Choosing the right material for your marine deck will determine the entire future of your deck. Questions of longevity, durability, safety and even style all come into play. Your marine deck should be able to withstand the elements, be slip resistant and exceed the standards of your local codes.
We get a lot of inquiries about composite vs polypropylene decking and wanted to address our most frequently asked questions to help you choose the best marine deck material for your project.
First off, what is composite decking exactly? Composite decking is a type of decking material that is made from a blend of recycled wood fibers and plastic. The wood fibers are usually sourced from sawdust, wood chips or other wood waste, while the plastic is typically made from recycled polyethylene. These raw materials are heated, formed into board-shaped lengths and then cooled.
The Pros of Composite Decking
- Low maintenance: Composite decking requires very little maintenance compared to wood, as it is resistant to fading, staining and rotting. Unlike wood decking, it does not need to be stained or sealed, which can save you time and money on upkeep.
- Durability: Composite decking is made from a mixture of wood fibers and plastic, making it highly durable and more resistant to cracking, warping and insect damage. It can also withstand harsh weather conditions, such as extreme heat and cold, without deteriorating.
- Eco-friendly: Many composite decking products are made from recycled materials, such as sawdust and plastic, which makes them an eco-friendly option. They are also recyclable, which means they can be reused at the end of their life cycle.
- Aesthetics: Composite decking is available in a wide variety of colors and textures, making it easy to match the style of your home or outdoor space. It can also be designed to mimic the look and feel of natural wood, without the maintenance and durability issues associated with wood decking.
- Safety: Composite decking is slip-resistant, which makes it a safer option for outdoor spaces, especially around pools and other areas that are likely to be wet.
The Cons of Composite Decking
- Cost: Composite decking is generally more expensive than traditional wood decking, although the long-term cost benefits of lower maintenance may offset the initial cost.
- Heat Retention: Some composite decking can retain heat, making it uncomfortable to walk on during hot summer days. It’s essential to choose lighter colors to minimize this issue.
- Flexibility: Composite decking may have more flexibility than wood decking, which can affect its stability and resistance to bending, especially over long spans.
- Staining: While composite decking is generally resistant to staining, it is not completely immune. Spills and stains can still occur, and it may be challenging to remove certain types of stains.
- Shorter Lifespan: Composite decking pales in comparison to the longevity of polypropylene decking. Whereas composite decking might make it through 25 years of service, polypropylene is built to last forever.
- Appearance: While composite decking can mimic the look of natural wood, some people may prefer the real thing, as it has a more authentic and rustic appearance.
What About Polypropylene Decking?
Polypropylene is a thermoplastic polymer that is widely used in a variety of applications due to its beneficial combination of properties. Polypropylene is known for its durability, resistance to moisture, resistance to fading and thermal stability.
Additionally, it is a lightweight material, which can help reduce shipping costs and make the installation process much easier.
The Pros of Polypropylene Decking
- Durable: Polypropylene itself is tough, and a deck made out of polypropylene is one of the toughest decks around. Not only can polypropylene decks hold up against the force of the sea, they’re chemically resistant too, which means stains are easy to clean off the surface. Finally, polypropylene decking is highly durable and resistant to rot, decay and insect damage.
- Slip-resistant: Polypropylene decking is designed to be slip-resistant, which makes it a safer option for outdoor spaces.
- High UV protection: Due to its chemical structure, polypropylene is naturally resistant to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Polypropylene decks resist color fading against harsh sunlight much more effectively than other materials.
- Barefoot Friendly: An additional advantage of polypropylene’s UV resistance is that polypropylene decks don’t get nearly as hot under the sun as composite, metal or wooden varieties. You can comfortably kick off your shoes to catch bait fish, work on your boat or just enjoy the waterside on even the sunniest days.
- Straightforward installation: Polypropylene decks are easy to install. Most of them simply screw right onto your existing deck frame. This ease of installation means that polypropylene decks can also be removed from time to time, making under-deck maintenance of pylons or other support structures much easier.
- Available with Open Design: Polypropylene decks also permit an open area deck design which is good for local codes, storm surges, and allows light to get to the plants and animals below the water surface. That can’t be done with wood or composite decks.
The Cons of Polypropylene Decking
- Limited color options: While polypropylene decking is available in a range of colors and textures, the color options are still somewhat limited compared to other materials like composite decking or natural wood. You’ll want to stay within the lighter range of colors to help even more with heat absorption and UV resistance.
- Limited availability: Polypropylene decking may not be as widely available locally as other decking materials, which can make it more difficult to find.
Longevity Wins Out
When you’re trying to choose the best material for your marine deck, don’t just think about when you’ll use it this summer, think about when you’ll use it every summer. Rain or shine, polypropylene decks will do the job longer and better than any other material.
While polypropylene decks such as Titan Deck products are generally the same price or cheaper than composite decks, the cost savings extend past just the initial payment — they save money in the long run as well. Polypropylene simply lasts longer than composite materials and is practically indestructible in comparison to traditional wood decking. The unparalleled durability of Titan Deck products means no warping, bending, cracking, splinters or tiresome upkeep. Our commitment to being “worry-free” even extends to the sun – our boards are UV protected to minimize fading and don’t retain heat, allowing you to walk barefoot without discomfort.
Most of the money you’ll spend on your marine deck over the course of its service life can be filed under ‘maintenance.’ Here at Titan Deck, we keep those costs at the bare minimum while providing the top advantages offered by polypropylene. For more information on various polypropylene plastic marine decking solutions, check out our offerings at Titan Deck and contact our professionals for more information.