After the initial aftermath and assessment of damage caused by the latest devastating storms, oceanfront communities will begin talking about re-building their boardwalks. When they do, they need to consider the realities surrounding Composite Decking. Despite many “facts” touted by environmentalists, these manufactured products simply don’t measure up to real wood. While weather patterns and climate change have no easy antidote and no building methods or materials are truly hurricane-proof, natural lumber species such as Cumaru and Ipe will far outlast Composite Decking products — and, perhaps more importantly, they’ll do so without causing further harm to the environment.
Not only will a boardwalk made from Composite Decking materials fail to outlast one made of exotic hardwood decking materials, but it will eventually end up in the worst place possible: landfills. That’s right. For all the talk of how “green” Composite Decking is, it will end up residing in landfills for possibly thousands of years.
Perhaps even more devastating, consider what will happen to this plastic material the next time the boardwalk is washed out to sea? We all hope that never happens in your area, but if it does, the Composite Decking will not biodegrade. Instead, it will sink to the ocean floor and stay there. By contrast, even the most weather-safe species of real wood, such as Ipe, will completely biodegrade in the ocean or a landfill in about a decade.
Far from Weather Proof
As surprised as you may be that Composite Decking won’t biodegrade, you may be even more shocked to learn that Composite Decking isn’t weather or mold-resistant. While the issues we’ve mentioned so far are related to the fact that these manufactured products contain high amounts of plastic, this one is actually due to its inclusion of real wood. Even with plastic binders, the wood flour readily absorbs moisture. However, because it’s ground-up wood rather than wood with its water-shedding structures intact, it has no way of shedding the moisture it absorbs. The natural resins that typically protect a tree (and real lumber) from mold and insects are also eliminated when the wood is ground into “flour.” Instead, mold readily feeds on the broken-down cellulose.
In order to attempt to offset this very issue seen in early versions of Composite Decking, more modern versions are made by encasing the core with a “cap,” which is made entirely from plastic. Intended to protect the inner core from any issues, the result is actually even greater problems. First, the thin cap can be punctured, exposing the core to the elements. (Installation usually introduces many instances of exposed core, as the boards are cut to length and screwed down.) Second, the plastic outer shell will respond differently from the inner core to wear and temperature fluctuations, causing either separation of the shell from the core or cracking of the shell.
Continue reading with Part 3.