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Lumber Without Logging: Alternative Decking Options

The pros and cons of nonwood decking materials

| March/April 2005

If sacrificing trees for a backyard wooden deck isn’t on your agenda, consider building with plastic or composite (half plastic, half wood dust) materials. Some—but not all—manufacturers make products from wood scraps gathered at mills and recycled plastics such as milk-jug containers and plastic grocery bags. Others use virgin plastics such as vinyl.

Nonwood advantages:

• Doesn’t splinter or rot

• Doesn’t need to be sealed or painted

• Colors won’t fade

• Reuses plastic scrap and wood byproducts

• Has good traction

Nonwood disadvantages:

• Some doubt has been cast on plastic composite woods. Trex, a successful mock-wood decking manufacturing company, is being sued as part of a class-action lawsuit asserting that the company’s product doesn’t live up to its advertising promises. The complaint alleges Trex products actually do rot, splinter, and degrade. Trex maintains the accusations are untrue.

• Unlike real wood, the boards don’t biodegrade.

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