Wood Decking or Wood Plastic Composite (WPC) Decking?

- Nov 09, 2017 -

Natural wood and wood plastic composites (WPC) are 2 common types of decking materials used in the Singapore market today. When it comes to choosing between the two, buyers sometimes would often get confused between the 2 different opinions.This article will hence be focusing on a holistic and objective view for both materials in order to help the home owner make a better buying choice in getting an ideal decking for the home.


Understanding about Wood decking


Wood, due to its organic and natural features, is considered as a green and eco friendly choice for the home owners. Other than that, good quality wood can also be used in the construction of various structures such as bridges, roofings, panels, fences and such. 


Regards to wood, buyers may need to understand of the durabiliy features between a 'treated' wood and an 'untreated' wood. Wood that are treated and properly installed will have a much higher life span and durability than an 'untreated' wood. Buyers may get confused by some WPC suppliers, when WPC suppliers compare its product's features against  'untreated' wood while using wood as a general term in the comparison. Untreated wood that is not properly sourced or installed may have a higher tendency to common problems such as cracking, splits, fungi growth, color fadiing. On the other hand, good quality treated wood is much more durable, have better resistance to moisture and fungi and have better strength. 


Hence therefore, choosing quality treated wood for the home decking will be more idealistic for the home owners instead. Here are some of the tips on how to choose a good quality treated wood;


1. Always look for a credible timber decking contractor in your area which has a strong operation support.


2. Look for properly sourced timber materials from respectable suppliers.


3. Understand that, it is not the harder the janka hardness of the wood, the better it is.


4. Look for availability of product warranty if any.


Understanding about Wood Plastic Composite Decking (WPC)


Wood plastic composites (WPC) decking is usually made up a mixture of plastic and wood properties. WPC is often marketed today as an 'maintenance-free' kind of material against wood in general, with no signs of defects such as splitting, cracking, color fading or rotting. WPC is also often classified as an environmentally friendly material by emphasizing too much on its components of recycled materials. However, the buyer may need to understand that this is not completely true for all WPC decking materials.


According to the analyis report "Wood-Plastic Composite Lumber Vs. Wood Decking" by Dovetail Partners Inc, an organisation which provides authoritative information about the environmental impacts on society; it is quoted that "Single attributes -such as recycled content - while important, do not tell the whole story and need to be considered holistically."


On the other hand, the report also documented some of WPC problems in general such as mold and mildew development, biodeterioration, moisture cycling, UV degradation, fading and discoloration. The list in fact tells that much of the WPC problems is quite similar to that of an untreated timber.


On another fire spread test report by Nicole M. Stark of USDA Forest Service (Forests Products Laboratory), it is also concluded that "composites containing more than 60 percent polymer and particularly 80 percent polymer have large HRRs." HRR  (heat release rate) or also known as flame spread should always be kept minimal. Hence, decking buyers may need to understand the ratios between the concentrate of polymer and the recycled wood contents in a particular WPC product.


With so many brands of WPC products around, the buyer may often get confused as which brand is better for them. Due the mass production of different brands of WPC, the home owner may have to look beyond, the usual assumption and benefits of common composite wood, before deciding on getting a suitable WPC materials. Here are some buying tips on how to choose a good quality WPC out of the many countless brands.


1. Choose a reputable flooring contractor in your region, who only sourced for good quality WPC decking products for its clients.


2. Be alert when there are signs of overpromising on warranty or any feature of WPC product on the vendors' marketing literature. 


3. Ask for relevant test reports on the different aspects of the WPC product such as fire spread index, rotting test and such,


4. Understand that there is no such thing as a perfect, seamless product in this world, ask the vendor if there is any imminent maintenance team should any problem occured. 


In conclusion, whether you are choosing a WPC or a natural wood material for your outdoor decking designs, always have a general understanding about the pros and cons of WPC and wood that are not treated. Try to ask the vendor to provide credible supporting documents to justify your buying decisions.


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