Let me guess. You have a wood deck currently or have had one in the past. Chances are very high (through no fault of your own) that it was not taken care of properly from the beginning. You vow that you will never again build a ‘real’ wood deck that you have to take care of or are purposely neglecting the one connected to your home. Why? Because you just like everyone else DREAM of having one of those made of composite decking, synthetic decking, low maintenance decking, no maintenance decking. In other words, you want that magic deck. Although things have gotten much better since the first generation of the stuff, in my experience this magic experience is still a long way off.
We have been in the pressure washing, power washing, deck sealing, deck staining and overall deck care business in Ada, Michigan and the surrounding Grand Rapids area since 1978. Needless to say we have taken care of many wood decks. Over the last few years as more and more people begin to own the fake wood, we have observed some things that you may find helpful. And yes, they still need to be cleaned. In my opinion, a lot more than the wood ones, albeit a light thorough cleaning.
I think the biggest trade-off is that the fake stuff never needs to be stained or sealed. That is obviously the biggest selling point and what the bulk of people are after. Now keep in mind that there are MANY different manufactures on the market and they are not all created equal. But what we have observed is that most of the stuff fades drastically in the sun, especially on the southern and western exposures. In other words, if the deck gets UV rays, it’s going to fade and not be the same color in a few years. One of our customers installed a sizable composite deck that received sun on roughly one half and not on the other due to the angle of the sun throughout the day. He now has a two-tone deck. Most people might never notice this fading as it happens slowly, so it may not matter.
The biggest drawback is obviously the cost. The stuff is expensive. Expensive to buy and expensive to install. The builders I have encountered generally say that the most expensive, heaviest, densest stuff is the best. Most of the time this requires special fasteners and/or labor, which adds to the price. Over the last few years, I think the most expensive kind has also proven to be the most colorfast. It is also the most impervious to mildew build-up, though not immune (especially in shady or damp areas).
In my humble opinion, here is the reason that even the best plastic decking needs cleaning attention twice a season to keep it looking good. Are you ready? Because this material is slippery when wet, the manufacturers had to put a raised tread/texture on it to prevent slip and fall accidents. This texture harbors small amounts of dirt and moisture. Dirt is self-explanatory. The moisture aids the growth of mildew. Now I may be all wet (that’s an OLD power washer’s joke haha) but that seems to be what is happening.
The less expensive materials aren’t even worth considering from what I’ve seen. They get infested with mold/mildew and become stained right down in the substrate. They can be hollow and LOUD. They can SaG between the joists. They stain easily from grill grease, food, dropped popsickles, mosquito candle wax and tree leaves.
Grandpa always said “buy the best you can afford”, right? Well, if you can”t afford the very best when it comes to composite decking which is going to be out in the elements in Michigan, I would say wait until you can. In the meantime, please consider Ada Mobile Wash for all your power washing, house wash, deck wash and pressure washing needs. Serving Ada, Cascade, Grand Rapids, Forest Hills, Belmont, Rockford, Caledonia and the Lakeshore.