One of the facts of life in the current century in the United states is we have multiple choices for everything we do. We go to the grocery store and are overloaded with 100 types of bread or cereal. The building industry has seen the same type of explosion of choice over the last 15 years. What used to be a relatively simple decision on what kind of material to use to build your deck or porch is now much more complex. Even more complex is the issue of locating a contractor who actually has expertise in a wide variety of materials. A great many contractors regularly build with only one or two materials, and therefore aren’t up to date on the specifications and requirements of more specialized materials. For example when composite decking boards first appeared on the market in the late 1980’s there were only a few brands to choose from, and there was little difference between brands. At the time all of the products used very similar technology and manufacturing processes. Today the situation is entirely different, especially with composite decking and railing. There are over 60 brands on the market, and new ones are being introduced every year. Many companies have developed proprietary manufacturing technologies and systems, with multiple different ingredients. Some companies do a great deal of product development and testing, and some companies do very little. In the last few years several composite companies have gone bankrupt, and other have been acquired and changed products. The end result of this is a very confused marketplace for the potential homeowner and consumer. Today there are substantial differences between brands of composite decking materials. There are multiple price levels (some 2-3 times the price of others), multiple warranty periods, and major track record and history differences between brands. Quite a few brands have experienced lawsuits, consumer complaints, and caused a lot of grief to people who purchased them without sufficient research. There are differences in color fading, stain problems and scratch sensitivity….. in addition some brands are harder to clean than others. The decking industry, just like any other industry, has its low quality players and its high quality players. If you are considering a composite deck, do your research and make sure that your contractor has experience and a track record with the material you are interested in.