Composite decking is a relative newcomer in British gardens. Lauded for its longevity and green credentials, it's fast becoming a contender for those looking for an innovative alternative to the old stone patio. But is it right for you?
Over the past decade, recycling has become the norm for domestic waste. Many of us dutifully separate our paper, glass and plastic for collection, and gardeners have long known the benefits of setting aside garden and food waste for composting.
It's no surprise, therefore, that many people are starting to consider the environmental impact of the wood they use in their landscaping. Wood is a renewable resource, but a wooden deck requires a certain amount of maintenance if it's going to last for many years to come.However, wood is no longer the only environmentally friendly option for decking. Composite decking has been around for a couple of decades now, and as manufacturers have honed their processes its performance has become better and better. In fact, it's fast becoming the popular choice for those who want their decking to last longer while limiting its impact on the planet.
What is it made from?
Composite decking uses a combination of plastic and wood waste to create an alternative to traditional lumber. Many of the composite lumbers used for decking are polyethylene-based, although other types of plastic such as PVC are also common.
If you're considering composite decking as a greener alternative to pure wood, it's worth bearing in mind that not all composites are created equal. Look out for those made from recycled plastics as well as recycled wood waste if you want your new deck to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
Trex, one of the leading manufacturers in this field, states proudly that no trees are cut down in the making of their products - and they're the largest recycler of all those plastic shopping bags American shoppers pick up at the supermarket checkout!
Of course, the satisfaction of buying recycled materials isn't the only attraction of using composite for your decking project. It can last upwards of 25 years, so when you purchase it you know you're making an investment for the long term - chances are, it'll still be going strong by the time you've paid off your mortgage.
Over that time, its benefits are clear. Composite isn't prone to splintering or rotting in the same way that wood can be, and it isn't susceptible to woodworm. It doesn't require regular treating with chemical products like wood does.
It's also a great choice if safety is a concern - unlike wood, where algae build up can make your deck a hazard if you don't keep it in check, composite is generally non-slip.
Making a Choice
If all that sounds appealing, the next thing you'll want to know is how it looks up close. Choose a good quality composite for the most attractive appearance. While you won't be staining the product yourself, this doesn't mean you'll be limited in terms of finish.
Most leading brands offer a good choice of colours, from natural wood shades that blend in harmoniously with your garden to those that will make more of a statement. For a contemporary effect, why add interest to a basic composite deck with a complementary accent shade?
Naturally, deciding between composite decking and traditional wood is a matter of personal taste. If you prefer the look and feel of natural wood, there are still ways that you can reassure yourself you're making the greenest choice.
Choosing wood decking from sustainable sources, such as Kebony - repeatedly named by Cleantech as one of their top 100 global clean companies - is one such way.
Their process of treating softwood from a sustainable source makes it as strong as rainforest timber, so when you purchase it you know your doing your bit for the environment without sacrificing on performance. And the bonus point is that Kebony's treatment process means it requires very little maintenance for a wooden deck, so that's more relaxing time for you.
Still not sure? Have a chat with your supplier about the most suitable type of decking for your project.