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What is the Difference Between Conventional Wood and GREEN Decking Materials?

We are considering a new deck. What is the difference between plain old wood and new pressure-treated decking and plastic decking and what is considered GREEN?
- Chris in Prescott Valley
I am an older citizen and have a bad back. Can pull out shelves be added to my existing cabinets to give me easier access?
- Al in Chino Valley

Chris, decking is now a $9 billion industry and it is growing. Each year over 3 million new decks are built and up to 15% of these decks use non-wood products. Pressure-treated wood (usually southern yellow pine) still grabs the vast share of the market, but these days non-wood composite and PVC decking are serious players. The original decking – plain old wood became popular in the 1950s but with exposure to sun came maintenance requirements. That maintenance often depended on toxic solvents, paints, stains and sealers. Today, if cost is not a factor, the greenest decking is a plantation-grown wood product that is naturally resistant to rot and bugs and does not require further preservation treatment. Eco-friendly decking includes black locust or tamarack or domestic and tropical woods (redwood & teak) which are certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council. There are tropical hardwoods that are durable, dent, scratch and fire-resistance, non-toxic and highly decay and pest resistant. These woods do not require sealing. Pressure treated is a process that was invented in the 1930s. This process saturates wood under pressure with a preservative that is toxic to mold, fungus, bacteria and insects. For many years, chromated copper arsenate was used, but concerns arose that this chemical may pose a health risk, so CCA has been phased out and the industry is now using another family of copper-based compounds. These new copper-based treatments contain more copper than CCA and therefore may be more toxic to aquatic organisms. Plus with more copper, corrosion in fasteners and connectors is increasingly likely. So when working with it, it is best to use copper (not zinc coated) flashing, stainless steel connectors and hot-dipped galvanized or stainless screws/nails. If you are weary of maintenance and want to “set-it and forget-it” there are a wide selection of products and brands of material on the market today. They are plastic, composites and vinyl. Composites are made using extrusion (material squeezed through a mold) and are created by combining plastic resins with wood, organic fiber, or even fiberglass. Composite materials act and look like wood. Composites have a long lifespan and are a fairly green choice. Plastic lumber refers to decking composed of high density of polyethylene. This is a 100% recyclable, nontoxic and has a long life cycle. Plastic decking comes in hollow or solid grades. In low-load applications, a hollow product might work fine, cost less and use fewer source materials. Vinyl or PVC decking is another product available. Beyond material life cycles, several factors determine how green certain decking types and products really are, such as workmanship, homeowner upkeep and disciplined recycling efforts. Certified or salvaged naturally resistant wood decking or HDPE plastic decking (with high post-consumer content) are the greenest choices.

Phone: (928) 778-0040


810 E. Sheldon Street, Prescott, AZ 86301

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