When choosing which material to use for your Colorado custom decking installation, there’s no shortage of deck board options.There’s real wood, composite, and PVC decking. While we frequently install composite and wood decking, we’re less likely to recommend PVC. Here’s a closer look at why.
What PVC Is and Isn’t
PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride and is a type of plastic that also falls under the categories of engineered and polymer decking. It is not to be confused with composite decking, though, which incorporates a mix of organic wood and non-organic plastics.
The Pros of Non-lumber Alternatives
Wood alternatives such as PVC and composite decking are fast becoming popular choices in decking. There are plenty of good reasons for their rising popularity.
Engineered decking materials are more durable than lumber, often lasting for twice as long or more. They are impressively resistant to insects. You don’t have to worry about termites or other wood-boring pests invading and compromising the safety of your structure. For more information about pesky pests in, on, and under your deck, please read our blog here.
These engineered materials are also resistant to moisture, mold, and mildew. These menacing ‘Ms’ are more than unsightly; they damage the integrity of your structure and require replacing.
Also, these engineered materials are less vulnerable to wear and tear than wood, including scratching from shoes and furniture, your furry friends’ paws, or denting from hail storms.
And finally, engineered materials are more fire-resistant than wood, and in Colorado’s dry and often windy client, that carries weight. Deck fires are common as embers are blown on the wind or sparks from the grill go rogue and land on the deck. While wood alternatives are still susceptible to heat damage at very high temperatures, they are much more fire resistant than wood.
***Warning: Though engineered decking is heat-resistant, it is still susceptible to heat damage at extremely high temperatures. We do not recommend putting wood-burning fireplaces, pits, or stoves on any decking. The high heat from these types of sources can cause material failure.***
Engineered materials are also fade-resistant, meaning they won’t weather and lose color like wood and wood stains. As a result, the color you buy is the color you keep and enjoy for the lifetime of the product.
And speaking of color, engineered materials have a multitude of colors to choose from in aesthetically appealing styles with detailed grooves that mimic the look and texture of natural wood (without the splinters, ouch!). Year after year, manufacturers continue to up their game, offering more variety in beautiful plank boards that look natural and elegant. There are even options for hidden fasteners for a clean, refined look.
Easy to Maintain
Since engineered materials are fade- and moisture-resistant, there’s less upkeep to maintain the look and stability of your deck. Wood decking requires sanding, cleaning, sealing, and staining about every two years. With non-wood alternatives, however, you only need to sweep and wash occasionally. Cleaning can be done with a bit of soap and water, a mop and bucket, or mild pressure washing.
So Why Not PVC?
- Cost. PVC is very pricey, more so than composite wood decking, which also offers durability and low maintenance without costing a fortune.
- Not the best match for high heat. PVC doesn’t always hold up well in full sunshine, which is a problem in the Denver area where we get more full sun than many U.S. cities. There are reports of PVC decks becoming painfully hot. PVC has also been known to crack due to the contraction and expansion of temperature swings. That’s a challenge in Colorado, which can jump rather quickly from hot sunny days to cold, snowy days.
- Some staining. PVC was billed as being stain-free, but this isn’t entirely true. If stains sit on the PVC for long, they can stain the plastic.
- Not necessarily eco-friendly. Manufacturers of PVC deck boards make much of the fact that it doesn’t involve cutting down trees. However, PVC has been called “the poison plastic.” PVC’s manufacturing process, as well as the use and disposal of PVC, triggers the release of toxic, chorine-based chemicals into the environment. The chloride monomer in PVC has been established as a carcinogen. And even though PVC can be recycled into other PVC products, this rarely happens. In fact, less than 10% of plastic is recycled in the US, and PVC is one of the least recycled plastic materials out there.
Lumber is a beautiful, natural-looking choice for decks, but if you’re looking for greater durability and less maintenance, you can’t go wrong with composite wood alternatives. And though PVC is an option as well, for the maximum bang for the buck, many decking contractors agree that composite wood is the better choice.
Deciding to build or remodel a deck can be a big undertaking. Call a Denver professional deck contractor for help every step of the way, from decisions on what type of material to use to leveling your landscape and ensuring the safety of the finished product.