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May 4, 2022

Enhancing outdoor spaces is a hot topic in home renovation. From HGTV’s Backyard Takeover to Ultimate Pools, the outside has proven to be a popular way to upgrade a home. And now, homeowners are adapting outside designs to complement their interior spaces and their personal style. Here, we will focus on composite decking, the most cost-effective way to achieve a clean look that will last for years and require little maintenance.

The modernization of decking, predominantly the shift from wood to composite decking, has enabled homeowners to reduce deck maintenance and enjoy an enduring outside space. 

The core material of composite decking usually consists of a mix of plastic resins and wood flour, but there are porducts that have a PVC core. As the first generation of these products were uncapped, manufacturers have added a polymer cap that either entirely encapsulates the boards, or is at the very least capped on three sides to enhance the longevity of the products and offer more realistic textures and colors.

Capping is typically a fully synthetic polymer, which prevents water damage such as mold and mildew; prevents the board from cracks, splinters, and warping; and these products are covered with Limited (structural) and Fade & Stain warranties, usually for 25 years or more. Imagine several decades of worry-free space! Most homeowners aren’t in their houses that long!

With all that protection, the climate around the home does not cause performance issues. Composite decking is designed to last anywhere from windy, salty beaches to the coldest mountains and everything in between. The installation process is adaptable for various requirements of joint spacing to cover load requirements such as sand and snow.

COMPOSITE DECKING IS ON-TREND AND HERE TO STAY

Outdoor spaces need the same flooring canvas as interiors, and the most popular flooring choice for an easy-to-maintain, budget-friendly, fabulous look is composite decking. The same improvements that have led to longer performance have also improved the aesthetics of the board to replicate wood more closely with hand-scraped textures, or a wire-brush feel.

Composite decking also has environmental advantages. It does not need to be replaced as often, nor does it require more products to stain, paint, or oil regularly. Composite decking, like most synthetic products, has 80% to 90% recycled material. Homeowners will be glad that the recycling and manufacturing process uses closed-loop systems to recycle water, break down and reuse waste material, and enable clean disposal practices.

SOCIAL SPACES ARE DEFINED BY LIFESTYLE

Builders FirstSource project managers have seen a trend of composite decking with the addition of hand and drink rails, seating, pathways, fencing, cladding and more. Because composite decking keeps its shape, doesn’t swell, and rarely loses its luster, it can be used to create toppers, surrounds, connections, and vertical surfaces.

Paul Coman, Builders FirstSource Decking Specialist, explains that these extra features especially appeal to customers looking to break away from conventional looks. “The wow factor when a homeowner sees their outside space as a social area akin to their family room is really special.”

 

ON-TREND, ORGANIC LOOKS ARE MADE FOR OUTDOOR LIVING

Some in-demand trends are wide-width, bent, and vertical boards. Wide-width boards, typically 7.25 inches, are often used in decking that makes the connection with wide-width interior flooring trends. All composite decking manufacturers offer colors such as warm greys, darker and lighter hues, and grains that look weathered, natural, and regional. These colors perfectly complement the wider board because they mimic the color and tree widths found in nature.

Builders and renovators will find the installation to be easy, and easy to teach. Installation is faster vs. traditional 5.5-inch boards, reducing labor costs. This is important if customers are hoping to balance the look they want and the budget they have. Wider boards can be combined with narrower ones for architectural appeal.

For these spaces to be perfect in the eye of the homeowner, manufacturers offer distinctive design applications. These features often require quite technical installations and specialty products. This is particularly true of bent boards. Bending composite decking creates an organic look and defines areas similarly to one’s inside home. Bending is not an option for real wood because it cannot keep structural integrity when heat is applied. But composite does!

To bend a board, it must be heated to a hot temperature with the use of heat blankets, then bent into a permanent, curved shape using a homemade jig. A major cost factor with bending boards is labor in terms of skill and time. This installation process requires expertise, added equipment, and practice. Plus, the substructure is likely to be more complex and time consuming as well. So, builders be aware to increase your labor budget!

However, homeowners are likely to see and recognize the value. One recent homeowner in the Los Angeles area has said their deck “is my favorite room in the house. It’s open, inviting, and beautiful. It’s also not a particularly expensive space because the only ‘cost’ is the deck floor. Nature takes care of the rest.”

IT'S THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

Now that customers are doing more research on their own, they are asking builders and remodelers for these on-trend and valuable additions to their outdoor space. A recent customer purchasing through Builders FirstSource Los Angeles referred to their new outdoor space and their “second home”. Places to put a beverage, have a comfortable seat, and gain privacy within a larger space all add to the appeal of a composite deck. When customers see the decking and siding options that composite boards and trim offer to create open-air living rooms, they are reminded of “vacations and social outings” and endless possibilities.

Photography courtesy of TimberTech and AZEK.

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