Composite lumber is a building material made of recycled wood and plastic which resembles dimensional lumber. Composite lumber is most often used as decking material, but may also be used for door and window frames and exterior molding. Typically, composite lumber consists of a 50/50 mix of real wood fibers and recycled plastic.
Unlike traditional lumber, composite lumber is not prone to decay, insects or UV ray damage. When used as a decking material, the composite lumber does not require as much maintenance as its dimensional lumber equivalent. Unlike traditional lumber, which tends to expand and contract through the temperature changes, composite lumber is studier and is not prone to similar warping. Although composite lumber is more expensive, it is much more durable, stable and therefore lasts much longer.
Although most dimensional lumber does not carry any type of warranty, most composite lumber manufactures offer impressive warranties. Generally composite lumber lasts between 10 and 20 years. Many manufacturers offer lifetime warranties on their composite products. The most durable composite lumber products, such as railing and fencing, usually carry lifetime warranties. The composite lumber industry has improved their products over the years. The recent products are even more resistant to fading, staining and mold than they were originally.
The installation process for composite lumber is very similar to traditional lumber, as composite lumber simply replaces dimensional lumber in various applications. Galvanized screws or nails are recommended as fasteners. Pre-drilling is typically not required for self-drilling screws as the composite lumber does not have grain like dimensional lumber. Instead of screws, nails could be used and installed with a pneumatic nailer. To smoothly cut the composite lumber, a circular saw with a carbide blade should be used.
Treated dimensional lumber contains chemical additives to preserve the wood. Composite lumber does not require staining or sealing and would not require annual treatments involving chemical additives. Traditional lumber also tends weather, which could cause deck boards to curl up and warp and cause a potential trip hazard. Composite lumber does not weather or warp, eliminating the potential trip hazard. Composite lumber is also smooth and does not splinter, making it an ideal material for outdoor applications with children.
Most decks and outdoor wood applications require an annual cleaning with a pressure washer to remove any stains or mildew and help the wood keep its original appearance. The plastic component in composite lumber prevents weathering and does not require the same annual pressure cleaning to keep its appearance. Most manufactures recommend periodic sweeping and hosing the material. The material can also be occasionally cleaned using any conventional deck wash.
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