to judge the actual quality of the product by looking at it.
There are solid boards available on the market which are manufactured from a lower grade of composite, which do not perform as well as hollow boards manufactured using a high grade of composite. Ovaeda Luxxe Woodgrain Composite Decking for example, whilst being a hollow board, outperforms a lot of the solid boards available on the market.
A lot of solid boards use a cheaper grade of composite material, it is less dense and has higher wood content, with larger wood chips (you will be able to see this when side by side with our product). As a result, these composite materials have a higher rate of moisture absorption, which means it expands & contracts more than higher grade composites.
Some of these lower grade composites are not be strong enough to be used as a hollow product, whereas as the composite material used for example in Luxxe is so much more dense, our hollow board is actually stronger than a lot of solid boards.
Ovaeda have carried out comparative tests, loose laying a number of solid boards alongside the Luxxe board outside for several months through summer and winter. A lot of the solid boards warped significantly and pull up at the ends; Ovaeda Luxxe™ board does not change shape, warp, or pull up a the ends at all.
Think of the hollow/solid composite decking board consideration like you would for example an alloy wheel on your new car – solid metal wheels might be stronger overall, but that doesn’t mean it would be necessary or appropriate! Alloy wheels are ‘hollow’ as they use high quality alloy material to provide the strength required, whilst saving weight. This is the same with high quality hollow composite decking.
The quality of composite decking boards is also reflected in the warranties offered on the products, Ovaeda Luxxe Composite Decking has a 25 year warranty giving you peace of mind that the product will stand the test of time.
In summary, the quality of a composite decking board is to do with the material and processes used to manufacture it, not whether the board is hollow or solid!
Which is Better – Hollow or Solid Composite Decking?
As explained in this article, there are pros and cons to both hollow and solid composite decking.
Solid composite decking is slightly stronger than hollow composite decking in most cases, but heavier and significantly more expensive. When you also consider the fact that a lot of solid boards often use a lesser grade of composite with a higher wood content, which is far more susceptible to warping and bowing of boards, good quality hollow boards often represent a more stable product which is easier to work with.
Hollow composite decking is lighter and easier to handle, offers a significant cost saving over most solid composite decking options, and in the vast majority of cases is plenty strong enough for residential and commercial applications.
Which Composite Decking Is Right For me?
Whether to choose Hollow or Solid Composite Decking comes down to personal choice, but with everything taken into consideration we would recommend Hollow Composite Decking as the best value for money option for most projects.
We would be very pleased to hear from you regarding your project, why not get in touch to get your free samples delivered next day? Alternatively you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0208 159 2999