Posted by Norman Fong, July 16th, 2012
We are doing some research into replacing an aging outdoor deck. The costs to repair it and repaint it are so high that it makes sense to simply recycle the old deck and replace the old redwood. One of the first decisions when redoing a deck is what type of material to use, real wood or a composite decking material. Both materials cost about the same, with composite material slightly more expensive.
Eco-friendly FSC Certified Wood
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent nonprofit group started in 1993, who gives a seal of approval to commercial forests that meet strong environmental and social guidelines. They use independent auditors to ensure compliance. If you look on the back of many major catalogs, you will see the FSC logo certifying the paper.
We found a local lumber yard that sells a lot of FSC certified woods. Interesting to see that another larger one in South San Francisco barely knew what FSC was. FSC Certified 2×4′s did cost about 40% more when we bought them. They do have a stamp saying they are FSC certified. Someday the price delta will be smaller.
Analysis of Using Real Wood
Appearance – Beautiful look, if kept up.
Maintenance – Requires re-staining or sealing every 1 to 4 years.
Installation – More expensive thick tropical woods like Ipe require special saw blades, drilling, and deck screws to install.
Reliability – Many types of woods are very reliable and termite proof. Real wood is also best at preventing slipping.
Eco Friendliness – FSC certified woods are green and sustainable
Analysis of Composite Decking Material (Timbertech, Trex, Evergrain, Fiberon etc)
Appearance - Not as nice as real wood, but improving.
Installation - Normal installation.
Reliability - Mold and mildew problems require maintenance and pressure washing. Splinters, fading, and scratching are still issues. Suntan lotion can stain it. Slipping issues when wet.
Eco Friendliness – Many are made with wood pulp and petroleum products such as plastic or vinyl. Some are made from wood mill waste and polyethylene (PE or HDPE) from recycled plastic products. TimberTech is 12% post-consumer recycled plastic. Fiberon has up to 74% recycled content and up to 10% reclaimed content on products. The problem area is that they are not very recyclable after it has been installed.
Cost – May cost more than real wood.
If you want to go with Composite, you should think about going all the way to Carefree building products, 100% recycled plastic lumber products that can be recycled themselves. There are also PVC or polyethylene plastic products that are better than Composites at resisting the elements.
Some localities require Class A fireproof materials, so that alone many limit your choices to a certain kind of decking.
The biggest issue is whether composite materials can maintain their ‘look’ for a long period of time, perhaps decades. One look at the Bob Villa forums indicates lots of composite problems. As the Sierra Club said: “These wood composite products may save our current generation some time, but may have a negative impact on future generations when they try to dispose of them.” Trex technical support told us to trash extra Trex pieces as they do not recycle them.
FSC certified Natural wood seems to be the best bet. IPE, Douglas Fir, California redwood, and Mahogany are good bets. Avoid pressure treated wood as it contains chemicals like chromated copper arsenate and cannot be recycled.
Eco Friendly FSC Certified Wood – Way Basic Green Cubes
When we started remodeling we wanted to use as much Eco Friendly Wood as possible. We looked for FSC Certified wood in our cabinets and from our contractor.
When buying cabinets, furniture, try to buy them with FSC Certified woods. Or do even better by fixing up what you have. Buy new pillows or slip covers.
Way Basic Green Cubes
Way Basics makes a eco friendly furniture and storage products. We were sent their cube and it to be an easy to assemble building block product made from sustainable zBoard – recycled paper and itself fully recyclable. You pull off the tape and carefully tape boards together. It is pretty sturdy and costs $20.