Many Dana Point homeowners remain natural wood puritans when it comes to the lumber needs of their landscape design. However, with the increasing versatility and durability of plastic composite wood, it’s well worth examining the alternatives before committing to the long term maintenance that outdoor wooden structures and features require. Here we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of both natural wood and wood-plastic composites to help you better decide between the two for your specific project.
Natural wood has long been a favorite of landscape architects and designers because of its ability to inject a variety of texture, visual warmth and character into a landscape or outdoor space. There is certainly no doubt that the richness of a high-quality wood is an aesthetic asset to any property. Wood is arguably one of the easiest materials to work with as well, allowing for the quick and effective construction of outdoor structures, seating solutions and decking.
When compared to wood-plastic composite (WPC) wood remains higher in structural strength and stiffness, making it a better solution for supporting frameworks and decking with high structural loads. The coating options for wood are vast, ranging from a variety of colored stains and can be painted if desired.
Where natural wood falls short, however, is in its high maintenance requirements, susceptibility to rot and sun damage, and overall lack of durability. The long term cost of outdoor wooden structures can often cancel out the advantages of the relatively low initial cost of lumber.
Being a relatively recent technological development - the first WPCs were only introduced into the market in the early 1990’s - WPCs are not without their hitches. However, their high demand, versatility and greater durability has ensured their widespread use in the US for outdoor purposes. While the structural strength and stiffness of WPC may not yet match its natural counterpart, the elasticity of WPC remains higher. This means that they are not susceptible to warping and have a greater tendency to spring back after being bent out of shape. As the technology evolves, however, we can expect to see wood-plastic composites of far higher structural strength for use in frameworks and foundations.
Although the plastic component is not entirely immune to UV damage and the wood particles remain susceptible to the usual ailments, this occurs at a fraction of the rate of natural wood, making them a better long term solution for decking and trim. WPCs have a higher initial cost than natural wood, but this is offset by the low cost of long term maintenance.
Another advantage of WPCs is that they are as easy to work with as normal wood, but have the additional advantage of being tailor-moulded to suit specific shape and design requirements. This allows for a wider range of expressive uses - balustrades for spiral staircases, curved handrails, meandering decking walkways, etc.
WPCs are also manufactured in a wide range of colors, removing the need for painting or staining. The downside of this is that applying a different color coating, while possible, is not as effective as repainting or restaining natural wood.