Definitive guide to composite decking
The lockdown has changed our approach to many things, but with more time spent at home, and for those lucky enough to have outdoor space, we are all investing heavily to create that ultimate extension to our living space.
In the 1990s BBC’s Ground Force, the garden makeover show with Alan Titchmarsh at the helm, single handily created the decking craze that saw millions install timber decks to the outdoor spaces. Decks cover many issues, bald lawns, cracked paving, and uneven surfaces, as well as creating a natural aesthetic to otherwise hard landscaping. Although still popular, Timber decking has been pushed out of the limelight for modern, and environmentally friendly Composite decking.
Composite and timber materials offer their own benefits and come with specific drawbacks. The right choice for your home garden, outdoor space at a pub, office or shop depends largely on your budget, how much time you will dedicate to maintaining it, how long you would like your deck to last, and the overall look you are trying to create.
The cost of timber decking boards depends on the type of wood – softwood decking is considerably cheaper than both hardwood decking and most composite decking options. Hardwood decking is more similar in price to composite decking. If you choose to buy timber decking, you will also need to buy stains or oil to ensure that it looks its best for longer, and there will be some further spend required over the lifetime of the decking to maintain it.
Maintenance and lifespan
Well-maintained timber decking can last for a lifetime. Timber is easily sanded down, and sections can even be replaced, so if you do suffer from rot or fungus you can treat that specific area rather than having to change your entire deck. However, you will need to invest time and effort into your decking to ensure longevity.
Composite decking, on the other hand, will last around 20-30 years but requires much less maintenance. Most of the composite decking just needs to be cleaned regularly, and there is no need to treat or stain it to prevent moisture damage. Due to the low maintenance requirements of composite decking, timber is by far the most time-consuming material over its lifespan. However, due to the plastic content composite decking can be more prone to scratches, which are harder to repair than on timber since you cannot sand down a composite deck to deal with superficial issues.
Timber is one of the most environmentally friendly materials you can use. All timber products in the UK should be responsibly sourced to minimise impact on the environment. At Worcester Timber Products we only source timber from FSC accredited sawmills. Composite decking is made from a mixture of plastic and wood fibres – the wood fibres are often recycled and if you select your supplier carefully you can find decking made from recycled plastics as well.
One of the major drawbacks of composite decking is the strength, or rather the fact that composite decking is not a structural material and requires more support than timber decking. This is easily overcome by placing joists closer together to support your decking and prevent sagging or breakages, but the additional requirements can increase the cost of your deck structure.
Aesthetics & Use
Both materials come with a range of options and have their own benefits and drawbacks, depending on your preferences, style, budget and intentions. Composite decking is less slippery than timber and comes in a range of colours and finishes. The finish is also considerably more consistent – every board of a composite deck is the same colour and texture, whereas timber decking can have colour variations due to the natural wood and knots. Composite decking will keep the same look and colour for longer without the need for ongoing maintenance, so if you would like a hassle-free deck this is the better choice. However, many of our clients simply prefer the look and feel of real wood, or the luxury of a hardwood deck.
Timber decking can result in splinters if not properly maintained and can be slippery when wet. The colours available are also more limited, but you can change the colour of your decking with stains or even paint if required. Ultimately, material choices come down to personal preferences. If you would like a non-slip and very child-safe deck that only requires an annual wash, composite decking is the clear winner. If you prefer a traditional look and natural feel that you will not need to replace, timber decking is probably the best option for you.
Worcester Timber Products are now official stockists of SmartBoard wood plastic composite decking, where nature and technology work together for you.
What is special about SmartBoard?
SmartBoard is a reversible face fix decking with an appealing, tactile brushed matt finish available in a range of naturally varying colour tones.
It looks like traditional decking, is simple to fix and is smart looking compared to competitor’s equivalent. It has a smooth and ribbed profile and comes in three fantastic colours, slate, battleship grey and chocolate brown. Manufactured from waste wood residue combined with recycled hard plastic such as shampoo bottles also makes it environmentally sensitive.
SmartBoard comes with a 25-year residential Warranty, reassurance that it will outlast most varieties of timber decking.
Features and Benefits
- Doesn’t look or feel plastic
- Long lasting
- Low maintenance
- Low risk of slip surface
- Will not split
- Will not rot
- 90% recycled composition
- Simple to fit
- Fantastic for fascias
Reversible Deck Board
A reversible deck board with a matt, brushed, modern looking finish. The Smartboard composite deck board is an obvious choice for the discerning builder. Made specifically to emulate softwood decking, it is fitted in a very similar way, giving ease of use for landscapers and DIY enthusiasts alike.
To maximise the longevity of SmartBoard, we highly recommend using SmartFrame. A range of high specification treated European redwood products (incised) for use in structural wood applications above or in ground contact; where a 30-year service life is desirable. Developed for use with wood plastic composite decking that tend to come with warranties against fungal decay beyond the standard 15 years.
Features of SmartFrame and fixing advice
Durable Sapwood and heartwood envelope. For external use where a 30-year service life is desirable, above or in ground contact. It is strength graded (identified on end grain only), long lengths as standard, light relative to steel or most durable hardwoods and can be built using standard wood working tools and standard exterior quality wood fixings.
The key benefits to using SmartFrame is that it has improved resistance to decay means it will remain fit for purpose for least twice as long as alternatives. It has C24 capability as standard with known clear span advise when used to build a deck sub-frame. Easy to handle and work with, and easy to connect.
Special additives minimise changes in length of boards. As a rule of thumb work to a change on length of +/- 1.0mm/m i.e. 3.6m = +/-3.6mm. Face fix using 2 no. 63mm SmartBoard Coloured Composite Decking screws per joist. SmartBoard can be worked using standard woodworking tools and if required its edges lightly eased using coarse sand paper (Note: being so dense, it will quickly dull wood working cutters which tends to affect the ability to cut timber products efficiently thereafter).
It is very important to only use SmartBoard Coloured Composite Decking screws
The Smartboard composite deck board is an obvious choice for the discerning builder. Made specifically to emulate softwood decking, it is fitted in a very similar way, giving ease of use for landscapers and DIY enthusiasts alike.
For best results use a high quality cordless impact driver. These tools provide the most control when seating the head of SmartBoard screws just under the surface of the board. When using a combi-drill, if a suitable torque setting can’t be established then take care not to drive the screw too far below the surface of the board when in drill mode (it is wise to stop short of the surface of the board and manually twist the chuck of the drill to achieve optimum screw depth).
The use of any other fixing other than SmartBoard Coloured composite decking screw is prohibited as it will almost certainly cause SmartBoard to crack or shear.
Joist centres - maximum 400mm domestic loading (commercial to be determined in due course). Leave a 5mm gap between the sides and ends of adjacent boards or fascia. (increase this gap to 10mm gap when adjacent to fixed/permanent structures).
25 Year (Residential), 10 Year (Commercial) Warranty. Hoppings Softwood Products Plc hereby certify that when fixed appropriately in accordance with the relevant design guidance SmartBoard shall be deemed under warranty for a period of twenty-five (25) years (residential use) and ten (10) years (commercial/public use) from the date of original purchase. SmartBoard products shall not split, splinter or suffer structural damage as a sole and direct consequence of termites, insects or soft rotting micro-fungi.
For a period of ten (10) years from the date of original purchase, SmartBoard products shall not break. However this warranty explicitly excludes occurrences where the break occurs or may have occurred as a consequence of impact loads or poor design/construction methods. This warranty applies to the use of products in normal residential use. Contact Hoppings Softwood Products on 01992 578877 if you require a warranty for a deck that is to be created in a commercial type situation.
Warranty: What is not covered
This warranty does not provide protection against misuse, abuse, neglect or improper storage or handling. Hoppings cannot be held responsible for product failure due to improper installation or failure to abide by Hoppings fitting instructions. It also excludes the discolouration/staining of the products due to:
- Air borne pollutants, such as mould, algae, leaf litter and any deposits from plants and trees.
- Any other foreign substances.
- Variations in colour, texture or appearance from one board to another.
- Changes in colour associated with weathering effect of ultra violet light
Visit the Trade Counter at Worcester Timber to view and take away SmartBoard decking samples.