PVC Decking – An Alternative to Wood

When looking for an alternative to traditional wood decking, there can be an overwhelming choice of products. PVC decking is one option that lasts much longer than traditional wood and still gives the beautiful look of hardwoods.  PVC stands for polyvinylchloride and is a long lasting, lower maintenance solution to an outdoor living space.

PVC decking is a low maintenance option for traditional hardwood decking. There are several benefits to choosing PVC decking to complete an outdoor living space such as no splinters, low maintenance, and a lower lifetime cost than hardwood decking.  And installers love it because it is a lighter weight product and equally as durable as composite decking.

PVC decking products are made with durability and versatility in mind. Homeowners looking for a wood alternative should consider composites and PVC to create an outdoor space that never needs staining or painting, eliminates splinters and won’t twist or warp;  it is resistant to mold and insects as well as provides choices on color and exotic looks.  PVC decking products are solid plank boards and are strong enough to withstand even tough climates and usage.

Neither PVC decking nor composite decking products are designed and made to support a deck structurally, so the boards are installed over traditional wood posts and joists.  Only the surface of the deck is made with PVC or composite boards.  The deck can, however, be fastened with hidden fasteners so that it will have a nail-free appearance.  A consideration when building a PVC deck is that the boards will expand and contract with temperature changes. Therefore, it is important to leave tolerances or spaces between the boards so that normal expansion and contraction allows for adequate drainage and air flow.  By nature, PVC decking is waterproof so it is also a great choice for a very rainy or wet climates, lakes or coastal areas.

Most PVC decking earns a Class A flame spread rating, required in fire prone areas. They are low maintenance and can be cleaned with a spray of the garden hose in most cases.  For tougher stains, a household cleaning product may be required for complete stain removal.  Neither PVC nor composites requires staining or sealing like a traditional hardwood deck and both are designed to look like real wood.  With several options for decking on the market today, including composite decking, traditional wood decking, and PVC decking, you can create a unique and inviting outdoor space that is easy to maintain and is a beautiful extension of your home.

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  • Frank Gerig

    I am contracted to use Fiberon Ipe on a mostly south facing deck a ta 9,000 foot altitude in Colorado. How much will the boards expand and contract? Summer temps range from 80’s in the daytime to 40’s at night. Winter ranges are 40’s to 50’s daytime and teens at night.

  • Hello Mr. Gerig,

    How much the boards expand and contract depends on a number of factors besides high and low temperatures, including altitude/UV concentration, heat gain, reflection and other factors. Based on our reported CoE for HDPE decking, for completely unrestricted movement in a high altitude environment, a 20ft board has a total possible expansion of 0.535 inches, a 16ft board has a total possible expansion of 0.428 inches and a 12ft board’s total possible expansion of 0.3212 inches.

    Again, that expansion is for completely unrestricted movement. The actual movement will depend on the fastener used: through-fastening restricts more than hidden fasteners. A heavier gauge through fastener will also restrict more (and last longer) than a thinner gauge (#8 being as thin as we would recommend, but we prefer #10).

    When gapping is a primary concern, our engineers always recommend a deck pattern that uses the shortest possible board length and using through-fastening.

    I hope this answers your questions. Please let us know if there is anything else we can assist you with.

    Samantha Plate
    Fiberon Marketing