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Decking it Right

Knowing the options in a new world of outdoor living

Where the choice was once as simple as green vs. cedar, decking options have exploded into new and often confusing categories. This has largely been in response to a growing 'outdoor living' market as we all try to carve out more time to enjoy the outdoors. Here is a brief breakdown of the current options available in the decking market;

Pressure Treated: Pressure treated lumber is a preservative process that infuses chemicals into standard framing lumber in a high pressure chamber. Efforts to preserve lumber have existed since humans began using wood as a building material. The Romans coated ship hulls with tar and Alexander the Great is rumoured to have preserved bridges with Olive Oil. Today, more advanced techniques exist, often using copper as a preservative. In Ontario, the market is primarily ACQ (alkaline copper quaternary) or Micronized Copper. ACQ became prominent as a response to concerns over arsenic used in previous technologies.. Similarly, Micronized has also arose from environmental concerns - using water rather than solvents to transport copper preservative into the lumber. While PT can be 'stained' a variety of colours, it’s important to remember that sealing your final project is required to maintain both its aesthetics and lock-in the treating product. This is especially important for the new water driven options because water works in the same manner to 'extract' the treatment.

Cedar: Western Red Cedar from the Pacific Northwest has long been a popular wood choice for outdoor projects. Cedar is a superior wood option owing to its inherent natural resistance to decay and insects, not to mention its distinctive luxurious appearance. Cedar is a lightweight decking option, easily cut, routed and sanded. Its also versatile when it comes to finishing and can be stained or left to weather to a natural pewter patina.

Composite Decking: Composite decking is formulated by combining recycled plastics with stabilizers and extruding this mixture as a decking board. Early generations we fraught with mould and stain issues, owing to the organic stabilizers used in manufacturing. These stabilizers are required to mitigate expansion and contraction naturally occurring the plastics used for this product. Today's best examples have overcome these issues by encapsulating the board with PVC, mitigating concerns for mould growth and providing a finish that is stain and scratch resistant. The very nature of composite decking is that it is low maintenance, eliminating the need for staining. There are also a myriad of fastener styles available for use with composite decking, such as hidden clip fasteners and concealed screw-and-plug systems.

PVC Decking: The best iteration of "plastic decking" comes in the form of PVC decking - made of polyvinyl chloride. Unlike composite, this decking is made from all new materials and is solid PVC without stabilizers. PVC is inherently mould, stain and scratch resistant, light weight, cuts easily and can be fastened using a wide variety of fastening systems. Best of all, PVC is the lowest maintenance of all decking options and is fully recyclable.

Chris Handley – Contributor

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