When I was a kid visiting my grandparents’ house, I looked forward to the summer rain. It would wet the wooden walkways and decks that wound through my grandmother’s backyard garden, and they’d become slippery enough that I could slide around on a pair of flip-flops. One day my grandmother caught me at this, and it prompted her to target my grandfather with an intense nagging campaign. The next weekend he pulled the pressure washer out of the garage and thoroughly washed the wooden walkways, leaving them silvery and disappointingly grippy underfoot even when wet. However, it was only a matter of a month or so before the slickness returned, and I was skating—and my grandmother was hollering—once again.
The culprit, in this case, was algae, which was growing on the wood and making it slippery. Along with microorganisms like mildew, mold, and fungus, algae slowly destroys the wood, staining it unsightly shades of black and green in the meantime. Installing some kind of no rot decking rather than basic pine would have allowed my grandfather to relax by reducing the need for frequent pressure washing.
The Problem with Wood Decking
Wood is a natural material, and when new, it has a warm, organic look that’s appealing. The problem is that this natural look is due to wood’s fibrous and porous nature. Wood fibers are meant to absorb water and distribute it throughout a tree. When wood is used in a deck, this natural action distributes water throughout the deck’s surface, making it an attractive home for microbes. Once mold, mildew, and funguses get into a deck, it requires heavy duty pressure washing and sometimes harsh chemicals to remove them.
The way wood decays also helps keep mold and mildew coming back. Wood fibers run in a single direction in a piece of wood. As the wood alternates between being wet, drying out, and being soaked again, these fibers separate and form deep crevices in the wood, where dirt, microorganisms, and the spores they grow from take refuge. These crevices can be difficult to clean out, and are probably why the growth kept returning quickly after my grandfather pressure washed his decking.
There are ways of keeping wood in good condition and keeping mold and algae out. One solution is to seal the wood shortly after the deck is built. This helps keep water out of the fibers of the wood, preventing the swelling and splitting that encourage mold and mildew to take hold. However, sealing can be a labor-intensive process, and in the case of oil-based sealers, it can take some time to dry. The process also needs to be repeated every few years, otherwise the sealer will wear away. Sealing is time-consuming enough and easy enough to forget that I have never personally encountered a properly maintained wooden deck, although I’m sure they exist. Fortunately for the forgetful, and the laz…erm, leisure minded, no rot decking boards do exist.
Types of No Rot Decking
Deck boards that don’t rot are made of plastic or have a large percentage of plastic in their makeup. Mold, mildew, and fungus do not attack these boards because they’re not equipped to eat the plastic. This results in decking that doesn’t mold and that stays structurally sound. There are two types of deck boards that include plastic in their makeup:
- Composite boards are made of a mix of plastic and wood fibers. The first generation of these boards were simply wood byproducts mixed with melted plastic and squeezed into a board shape. Since then, improvements have been made in the mixing of the two materials, the extrusion of the materials, and the creation of caps that shield the core of the core of the board from moisture and UV light. However, not all makers of composite boards use the same manufacturing processes, not all composites have caps, and not all composite boards are fully capped.
- PVC boards are made completely of plastic with no natural materials used whatsoever. These boards are very new and still in their first generation. Since there are no natural materials in the boards, these wholly synthetic boards are completely rot-proof.
At first glance, PVC boards would seem to be the better decking for resisting rot simply because they include no natural components. However, PVC decks can be damaged by thermal expansion and contraction, and they’re also vulnerable to UV light, which can cause tiny bits of the PVC to powder off, roughening the deck and creating a place for debris to collect.
On the other hand, high-quality composites with fully-capped boards create moisture-resistant decking that prevents mold or other microbes from reaching the natural fibers in the core of the board. Given that these natural fibers also lend greater strength to the board and reduce the expansion and contraction that PVC boards undergo, composite boards are probably the superior decking material in general, and can resist rotting about as well as PVC boards.
For no rot decking, the best option is a composite board with a cap that fully surrounds the board to resist UV degradation from above and prevent moisture absorption from every angle. One brand of high-quality decking that does this extremely well is the Infinity composite decking from Fortress Deck, which is fully surrounded by a coextruded cap. This keeps it safe from rot and preserves your choice of any of four colors from UV light. This attention to quality can be found in all of Fortress Building Products’ home products, from wrought iron-look Fortress Railings to sturdy steel Fortress Fences. For more information on Fortress Deck or for samples of Infinity decking, get in touch here.