composite boards used in deck construction
Photo: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
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Even in the Pacific Northwest—the land of plentiful cedar and redwood—Kim Katwijk, owner of Deck Builders Inc., uses composites for almost all the decks he builds. It costs as much as $3.90 per lineal foot for premium 2x4 cedar boards, plus about $1 per square foot annually to keep the deck in top shape, using quality stains and sealers, says Katwijk. But he can buy his favorite composite, called Evergrain, a compression-molded polyethylene and wood fiber board, for between $2 and $3 per lineal foot, with virtually no upkeep costs attached. He also saves on overage. "When I use wood decking, I order about 15 to 20 percent more to allow for the inevitable split, checked, or warped boards." Not so with composites."If for some reason I get a bad board, I call the supplier and they send a replacement," he says.

If you're looking to compare composites, start by reviewing technical specifications, color charts, and cleaning instructions on manufacturer websites. Be sure to look at how the boards will be attached to one another and to the joists. Most are fastened with regular deck screws, but some boards have channels along the edges for hidden fastening systems, such as those made by Eb-Ty, so no screws will be visible. Another hidden fastener, Tiger Claw, holds boards together with clawlike spikes. Other boards go down like tongue-and-groove flooring, fastened to the joists with steel nails set at a 45-degree angle. Finally, you'll need to decide whether you prefer the look of smooth or textured boards. An embossed grain pattern will provide a little extra traction, but smooth boards are also slip-resistant.
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