Composite Decking, as the name suggests, is a decking product made from a mixture of materials. It is often referred to as Wood Plastic Composite, Wood Polymer Composite, or WPC decking. Traditionally, decking was only available in natural timber form, but with the rise of composite decking products particularly in the past two decades, homeowners are able to enjoy outdoor decking areas without the tedious maintenance and other issues associated with timber decking. In this article we will cover the main characteristics of Composite Decking, to help you get a better understanding of the product.
What is Composite Decking made of?
Composite Decking is a man-made product made from a mixture of wood flour, polymers (plastics), and additives which are required to bind the materials and enhance the longevity of the product, as well as containing the colour pigments to give the decking its colour.
Wood flour is like extra fine sawdust, and gives the decking its natural feel. It is the lower cost part of the mixture, and normally makes up 60 – 70% of the total material.
The polymer (plastic) content of the mixture is more expensive, and normally makes up 20 – 30% of the total material. A variety of plastics are used in the production of composite decking, HDPE (high-density polyethylene) is the most commonly used due to its relatively low cost, ease of production, and the large volumes of waste HDPE plastics that are available (for example old plastic shopping bags). PVC is also widely used as the polymer element of Wood Plastic Composite Decking, for its superior characteristics, such as strength, density, fire-rating, and UV stability. PVC-based composite decking tends to be slightly more expensive than HDPE based composites, but offers higher durability and overall quality.
Whilst the general term ‘Composite Decking’ is normally used to refer to Wood Plastic (WPC) decking, strictly speaking it also includes other less commonly used materials such as Polyurethane based composites and mineral based composites.
What is so good about Composite Decking?
Let’s look at the main benefits of Composite Decking when compared to timber decking:
- Low maintenance – arguably the biggest benefit over timber decking is the fact that composite decking is far lower maintenance. Composite Decking boards never need sealing, staining or painting, and they won’t warp or crack even in direct sunlight
- Durability – Composite Decking is far more able to resist the elements than timber decking, and even with heavy use and the rigours of family life, composite decking maintains its beautiful appearance year in year out
- Rot-proof – The plastic element of composite decking protect the timber content and prevents the decking from the rotting issues common with timber decking
- Minimal water absorption – This prevents the decking from swelling like timber decking, and also prevents algae growth on the surface, which lead us onto the next point…
- Slip resistant – One of the most well known issues with timber decking is how slippery it becomes over time. This is caused by algae growth on the surface, and when rain water sits on this surface, the resulting slipperiness is second only to ice! Many injuries have been caused by slippery timber decking, and this notoriety has given decking a bad name generally. Composite Decking is the solution to this as it does not encourage algae growth and remains slip resistant over time.
- Insect proof – Being a solid main made material, composite decking is resistant to burrowing insects which can cause issues with timber decking
- Lower life-time cost – Whilst composite decking tends to be more expensive than timber decking as an upfront cost, due to it being a lot longer lasting and not requiring constant staining and protecting, it will cost less over in total over its lifetime than timber decking
- Fade-proof (capped composite) – A common issue with timber decking is its changing appearance over time, UV degradation causes fading, which can only be improved by repainting. Composite decking contains UV inhibitors which protect against fading, and in the case of capped composite decking make it virtually fade proof, so your decking will look the same years down the line as when it was installed!
How is Composite Decking made?
Composite decking is made by a process called extrusion. The raw materials, held in large overhead hoppers, are fed into the extrusion machine at a high temperature to melt the polymers and mixed together with the wood flour and additives. This mixture is slowly ‘squeezed’ through a profile die, which is basically a tool with a cavity the exact shape of the decking profile, which forms the decking boards. This is continually pushed through the die at a slow speed, allowed to cool either with conventional air cooling or a water cooling system, and then cut to length.
Capped composite decking, such as our Luxxe Decking is manufactured using the same process, but is extruded with an outer ‘shell’ of pure polymer which gives superior durability. This process is often referred to as ‘coextrusion’.
Once the extrusion process is complete and the decking has cooled and cured, there are secondary processes carried out such as brushing and embossing to remove the shiny glossy surface, and create the woodgrain finishes.
Where is Composite Decking made?
There are composite decking products manufactured in many countries around the world, let’s look at some of the main WPC producing countries:
- China – By volume, China now produces more composite decking than any other country. There are some really good quality manufacturers and products, but look out for inferior quality products which use low quality materials and additives, often the only way of spotting these is by unrealistically cheap prices!
- USA – Home to the biggest composite decking brand in the world, Trex, as well as other well known brands. The decking market in the USA is bigger than any other country, which has led to large domestic volumes by these large manufacturers.
- Europe – There are several manufacturers of composite decking in Europe, mainly in Germany, Poland, France, Portugal, and the UK. These brands tend to be more sustainable, with reputation for high quality products and environmental sustainability.
Different types of Composite Decking
The main product variants to consider in Composite decking are:
- Capped vs Uncapped Composite Decking – ‘First generation’ composite decking is uncapped, so the composite material is exposed on the surface of the decking. This is faster and cheaper to produce, so tends to be the lower cost composite decking option. Capped decking, as mentioned previously in this article, is coextruded with a continuous outer ‘shell’ of 100% polymer, which means there is no wood content at the surface. This makes the product even more durable and fade resistant, and therefore these products tend to be slightly more expensive. Take a look at the Ovaeda capped and uncapped options
- Hollow vs Solid – Solid composite decking uses significantly more material, so is a lot heavier and more costly to produce and transport, whereas hollow decking is lighter and easier to handle. A common misconception is that hollow composite decking is an inferior product; this used to be the case with poor quality composites, in fact some manufacturers of solid composite decking today will claim that hollow is inferior, when in actual fact this is because they choose to manufacture a solid board from inferior composite material, which would not be able to achieve the strength required if it were manufactured hollow. At Ovaeda, we prefer to use higher quality materials in hollow board format, as it is lighter and easier to install and also has a lower carbon footprint.
Ovaeda Composite Decking
At Ovaeda, we aim to offer unrivalled value for money. We supply directly to you as the consumer, or via you installer, at fair and competitive prices. We then charge as little as we can to ship your delivery to you, often delivering free of charge. Backed up by our customer support every step of the way, we want to make sure your outdoor area is one of the most satisfying investments you've ever made. Why not browse our range now https://ovaeda.com/pages/composite-decking-boards and get yourself some samples https://ovaeda.com/collections/samples
Now that you've read more about Composite Decking and what , you may begin thinking about using it as an option for your garden or balcony. With so many options available, we know it can seem like a big decision to make. Why not begin by ordering one of our free sample boxes to help you choose which style will best suit you?
You can also call us on 0208 159 2999 or send us an email to email@example.com to get quotes, guidance and any technical support with your plans. If you think you will require the help of a professional installer, we are happy to recommend one to assist.