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A Happy Alternative

That singular American creation, the backyard deck, conjures up images of idyllic afternoons napping in a hammock or festive get-togethers around the grill and a tub of ice-cold beer. But maintaining that elevated expanse of lumber is a downright chore, what with all the scrubbing, bleaching, and staining that wood requires—not to mention the occasional replacement of a splintered, warped, or rotten board.

When the less demanding plastic-composite decking appeared on the scene in the 1990s, homeowners happily adopted it, despite the higher price and limited color selection (gray). A decade later, as companies began to offer new products that looked like fresh-cut cedar and Brazilian walnut but never turned gray, sales of composites took off. Last year's tally came to $1 billion. That kind of popularity represents a big boost for the environment, too, because most composites are made from waste: sawdust, used plastic milk jugs, and shopping bags. Every 20 feet of decking contains about 30 pounds of material that would have ended up in a landfill. Trex, the first and largest of the composite manufacturers, recycles 6 million pounds of plastic each year.

The fact that composites don't feel or look like real wood is beside the point. Once in place, they just do their job and don't need much more than an annual washdown, leaving you plenty of time to work on your nap.

Already got old wood boards in place? Here's How to Spruce Up a Deck to get it looking new again.
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