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Decking - plastic or wood?


When it comes to the material for decking, many often do not know which is the best. Plastic or wood? Here is a comparison of both materials.

Plastic or wood?

Every terrace is more or less exposed to the weather. In the winter half of the year, snow piles up, from which meltwater that drains away very slowly often forms in spring. This long-lasting exposure to moisture puts a great strain on patio wood and its substructure. In summer, on the other hand, it is above all the UV exposure to intense sunlight that causes many woods to fade. All year round, all terrace timbers and alternative plastics are affected by temperature fluctuations and expansion processes.

All in all, it follows from all these points that each terrace is subjected to more or less stress throughout the year, depending on its structure. That is why choosing the right material is crucial for longevity and the joy of summer life in the country. But which material is actually better? Plastic or wood?

The following comparison shows you the criteria according to which the decision between decking made of wood or plastic should be made.

First of all a brief note about the materials
Wood:
Douglas fir, coumaru, and bangkirai are most commonly used here. More on this below.

Plastic:
Don't worry, not some cheap plastic is used here, but high-quality WPC material. You can read more about this here
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Criteria for deciding and comparing the materials

»Location of the terrace / climatic conditions:

Constant exposure to moisture is the greatest enemy of the terrace covering. A north-facing terrace will dry on its surface during persistent dry periods, but the substructure will take a long time to break down the moisture that has entered. However, moisture also penetrates the wood from below.

For this reason, terraces facing north should never be covered with wooden decking, but with their alternative made from WPC decking. This also applies to a limited extent to eastern locations, because when the sun has reached its highest position, an east terrace in front of the house has long been in shadow.

However, climatic conditions also result from the regional location. Longer periods of rain are much more common in the north highlands of the low mountain ranges than in the southern Black Forest or in Lusatia. You can obtain these statistics from your local weather bureau if you are faced with the decision between wooden planks or WPC.

»Optical appearance:

Plastic boards:

The material WPC consists of a mixture that consists of wood fibers, polyethylene and additives such as UV blockers and color pigments. The material is pressed under high pressure during the manufacture of the planks and receives its uniform decor.

Wood flooring:

However, it is precisely this uniform decor that many builders regard as a disadvantage in terms of visual quality. They love much more the varied grain and the play of colors of the naturally grown wood. But here, too, there are still big differences between completely single-colored hardwoods such as Massaranduba and other types of wood that already contain three to four different shades within a plank.

The decision between decking made of wood or plastic is always closely related to the durability. Undoubtedly, despite high-quality decors, WPC always looks artificial, but it is the better compromise in moisture-laden terrace locations and regions. It also always depends on how you set up your terrace or what style you want to follow.

" mechanical load:

Wood flooring:

Hardwood decking boards have good to very good mechanical strength. However, it differs within the different types of wood.

Plastic boards:

At WPC, the difference is primarily in manufacturing. WPC decking boards in the low price segment consist of a hollow chamber system, while high-priced boards are made of solid material. This results in a significant difference in the mechanical strength. Inexpensive hollow-chamber planks from unknown manufacturers can become brittle and tear in winter or deform at high summer temperatures.

»Differences in laying and maintenance:

Wood flooring:

Already when laying hardwood decking, much more construction errors can be made than with plastic. The most common is the use of inferior squared timber made of pine or spruce for the substructure. The different coefficients of expansion cause the fastening screws to tear.

Hardwood floorboards can also expand up to ten millimeters in the width of the standardized sizes. This creates centimeter-wide gaps in summer that can contract completely in winter.

Another processing note is the laying direction. Decking boards are almost always grooved. When laying crossways in the direction of the slope, part of the rainwater always remains in these grooves, which has a more negative effect on wood than on plastic.

On hardwood decking, all cut edges must always be treated immediately after processing with the wood preservative suitable for this wood in the form of oils or glazes. The entire surface must be re-coated around once a year. Unless you love the silver-gray patina that is created by UV radiation on untreated hardwood.

Plastic boards:

All the processing and maintenance requirements just mentioned are no longer necessary for plastic floorboards, which can be screwed onto almost any surface and are only subject to normal cleaning.

»Environmental aspects and types of wood:

If there are no other planks for you than wooden planks, then you should consider the following aspects here:

Environmental aspects:

Douglas fir is the only type of hardwood for decking that is grown in Europe in a sustainable manner. All other woods from which decking boards are made come from the tropical forests of India or America. The removal of tropical woods is, however, an environmental disaster and the woods that are used on European terraces also come from the tropical forest. They grow very slowly and need the tropical climate of the rainforest. Therefore, they cannot be grown economically on plantations. Nevertheless, these tropical woods are also felled sustainably and the products from this sustainable management bear the FSC seal. You should therefore pay attention to this seal when shopping.

Wood:

Douglas fir, coumaru, bangkirai, massaranduba and garapa are most commonly used. But they also differ again in their strength class, freedom from torsion and tendency to split, with Cumaru and Massaranduba being the most stable.

However, Bangkirai often leads to complaints due to ignorance. Almost each of these boards has a more or less large number of holes that look like woodworm infestation. However, they come from flying insects that die immediately after logging. These holes are therefore harmless and Bangkirai enchants many builders with its diverse play of colors.

Conclusion:

Which material you ultimately choose is of course entirely up to you. Both materials have their advantages. Wooden floorboards score with their individual decor and good mechanical strength, for example. Plastic planks, on the other hand, mean that they are easy to install and also very easy to care for. So you are spoiled for choice. Always take the location of your terrace and the climatic conditions into account when making your decision or planning your garden. That alone can make your decision easier or even reduce it.