The "Coolest" Decking Product: Temperature Test

Is there a decking product that can beat the summer heat and not burn your feet?

This week Ben Roberts was joined by Michael Rowland, a product expert at Gaiennie Lumber, and we talked about heat; specifically, heat as it pertains to your deck. We have four different decking products that we tested. We have Ipe, Cedar, TimberTech, and Azek and all four were affected by heat in different ways.

There are a lot of other factors that go into purchasing a deck and choosing what products to use but this is strictly about temperature and heat absorption.

BR: Michael, tell us a little about yourself and your background.

MR: I'm a product manager for Gaiennie Lumber Company so there's a portfolio of products I manage the relationship with our manufacturers on. Amongst those mentioned, TimberTech and Azek.

BR: So let's talk about the wood products first, how are Cedar and Ipe going to be affected by the sun and the heat in the summertime?

MR: Primarily you want to look at the cellular structure of the woods. So the denser the wood is, like Ipe, the longer it is going to take to heat up but the higher the temperature will reach. When you look at something like cedar it's going to have an open cell structure which is going to allow heat to get in there quicker. It will heat up quicker but it will also cool down quicker, so it's not going to reach as high of a temperature as a denser species like Ipe.

BR: So now let's talk about the composite. We chose TimberTech but all of these composites tend to function in the same way. How is that composite going to compare to the wood fibers?

MR: So all of the composites will be a composition of a wood species as well as high-density polyethylene. It's approximately 50% wood to plastic ratio. Because of the polyethylene, the board will get significantly hotter but will also hold that warmth for a longer period of time. So even after sundown, your composite deck will hold that warmth for a couple of hours.

BR: So how does that differ from PVC products like Azek?

MR: Most PVC decking is 100% PVC meaning there are no wood products in them. Polyvinyl looks like a bunch of microscopic ping pong balls so the air in there will help cool the boards while at the same time the polyvinyl prevents heat from being absorbed into the core. So the surface temperature of the board may be higher but it will cool down a lot quicker and take a while to heat back up. PVC is a little hotter than your wood decking but significantly cooler than your composites.

BR: So if you were comparing the four of these decking products next to each other under a heat lamp or in the middle of summer under the sun you may feel that the Azek is the hotter of the three but as soon as a shadow comes over it will immediately cool while the others could take minutes or hours to cool.

MR: Well the Azek should be cooler even to the touch under the same circumstances compared to a composite but absolutely the temperature will dissipate far quicker with a PVC.

BR: It's important to note that if its 100 degrees and you're in Texas like we are there all going to be hot. There's none that are going to escape the heat but in terms of which is going to stay hotter longer, and which ones gonna get hotter faster, that's what we're looking at with these. So another area I want to talk about is color. A lot of people wonder if darker colors are actually going to get hotter than lighter colors?

MR: As far as the synthetic deckings are concerned the color has more of an effect on composites. So when it's absorbing the heat the darker colors will absorb more heat than the lighter colors. And there's less of a difference with a polyvinyl again because it's not being truly absorbed. While there is a difference in the top out temperature with your darker color PVC products relative to the lighter colors, the difference is not as noticeable as it is with the composites.

BR: So there you have it. If you want the coolest decking product you probably want to go with a light color Azek.


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