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Have you heard of “plastic wood”? If that title doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps the term “composite wood” sounds more familiar?

Composite wood is an alternative to natural lumber, and while real wood has been used as a building material for centuries, this unique replacement option is gaining popularity. Let’s explore why.

What is composite wood?

Most types of composite wood materials are constructed by combining a mixture of wood fibers, wood flour, and particular types of plastic, such as polypropylene, polythene, polylactic acid, or polyvinyl chloride. The ground wood particles are mixed with these various polymers (that act as binding agents) during the manufacturing process. If that sounds too complicated, just know that it is a wood-like material composed of scrap wood and plastics.

When was composite wood invented?

Composite wood was originally referred to as “Plastic-Wood” – a trademark name dating back to its invention in the 1960s. With the latest advancements in technology, companies have since created new-and-improved versions of composite wood over the years.

What is composite wood used for?

Composite wood materials have numerous applications. Homeowners use composite materials for deck floors, deck railing systems, fences, cladding, siding, window frames, door frames, trim, molding, furniture, and landscaping projects. Structures, such as prefabricated homes and gazebos, also utilize composite materials.

How does composite wood look compared to natural wood?

More than ever before, composite wood materials reflect the natural appearance and feel of real wood. New manufacturing processes using advanced technology have allowed products to mimic the beauty and richness of real wood, with some even recreating the look of natural grain patterns.

What upkeep is suggested to maintain composite wood?

Natural lumber deteriorates from the impact of weather, sun exposure, insect infestations, mold, mildew, and rot. Because of this, many homeowners choose to paint or stain a wood-made project to maintain the integrity and strength of the wood.

Composite decking is designed to resist the effects of weather, moisture, and UV rays, making it less susceptible to deterioration. There is no need to paint or stain composite wood to protect the quality of the product.

Do you have to clean composite wood?

While dirt, pollen, and debris may accumulate on composite wood, homeowners can simply use soap and water to clean off and remove any build-up. After scrubbing the surface, the key is to make sure to thoroughly rinse off the surface and not leave soap remaining on the composite wood.

Can composite wood split like natural lumber can?

Composite wood is meant to be extremely resilient, and should not split, warp, crack, or splinter from normal wear-and-tear. Real wood is another story. Wood inherently can do all of the above if not carefully maintained.

Is composite wood expensive?

There is a price difference between composite wood and natural lumber. The upfront costs of composite wood will typically be higher when comparing the price of real wood for the same project. Composite wood can be viewed as an investment that saves homeowners money in the long run because it requires less maintenance, upkeep, and repairs.

How many years will composite wood last?

Since composite wood is designed to withstand the effects of weather and sun exposure, a project made of composite materials can last for decades. With its moisture, mold, and insect-resistant qualities, homeowners can expect composite wood to have a longer life compared to natural wood.

What companies offer products made of composite materials?

At Rocky Mountain Forest Products, we offer a wide range of composite products. For example, if you are interested in composite wood decking, you can select from the following:

  • Trex Decking
  • Fiberon Decking
  • TimberTech Decking
  • Fortress Decking
  • Evergrain Decking
  • Green Bay Decking

All offer slightly different products and unique colors. You may want to explore what several companies have to offer before choosing one.

Which composite wood brand is the most popular?

Trex Company, Inc. is the world’s largest manufacturer of composite decking and railings. Trex is considered a low-maintenance, high-performance product that has become the world’s #1 decking brand.

Are Trex products considered eco-friendly?

Trex is among the top recyclers of plastic bags in the United States. Their products are made from a unique blend of reclaimed wood and recycled plastic film. As advertised on the Trex website: “The average 500 square-foot composite Trex deck contains more than 140,000 recycled plastic bags, films, and wraps.”

What is “reclaimed wood” used in Trex products?

Reclaimed wood is wood that is repurposed. It is wood harvested from another source, like old barns or warehouses to retired ships or wine casts. Reclaimed wood often ends up in a landfill if not used for another reason.

Is composite wood the right match for my project?

Composite wood was not always the go-to choice for home projects. At one point, it had a bad reputation and was by no means a fan favorite.

However, composite wood manufacturing has come a long way. The improvements to composite materials have made composite wood a sought-after product now due to its durability, low maintenance requirements, and improved appearance.

If you are not sure whether composite wood is the best choice for you, take the time to research your wood-alternative. Talking to a decking expert can also help you narrow down your options and choose the best product for your project.