Did anyone get the Under Armor reference? They’re based out of Baltimore, and I always feel the need to represent. Anyway, that’s not what this post is about.
From time to time, I’ll snap some photographs on my deck, and they always make me cringe. I’d estimate my deck is at least 15 years old, and the previous owners did not maintain it very well. Once the wood is splintered and warped, there really isn’t much you can do except re-board. If you’ve ever read Fred’s Behr Deck Weatherproofer Review or his How to Strip a Deck, you’ll understand why I’m looking at composite decking.
Fiberon is a composite decking manufacturer, and they were kind enough to send me a few samples of their newest product: Pro-Tect Decking. Pro-Tect is a capped stock material, which means the decking core is wrapped with a “non-organic surface.” The real benefit is that homeowners are required to perform almost no maintenance, and the boards should never stain, fade or warp.
You can imagine my surprise to find some ketchup and mustard packets when I unpacked the samples. Fiberon had taken the liberty to include a test kit complete with ketchup, mustard, an asphalt stain solution, a degreaser and some wipes. It was time to suit up!
I put two globs of each “stainer” on separate sample pieces. The first glob would be wiped off relatively quickly while the second glob would sit for a while.
You can see the ketchup and mustard wiped clean very easily. The asphalt solution was very sticky and smeared. This was why they had included the degreaser.
After a few squirts of the degreaser, the asphalt solution wiped away clean.
Or did it?! Composite decking often has a textured surface to resemble real wood. Unfortunately, that texture also provide tiny, little crevices where things like asphalt solution can hide. On very close inspection, you can see a speckle or two of stain.
If you’ve ever witnessed a product demonstration, you know they always feel a bit contrived. No manufacturer is going to embarrass themselves by failing their own test kit. I decided to grab my heat gun to mix things up a bit. Let’s see what happens when we zap these stains with 1000° F heat.
You can see the asphalt sort of bubbled and dried somewhat solid.
The ketchup and mustard wiped clean with ease. The asphalt wasn’t so compliant. After two rounds of degreaser and a fair amount of elbow grease, everything looked as good as new. Again, almost undetectable amounts remained in the tiny crevices of the surface.
Pro-Tect is definitely an impressive product however, we don’t have the funds to re-board our deck at the moment. I received a few bids from contractors, and, after recovering from the shock, respectfully declined. Does anyone else have experience with composite decking? How does it stand up to mold? Is cleaning mud and dirt an easy task?
I can ask my husband about his experience with various types of composite decking he has installed, and the homeowners’ experience for whom he’s installed them. Also, I’m not sure what kinds of prices you’ve gotten from the other contractors, but I know my husband’s prices are still pretty reasonable. Shoot me an e-mail if you’re interested in either picking his brain about the decking, getting a bid, or both. We’re in the B-more area, too.
Oh, and I totally got the Under Armor reference. 🙂
“Price” was the reason we went with wood on our deck, too… composite is awesome! Just not within reach of young families most of the time.
How often does one get asphalt stain solution on their deck?
That’s a great point Icarus. I’ve never had the two even near each other (except for this little experiment). Hopefully it’s an indicator of how well other “tough to remove” substances come off.
If someone suggests another test substance, I’m happy to update the post with the results.
I will just mention the stains I have on my deck right now (thanks previous owners!). Grease from a grill would be good to test (more realistic than asphalt). So would paint drops, or the ring from the bottom of a paint can.
Joe, Good suggestions! I just so happen to have plenty of grease from my grill. When I get a moment, I’ll try it out and post the update here.
you might be surprised how easy it is to get asphalt on your deck.
years ago i had a problem with my AC unit and went up on the roof to check it out. the roof was asphalt shinges with tar/asphalt sealing the AC mount holes. after coming down from the roof i walked ALL thru my white carpeted house, never crossing my tracks once. imagine my surprise to see asphalt foot prints going thru the house.
i found a pro carpet cleaner who got the steps out and now i always checked my feet out after being on the roof.
while it’s not decking i walked on it easily could have been.
My brother has a composite deck. The biggest complaint he has is it gets slippery in cold weather. He lives in SD. Something to consider if your deck is used as an entrance.
I’m going to add in my $.02 based on our parent’s decking experience. You have to be careful with white. They floored their deck with white plastic decking boards and it is SO bright during the summer that you basically can’t stand to be out there. The up-side is that it doesn’t get hot, but you will if you sit on it, since its reflecting all that light back at you.
Thanks for putting our Pro-Tect Decking to the test, Ethan! We’re glad to see you took the initiative to hold us to our claims of low maintenance and easy clean-up. I also want to recommend the use of a non-metal bristled brush and De-Solve-It cleaner, in addition to a degreaser as necessary, for most effectively removing those stubborn stains from the crevices in composite decking. Thanks again!
-Allison for Fiberon Composite Decking
I read on another blog that composite is great but one of the cons listed was that it gets very hot in direct sunlight. i.e. children love to run around barefoot so something to consider.
Icarus, definitely depends on the color of the composite. Darker ones can get VERY hot indeed. Some of the lighter ones I’ve walked on haven’t been so bad. I think it’s definitely worth testing a sample outside in the sun before installing it on your deck.
I had a bad experience with composite decking 10 years ago; the 16ft. lengths shrunk 1/2″ to 3/4″, at each end. Has a test been done with Pro-Tect shrinkage?