3 deck substructure frame material options to consider...
Ok, so how does bamboo decking stack up against composite decking? We wanted to provide a brief summary for you, and thought a fair comparison of the alternative decking materials is to consider the following:
• Resistance to moisture absorption
• Maintenance required
• Ease of installation
• Environmentally friendliness
A good composite will absorb very little moisture. Bamboo absorbs similar amounts of moisture to timber.
A good quality composite will require periodic cleaning, like with anything sitting outside for long periods of time. However, Bamboo decking requires repetitive oiling or staining according to most manufacturers instructions. The smooth service on most bamboo decking makes it very slippery when there is any build up of mold and mildew.
EASE OF INSTALLATION
A good quality composite will use a concealed fastener system, effectively reducing installation time to a fraction of what traditional decking takes. Bamboo on the other hand still requires traditional installation techniques. Some people have tried using concealed fasteners with bamboo that are either hammered into the side of the board or require pre-drilling. Neither of those options has proven to be effective in providing an installation method that stands the test of time.
A quality composite will cost approximately the same as a bamboo decking for materials. Well designed composite decking materials are installed in a fraction of the time bamboo takes and requires a fraction of the maintenance over its lifetime. For a more detailed cost comparison click here.
There is definitely greenwashing apparent in the composite decking industry, with some composites being made of PVC or virgin plastic but being marketed as green products. Therefore, you must choose your composite brand carefully.
An environmentally friendly composite will consist of recycled plastic and reclaimed wood fibre with very little processing required to get it into its useable form. Bamboo is frequently marketed as a green material, however there's a couple of points to consider. VOC content (formaldehyde and other chemicals) tends to vary among manufacturers and can be a major concern for those with allergies and respiratory problems. The elaborate processing required to manufacture bamboo decking uses unfriendly chemicals and a lot of power, making its sustainability claims questionable. It may be "greenish", but is not really green.
BACKGROUND ON BAMBOO DECKING
Bamboo decking is made of a strand of weaved bamboo materials which are cut, pulverized into strips, boiled in boric acid (to remove sugars and repel insects), bleached, carbonized, and dried for preservation. Then the strips are assembled, adhered together with formaldehyde glues/resins under 1,200 tons PSI of pressure. It depends on its bonding resin for much of its resistance to deterioration. It is then put in a mold and baked to make it a solid piece. The bamboo is then milled using a laser guided machine before its curing phase.
By gluing the Bamboo in laminates, depending on the orientation of the laminations, it can be more prone to peeling, cupping and curling. Prior to installation, it should be kept dry and avoid water to avoid swelling and twisting.
Unlike composite decking, bamboo decking hasn't been manufactured for that long, so it has very little standards. Below is an example of bamboo decking that has failed less than 18 months after installation. The photos are of one deck out of three.
There is obvious degradation in teh boards, delaminating, swelling (especially at the ends of the boards). The prefinished surface finish has deteriorated badly and moisture has made the boards implode. According to the owner, the deck is in very good condition compared to what it was like in winter. The white things in between the boards are actually dried up mushrooms that were growing during winter. This deck is being ripped up and replaced with ECO-DECKING.