There is great debate about what is best between real timber (grown from a tree) as opposed to WPC (wood plastic composite) timbers. Firstly let’s look at what is WPC timber?
Wood-plastic composites (WPCs) are a man-made timber which include the use of wood fibre/wood flour and plastic…these includes PE (Polyethylene), PP (Polypropylene) or PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) plastics. Chemicals and pigments are added and then extruded into planks. The ratio to wood flour to plastic can vary but normally its 45-65% wood to 65-45% plastic. The quality of the product can vary on the amount of wood content and quality of the plastic.
Pros of WPC:
- The main advantage is that WPC requires less maintenance i.e. does not need to be re-coated on a regular basis and should be more durable. However it is not “maintenance free”.
- It is meant to be resistant to rot and decay from borers and termites.
- It is often made using recycled plastic such as water bottles etc., so are considered better for the environment.
- it won't splinter.
- A variety of colours available.
Cons of WPC:
- It does not look like timber. With its beautiful variations in grain and colour, real timber always has a premium look and feel.
- It is not as strong as hardwood timber and requires the framework bearers to be closer together to support the WPC planks.
- It normally becomes much hotter (in direct sun) than real timber and in hot countries this can make it difficult to walk on in bare feet, especially when used around pools.
- WPC expands and contacts (with heat) significantly which can cause problems with the fixings and gaps/ventilation of the decking.
- Most WPC can fade, scratch and mark very easily.
- Cleaning agents can often mark the WPC.
- Water absorption can easily occur through the wood fibres, which in turn can cause mould and mildew.
- Like all plastics exposed to weathering, WPC becomes porous over time.
- Although WPC requires less maintenance than real timber, it is not “maintenance free”. It has been found that most WPC decks require regular scrubbing with a compotite cleaning product to remove mould/mildew. Also to maintain a fresh clean look you may need to clean and coat with a stain and sealer once every few years. However a composite sealer will generally last longer than standard timber coatings.
- Generally WPC is a higher fire risk than real hardwood.