Is One Deck Board Going to Be Cooler Than Another?

 

Is one composite deck board cooler than another?

Is one composite deck board cooler than another?

This question comes up frequently on the DeckAdvisor.com blog so I thought it would make sense to address the issue as a separate topic. My own clients ask me if one deck board is going to be cooler than another quite a bit, too.

No independent lab or authority does temperate testing that compares Brand X board versus Brand Y board to determine the heat they absorb under normal summer sunlight so unfortunately, there is no quantitative scientific data to fall back on. I may try to do some testing myself on the major brands and publish the results in Professional Deck Builder magazine in the future–we shall see.

First, let’s set a reasonable expectation for what dictates “too hot to walk on” with bare feet. I don’t know what the answer is but I can tell you that a toddler is probably going to have a lower tolerance than a 35 year old who walks on the beach frequently. Personally, I have walked on many surfaces with bare feet that were uncomfortable from sand, to wood, to concrete because it was just plain hot outside! People seem to forget that when it’s 105 degrees at 2PM and the sun is blasting, it’s not really a pleasant time to be outside–regardless of what you are walking or sitting on. A modern man made deck surface seems to be held to a higher standard than other products for some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on.

A deck’s surface temperature is a factor of the heat the deck boards absorb and retain. Much of this absorption is relative to the board’s color. A dark color will absorb more than a light color–it’s physics. For example, under the same conditions, Trex Vintage Lantern (perhaps the darkest deck board color going) is going to feel hotter under foot than Trex Rope Swing (a tan, sand color). This is not to say Rope Swing will be cool to the touch, but comparatively, it will be cooler than Vintage Lantern. Heck, if you painted a plain old pressure treated deck board the same color as Vintage Lantern, I bet it would be pretty darn hot too!

No man made deck boards are designed from the ground up to be remain cool in the heat. It’s just not something that the manufacturer’s focus on at this point.

So…the definitive is answer I can give you is this:

When the sun is blasting your deck (or patio, or driveway, or lawn) it’s probably going to be hot and not pleasant. Lighter colors are usually a little cooler than darker colors.

 

 

 

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About Greg DiBernardo
Greg DiBernardo is the owner of Peachtree Decks and Porches in Alpharetta, GA and specializes in custom deck building, porch construction and complete backyard renovations. His expertise has been recognized by key manufacturers in the deck industry who call on him to develop, refine and evaluate new deck related products. He's a regular contributor to Professional Deck Builder, The Journal of Light Construction, and Tools of the Trade magazines. Greg has also been featured on television, most notably on the DIY Network.

6 Responses to Is One Deck Board Going to Be Cooler Than Another?

  1. Robert Marston says:

    We have an existing pressure treated wood deck. It is exposed to full sun all day. It is at least 10 years old, possibly 15. We have pressure washed and applied Thompsons water protector 3 times in 9 years. We are considering replacing the railing with some sort of lower maintenance composite or PVC or vinyl type. Can we use the 2 types together keeping our deck floor as is and just replace the railing and a few non deck supporting posts? We live in southern Indiana 20 miles north of Louisville Ky.

    • Hi Robert,

      While it is not that common in my area to do a railing replacement only (most people bite the bullet and replace the decking as well), you certainly can just do the railings. In fact, we are going to be replacing an all PT deck with vinyl rails (Wolf) and new PT decking in a few weeks for a client. The deck is in bad shape, they are looking to sell in a few years and didn’t want to sink too much money into the house but had to do something.

      Realistically, maintaining wood railings is the most difficult part of wood deck maintenance, so if you can only do one thing, replacing the rails makes sense.

  2. Randy Ford says:

    Greg – aim having my Timberteck XLM deck replaced under warranty due to chalking. I am replacing with Earthwoods Evolutions. I suspect that XLM has issues with UV rays. Anyway, do I need to leave a gap between butt joints. I was thinking the Evolutions may be less prone to expansion and contraction. What is your recomendation?

    • We have replaced just about 90% of the XLM decks we built in the past under warranty with TimberTech. I have been recommending that clients switch to the Earthwood Evolutions to get away from the issues that PVC presents.

      As far as gapping goes, you will need to gap it according to TimberTech’s specs. IIRC, it’s about the same if not the same gapping specs.

      • Randy Ford says:

        Thanks Greg – we will be useing Timberteck Earthwoods Evolutions. This is my second time replacing XLM.

      • Randy Ford says:

        Greg, should the cut ends be painted with end coating? Although hidden by picture framing it would seem as though the lighter color would show a little due to gap spacing. Thoughts?

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