hoss magazine

Stay in the know

Subscribe to the HOSS newsletter today - you’ll get the inside scoop on design trends, home renos and breaking news. You’ll always have a heads up on our fantastic contests too!

Paul Lafrance talks composite decking

Long-lasting, low-maintenance and lovely to look at, composite decking takes centre stage in today’s backyards

All hail the backyard deck! Thanks to our ongoing love affair with outdoor living, the basic backyard deck has evolved from the old-school square pine enclosure to a personal oasis and veritable cottage substitute. That’s why so many design greats are working hard to help homeowners see the potential in their backyards. Take Paul Lafrance, for example. The ultra-cool father of four and host of HGTV’s Decked Out and Custom Built has personally built more than 2,000 decks and designed more than 10,000! So he knows a thing or two about what works when it comes to crafting the ultimate backyard escape. Lafrance points out that it’s not just deck designs that have evolved – the materials have, too.

Get out of the woods

While many homeowners still think traditionally and look to cedar or pressure-treated lumber for their decks, Lafrance has strong opinions about the best material to use for your favourite backyard structure. Wood is nice to have, “but the maintenance means hassle,” says Lafrance. Put bluntly, “staining sucks!”

A natural wood deck costs less cash in the short term, but Lafrance says the time and maintenance costs add up, including an annual re-staining of the horizontal surfaces, especially for decks that have to endure long, grueling winters.

For Lafrance, all that maintenance simply isn’t worth it when modern composites last longer and keep their good looks with ease. TREX high-performance composites for example, are mould-proof, scratch proof, fade resistant and eco-friendly. (You do still have to wash them.) Ninety-five per cent of TREX’s composition is recycled plastic bags.

“The product is completely green, as the plastic bags are mixed with a small percentage of wood that we source from the leftover scraps from various cabinet manufacturers in the U.S. – before they go to the landfill,” explains Adam Zambanini, vice-president of marketing at TREX.

What the heck is composite decking?

Composite decking can be made in a variety of ways: composed of a wood-plastic blend, or in TREX’ case, a very high composition of recycled plastic wrapped in a protective shell to offer further protection from the elements. Newer styles are available in every imaginable colour and texture.

For most people, the choice might come down to cost. Lafrance prices it out plainly: a pressure-treated deck quoted at $10,000 can be upgraded to cedar for an additional $2,500. Composite decking would cost about an extra $6,000. For Lafrance, this is worth every penny, especially over the long run. He adds that a composite deck retains a very high percentage of its investment value when a house is sold, though wood decking does too. (The National Association of Realtor’s estimated wood decks recoup about 70% of their value when a home is resold.)

Investing in your backyard oasis is a winning choice, any way you slice it. If cost is a factor and you don’t begrudge the maintenance, wood decking may be the right choice. For longevity and ease, composites are an easy bet. We asked Zambanini if there were any other benefits to add to the long list of reasons to love composite decking. There is! “You’ll never get a splinter,” laughs Zambanini.