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A deck is a terrific addition to your home, and it can help convert your exterior space into the highlight of your property. A lot of homeowners want to avoid the high maintenance requirements of wood decks, though. This is why you have the option of choosing an alternative to timber decking material when it's time to build your deck.

Composites Vs. Plastics

When it comes to a synthetic alternative to timber decking, you have two basic choices: a wood composite material, or an all-plastic material. The names should make it pretty clear what the difference is here. Composites, often known by the acronym WPC (Wood Plastic Composite) or simply as composite lumber, have a significant wood pulp content. This material is combined with plastics, resins, and binding agents to produce a durable building material.

All-plastic decking is all synthetic through and through. Though a lot of manufacturers are loath to admit it, all-plastic decking is usually made out of PVC -- that is, vinyl. Plastic decking is typically cheaper than WPC, but its appearance is much further from natural timber. All-plastic decking also weathers in a way that's very distinct from wood, meaning that your deck's appearance will degrade over time.

It's What Outside That Counts

Regardless of their material, most synthetic deck products are designed to mimic natural timber. They include stamped textures to mimic real woodgrain and even painters' brushstrokes. Higher grades of synthetic products will come with color variations that mimic the gradations of natural wood. Almost all synthetic products have a sheen that is unlike natural wood, though. This tends to be more noticeable with all-plastic decking. The good news is that composite lumber starts to look more natural as it ages and fades.

One important subcategory in the composite decking market is the capped composite. This is a composite product that's been sheathed in an extremely durable layer of tough plastic. Capped composite decking is probably the most durable decking material you can find. The only downside is the initial texture of the decking is definitely artificial.

Doing Your Homework

Composite decking materials have advanced by leaps and bounds in a relatively short period of time. Modern products are both more attractive and more durable than the first tentative attempts at synthetic decks. Horror stories about plastic delamination and chemical scarring are mostly a thing of the past.

You should be aware, though, that quality composites actually cost more than ordinary lumber. (Exotic hardwoods are another story.) When you install a composite lumber deck, you'll have to pony up a significant initial investment. It's vitally important to make sure you're getting your money's worth. Before you make any commitments, go online and look at customer reviews for the products you're considering. You want to make sure your decking material holds up well in the real world.

Building a deck out of composite timber or plastic decking makes sense in a lot of situations. When you want something long-lasting that doesn't demand constant refinishing, composite materials are a godsend. As long as you make your material selection with care, you should end up with a very durable deck that looks almost like natural wood.

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