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How Much Does Composite Decking Expand

Posted under Composite Decking Expand by admin on Wednesday 8 June 2016 at 5:23 am

Thinking about installing a deck or replacing the old one? Then composite decking is one of the options on the market. Composite has become a top choice material for most homeowners when installing decks. The aesthetic value and low maintenance are among the two biggest motivators. There are aspects of working with composite decking that every homeowner should learn about before they can start installations. One of that is the expansion of composite.

Expansion Ability

Wood plastic composite is one of the most popular choices that homeowners go with. The material composition in this is subject to expansion during high-temperature periods. Recycled plastic is, especially susceptible to temperature fluctuations. Knowing about this is vital because it will impact on a few aspects of the installation. The rate of expansion of composite decking will depend on different variables, and here is a look at some of them.

What Affect Expansion Rates

Where you live will determine how much expansion a composite decking will have to endure. If you stay in a place where temperatures get very high, then that means more expansion. When getting composite decking, consider how hot it gets in the summer. Manufacturers usually provide information regarding the expected expansion rate with certain temperature fluctuations. Check these rates and factor them in during installation.

It will matter where the deck installation is located outside a home. Some areas face the sun directly, and that means high temperatures. For instance, if you are installing the deck on your second-floor bedroom balcony, then that may expose it to a lot of sunlight. A deck that will be in a shade say the backyard, may not suffer the same treatment. Figure out how much sun the deck will be exposed to in a particular location to see how much it will expand.

The length of the board will also determine how much it expands. Shorter boards tend to expand at a slower rate than longer ones. When cutting and laying out the deck, consider the length that will suit the layout but still offer minimal expansion. It is paramount to recognise that boards will expand more along their lengths than their widths.

Some composite materials have a wood fibre component, and that too will dictate how much it expands. Wood absorbs and retains water, causing it to swell, so its presence in composite decking will influence expansion. In most cases, the effect is minimal and will differ from one manufacturer to another.

Countering Expansion

Expansion of composite decking can damage the deck. For one, boards that expand too much can buckle and start to crack. Boards may also come loose, which can be dangerous. There are some control measures that manufacturers offer to prevent some of these from happening. One of that is spacing. When laying down the boards, ensure that there is space left between the lengths of the boards. This space allows boards to expand in hot temperatures without pushing the wall. There are recommendations on spacing requirements between adjacent boards.

Another countermeasure for composite expansion is to store the boards where the deck will be. Doing this will let the boards acclimatise to the temperature of that location. The cutting should also be in that area. It’s important to find the right time to do the cutting, though. If you cut boards when it’s too cold, like say early in the morning, the boards will have contracted, and that will mess with the measurement. The same goes for cutting when it’s too hot.

The tightening of the boards is another essential element. How the screws are positioned will influence the appearance of the boards when they expand. Manufacturers provide instructions on the best angles to use when fastening composite decking. Leaving space underneath a deck area is another way to reduce the expansion of a composite deck. With sufficient ventilation, heat build-up will be minimal.
Factoring in thermal expansion of composite decking is one of the best practices when installing one.

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