How to Compare Composite Decking Brands and Materials
As with any major purchase, it’s important to thoroughly compare composite decking brands and materials, so you can make an informed decision. But trying to establish the best value for money and selecting just one out of the many composite decking types available on the market can be a challenge.
You’ve heard of the expression “You get what you pay for” – and this can be true. What is also true is that sometimes we have champagne tastes on beer budgets, and we want everything by yesterday, which can also influence our purchase decisions.
You get what you pay for
But if we are watching our spending, or want it NOW, is the cheapest option always our best bet? Could it be that waiting a little longer and saving up for better quality, a longer-lasting deck might be in our better interests?
A tip to help you compare composite decking brands and make the right choice for you is to be able to compare the oranges with the apples. What do you look for in the different types of composite decking that will provide this valuable information, and why is that important?
Know Your Brand
When you buy a car, you don’t walk into the first yard and buy the first car you see, and you shouldn’t do that with your new deck. Every deck brand has a website that includes information about their boards.
Composite decking materials vary between brands. You will probably not find pricing because most deck manufacturers and importers do not sell direct and you have to get pricing from the stores that sell the product.
Within the different brands, you will also find different levels of quality and price points. They may offer a cheap option and more expensive versions. With some brands, not all the benefits attributed to their high-end profiles also apply to their cheaper end profiles. Remember, you get what you pay for.
Quick Weeding – Find the Warranty
If you want to cut to the chase, one of the quickest ways to establish which decking brands might be better, in the long run, is to visit each website and look up their warranty.
Every brand has a warranty on its website. That cheap brand you see in large chains might look great on the shelf, but when you learn its warranty is only 5 or 10 years, then suddenly it doesn’t seem like such a great deal.
Do you really want to spend a large amount of money on something that only has the confidence to offer an 8-10-year warranty? Then again, there are some very expensive brands on the market that offer a top-of-the-range option with a 50-year warranty. But is that justified for an average home in the suburbs, compared to a multi-storey mansion in an elite suburb? Maybe not.
There are, however, excellent options in between these two extremes. For example, there are decking boards with warranties of 25 years, which is a lot more reassuring than 8 years, right? NewTechWood, for example, offers a 25-year warranty.
Slip and Fire Ratings – Do they matter?
This depends on where you live. Check with your installer/builder or your local Council who can tell you if you live in a BAL (Bushfire Attack Level) area or not. If you don’t live in a BAL rated area, then it won’t matter. Otherwise, you are restricted to buying composite boards that meet a certain BAL rating.
Some brands’ boards are only rated as low as BAL-Low and BAL-12, and if you live in a BAL 40 area, for example, you can only buy boards rated for BAL-40 zones.
A common rating is the BAL-19 and BAL-29 for semi-rural areas, but much depends on the amount and type of vegetation and even the slope of land on and around your property. You may find the cheaper boards’ ratings may not meet your needs.
Slip ratings are also important if the decking boards are to be installed around pools and for commercial projects.
As an example, all NewTechWood decking meets the BAL-29 standard and offers profiles with slip ratings up to P5.
Is it Capped?
This is the biggie. You’ve probably heard scary stories about “composites” that fade, peel and warp and all manner of negative outcomes.
For some, not all, brands, this was (and is) true, but mostly from the very early days when manufacturing composites was in its infancy. Fortunately, manufacturers have learned from these mistakes and over the years have removed these problems.
NewTechWood is one of the brands that have been able to eliminate those issues, developing a patented 360-degree capping called Ultrashield. This protects the board around all 4 sides, including the grooves. And this is the reason NewTechWood can confidently offer a 25-year warranty.
Why is this important?
Composite Capping Types:
A: 360-degree capped shield
Capping 360 degrees provides complete protection all around the board and even in the groove of the board. This is the only way to completely protect the board from UV, water, insects, and any other mould/mildew from attacking the core. And this is why NewTechWood is capped 360 degrees.
B: A halfway capped board
This type of board gives good protection, however, the bottom part of the board is uncapped and still exposed to the elements. Various harsh elements, such as moisture, mould, bacteria or fungus can cause damage to the boards.
C: A board with an uncapped groove
It still allows moisture to be absorbed into the core through the entire length of the board. Therefore, there is a potential for swelling, cupping, and cracking to exist over time.
D: Capping the top half of the board
This capping does provide higher stain, scratch, and UV resistance, however, the underside and grooves of the board are exposed to the elements, which creates dry and wet effects on the top and bottom. Some capped composite wood products contain wood powder in their cap layer, which means that wood powder is still exposed to the elements and can still succumb to the problems of the first generation.
E: First-generation (non-capped) composite wood
These boards have no cap layer to protect the core. Without a capped layer to protect the core, the wood fibre is exposed to the surface. It can therefore be damaged by various harsh weather conditions, UV, moisture, bacteria, fungus and mould. Not only will the colour start to fade, but the structure and composition will be degraded or even destroyed over time.
So, how serious are we talking?
Very serious. Here’s a quick overview:
When uncapped composite boards are exposed to UV and water, they can begin to decompose, resulting in decay, rotting and crumbling.
Everything fades – even natural timber – if not protected. Some cheaper brands that claim to be capped may use a board brushing method that damages the coating, allowing the wood fibres to be exposed, which contributes to the problem.
Fungus, Mould, Mildew
An unprotected board is an easy prey to fungus, mould and mildew. I the boards are not capped, using a deck cleaner will just clean off the surface, but the mould will continue to attack the layers beneath.
Mould will and does, appear on everything, but if your board is capped, the core is protected and you can use a deck cleaner to safely remove the surface mould.
Some manufacturers add calcium or filler to their products to enhance the board’s stiffness, but it actually makes the board more brittle. This is why the board cracks when installers try to drill into it.
Even for those boards capped only on the top, when moisture builds up via the exposed underneath of the board, it can warp and twist the core., This results in cracks appearing in the cap layer.
The earlier boards and some cheaper varieties scratch more easily due to lack of protection, i.e. they’re not capped.
But even with capping, it may scratch over time due to abuse. Quality composite manufacturers recommend placing rubber stoppers on the feet of outdoor furniture or using outdoor mats to protect the boards from constant dragging. Capping protects the boards to a degree, but you also have to use common sense. Even painted concrete scratches.
Without any cap protection, stains will be absorbed by the wood fibres, or penetrate in between the wood fibre and polymer directly and permanently.
Swelling & Cupping
Natural timber suffers from cracking and cupping, but a fully-capped composite/ plastic timber deck board will not.
So, there you have our top tips on how compare composite decking brands and materials.
Can we Compare NewTechWood with Other Brands for You?
We are often asked this, but it would be unprofessional and unethical to do so. What we will do for you is tell you about our product and you can then compare our product features with the other brands that interest you.
You can find all the information on our website but here is a nutshell version:
- Established since 2004.
- One of the most natural-looking composite decking brands on the market, Its’ design is so popular that it has been copied by other manufacturers.
- Fully capped – a co-extruded composite board – around all four sides.
- Low maintenance – no need to oil, sand or paint.
- Eco-friendly. Made from 95% recycled materials.
- UV & fade protection.
- Ultra protection against moisture, and termites.
- BAL 29 for bush fire rated areas (decking only).
- Hidden clip system.
- Commercial anti-slip rating (R11 & P5).
- Backed by a 25-year warranty.
Interested in NewTechWood?Submit an enquiry
Example composite deck brand comparisons:
One of the cheapest composites on the market has been around since 2009 and also requires no oiling or painting. It offers rot, decay and termite resistance, too, as well as anti-slip ratings. However, it does not mention/offer a BAL rating. Neither does it offer UV or fade resistance. It comes with just a 10-year warranty. The brand does provide a top-of-the-range option, which is fully capped and that warranty is up to 20 years.
Another popular brand that has been around since 2001 offers similar reassurances, but they specify that the product is not designed for high-moisture environments because it will cause swelling and affect its physical properties. Yet on another web page, the manufacturer states that it is suitable for use around swimming pools. They also admit that the product fades, especially when exposed to the elements. This composite brand only comes with a 10-year warranty.
One of our major competitors has been around since 1996 and, like NewTechWood, also offers a 25-year warranty covering the same issues. The main difference between our products is that they charge more for theirs. Also, their board capping has a higher plastic content, which becomes obvious when placed against a more natural-looking composite, such as NewTechWood, or natural timber.
Get the idea? Compare composite decking brands by visiting various websites and making notes. Also, check out review platforms – such as Google My Business, Product Review and Trust Pilot – to see what their customers are saying about the products.