On your typical smaller sized home decks, you might be able to get away with using composite decking materials. You definitely don’t want to take a chance, though, when dealing with decking in large public spaces. We have some advice for the prudent if you’re a municipal planner or in some other position making judgments regarding the materials to use to build boardwalks, in addition to the six reasons we have already examined in Parts 1 and 2.
Easily Scratched Surface
Another issue with composite decking stems from the lower hardness of the material in comparison with that of organic wood which we addressed in Part 1: the surface of composite decking is readily scratched. When you consider that one of the reasons why some people prefer composite decking is based on aesthetics, this is incredibly important. Keep in mind that polyethylene, the most widely used plastic, is a very fragile material. However, the outer shell of composite decking is delicate and vulnerable to scratches regardless of the type of plastic employed. Additionally, when it is deeply scratched, the inner wood flour core can be exposed to moisture and mold, which is a significant problem as we covered in Part 2. In fact, for this precise reason, many composite decking manufacturers advise against using a metal snow shovel to remove the deck.
Inadequate Fire Resistance
You probably also believe that wood isn’t particularly fire-safe. However, consider the fact that Ipe, the most popular tropical decking species, has a class A fire rating; this means that Ipe does not burn very well, and Ipe – in and of itself – is very unlikely to contribute fuel to a fire. Composite decking, in comparison, reacts to fire in a quite unsettling manner. Plastic being what it is can actually melt. And as it does so, poisonous gases may be released. Now consider all the fire risks that a public boardwalk may encounter, including cigarettes, grills, deep fryers, and more. Think of every board that will need to be replaced as well as how such a circumstance can endanger individuals nearby. It is not biodegradable, unlike wood. Which brings us to our next argument in favor of tropical decking over composite materials.
Inability to Biodegrade & Regenerate
The fact that environmental organizations promote composite decking as a “green” product is one of the key factors contributing to its increasing popularity. Despite this, composite decking will eventually end up in a landfill or in the ocean when it is destroyed or torn up, where it will remain for thousands of years. Contrarily, even the strongest, hardest tropical hardwoods, like Ipe, take roughly ten years in a landfill or the ocean to totally decompose.
Composite decking is not only non-biodegradable but it is also non-renewable. Manufacturers of composite decking depend on one of the least eco-friendly sectors in the world as they rely on petroleum byproducts to produce their decking materials. In fact, the demand for oil firms to find uses for their byproducts led to the development of composite decking. Even if their garbage is being used, the industry that creates it still does a lot of damage. Therefore, even though they are employing recycled materials, the system as a whole still lacks the renewable qualities of natural materials like good, old-fashioned, genuine wood.
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located in White Marsh, Maryland (just outside of Baltimore), the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums. Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.
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