A little while ago a friend of mine, who frequently hosts parties and loves going barefoot, built a massive deck that connected his house to his pool and terraced garden. Then last month, he asked if I could come out to his house and work on it. Arriving on the scene, I immediately understood the urgency. The deck, with its sunny southern exposure overlooking his garden, had developed so many splinters that going barefoot was absolutely not a possibility. It had effectively put a stop to my friend’s naturalistic barefoot lifestyle, and had drained his guests’ enthusiasm for exploring his carefully-designed deck and yard.
One of the great pleasures of having a deck is that it can provide a seamless transition from the inside of the house to the outside, expanding the living area in the warmer months. For this transition to be as smooth as possible, it’s important that the surface of the deck is as comfortable as possible on the feet: splinter-free, smooth, and providing good, barefoot-friendly traction in a variety of settings. While there are many materials available, the newest generation of fully-capped composite decking provides all of these benefits, while being light on maintenance. We’ll talk about why wood gets splinters and how composite is designed to be friendly to bare feet.
Solving the UV Radiation Problem in Wood Decks
The most common cause of splintering in wood decking is the damage brought about by UV radiation. UV radiation dries wood out to the point of destroying the cellular structure of the material, ultimately opening up cracks in the boards and forming splinters. The first sign of this cellular damage is the graying noticeable on all wooden structures that are exposed to the sun.
With a wooden deck, the way to mitigate this sort of damage is by protecting the wood from UV rays with a high-quality sealer. Ideally, this sealer is applied to the deck every year or every other year depending on the climate and the amount and intensity of sunlight to which the deck is exposed. In the face of intense UV radiation, though, even good sealers, applied with diligence, won’t be able to hold up to the sun’s rays forever, and after enough years, will start to show cracks and splinters.
One of the major benefits of composite decking, specifically the newest class of fully capped composite decking, is the protective engineered resin coating (called the “cap”). The cap works as a shield against UV radiation and water penetration, ensuring the decking material’s integrity. This resistance to UV rays also means that the color of the decking won’t change much due to fading by sunlight, which saves on the time and money involved in applying stains. In the end, the nature of wood means that you’ll spend lots of time and effort fighting the effects of the sun to keep your wood decking smooth and safe. With fully capped composite decking, that work is done for you by a carefully-designed coating.
Composite Decking That Provides Traction
Having good traction on a surface, especially in a wet climate or in a poolside setting, is an important quality for a deck. If you are considering composite or plastic decking, you may know that some types of composite decking have the tendency to be slippery—after all, one of the main components is recycled plastic! PVC decking also has this problem.
Certain newer versions of composite decking have reduced the slipperiness problem by using a resin cap with a slightly “grabby” surface, drawing from technology used by the tire industry, to make users feel secure on the deck, and to better match the appearance of wood. This method works well enough that if one isn’t closely scrutinizing the deck surface, one could easily think it was a very well-sealed tropical hardwood. While it won’t stop you from slipping on a banana peel, this type of decking works extremely well in a poolside or barefoot-friendly environment.
After talking over the costs and benefits of various building materials with my nature-loving friend, I eventually helped him build a deck out of fully-capped bamboo-based composite decking. My friend promises me that he hasn’t seen a single, solitary splinter, and I was tickled with pride to see that his deck is once again an extension of his living room—right out to the reed-lined natural pool.
If you’re looking for decking that will create a comfortable outdoor living area that’s easy on the feet and light on maintenance, I would first look into a fully-capped bamboo-based decking from Fortress Deck. By incorporating bamboo, this composite is more water resistant than wood-based composite decks, and does well right next to the pool or anywhere else you need decking. And if you’re thinking about making your deck a unique place to relax and entertain with additions like railings, pergolas, or arbors, Fortress Building Products has other innovative offerings that can help, like railings, wood stains, and decorative hardware.