In the past decade or so, WA homeowners have embraced the trend to create outdoor rooms, from alfresco areas to elaborately furnished open gardens, in a bid to make the most of our State’s spectacularly pleasant climate.
The humble patio or pergola has come a long way since the days when it was kitted out with concrete slabs, a few lengths of shade cloth and a couple of hanging baskets.
These days, outdoor areas are considered to be an important part of the home and many owners are forever on the prowl for products to make their backyards more comfortable and easier to maintain.
A few weeks ago, when home improvement contestants on a popular reality television show impressed judges by installing composite decking in a communal outdoor area and public interest in the product skyrocketed.
WHAT IS COMPOSITE DECKING?
It is an extruded mixture of plastic and wood, which looks like timber but is durable like plastic.
Marcus Wearing-Smith of OzDeckAustraliasaid he spent months researching the product. after a friend decided it was time to make it available on the local market.“I had a friend who brought the first composites into the State in about 2006, basically world trends showed that composites were starting to take over from timber,” he said. there were now lots of types of composite decking available on the market and they were all slightly different.
“But What they all have in common is that they are a mix of plastic and sawdust.
“Our products are made by combining the plastic and sawdust to form pellets which are then extruded at high temperature to create strips of decking material.”
The decking is available in either hollow or solid strips. Mr Wearing-Smith said he preferred the hollow material because it was lightweight, easier to handle during pre-construction and expanded less than the solid option.
“Also the solid products obviously use more material, so the cost is greater and they are not as environmentally friendly,” he said.
Australian composite decking was usually quite expensive compared with product that was imported from Europe,Chinaand theUS, Mr Wearing-Smith said.
“The Europeans offer fantastic quality, just like they do with cars.”
Adrian Mason, from WCT Distributors, said composite decking was invented in theUSby a company called Trex, for which WCT is the exclusive WA distributor.
“Trex came out of the Mobil corporation more than 25 years ago when sawdust and plastic shrink wrap were combined to form, first, park benches and then decking,” he said.
“Since then, Trex has manufactured enough decking to stretch from Earth to the Moon and three-quarters of the way back again, all without cutting down a single tree.”
Trex looks very similar to timber and has a secret fixing system, so there are no ugly or dangerous screws or nails visible.
Mr Mason said the obvious benefits of composite decking were that it was eco-friendly, made from timber by-products which would ordinarily go to waste, durable, and very easy to install and maintain.
“Absolutely no trees are cut down to create our product,” Mr Mason said. On the flipside, Between 1.5 to 2 billion plastic shopping bags are recycled into Trex products every year.
It is available in many colours and textures and can be custom curved to fit individual spaces.
Craig Staehr, from Ultra Design Composites, said his company’s Urbanedge Deck was ideal for use around pools or water because unlike traditional timber, it would not rot, crack, splinter or rust.
“It also requires no sanding, painting or oiling for the life of the deck,” he said.
“Termite resistant and exceptionally durable, Urbanedge Deck is a true low maintenance product perfectly suited to the harsh Australian climate,” he said
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Not all composite decking materials are created equal, so ensure you ask your supplier plenty of questions before placing an order.
Mr Wearing-Smith said it was important to thoroughly research the proposed product, supplier and installer before purchasing.
“Only buy from someone who has a proved track record; a guarantee is not worth anything if the company who supplies it hasn’t been in the industry for long and goes out of business.” he said.
“Also and remember there are big differences between brands. You need to choose one that has already has a proven track record.”
He said that most composite decks did not need to be screwed into place.
“It is installed via hidden clip systems and for this reason, you need an reputable and experienced person to put it in,” he said. “Ask for references before you allow someone to install your product.”