Category Archives: low maintenance decks

With composite woods, if you’ve seen one, you haven’t seen them all

Kansas City TimberTech Deck with White Low-Maintenance Composite Railing

Kansas City TimberTech Deck with White Low-Maintenance Composite Railing

Are you considering building a new deck, patio or other outdoor living area in your back yard? If you’ve talked to friends or done some research, you’re likely very familiar with composite woods or you’ve heard a good deal about them. Likely you’ve formed some sort of opinion and likely feel that composite would be ideal for your new project. Like  everything that lasts longer, composite is more expensive. And, for the most part, you get what you pay for.

The composite wood industry is almost 20 years old. Some of the composite companies are actually on their 4th or 5th generation of product cycle. They’ve added new colors, new materials, new styles and new features.

Kansas City Evergrain Composite Spa Deck with Storage Bench

Kansas City Evergrain Composite Spa Deck with Storage Bench

Here are the the primary benefits of using composite woods:

  • Termite warranty
  • Rot warranty
  • Boards will not split
  • Lower maintenance

Previously, the composites were not warrantied against stain and fade. Composites are now just coming on to the market with stain and fade warranties – and long ones too. TimberTech is coming out with a new product called TimberTech Earthwood Evolutions which has a 25-year fade and stain warranty. AZEK and Fiberon are also addressing the fade and stain problems with composites.

Warranty is one big difference you will find among composites. But, the other big differences are price and the composite characteristics. Price will vary for market to market based on a variety of factors. But even composites that look somewhat similar can have very different characteristics. One company’s cedar shade may be very different from another. Another company’s grain pattern or texture may be different than another company’s product.

Kansas City WeatherBest Composite Deck with Painted Treated Wood Pergola with Custom Gate and Lattice

Kansas City WeatherBest Composite Deck with Painted Treated Wood Pergola with Custom Gate and Lattice

So, how do you decide? Everything is a balance. Weight what is important to you as it relates to warranties, required maintenance, price and the aesthetic appeal of the composites you are considering. Then, during the specification and design phase, find an experienced contractor with strong familiarity across many of the composite lines to discuss the pros and cons of the top composites you are considering. A qualified, experienced professional outdoor contractor will be glad to take the time with you to review the choices and considerations when selecting the composite that’s right for you.

I’ve been an outdoor builder in the Kansas City market for over 10 years now and used many of the top composites including EverGrain, TimberTech, AZEK, and Fiberon.

Deck building materials-Lots of choices

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.

Steve Folsom