Sustainable Decking Solutions

Decks are a popular way to enjoy the great outdoors from the comfort of your home.  Building a green deck, however, can be a challenge.  That’s because deck materials are called upon to last a long time without maintenance, and do other things that resist the natural behavior of the materials.  Many of the treatments that decking undergoes make it an environmental problem.  Even materials that look sound might not be.  Here’s some information about ecologically friendly decking to help you decide.

Wooden decking is the most popular and traditional of your options.  This nontoxic material is strong for the weight, easy to work, and attractive.  When managed properly, wood is a renewable resource.  It’s also produced using a relatively small amount of fossil fuels.  Wood is also easily recycled and bio degradable. 

However, wood may break down when you least want it.  Treated woods are damaging to the environment, so many people choose materials like redwood and cedar instead.  Tropical hardwoods are also used, but this can be seriously damaging to rain forest environments.  The further away the wood has been grown, the greater its impact on the environment.  Many forests are not well managed, either.

Composite decking is another option.  Made from recycled wood waste and plastic, with fiberglass, waxes, and other chemicals, this substance creates a board that’s much like wood.  Some manufacturers are known for their sustainable practices and products.  This material also lasts a long time without much maintenance.  You should expect some warping and weathering, though.  Since composite lumber looks and acts much like wood, it will also weather something like it. 

There are criticisms of composite wood, too.  This material is hard to dispose of once it’s worn out, since the materials it’s made up of are blended.  Composite decking can’t be recycled, and is often more expensive than other materials.  It’s also relatively new, and hasn’t had a chance to prove its durability.

Plastic lumber looks like a similar material, but it’s made entirely of high density polyethylene – just like milk jugs.  This material is commonly recycled from waste plastic, and is workable with wood tools in the same way as composite lumber.  It’s not as strong as wood or composite lumber, and is bed for posts, beams, and joists.  It tends to expand and contract as temperatures change and may have a greater tendency to warp.  Not all materials contain all or mostly post consumer waste, but many contain fifty percent or more.

Of course, there are plenty of non wood materials that work well for a patio or outdoor space, too.  Paved patios, like those used in Mexico and the Mediterranean, are relatively non toxic, durable, and low maintenance.  They also cost little, and while concrete and tile have a high initial impact, they last a very long time.  An English style garden or terrace is also a good option.  There’s a lot you can do with some thought and imagination that transcends the average deck.  See what you can come up with!

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