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How About a Recycled Plastic Deck?

Yes, it isn't just for park benches anymore--recycled plastic jugs and other alternatives are now competing with wood as the deck-building materials of choice. Perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing as wood but attractive in their own right, synthetic decks are nonetheless easier to maintain than wooden decks, says The Washington Post.

All of this depends on how much you are willing to spend for materials, and how much you hate doing maintenance. What you save in labor from periodically cleaning and sealing a wooden deck might be offset by higher costs for synthetic materials. Recycled plastic, for example, typically costs more than twice as much as pressure-treated pine, the most common decking material. Made up of milk jugs and plastic detergent bottles that otherwise would have gone into the trash, recycled deck materials cater to the environmentally-conscious. Vinyl decking is more expensive than wood, too.

Heat and glare are two other possible downsides for plastic and vinyl. Choose a lighter color for your plastic deck that doesn't absorb heat as readily. No one needs a "hotfoot" in the summer, especially with children around. Avoid white vinyl decking, too, or you'll be squinting through the glare at your party guests all summer. Other colors are available.

But before you run out and buy pressure-treated pine, the cheapest material, think ahead to many years of scrubbing and sealing your deck. If you have any doubts about keeping on a 1 to 2-year maintenance schedule, consider a synthetic alternative. Without proper maintenance, wooden decking swells and shrinks with changes in temperature and moisture, which causes cracking, curling and cupping, especially in colder and wetter climates. The nails start popping out and slivers appear... ouch. In some parts of the country, algae starts building up and creates an ugly black or green patina on the wood.

Trex is a newer hybrid product at the lower end of the price scale, made in Winchester, VA. Constituted from 50% recycled plastic and 50% sawdust, it looks odd at first, but soon starts to take on the appearance of wood a couple of months after installation. It's maintenance free but also stains easily so you'll need watch spills and keep it clean.

You'll also need to consult with local building code officials before choosing a non-wood decking material. They will want reassurances that the product is structurally adequate. Remember that the support structure underneath will still be made of wood. And a final word of warning which applies to all future deck owners: carefully, cautiously and comprehensively assess your home's construction for solid anchor points to attach your deck. Recent deck collapses have raised concerns about deck safety.