History of Composite Decking

USEFUL INFORMATION

Wooden or timber decking has been around for a long time. Is composite decking the new pretender or genuinely superior to traditional decking?

Composite decking history

Today, most everyone has heard the terms composite decking, composite lumber and wood plastic composite deck. But there is an interesting story behind the fast growth of a market that essentially didn’t exist before the late 1990s.

The market opportunity is instantly apparent: Compared with traditional wood decking products that require staining and other routine care, this new generation of outdoor decking products offers superior weathering, resistance to abrasion, and requires very little maintenance. The road wasn’t always clear, however…
Composite decking history

COMPOSITE DECKING TIMELINE

Composite decking is in demand! It lasts longer, is easy to work with and has excellent design and colourway options.

  • 1990s

    The Early Years

    Starting in the late 1990s composite decking materials began to gain widespread acceptance thanks to the obvious benefits they afford builders and homeowners. They were produced using plastic materials often reclaimed from plastic bags and post-consumer goods like milk jugs. These products typically had a very high percentage of shredded or ground wood filler, often as high as 60% wood. The products were marketed as “low maintenance” or “no maintenance” and were intended to be a durable alternative to the ubiquitous wood planks that require frequent staining, sealing, and other homeowner maintenance.

    Thanks to these selling points, composite decking products enjoyed rapid growth for a number of years as they became increasingly popular with the home improvement crowd.

    However, alongside this growth in sales emerged problems that caused increasing dissatisfaction among both homeowners and installers. First, the wood and plastic mixture was not nearly as stiff as wood. These forced contractors to build substructures with greater support for the walking surface that increased cost to the homeowner. Another issue was that as the wood fillers used in these products aged, the homeowner’s new deck would become grey (like driftwood) in as little as six months. After longer exposures in wet environments, rot, mould, and decay led to delamination and structural failure.

    On top of all this, homeowners typically paid 2X the price for the composite materials as they paid for traditional wood decking products and the expectation was that they were buying a superior product that had a long lifespan. All added up, the early wood plastic composites faced many challenges as a “drop in” replacement for wood.

  • 2009

    Fast Forward Ten Years

    Fast Forward Ten Years

    2009 saw new product introductions intended to address the two most notable shortcomings of the first generation of composite decking materials: stiffness and weatherability.

    As with the evolution of products in other industries like flat screen TV’s and tablet computers, it was new technology that propelled the industry forward. First, mixtures of PVC with organic and mineral based fillers and foaming agents gave birth to a new generation of products that were stiffer, lighter, and more resistant to decay than earlier products. Second, the use of co-extruded caps provided a highly weatherproof barrier that resisted colour change and fade with exposure to the elements. These two technologies, combined, allowed for the continued and sustained growth of the entire product category.

  • 2016

    Current Generation of Products

    Current Generation of Products

    As end-user expectations have evolved, manufacturers and materials supplies have worked hard to keep pace. Some features of today’s generation of composite decking materials include:

    • Superior weatherability
    • Resistance to decay
    • Low maintenance
    • Excellent abrasion resistance
    • Chemical resistance
    • Color hold
    • Wide range of finish and size options

    The market will surely continue to evolve, and as new user demands new materials will emerge and more composite decking products that push the envelope of performance.