Adding a deck is a common improvement homeowners add to their property. It adds a beautiful place to gather while enjoying the outdoors, not to mention cooking or eating. From an investment perspective, decks are generally a safe bet, recouping up to 80% of the construction cost. However, there are several options to consider when planning a decking project.

One of the primary considerations is whether to go with a so-called maintenance free construction. To determine whether this is a good option for you, you need to understand your options, and what you can expect.


What Are Decks Made Of?

The first thing to consider is the options for construction material. There are two primary choices: traditional wood or composite.

For wood decks, the higher quality options will use a hardwood like redwood or cedar. Lower quality decks will use a pressure treated lumber like pine. This includes all the planks that make up the platforms as well as all of the studs.

Composite material is the other popular option. The composite material is a blend of polymer plastic, wood fiber, and resin. The idea behind this is to take away some of the vulnerabilities that wood normally experiences. This includes water damage, the risk from insects, and more.

Environmentally, composite decks are much more sustainable. The polymer plastic that is used generally come from recycled plastic bags. Keep that in mind when choosing the materials you are using.


Maintenance On a Normal Wood Deck

Traditional wood decks have quite a lot of maintenance that needs to be done to keep it in top shape. Once it is installed, you obviously need to stain it, that will just help you get past the first couple of years.

From there, you will need sand any rough areas regularly to keep the wood safe from splinters. If you are sanding the wood, you will also need to stain those areas to help seal them. However, if you are staining part of it, then it may look odd depending on how long it has been since the last time you stained the entire thing.

You will also need to keep an eye open for nails that come up, which can pose another safety hazard. You will want to either nail these back down or replace them if they are starting to rust.

Some of the boards will wear and will need to be replaced too. Even with pressure treated wood, this is bound to happen eventually.

At some point, you will need to replace the entire thing because it is worn out. Wood decks usually last for about 10 to 15 years when they are maintained properly.


Maintaining Composite Decking

Some people may claim that composite is maintenance free. However, that is not quite accurate. Rather, they are lower maintenance than wood decks are, and will definitely be less labor intensive than the wooden variety.

From a regular care perspective, there are just a few simple things that you need to do to keep it in top shape. First, you need to sweep the surface clean of all the dirt that builds up on a regular basis.

Once you have it swept, you need to wash it down. A simple wash is best, just using a water hose to wash off all the dirt. It is especially important to wash it clean of any salt or melting agent you use during the winter. This salt can be exceptionally harsh on these plastic materials.

During the winter, you want to be sure to use a plastic shovel to remove snow. If ice forms, you want to use rock salt or an ice melt product. The best options are ones that say they are safe for pets and kids. You should avoid using any sand product on these materials because any foot traffic will risk scratching the surface.


Additional Care for Composite Decks

Composite boards should last anywhere from 25 to 30 years when properly maintained. To help ensure it lasts the full service life, there are a few additional things to consider to prevent unusual wear of the composite boards.

First, you want to avoid any standing water on the decking. Standing water is a breeding ground for mold, mildew, and bacteria of all sorts. In addition to the potential health hazards, this standing water also accelerates the rate at which the wood joists will rot.

With that in mind, you should redirect any downspouts so they do not drain onto your deck. Again, you want to avoid any excess water to avoid accelerated joist wear.

Next, be sure you provide adequate ventilation under your decking. During hot summer months, the heat will build under the decking and will cause it to dry excessively. Anyone who has worked with plastic knows this causes it to become brittle. Likewise, be sure you vent your dryer in a different area as well.


Trex Decking vs Other Options

Trex is generally considered one of the best choices for composite decking. First, it is the company that led the charge into the composite material. The company has continued to innovate and improve the engineering of the boards.

The boards are engineered to lock together, reducing the spaces between the boards. This actually helps with general maintenance because it prevents debris from collecting in those spaces.

The latest products have a weather-resistant shell. This helps keep it from fading due to sun exposure and increases the stain-resistant.

Some look at PVC as a less expensive option for composite. First, PVC uses virgin plastic rather than recycled, so it has a much greater impact on the environment. Further, PVC is much more likely to expand and shrink as temperatures fluctuate through the seasons.

Choosing composite decking will cost you more than traditional wood. However, it has much less maintenance costs to keep it looking and performing well. It will also last more than twice as long, making it well worth the investment.

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