New synthetics and woods look newer longer

Last reviewed: July 2010
Our tester highlights mildew spots on a deck
Spot check
Our tester highlights mildew spots, which have been an issue with many composites.
Photograph by Robert Mescavage

Most decking still comes from trees, not plastic. But synthetic planks are gaining ground, and new models promise added durability along with easy upkeep—and none too soon.

Composite planks and railings, which blend ground-up wood and plastic, free you from the usual refinishing and look more woodlike than earlier versions. But complaints about deterioration and mildew have spurred class-action lawsuits against big brands such as ChoiceDek and Trex. Another major player, Louisiana-Pacific, recalled its ABTCo, Veranda, and WeatherBest decking after breakage resulted in injuries.

CorrectDeck, Fiberon, and market-leader Trex are among the manufacturers that now coat the top of their decking in plastic to help prevent mildew and to ease cleaning. (Trex reformulated its products during our testing and, as a result, didn't make this report.) Our top-scoring CorrectDeck CX composite was as good as wood and plastic decking at fending off mildew in our humid Florida tests.

Plastic decking also eliminates the need to refinish. The best we tested resisted flexing underfoot and permanent sagging over time. But as our yearlong tests in Arizona and Florida show, one product was especially slippery. We also found that some composites stained easily under the smorgasbord of spills in our tests.