Where lies the secret of composite WPC floors?

Composite profiles for making fences and later decking floors, facades and pergolas appeared on the American market in the late 1980s. Their development was encouraged by the increase in the amount of recycled polymers, but also by the growing interest of customers in more durable products that require minimal maintenance.

Initially, the first sales’ arguments of composite profiles were that they don’t contain harmful and potentially dangerous substances, that they last much longer than wood and that they don’t require maintenance.

Can it be that simple?

Today, the same arguments from the late 1980s remain, but additional requirements have been imposed, in terms of safety, anti-slip system, fire prevention, abrasion resistance, UV stability, the warranty period extension and the like.

After half a decade of working with WPC floors, we have met various requirements, followed and brought innovations to the market, and in this article you can find answers to most questions.

What kind of material is WPC decking (Wood-Plastic Composite)?

As the title suggests, WPC is a composite of thermoplastics (PE, PP, PVC or PLA), wood fibers and additives. In addition to wood fibers, in the last few years other organic materials have been used, such as pulp fibers, rice or peanut shells, bamboo, etc.

Chemical additives are practically “invisible“ in the composite structure and are responsible for the integration of polymers and wood pulp.

The plastic and wood composite is still a relatively “new” material compared to the long history of wood as a basic building material. The most common use of WPC is in North America and Europe.

It’s almost difficult to imagine a park, promenade or marina in North America or certain parts of Europe without composite WPC floors.

The situation is the same with private facilities.

82% of houses in the USA have a decking platform in their backyard, and this trend has spread around Europe as well.

In an increasing manner, new projects have drawings of WPC floors on terraces or pools instead of ceramic tiles or stamped concrete.

But how did the decking platforms become the most sought after floors for outdoor use?

The look of a real floor!

Compared to other types of floors for outdoor use, such as ceramic tiles, stamped concrete, behaton cubes, where the most common shape is a cuboid one, decking floors whose floor mat is 3 or 4 meters long and 15 cm wide, gives a completely different look of the floor!

Easy WPC decking installation

Decking platforms are suitable for any kind of groundwork. On sand, dirt, concrete, over ceramic tiles, behaton or asphalt.

While other floors require complete preparation of the base, such as concreting or making cement screed, which significantly increases the project costs, decking platforms are mounted directly on the associated structure, which is much cheaper and faster to make than concrete.

The hidden system for tying the floor mats with the help of clips and screws enables simple and fast production of the decking platfrom, without rough work.

The modern look of the decking which unobtrusively fits into all types of buildings and simple installation without visible connection elements, leads to mass demand, which is also accompanied by many justified questions…

In conversations with our clients, we regularly hear a question whether WPC decking changes its colour over time? Why do we need dilation (the space on the front extension of the mats), whether should they buy massive decking or decking with chambers…

Colour steadiness in WPC decking floors?

Almost all materials decompose under the influence of UV rays. The same goes for pigments. At least that was the case until a couple of years ago. Today, a lot of effort is being put into developing nanotechnologies, so more and more you can often see ceramic protections and varnishes for cars that guarantee colour persistance of 10 years.

The same goes for the final construction materials, many types of protection are tested and developed.

Serious manufacturers are making significant efforts to prevent discolouration after years of exposure to UV rays.

Despite the improvement of the traditional technology of production based on extrusion, the application of the highest quality additives, the colour change was brought under control, but was not fully prevented.

For this reason, there was a development of new technology, ie. co-extrusion and application of Asa material that is completely UV stable.

The base of the profile is still a composite material, but it is coated on the outer sides with a material that guarantees unchanged colour for longer service life. This method of production is more expensive than classic decking, but it is the only known and applicable solution for projects where absolute UV resistance is required.

Ten-year warranty?

Warranty is one of the most important arguments used in marketing and in decking sales.

You can find extremly long warranty periods at most manufacturers, but is that true in reality?

The conditions from the guarantee primarily refer to the resistance of the composite to breakage, fungi, rot and insect attacks, ie. larvae and termites.

Based on laboratory tests and realistic application, reputable manufacturers guarantee a framework in which a change in characteristics is allowed.

An example is the guarantee regarding colour steadiness. Even changes within the shades are allowed, but not so that the decking completely changes its colour.

Natural wear occurs during the regular use of the decking platform as a consequence of abrasion. It’s the same with other materials, which are used intensively, with the proviso that due to the type of footwear one is using on the floor, the wear on the pools will be much less visible compared to other public areas that are walked on with much rougher footwear.

In order to enable preserving your decking floor for a longer period of time, you need to pay attention to the maintenance of the decking platform. Food stains, edible and/or motor oil can be successfully removed using water and detergent. The stain needs to be removed in time until it has penetrated into the decking mat. It’s also necessary to know that the use of aggressive chemicals, which can sometimes come through the precipitation, can leave permanent stains on the decking surface that are not otherwise covered by the warranty.

How do WPC floors react to external conditions?

Changes in temperature, humidity, the presence of water (beach bars, swimming pools, rain), a few months under snow, a high frequency of people, furniture with metal legs – all of this will certainly affect the appearance of your floor after a few years.

Choose decking according to the conditions of application, but also to your possibilities.

Decking is not a piece of furniture

Keep in mind that decking is still a floor that’s outside, put up with all the conditions we described earlier.

Is it realistic to expect it to look the same 10 years later?

If your plan is to place decking floor in a public area such as a path in a park or garden of a catering facility, it pays off more if you choose a premium decking class that is more expensive, but also longer lasting, more resistant and the one which comes with an extended warranty.

The choice of materials, production technologies and the quality of the connecting elements affect the price, but also the service life.

For private use, you can choose lower class decking because the intensity of use is several times lower.

However, rain, snow and UV radiation remain, and in these conditions the decking must meet the minimum quality so that it doesn’t become brittle and fragile after only one season of use.

Last but not least…

WPC decking floor installation method

The durability of the decking platform is in the first place in the quality of production, as well as high-quality decking. If it’s poorly installed, it won’t last for even a whole year.

Most complaints arise from inadequately mounted decking.

What exactly does this mean?

Firstly, inadequate preparation of the substructure. Inadequately or unprofessionally made substructure will sooner or later create problems. If the decking mat doesn’t stand on an ideally flat surface, it will start to bend over time, which is a sure way to cracking and mechanical damage.

In the process of installing the substructure, it is necessary to keep the distance between the profiles prescribed by the manufacturer and, most importantly, the dilation distance on the front composition of the mats.

The plastic and wood composite is an expanding material that expands under the influence of the Sun and elevated temperatures.

If the dilation gap is not left on all front assemblies during installation and the floor mats are not separated from all static objects (wall, parapet, staircase, etc.), undesirable defects will certainly occur.

Poor choice of screws and clips is a common cause of decking floor damage.

If the screws are inadequately protected and not intended for external use, corrision could soon occur, which causes the screws to crack and the floor mat to separate from the substructure.

If you decide to install your decking platform yourself, be sure to look for the installation instructions prescribed by the manufacturer, because each decking has its own tolerances that need to be respected in order for the platform to be in use for many years.

If you have a question related to WPC decking and you didn’t find the answer in this text, feel free to post it in the comments below.

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