Picture the scene: You’ve just completed construction on your new deck. The contractors have cleaned up and gone for the day, and you’re standing in the backyard with your family, admiring the new addition to your home and fantasizing about just how much value it’ll add to your home. Finally, you turn away, satisfied.
Suddenly, you hear a terribly ghastly noise, as though several buzzsaws had been activated at once, and then silenced.
You spin around. Your new deck is gone. In its place are a few termites, lingering after their meal and picking their mandibles with splinters of hardwood.
Okay, so the turn up of termites might not be quite so emotional. But they are a danger to any decking project, as decks sit outdoors, unprotected, right in termites’ natural habitat – and in the natural habitat of any other six-legged pest that may hunger for a meal of fresh lumber.
Sure, you could call the exterminator in, or buy the most toxic pesticide you can find without alerting Homeland Security. But that’ll become a never-ending course of action, and nobody wants to eat barbecue over decking that smells like phenothiazine.
The best way to keep termites and other pests out of decks is to build with material that the bugs won’t find appetizing. Most often, this will be composite wood decking.
Composite wood decking combines the rustic beauty of wood with the practicality and durability of synthetic materials. It’s so named because it’s a wood-derived decking product – a combination of wood and plastic that’s manufactured instead of harvested like timber. Usually made from the same hardwoods and softwoods used to make standard lumber, composite decking combines sawmill scraps, sawdust and other wood waste with plastic binding material. As a consequence, it can intended to meet application-specific requirements. Decking is only one use of composite wood products; they can also be used for housing and other types of construction.
But you’re wondering: How can composite decking keep termites away if it’s made from wood? Termites eat wood, don’t they?
Well, yes, but it’s important to know why. Termites eat wood because it contains cellulose, a polysaccharide found in most plants. But cellulose is hard to course of action – to properly digest wooden decking material, termites rely on a complicate symbiotic relationship with a series of microbes that live in their intestines – called Trychonympha, for those taking notes.
Termites know better than to eat composite wood decking materials, because they can sense that it’s got a substantial amount of plastic in it. If a termite did decide to try to develop a taste for composites, the Trychonympha, faced with a substance already harder to digest than cellulose, would go on strike, and the termite would probably starve to death.
But termites aren’t stupid. When they come across decks made from composites, they move on.
Woodlice are also something of a danger. Though not nearly as destructive as termites, woodlice get their name from where they live – in decaying wood and plant matter. Because they breathe by gills, woodlice are truly dependent on moisture for survival, which is why they tend to crowd in places where there’s lots of decaying organic matter. But they also eat wood as it decomposes – which can be bad news for anyone with an untreated wood deck.
But composite decking doesn’t need to be treated, and its marriage to synthetic polymers method it won’t decay nearly as quickly as wood – making it unpalatable to woodlice in addition.
Unquestionably, using composite decking is the easiest and most certain way to prevent insect infestation in your new deck. Termites, woodlice and just about any other wood-eating bugs find it completely unpalatable – so until character evolves a super-bug that feeds on plastic, or a mad scientist creates on in a far away mountaintop laboratory, composite decking is the way to go.