Composite Decking, or Not

Our existing house has a covered front porch that I completely hate for a number of reasons.  Firstly, the roof is so low that when I am standing inside the house, rather than looking at our lovely view, my eye is drawn to the ceiling of the roof.  Which is plywood.  Yay.  Secondly, it blocks a lot of light from entering the house, making our house feel pretty cave-like.  Thirdly, it is narrow and spindly looking due to the 4×4 posts that were used for supports.

In our remodel, we will be tearing off the old porch and adding a new curved front porch.  It will still have a covered area (we do live in Oregon), but not over the entire deck.  As such, the deck is going to get exposed to south facing sun and the usual Oregon weather (i.e. rain).

I was convinced that we needed to use composite decking for the new deck, because I’d heard that it was maintenance free and environmentally friendly.  It even looks a lot more real than it used to.  After spending a little bit of time researching my options last night, I decided that composite decks frighten me.

For one thing, if you google “composite deck reviews” you will find a ton of people discussing various methods of keeping their composite decks mold and mildew free.  Apparently this is an issue with them — they absorb and retain moisture and get black (and green) spots on them.  So, the solution is apparently to keep water off the deck as much as possible (right!), and to wash the deck with some kind of chemical solution several times a year.  Wait a minute – that sounds like… maintenance.  Lots of it.  Even if you do all that, the second scary problem with composite decking is that if you buy one of the more attractive colours, and you have say, dogs, or kids, you will get scratches that are pretty visible, because the colour does not go all the way through the decking.  I have both dogs and a kid, as well as a tendency to drop heavy things, so that is already sounding like a recipe for many scratches.  Scratches happen; I don’t expect perfection.  On a wooden deck, a scratch just looks natural.  On a plastic-ish deck, it’s going to look jarring.  Finally, I discovered that many composite decks are made with PVC or virgin plastics, and held together with resins.  Sounds pretty processed when you compare it to milling a piece of wood.  And I didn’t even bother to figure out where the composite decking was made in order to get a feel for the fuel it burns just getting to my front door.

I think we’ll stick with wood.  Cedar is grown in Oregon and can be a renewable resource.  It requires little processing to create the final product.  We took a look at the existing deck boards (cedar), and they seem salvageable, so we are going to try to reuse as much as we can off the original deck and buy new cedar and mix it in with the old.  Hopefully this will not look weird once we clean everything up and put a new coat of stain on everything.  And yes, there will be annual maintenance.  But, it will be once a year, instead of the several times a year washing that composite decks supposedly need.  I think I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a maintenance free deck.

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