Solid composite products are providing the perfect solution for easy-care decks, built-in seating and planters, and even fencing slats, says Matt Gillespie, Zones Landscaping Specialist.
“The main reason homeowners are opting for solid composites as an alternative to timber, is reduced maintenance. The product doesn’t require any staining or oiling.” Washing with soap and water, a couple of times a year, is sufficient to keep composites in tip top condition.
Solid composites or WPCs – wood plastic composites – are still a relatively new product here, but are a popular choice overseas, particularly in the United States where it’s estimated they account for around 20% of the decking market and are also being used in a growing number of building projects outside landscaping.
WPCs are a combination of powdered recycled and/or waste timber and recycled HDPE plastic (high density polyethene), the ratio of wood to HDPE, depending on the particular brand.
It’s worth noting that the higher the plastic content, the more susceptible composites will be to the adverse effects of our high UV conditions; ensure the brand you choose is specifically formulated for New Zealand conditions by the addition of UV protectants and mould inhibitors.
BiForm Solid Composite Decking has taken all of this into account, lowering the plastic content of their decking boards, offering a product that is made by Kiwi’s, for Kiwi’s. Being the only BRANZ appraised decking on the market means that it has been tested for durability in New Zealand weathering conditions, giving them the confidence to back their decking with a 25-year limited warranty.
Low-maintenance is just one of the many benefits solid composites have to offer. They’re eco-friendly and durable, providing a sustainable, long-wearing alternative to tropical hardwoods, but with the look and feel of timber. In addition, WPCs won’t warp, crack or splinter, thereby eliminating the need to replace planks. They’re also non-slip, an added advantage in areas around pools or when using in entry-ways or access ramps. (Check the slip resistance rating; while this applies to commercial rather than residential use, it offers extra peace-of-mind to homeowners).
WPCs are available as traditional length decking boards or custom cut, with tiles also available for use in smaller areas like apartment decks. Solid composites are not difficult to work with, says Matt. Boards can be installed directly on to a timber frame or over membrane. Most brands have their own proprietary fixing systems, which speed the installation process; screws or nails that can protrude from timber boards are not necessary. WPCs can be sawn, drilled and sanded. “However,” Matt says, “the composition of the product means it does expand in the heat a little more than timber, so that needs to be taken into account.” So installation by an experienced installer is important here.
As with any product that’s attracting a growing market, the number of WPC options is rapidly expanding and obviously they’re not all created equal. Look for brands that offer a BRANZ appraisal and make sure the warranty is relevant.
WPCs have been called the ‘material of the future’. In a world where sustainability has become increasingly important and time-poor lifestyles mean ‘easy-care’ is a key issue, solid composites are definitely worth a good hard look when planning an outdoor living space is on the agenda.
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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.
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