People often ask us about the types of decking we do, or tell us how cheap the decking at their nearest hardware discount centre is, so we thought we could take a look today at the different types on the market.

Softwood Decking

Cheap timber decking is usually made from softwood like spruce or pine and is the cheapest, obviously, of any of the options here. This is one advantage and the ease of working with it, because of that softness, is another. However, it rots quickly and will become slippery after the first few times it is rained on. As it’s so easy for algae to eat and grow on so it becomes a major slip hazard when wet unless kept scrupulously clean. It is recommended that you apply oils and preservatives after a deep clean twice a year, although even then you’re unlikely to get a particularly long life from it.

Rotten softwood decking

Hardwood Decking

Although it will also rot, hardwood will last quite a bit longer than softwood as the fibres that make it up are much more densely packed due to the slow growing trees, usually oak, chestnut or larch, from which it comes. It still needs treating with preservatives and oils but only once a year, so half that of softwood.

One of the downsides is that, due to the slow growth of the trees, it can be very costly to buy hardwood decking. This also means that there’s much higher environmental cost too as, obviously, these trees take much longer to replace.

Hardwood decking is also very slippery in the wet winter months so is difficult to use in outside public areas unless fitted with expensive non-slip strips made from carborundum or something similar. It can be done, and to be fair, it also looks nice, but it will cost a lot of money and be by far the most expensive option.

Composite Decking

A few years ago the decking market was taken by storm by the arrival of composite decking. It seemed like it was a silver bullet; long lasting, attractive with a range of finishes and often using recycled material, perhaps it was the perfect combination?

Alas, there were two fundamental problems, one that affected everyone and one that only affected people who considered the environment in their decision-making process. The big issue has always been that the vast majority of these composites also include what the Chinese (usually the original manufacturers) refer to as “wood flour”, i.e. sawdust. Sawdust, like all cellulose materials, expands once it is exposed to moisture, meaning that if these boards are cut or drilled in any way, a process will begin that will ultimately result in the swelling and disfiguring of the decked area. To be fair, they will not require oiling or preserving in the meantime, but the process of decay will be underway.

This brings us to the second issue; what to do with them at the end of their life? Because they are composites; wood, polymers, the attractive laminated exteriors designed to mimic wood, they cannot be recycled because the constituent ingredients cannot be separated. This leaves landfill or incineration the only options. When you mix an industrial material (plastic) that is recyclable with a biological materials (wood) that is compostable you get a “Frankenstein” material that is neither recyclable nor compostable.

Recycled Plastic Decking

Lets be clear, the recycled plastic decking we supply isn’t perfect for all needs. It isn’t available in “American Oak” or “Chestnut” finishes for example, black or dark brown being the only current options. However, it’ll never rot, split, splinter or decay in any way so the only treatment it ever needs is for any leaves to be swept away now and then when required.

It is chemically inert, so slippery algae simply cannot grow on it and this makes it safe and suitable for all year use, even in areas used by the public, without any special measures needing to be taken. Recycled plastic decking can be sawn, drilled and bolted too, not as easily as softwood but just like hardwood. It is made entirely from a selection of the polyolefin family of plastics, (polyethylene and polypropylene mainly) meaning that it can never be damaged by moisture and, if you no longer want it, we can collect it and recycle it if your local council won’t.

Of course, as an engineered and manufactured product using 100% British waste plastics here in Britain, it is more expensive than softwood to buy in the first place, but with a 25 year guarantee and a life expectancy of more than double that, it has a considerably lower cost-per-year of use making it an investment rather than an expense.

Whether you’re interested in putting a safe decking area in a domestic house or planning a boardwalk along a seafront, take a look at our dedicated decking page. After you’ve done that, please get in touch and we’ll help you figured out the most suitable solution for your needs.

pond dipping platform made using recycled plastic