Composite vs uPVC Decking
Published on: Feb 14, 2019
Last updated: Jun 16, 2021
Composite and uPVC decking are both relatively new products to the market, appearing in the last 20 years or so. As an alternative to traditional timber decking they offer many advantages, primarily in terms of durability and practicality.
WPC (Wood Polymer Composite) and uPVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) decking won’t warp or rot unlike traditional wood decking because they don’t absorb water, which also means they are highly slip-resistant. They don’t need cleaning, painting and staining unlike timber which requires regular upkeep. As well as being a very low maintenance solution, the boards can’t splinter, making them a particularly practical option for schools and commercial spaces, in addition to residential.
Both types of decking will outperform and last longer than softwood decking. However, despite their similarities there are still some significant differences between composite decking and uPVC, bringing with them various advantages and disadvantages. Here we weigh up the pros and cons of each.
uPVC decking is made from 100% plastic. As a result, there is absolutely nothing within it that can absorb water and cause rot. It is also typically more fade resistant than uncapped composite decking. Furthermore, it can easily be recycled and repurposed after its life as a deck, due to the durability and longevity of plastic.
However, being 100% plastic also carries some drawbacks. Unlike composite decking which becomes more flexible with the addition of wood fibres, it cannot be ripped or routed and requires specialist tools to bend. Consequently, the installation process is harder.
Expansion can quickly become an issue when using uPVC boards. Plastic decking can change size quite drastically as a result of extreme temperatures, causing it to expand and contract. On a particularly hot and sunny day it would not only radiate and retain heat, making it painful to walk on with bare feet, but the large expansions and inevitable contractions can also wear and even potentially damage the boards. Conversely, in cold weather, it can become brittle and crack under pressure.
Finally, because uPVC decking is entirely artificial, it can end up looking just that – synthetic. Even if finished with a wood grain effect, it is hard to achieve an authentic texture with a product that is solely plastic.
What about PVCu?
In the late 1980s, the term uPVC was changed to PVCu (also known as PVC-U). The idea was to ensure universal naming conventions across the continent.
Before the changes were made to bring the word into line with European standards, the word uPVC was widely used in the United Kingdom (more so than PVCu). It has taken a long time to phase out the uPVC terminology - having remained the most common term for this material in the UK public domain. As a result both manufacturers and installers frequently use the terms uPVC and PVCu interchangeably.
The main advantage of composite decking is that by adding wood fibres this mitigates many of the disadvantages which arise from exclusively plastic decking.
Hyperion composite decking is sustainable; unlike uPVC it has a high recycled content. It contains 60% wood (FSC 100% certified) and 40% High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) which are sourced as manufacturing by-products and therefore saved from landfill sites. This also means that not a single tree is cut down to create our decking. At the same time, the factory which produces Hyperion composite decking uses renewable energy from solar panels to further minimise the environmental impact of the entire process.
Due to the 40% wood fibre content, this also gives the decking a far more authentic wood grain appearance, resulting in a more natural finish. Hyperion composite decking naturally weathers and lightens over the first couple of months due to the natural tannins in the wood, further contributing to this more natural feel. If you choose Pioneer uncapped composite deck boards, you also have the option of a reversible matt side.
Finally, the fibrous structure of wood makes it an easier product to install, like traditional timber decking.
Therefore, if you are looking for a product that combines the natural aesthetic of wood with the practicality and durability of a wood polymer composite, Hyperion composite decking is the clear winner. Not only does it offer numerous advantages over both traditional timber and 100% plastic (uPVC) decking, with EnviroBuild you can rest assured that you have also picked the sustainable choice.