From Engineering on March 29, 2007 in Decks and Patios
There are two types of wood and plastic composites, polyethylene and polypropylene. While these composites initially can be more expensive than wood, their durability and low maintenance needs make them attractive options. Polyethylene composites mix wood (often sawdust) with softer recycled plastics (e.g. milk jugs or plastic grocery bags). This material has a deep embossed grain, created by a compression molding process, and the boards are usually designed to weather to a lighter shade with in the first three months of exposure. Polypropylene composites blend wood with hard recycled plastics (think keyboards or TVs). These hard, dense materials, great for building projects that call for durability, and they usually contain over 50% recycled material. Unless they have a UV inhibitor they tend to lighten in color over the first few years. Polypropylene composites have a wood-grain-look embossed into it, and the material can be bent to make curved railings and benches. One problem that occurs in these types of composites is that the wood can suffer from microbial and fungal decay. Be sure to check with your contractor that the composite he is using has wood-protecting properties. They generally come in earth tones. Trex and Evergrain Composite Decks Cost: $1.75-$3.25/linear foot One-Hundred Percent Plastic Decks Also called HDPE (High Density Polyethylene), if you are interested in going with a plastic deck, make sure the product you use is made from 100% recycled materials. HDPE products are made from softer products like milk jugs, plastic wrap and extension cord. There is no wood fiber in these products to potentially decay, which gives these a potentially long life (some manufacturers offer 50 year warranties), but this type of decking does lack a natural feel. They can come in wood tones, or in solid colors like white and have UV inhibitors to help protect against color fade and material breakdown. Cost: $2.10-$3.25/linear foot Manufacturers of Plastic Decking:
Rubber decking is relatively new and is composed of 50 percent plastic and 50 percent old tires, helping to solve the problem of what to do with worn-out treads. The material, originally used commercially for flooring in livestock trailers, is tough, durable, and impervious to water, insects, and UV rays. It comes in three colors, but the color isn’t warranted to last. Cost: $2.30/linear foot.