COMPOSITE OR PVC: WHICH IS THE BETTER CHOICE?

There are certain drawbacks of using wood as a decking material, although timber was previously the only choice for quality decking in the past. Now that newer, better artificial options are available, the clear advantages that they have over wood has pushed the classic choice down in terms of popularity. Not undermining the beauty of wooden decking, composite is still a greener decking material that does not rot away without regular maintenance! Of course, composite is not the only alternative to wood, since PVC decking and fencing options have gained significant popularity as well. This leads us to the most obvious follow-up question of, which is better? We will try to answer that question below.

Composite Decking Frames: Advantages and Disadvantages:

How much of each material is used in the composite deck frame’s manufacturing can be a deciding factor as far as quality is concerned. Therefore, the uniformity of both advantages and disadvantages of PVC decks are not as applicable. Nevertheless, high quality composite decking frames should have the following advantages and disadvantages in common:

Advantages of Composite Decking Frames

  • Composite decks do not rot away at any point
  • They are completely pest proof, highly scratch-resistant and weathering has little effect on composite decks for a long time
  • Less slippery than PVC, although wood offers better traction
  • Maintenance needs are minimal, as composite does not warp, nor do the colours fade easily
  • When capped, composite decking frames do not allow mould growth and can be washed with water easily
  • Looks a lot more authentic in its design as compared to PVC, given that composite decks do have a significant amount of wood in them
  • There is no linkage between the plastic polymers used in composite and cancer
  • They last longer than PVC and do not contribute to the plastic problem.

Disadvantages of Composite Decking Frames

  • The timber might be sourced from illegal lumbering and that really is the only disadvantage compared to PVC decking!

There is actual timber in composite decking frames, so you need to buy from an FSC certified manufacturer/supplier like Ecoscape to be sure that the wood is not contributing to deforestation. In fact, their grey composite decking frames are also among the very few options available in the UK which come with high slip-resistance for an added assurance of safety.

PVC Decks: Advantages and Disadvantages:

Plastic is also a generic term because there are so many different types of plastic polymers, and new ones come out every so often. However, polyvinyl chloride is a very specific classification, which means that all PVC deck boards share very similar advantages and disadvantages among themselves. Let’s go through the most relevant ones next.

Advantages of PVC Decking:

  • Being made form 100% non-biodegradable plastic, PVC boards do not rot
  • Completely pest-proof (termites, carpenter ants and other insects cannot live inside PVC)
  • Maintenance needs are minimal, with only occasional repainting necessary to keep the deck looking good
  • PVC boards do not allow moisture absorption, so you can clean it with as much water as you wish
  • Does not contribute to deforestation in any way.

Disadvantages of PVC Decking

  • Eventually, PVC decks will add to the global plastic problem
  • Unless capped properly, PVC decks are ideal for mould growth (the petri dish effect!)
  • PVC decks are highly susceptible to temperature induced warping, which doesn’t make it the most durable choice
  • Fading colours are another side-effect of weathering which PVC decks are susceptible to
  • People slip and fall on PVC decks all the time, especially when wet (poolside decks or any deck during/after rain)
  • There is an established link between polyvinyl chloride and cancer
  • Despite offering a wide range of design and colour options to mimic wood, PVC decks will always look like fake wood.
Clarification: Composite and PVC are Not the Same Material

It is a common misconception that composite and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are slightly different variants of the same thing. Even contractors will often refer to both as “plastic” and lead customers to believe in the same misconception. PVC decking boards are made from 100% synthetic plastic polymer, which means that the term plastic decking should only be applicable for decks made from PVC boards.

On the other hand, composite (boards and joints only) is a broad, general term which essentially includes all wood-based derivatives used in construction. For example, just check the small list of composite materials next, which are completely different from each other, and yet they can all be identified as composite:

  • Mechanically or chemically densified wood
  • Fibreboard
  • Plywood
  • Flakeboard, particle board and oriented strand board
  • Glulam or laminated wood/timber (LVT)
  • Laminated veneer lumber (LVL) and cross-laminated timber (CLT)

The most durable, eco-friendly composite deck boards are manufactured by combining natural timber with recycled plastic, bringing the best aspects of both artificial and natural decking together. As should be evident by now, composite and PVC decking are not the same and the terms are most certainly not interchangeable.

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