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Do(s) And Don’t(s) When Installing Composite Decking

To ensure the success of your decking project, we’ve compiled a list of essential do’s and don’ts for installing composite decking.

Caucasian Worker Building Wooden Deck For His Backyard Garden. Top View.

Building a new deck can be an exciting and fulfilling project, whether you’re replacing an old one or creating a new space. The absolutely important is knowing what you should do and should not do in installing the deck.

Composite decking is an excellent alternative to traditional wood. It not only looks good but also lasts longer and demands minimal maintenance in comparison to wood. However, before you jump into your deck installation, there are important differences between composite decking and wood that you should be aware of.

Composite decking boards are a blend of reclaimed wood and recycled plastic, which gives them distinct characteristics from traditional wood decking. Even experienced builders or carpenters can face challenges if they are unfamiliar with how composite materials behave. To ensure the success of your decking project, we’ve compiled a list of essential do’s and don’ts for installing composite decking.

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A new wooden, timber deck being constructed. it is on the decking. New deck patio

The Do(s) When Installing Composite Decking

Use the Right Tools

Just like any do-it-yourself project, having the correct tools can make a tough task easier. It’s similar to not using a hand saw to cut through steel; when working with composite boards, you need the right type of blade.

Composite boards, due to their plastic component, are tougher and denser than regular wood. To cut composite materials effectively, use specific saw blades designed for the job. While saw blades intended for wood might work for a short while, they will become dull quickly. Therefore, it’s advisable to opt for the appropriate composite-cutting blade for your project.

Leave Adequate Gaps

Unlike traditional wood, where you snugly fit the boards together, installing composite decking requires creating gaps between the boards. Composite boards can expand and contract with temperature changes. To get this right, consider the following:

  • Monitor the temperature during installation and the expected maximum temperature for your area.
  • On hot days, when the boards may have already expanded, keep the gaps small or butt the boards together.
  • When the temperature drops and the boards cool, gaps between the boards will naturally open up.

Understanding how composite decking behaves is essential to avoid having gaps that are too big or too small.

Provide Adequate Ground Clearance

  • Composite decking manufacturers often require sufficient ground clearance to ensure warranty compliance.
  • Proper ground clearance allows for airflow beneath and around the boards, which helps keep them cool on warmer days.
  • Inadequate ground clearance or placing the boards too close together can lead to expansion beyond normal limits, potentially causing problems with the deck and its fastenings.
Building a backyard deck with worker putting with nail gun deck boards terrace patio construction.

Predrill and Precountersink

  • Composite decking boards are denser than wood, so it’s essential to predrill and precountersink when top-fixing them.
  • Unlike timber with a fibrous structure, failure to countersink can cause the boards to mushroom over screw heads.
  • Just as you would with premium hardwoods, predrilling is necessary to reduce the risk of splitting or cracking a board.

The Don’t(s) to Avoid When Installing Composite Decking

Worker nails metal mesh to wooden frame with help of nail gun

Avoid Using a Nail Gun

To minimise the risk of splitting or cracking composite boards, it’s not advisable to use a nail gun for installation. Nails can also become unreliable due to the boards’ natural expansion and contraction. Instead, we recommend using high-quality stainless steel or galvanised screws, depending on your project.

Don’t Cut Boards at Different Times

Because composite boards expand and contract, it’s strongly recommended to cut all the boards at the same time, if possible. Cutting boards at different times of the day, when temperatures vary, can result in boards of different lengths. To prevent this, we suggest laying out your deck, attaching the boards with a slight overhang, and then trimming them all together.

Understanding the specific characteristics of composite materials is crucial, as they behave differently from traditional wood. Working in harmony with the product is the key to achieving the best results. The mentioned tips are a solid starting point for a successful composite decking project.

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