Synthetic Decks

7/5/2008 Abbott Fleur put in his deck six years ago. The wood looks nice, but that's because he just re-stained it. "I think it's going to last a couple of years, and then I'll have to do another coat," says Fleur.

Consumer Reports tested 17 different types of synthetic decking, which do not need staining. They cost two to three times the price of pressure-treated wood.

These planks have been out on this deck behind Consumer Reports' New York headquarters for almost two years. Other boards were left out for a year in Arizona and Florida. Bernie Deitrick says not all are in good shape. "This is the original. It faded quite a bit in Arizona. And in Florida there was a lot of mildew growth."

Removing that mildew will take some work. Other drawbacks ? Over time some of the synthetic boards can sag. That can be a problem, even when the supports are close together.

This older synthetic decking has been on the test deck for five years. Some of it doesn't look very good. This one actually disintegrated and has been recalled. But Consumer Reports finds some of today's synthetic decking wears well and requires far less maintenance than wood.

Among plastic decking, Consumer Reports says eon classic is a good choice. It comes in a variety of colors. And if you prefer the look of a composite, which is plastic mixed with wood fibers, Consumer Reports top-rated Symmatrix. It is especially good at resisting mildew.

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