Cladding and decking are some of the best ways to improve the appearance of a building and bring it into the 21st century. When you rely on professionals to give your property a makeover, the work is bound to boost kerb appeal. This, in turn, can raise its value and increase your chances of selling up, moving on, and working your way up the property ladder. So, let’s go through the various types of decking and cladding, the differences between them, and reasons to consider these home improvements.
Decking Versus Cladding
Decking and cladding are two popular and rewarding ways to enhance the exterior look of your property without breaking the bank. In a nutshell, both these property enhancements involve covering or coating a structure. They are so similar that the terms are often used interchangeably. But the original meaning of these words points to very different ways of changing the look of your home, and we will reveal these differences momentarily.
Composite Versus Conventional (Timber)
Before we compare composite cladding and decking, let us first clarify the difference between composite products and timber. Composite products are low-maintenance and hard-wearing HDPE panels with added wood fibres. They are sustainable products, made from recycled materials, with an eye-catching wood grain similar to timber but without the knots. They come in a variety of colours, with a more consistent finish and texture than timber. Many also boast anti-mould or anti-slip properties.
What is Composite Decking?
The clever composite decking board is used to build, replace, or cover a deck. Professionally fitted decking systems come with composite boards that slide easily into place with millimetric accuracy. The boards feature parallel air channels, so they do not warp, splinter, or rot. They weather beautifully, they are very easy to clean, and they sometimes also come with anti-slip features. Also, capped boards do not need staining or regular treatments. They also look tidier and more expensive than timber or uPVC – plastic decking.
What is Composite Cladding?
Composite cladding materials are similar to the decking boards described above, in terms of look and texture. However, these boards are made of a single continuous part with no air channels or pockets. When fitted onto walls, fascia boards slide on top of each other, locking in air and heat. They don’t warp, rot, or splinter. But unlike the decking boards above, these are not anti-slip. Instead, their most important feature is their fire rating, for obvious safety reasons.
The 7 Main Differences Between Timber and Composite Cladding or Decking
Now that we’ve introduced basic home improvements using conventional and composite boards, let us take a closer look at their various features. Hopefully, by the end of this list, you’ll have a better understanding of the types of projects composite decking boards and cladding panels are ideal for. Likewise, you’ll more easily identify the variety of composite materials to order for your home improvement project and what features to expect when you do so.
Obviously, the main difference between composite cladding and decking is their purpose. A composite decking board is used to make or cover a garden deck, so it’s heavier, longer, and more resistant to humidity. By contrast, wall cladding is essentially an attractive rain screen that keeps water off and heats within. Also, decking systems come with a complex substructure made of cradles and pedestals, while composite cladding can simply be screwed onto a shallow frame on the wall.
It’s important to take the local climate into account when choosing your cladding. Decking materials are generally slightly more hard-wearing than cladding, and they last even longer with permanent coverings like pergolas and canopies. Depending on the make, composite cladding and decking can last upwards of 20 years with careful use. Well-kept timber can last even more, but it’s far more demanding and less likely to yield better durability without costly regular treatment.
Composite is truly a low-maintenance alternative to conventional cladding and decking boards. With exemplary upkeep, including polishing, staining, weather proofing, treating for fungus, and fireproofing, timber is nowhere near as convenient as composite. A yearly spruce-up with a broom or brush is enough to bring composite cladding and decking back to its former glory. But composite cladding may require slightly more maintenance than decking, like realignment after a strong storm.
Thanks to their anti-mould, anti-stain properties, composite boards undergo a much gentler weathering process than timber. With no knots to pop out, no mould discolouring the surface, and no risk of warping, splintering, and bending, composite boards don’t like to show their age. However, the wood fibres within are sometimes affected by long exposure to light. So, some degree of colour fading is likely to take place within months of the fitting, especially for south-facing decks made of composite boards.
Composite cladding and decking boards come with a similar price tag, roughly 30 times more expensive than timber. However, the initial price is offset by the lack of maintenance. It should be said that some top-shelf decking boards made of composite material can fetch up to 50 times the price of timber. This excludes professional fitting services, which are also priced much higher than in-house crew projects. But bear in mind that decks tend to have lower square footage than house walls.
Not all composite boards are made equal. Proof of this is the fact that decking boards come in two flavours: capped and uncapped. The latter is cheaper, but also susceptible to staining, mildew, and mould. Newer, capped decking products are not vulnerable to this type of damage. Cladding composite is not as exposed to humidity, and it’s usually stain-proof by design. Either product, though, be it cladding or decking board, is far more prone to staining and mould if it’s made of timber.
Composite materials are combustible, but with a far lower contribution to fire than timber. Decking boards made of composite material aren’t usually fire-proof. To ensure that they’re not susceptible to fire damage, homeowners must use a special weather-proof coating, but this is an expensive and temporary measure. Composite cladding, on the other hand, is treated to improve fire rating, and the closer it is to A on a scale from A to F, the better.