Synthetic Plastic Decking

What makes plastic decking different from composite?

Plastic decking in herring bone and picture frame layout

More often then not you will hear the term "synthetic" used which is really just a euphemism for plastic. This deck above is plastic, PVC with a tropical grain pattern and it looks very nice.

No one, particularly manufacturers, wants to toss around the word plastic because it can evoke some negative sentiments in homeowners. But not to worry.

Plastic deck boards have come a long way!

So I am going to quickly explain the two main types of plastic used in this kind of decking. I will also give you quick comparison of the advantages and disadvantages.

What Kind Of Plastic Are They Using?


Poly Vinyl Chloride is the higher quality material that is used in the better decking boards of this category. Some of the most popular brands you may hear of are the Trex Escapes line and the Azek Deck products.

But there are other manufacturers who have been around for a while and have a good track record with PVC decking.


A deck board that contains only polyethylene is not common because it is too soft and flexible.

You may recall many years ago some of the very first recycled plastic boards sometimes used in benches. The bench seats tended to sag even between 16" centered joists.

Polyethylene is almost always used as the base for composite materials with would have wood fiber and other chemicals to stiffen and harden it enough to span 16" joists.


PVC is the best plastic decking to be using.

It can have embossed grain patterns and is known to perform well outdoors.

Polyethylene on the other hand is much softer and would not be good as the sole ingredient in a board. However many plastics articles are made of polyehtylene and are the principle source of recycled materials for use composite decking.

This allows for a great second life of many otherwise wasted plastic items.


Opponents of PVC say it looks too shiny and unnatural.

So while you get a great strong, durable, stain resistant board you lose the look of wood.

Polyethylene on its own is far to flexible and soft to be used as a deck board. Nor does it look like wood.

Both materials shrink and expand in hot or cold temperatures including lengthwise. Be absolutely sure to provide adequate spacing between ends of long lengths of boards.

Ready To Commit To Synthetic Materials?

Plastic, particularly PVC is a proven performer as a decking material. It will provide you years of low maintenance enjoyment. But if you are still in the research stage check out these other articles.

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