A compelling case for composite

Indi Sarkaria of Arbor Forest Products talks through the pros of choosing composite decking, including aesthetics and sustainability, while outlining the most important factors for installation

Given the love that Brits have for outdoor spaces, it’s no surprise that the decking market has maintained its good health over the past three decades – with it proving an ever-popular addition to self-build projects.

Gardens have become an extension of indoor space, and popular interior trends are making their way outdoors and onto decking, with grey shades currently in high demand. And not only can decking provide the finishing touches to a home project, but research by the Homeowners’ Alliance has shown that it can add thousands onto the value of a property.

With this in mind, it’s clear that the UK’s love for decking is set to keep growing and that it’s going to remain a popular investment amongst homeowners and those carrying out renovation works.

The DIY dream

Decking has been growing in popularity since television shows like Ground Force and Changing Rooms hit our screens in the 1990s, with homeowners recognising its ability to transform an outdoor space and keen DIY-ers able to install it themselves.

30 years ago, softwood timber decking in particular conquered the market thanks to its ease of installation, relatively low cost and natural appearance – even now, these qualities make it the first choice for some. Another key benefit of softwood timber decking is that it’s relatively simple for experienced users to establish whether it’s a quality product or not: high quality boards are often heavier with fewer knots, and there shouldn’t be any issues such as splitting or rot.

For those less experienced in purchasing softwood timber however, local merchants are a great way of gaining valuable advice, as many will have undergone training in order to steer customers in the right direction.

Sign of the times

While softwood timber decking has long been the popular choice for homeowners and DIY-ers, times change and we’ve started to see a growing demand for composite decking which isn’t showing any signs of slowing down – and it is well suited to the increasing desire for Instagram-worthy, visually impressive outdoor spaces.

Unlike softwood timber decking, composite decking combines a flawless appearance with minimal maintenance – making it perfectly suited to those with a fast-paced lifestyle who want to enjoy the space without having to spend hours maintaining it. Good quality composite decking tends to only require a wash with soapy water to bring it back to its best.

This type of deck won’t rot or split, and leading brands can offer a guarantee of up to 25 years for residential use; without the need to regularly stain or oil the boards. And not only does composite decking provide the ideal solution for those wanting a combination of style and practicality, it also provides a good option for the environmentally conscious.

With environmental issues consistently dominating the headlines in recent months, people are looking to make more eco-friendly choices, including when it comes to their decking. Composite decking is usually made from a combination of recycled plastic and wood fibres – with boards from leading brands consisting of up to 95 per cent recycled materials. And because the boards won’t rot or splinter, there’s no need for it to be replaced – lowering its impact on the environment even further.

The importance of installation

Regardless of whether softwood timber decking or composite decking is the right fit for a project, it’s essential that the installation is done correctly.

Decking installation has long been seen as a task for keen DIY-ers, but for a deck to add value to a home it must be carried out to a high standard. Because of this, it’s best to use a qualified decking installer, with a number of specialists working across the UK. In particular, some composite decking brands offer both dedicated training and special initiatives like the TrexPRO installer scheme, which recognises the standard of experienced installers’ work.

Commissioning an experienced installer means that the deck will not only have the often desired ‘wow factor’ but it will also be installed correctly and to the highest standard, so it can be enjoyed for longer.

However, for those who do choose to install a deck themselves, it’s important to purchase boards from a reputable supplier who can offer advice where required. Knowledgeable merchants will be able to give guidance on the quality of the product and its suitability to a particular project.

When it comes to the installation itself, some leading suppliers, including ourselves, also provide product-specific guidance on how to install decking through brochures and online videos.

Softwood timber decking and composite decking both offer a number of advantages, and can add both monetary and emotional value to a home as long as the decking has been installed to the highest standard. It’s important to research the decking market and work with suppliers and installers to be able to truly enjoy the extension of a home’s living space that decking can offer.

Indi Sarkaria is assistant product manager at Arbor Forest Products