Dating back to the 1980s, composites of wood and thermoset or thermoplastic are hardly a contemporary invention. However, such composites only entered wide use in the 1990s with the development of solid wood plastic composites (WPC) comprising approximately 50% wood fibre in polyethylene. Widely regarded as a major milestone in material innovation, WPC was quickly adopted for diverse use as deck boards, landscape timbers, industrial flooring, and picnic tables, in addition to being milled into window and door component profiles.
In the years since its introduction into the market, technological advances have allowed for the emergence of three clear “generations” of WPC products.
- The first generation of WPC combined wood waste and binders and offered limited strength and mechanical properties.
- The second generation combined wood waste and polyethylene to deliver enhanced mechanical properties, high dimensional stability, and a high degree of machinability.
- The current, third generation of WPC products are innovative co-extruded materials that combine a second-generation core with a polymer based bonded coating. The result is a material with high durability, versatility, and strength.
Today, the largest and fastest growing market for WPC is decking. Below, we explore the key factors driving this market growth.
WPC products combine the best properties of wood and plastic to deliver outstanding strength and resistance. Unlike timber, which requires periodic treatment to ensure optimum performance, WPC is inherently protected from rotting, splitting, and splintering without further treatment. WPC is also resistant to fading and UV damage, two vital characteristics for material in use in outdoor environments such as decks and patios.
Additionally, WPC requires very low maintenance beyond periodic cleaning, allowing for substantial cost and time savings in comparison with natural timber.
As WPC is comprised of wood waste and recycled plastic, no deforestation is involved in the manufacturing process. This makes it a sustainable alternative to timber, whose production places demand on already scarce plantation forests. Furthermore, the use of recycled plastic products is significant in addressing waste management issues and encouraging industry best practice with regard to sustainable material use.
One of the major drawbacks of designing with timber is the fact that colour and species selections are entirely dependent on the availability from plantation forests. WPC, on the other hand, is available in a variety of colours, textures, and different price points year-round, and does not depend on external factors such as plantation yield and quality. As such, it offers remarkable design flexibility in addition to a stunning natural look, often for a fraction of the price of natural timber.
WPC also allows for unrivalled ease of matching vertical screening, horizontal decorative laths, and decorative elements, thanks to a high degree of material uniformity that cannot be matched by timber.
WPC eliminates the complicated fixings associated with timber deckling, allowing for a streamlined installation process and significantly reducing installation labour and cost requirements. Where timber decking is typically fixed using screws – resulting in the potentially hazardous exposure of screw heads on the deck surface – WPC decking is easily installed using hidden fasteners that clip into side grooves in the board.
Decker Wood Plastic Composites
WPC products from Decker offer an economically and environmentally sound solution to natural timber decks and screens. Available in a wide range of designer colours that do not bleed tannins, Decker WPC products offer outstanding design flexibility in conjunction with reduced installation costs and maintenance requirements. The Decker range requires no oiling or painting to maintain optimum performance, and will not rot, split, warp, or splinter with age or exposure. This high degree of durability enhances the already high sustainability value of WPC, in that it ensures an extended product lifespan with minimal – if any – replacement or repair requirements. For enhanced UV protection to eliminate fading and staining, choose the Decker Protect range.
Learn more about Decker’s diverse range of wood plastic composites at https://www.decker.com.au/.