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Upgrading your deck to a composite material is a great way to keep your yard looking fresh, clean, and modern. It seems like a lot of homeowners agree. Composite decking is becoming the most popular alternative to timber, and for a good reason. If you choose to go with this type of outdoor structure, you must learn how to keep composite decks clean.

What Is Composite Decking?

Composite decking is man-made and consists of a mix of plastics, wood fibers, and bonding agents. This recipe is mixed together, before being heated and molded into board-shaped lengths. It is then left to cool and can be easily used to construct a fabulous new deck.

What Are The Benefits?

Composite decks have a range of benefits, compared to plastic or real timber alternatives. These include:

  • Durability

Thanks to the inclusion of plastic, composite decks tend to be more durable than other materials. They are also more able to withstand insects, damp and rot. They are also far less likely to require sealing or staining and can survive direct sunlight without warping or cracking.

  • Safety

Because composite decks are not real wood, there is a reduced risk of splintering. They also reduce the absorption of water, and this means that you are far less likely to slip and fall. For this reason, this material is popular around pools, ponds, and other water features. Wood can become slimy and slippery and could be dangerous over time.

  • Longevity

As a rule, composite decking has a longer lifespan than traditional wood – it can last over 25 years. This fact helps to make it a significant investment. Though a little more expensive initially, you are sure to recoup the cost quickly.

  • Reduced maintenance

Composite decking tends to require less maintenance than wood – perfect for those with a busy lifestyle! Opting for a composite deck can be a great way to cut costs long-term, and save you money on your decking.

Types Of Composite Decking

There are two main types of composite decking: capped and uncapped.

As a rule, uncapped boards are cheaper, and this is for a reason. They will not usually come with high protection levels against staining, color fading, and sun damage. You may quickly notice fading in the early days. This fading is caused by exposure to the environment and sun leaking wood oils from the material.

Capped boards contain an exterior coating, usually made from plastic. This coating helps to prevent staining and fading. They are also easier to keep clean with a single wipe, but they do tend to be more expensive than uncapped boards.

How to keep composite decks clean

Though composite decking requires less maintenance than wood, there are still steps you can take to keep it looking its best. These include:

  • Use the correct cleaner

You must use the proper cleaner to maintain your deck. As a material, it can be porous, and so requires an oxygenated cleanser. This product will be able to reach into the material and clean within, rather than merely the surface. Avoid chlorine-based ‘deck cleaners,’ and make sure that your choice does not contain sodium hypochlorite or bleach. This ingredient will damage and discolor your deck, exacerbate mold issues, and eat away at the material over the long term.

  • Use the correct tools

You also need to make sure you are using the proper tools for your composite decking. Gentle is the keyword here: clean everyday debris and dirt with a broom and garden hose. A deeper clean requires a soft bristle brush and not too much scrubbing! Always choose a plastic shovel to remove snow – avoid metal as this can cause damage to your deck.

  • Do not pressure wash

It can be tempting to use a pressure washer for a deeper clean, but this is not suitable for composite decks. The composition of composite decking is soft compared to natural wood, so more care is required. Pressure washing may split the material, leaving it vulnerable to sun damage, mold, and chipping or scratching. A garden hose is all you need to keep your deck in the best condition.

  • Don’t forget the gaps!

One of the biggest mistakes homeowners tend to make is in neglecting the gaps. Doing so can cause mold and mildew to grow and prosper, thanks to a build-up of moisture. If dirt is allowed to develop, moisture will enable mold to breed and develop – this is a significant concern in humid climates.

Make sure you clean out the gaps between deck boards at least once a year. This type of cleaning means that air can pass through and between the boards, keeping everything dry. Keeping a close eye on this area helps maintain the longevity of your deck.

  • Use protection

Once you have carefully cleaned the deck, you must protect the material correctly. Moisture is the biggest enemy of composite decking and is obviously a natural part of an outdoor deck. If any water is left to pool on the surface, or in the gaps, mold, warping and deck rot can occur.

Climates with high levels of humidity are also more susceptible to mold and mildew build-up. You must apply a high-quality moisture barrier on a regular basis. Once again, be aware of the product you choose. Some items with a ‘waterproofing’ quality risk achieving the opposite effect. These promise to encapsulate the deck, and can trap moisture in the material instead. Trapping moisture within the deck materials has the potential to cause long-term issues, including mold.

  • Avoid water

One of the best ways to keep your deck in great condition is to eliminate water sources. Make sure there is nowhere for standing water to gather, and that puddles cannot form. You should also ensure that rainwater from the roof does not splash onto the deck. The deck should also have at least 6 inches of unobstructed airflow. Good airflow will help the air to circulate and the decking to dry.

  • Check dryers

Dryers can also be a cause of moisture – make sure the vents point away from the deck to reduce the impact of moist air. Vents can also raise the overall temperature of the composite material, and this can speed up mold and mildew.

If you follow the tips listed above, you’ll be able to enjoy your deck for years to come.