Once upon a remodeling project, I was carrying an old stove out of the kitchen onto the deck. I’d checked the deck before walking on it, and it seemed to be in good enough shape. Walking backward out of the kitchen, I took a step, heard a cracking sound, and found myself falling straight down. I dodged a bullet that day, as the ground wasn’t far below, and it was flat enough to make a safe landing zone. What could have been a serious injury was instead a perfect Buster Keaton-style fall.
Besides falling clear through a rotted deck, there are other ways in which a deck’s surface can be hazardous–screws, nails, or out of place boards can cause trips, falls, and cuts, and the surface can get slippery. These problems often come down to how the deck itself handles the weathering of heat, cold, and moisture. One of the best ways to avoid the maintenance needed to keep a deck safe and in good condition is by installing the highest quality fully capped composite deck. The right composite deck should thrive in whatever conditions nature deals out, and do so with very little maintenance, allowing you to enjoy the peace of mind that comes with owning a safe deck.
Avoiding the Safety Problems of Wooden Decks
Due to rain, sun, and temperature changes, wood naturally degrades pretty easily in the absence of regular sanding, staining, sealing, and sweeping (and even with these things, it will continue to break down over time). Unfortunately, wear on wood can cause problems that can make the deck dangerous.
- Slippery when wet: Wooden decks get slippery when the wood becomes saturated with moisture, and especially so when the surface begins to develop a covering of moss, mildew, and other kinds of detritus like soil and leaves. I’ve worked on some decks covered with leaves and other organic material which made the surface of the deck underneath feel just like an ice rink and made it just as hazardous to walk on. The maintenance needed to keep a wooden deck in good shape varies greatly depending on the location and the climate, but, to keep the moisture from penetrating deeply into the board, regular application of stain and sealer is a must.
- Weak when rotted: Another result of too much moisture getting into the board is rot. The combination of moisture and sunlight can intensify the process as the sunlight causes weathering and weakening of the wood, while the moisture can cause rot. When this is the case, things can get really dicey, especially if the rot isn’t visible on the top side of the decking board, but is occurring on the underside, which was exactly the case when I fell right through the deck.
- Nails and screws: It’s natural for boards to expand and contract with temperature and moisture levels. When the moisture levels increase too much, this expansion and contraction will often cause decking boards to warp and crack. This motion can cause dangerous splinters and sharp pieces of wood to stick up from the deck, and it also takes a toll on the points where the boards are joined to the joists–the screws and nails. Heavy board expansion will actually push screws and nails up above the surface, leaving the deck surface littered with screws that can trip and snag.
The Safety Benefits of Fully Capped Composite Decking
Fully capped composite decking is able to avoid many of the safety problems wooden decks have. It’s able to do this because of its protective covering (or ‘capping’) and the materials that make up its core.
- Good footing even when wet: While the first generation of composite decking earned a slippery reputation due to all of the moisture that entered the board, the newest generation of composite decking is fully capped to keep moisture out, and some types even use an enhanced resin capping material. This type of covering utilizes technology from the tire industry to provide friction that makes it easier and safer to walk on, even in wet and rainy weather. Rigid resin capping is also effective at keeping moss and mold from getting a foothold. All of this adds up to a decking surface that grips the foot even in moist conditions.
- High moisture and UV resistance: The rubbery capping of high-quality composites is designed to protect the core of the board from damaging UV rays as well moisture. And in addition to the advanced protective cap, some composite decking also utilizes bamboo as one of the filling materials. This combination of plastic and bamboo has proven more moisture resistant than more traditional types of composite decking, like those that use sawdust, which has a tendency to allow water to move into the boards and collect in little pockets. Because fully capped composite decking keeps the moisture out so well, the boards are not prone to rotting, warping, or cracking, which translates into long-term structural stability and safety.
- Screws and nails stay down: While composite boards also expand and contract with temperature, the lack of extra moisture in the boards keeps popped up hardware at a minimum. And if you’re looking for a totally smooth deck with no possibility of snags or scrapes, consider installing your composite decking using a hidden fastener system.
Fully capped composite decking can be some of the best decking where safety is concerned. But not all composite decking is created equal. Some of the best, more durable, and safest fully capped composite decking on the marketplace is made by Fortress Deck. Its advanced enhanced resin cap around a bamboo composite core is a recipe for a maintenance-free deck that will last a long time while keeping you and your family safe. If you’re in the market for other unusual and thoughtfully made products, take a look at Fortress’ larger selection of unique building materials.