Designing an outdoor space that ticks all the boxes can be quite the juggling act. The materials you choose, whether it’s timber or modern composites, can affect both the environment and your wallet. So, how do you find the right balance? We’re here to help!
In this article, we’ll explore the world of sustainable decking materials, highlighting some of the pros, cons, and considerations of each option.
What Is Sustainable Decking?
Sustainable decking refers to the use of materials and processes that limit the environmental impact, both during production and throughout the life of the deck. It’s about thinking beyond your backyard and choosing materials that reduce waste, limit resource use, and minimise carbon emissions.
Benefits of Sustainable Decking
Sustainable decking comes with many benefits, both for the environment and the homeowner. Using eco-friendly materials helps reduce deforestation and decreases the associated carbon footprint. Plus, these materials typically offer enhanced durability and lower maintenance requirements.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Sustainable Decking Material
Once you’ve decided on sustainable decking, there are several factors you need to consider before choosing the perfect material for your space. Let’s delve into some of the key considerations:
When we talk about the life cycle of decking materials, we are referring to the entire journey of the material, from its raw state to its eventual disposal. A truly sustainable decking material takes into account not only its origin and production process, but also its long-term performance and end-of-life options.
Raw Material Acquisition
The life cycle of decking material starts with raw material acquisition. It’s important to understand how materials are sourced. Timber decking, for instance, could involve deforestation, whereas composite decking often uses recycled plastic and wood fibres.
The production phase transforms raw materials into usable products. Some materials, like PVC decking, involve energy-intensive methods, whereas the production of composite decking is often more energy-efficient.
Installation and Use
The installation process and the material’s long-term performance also matter. Materials like composite decking, for example, are easier to install and offer superior resistance to pests, rot, and weathering compared to traditional wood.
Consider if the material is recyclable or compostable at its life end. For instance, timber decking can be recycled or composted, and certain types of composite decking are also recyclable.
A decking material’s carbon footprint includes all greenhouse gas emissions related to its life cycle, from production and transport to installation, maintenance, and disposal. The transportation of heavy materials over long distances can notably increase a product’s carbon footprint.
The last factor to consider is maintenance. Some decking materials require regular, intensive care, including the use of chemicals for sealing and staining. However, materials like composite or aluminium decking only need occasional cleaning, making them a budget friendly and eco-conscious choice.
Popular Sustainable Decking Materials and Pros and Cons
Choosing a sustainable decking material doesn’t mean compromising on aesthetics, functionality, or longevity. Here are a few popular sustainable decking options and their respective pros and cons.
- Wood Decking: Wood is a classic choice, and when sourced sustainably, it can be an eco-friendly option. However, it requires regular maintenance to prevent rot and insect damage.
- Composite Decking: Composite decking combines wood fibres with recycled plastics, resulting in a durable, low-maintenance material. It mimics the look of wood without the upkeep, but the production process can be energy-intensive.
- Aluminium Decking: Aluminium is highly durable and recyclable, making it a sustainable choice. It’s resistant to weather and insects, but it doesn’t offer the natural aesthetic many homeowners desire.
- PVC Decking: PVC decking is lightweight and durable, requiring minimal maintenance. However, it’s made from petroleum products and isn’t typically recyclable, making it a less sustainable choice.
Remember, while the initial investment for some sustainable materials may be higher, they often prove cost-effective in the long run due to their durability and lower maintenance needs. To get a clear picture of the investment involved, check out this comprehensive guide on deck building costs.