Composite decking
Photo: Hamilton Hedrick
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Made by combining a blend of plastic and waste wood fibers, these boards won't splinter and don't need to be stained or painted. Yet composites are more expensive and heavier than most woods, and must be scrubbed regularly to prevent mildew. Composites aren't as stiff as wood, and they move more in response to changes in temperature. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's installation instructions to the letter When screwing through the face, use the special fasteners designed to prevent bumps from erupting around screw heads.

Same texture on both sides
Installation is less complicated when the boards have the same texture on both sides. Trex offers a smooth, double-sided finish, while Monarch has a wood-grain finish on either side. This will make it easy when laying the planks, as it can't be put in the wrong way.

1. Brasilia, from Trex, $2.85/lineal ft.; recycled polyethylene and waste wood from woodworking manufacturers; 25-year limited warranty
2. Exotics, from Monarch, about $2.67/lineal ft.; virgin plastic and recycled wood floor from the furniture and flooring industry; 20-year limited warranty

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