Complaints About Composite Decking

Introduced in the 1990s to provide homeowners with an alternative to high-maintenance wood decks, composite decking is manufactured using a mix of wood fibers and polymers.

Fading

Decks extend the living space of a home outdoors.Decks extend the living space of a home outdoors.
Although early products were touted as “maintenance free,” manufacturers have changed their tune in the face of extraordinary consumer complaints. Composite decking manufacturers are introducing new product formulations to address the chief complaints surrounding the products they now market as “low-maintenance.

Decks are inherently exposed to sunlight, and consumers are finding that ultra-violet rays can wreak havoc with the color of their composite deck. The wood fibers and wood flour present in composite decking are susceptible to the same ills as solid wood planking, and if the manufacturing process allows these fibers to sit on the surface of the composite decking the sun can quickly compromise the color of the deck. While composite decking is available in a wide array of colors to compliment the color of a house, the up-front allure of choice may lead to disappointment down the road if the composite decking doesn’t stay true to color.

Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew are the natural enemy of any homeowner. More than just being unsightly, mold and mildew can cause an array of health problems. Sugar particles on the deck deposited by surrounding vegetation can invite mold and mildew to grow, and the natural wood fibers in composite decking are an inviting banquet for spores to feed on. Further compounding the issue of mold growth is the difficulty consumers may have in recognizing mold problems. The green cast that makes mold easy to identify can be disguised by the color of the composite decking, leading to dark spots that may be misidentified as stains. The same deck owners who opted for composite products to allow their toddler to toddle without fear of splinters can become horrified at the prospect of their little ones crawling around on a moldy surface.

Structural Integrity

Manufacturing companies all over the United States jumped on the composite decking bandwagon, as evidenced by the sheer number of products available. In their rush to bring the next hot product to the market, several of these manufacturers skimped on research and quality control, introducing inferior, unsafe products. In 2005 and 2009, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission issued recalls on two brands of composite decking due to compromised safety. Another major manufacturer of composite decking has faced down class action lawsuits alleging accelerated degradation of their products. Homeowners build decks to provide an outdoor space for family enjoyment, but some products may turn that outdoor haven into a safety hazard.

Expense

Expense is a chief complaint surrounding composite decking materials and often goes hand in hand with other complaints. While a well-performing product allows consumers to justify a large upfront expense, poor performance is only compounded by the high cost of a product. While the composite lumber itself represents a large portion of the cost to build a composite deck, consumers may be surprised to find that they also have to shell out for specialty fasteners that far exceed the cost of traditional deck screws. With a name-brand composite deck costing 40 to 60 percent more than its pressure-treated wood counterpart, according to GaltTech.com, many consumers are finding the large layout of cash adds insult to injury on poorly performing composite deck products.

About the Author

Connecticut-based Stacy Morgan began writing for eHow in 2009. Morgan graduated from the Porter and Chester Institute of Technology with a certification in architectural drafting.