The debate of natural wood decking vs. composite materials is a minefield. And unfortunately, that field is littered with scraps of rotting lumber, as well as pieces of molding, discolored and rotting composites. • There are positives and negatives in each. We all know how brutal the elements can be on wood, particularly in Florida. But some composite decking is made from recycled plastic and wood product (including recycled pallets), and the wood sometimes is not appropriate for outdoor applications, also leading to expansion, rotting, etc. • According to research, certain woods can be expected to last up to 40 years as decking, if properly treated and finished on all surfaces, and although composite may be touted as "maintenance free," some maintenance may be required to keep the finish from becoming powdery or fading. The actual composition of the composite decking can make a huge difference in its performance, and decking made from virgin materials and containing a preservative may perform the best. (Suddenly, it sounds a little less green!) • There are better-looking composites available, with woodlike finishes and colors that do make for a nice finished product. Get advice from your supplier, but also do your own research. Chip Vogel
Chip Vogel is a licensed interior designer with Interior Spaces Inc. He can be reached at (813) 251-8862 or on his website, intspacesinc.com.