If you’re in the process of planning a new deck-build for your home, you may feel inundated with options and choices for designs and materials. If you are considering composite decking, one of your concerns may be: does composite decking get hot?
While older variations of the material could heat up significantly, newer renditions of composite decking will not get hotter than traditional wood. On average, the surface of composite decking can become 35° – 76° F hotter than the surrounding air. However, natural timber decking will hold onto that same heat for longer than the composite boards.
In this article, we will explore different composite decking options and the resulting average heat absorption for each brand.
- What is Composite Decking?
- Does Composite Decking Get Hot?
- Why Can Decking Become Too Hot to Walk On?
- How Hot Do Composite Decks Get
- Does Trex Decking Get Hot?
- Does Composite Decking Get Hotter Than Wood?
- How To Keep Composite Decking Cool in the Summer
- Best Composite Decking for Full Sun
- Best Heat Resistant Composite Decking
What is Composite Decking?
Many are familiar with traditional wood decking, but there is another option on the market: composite decking. Composite wood decking is made of wood fibers and byproducts encased in plastic. The materials are often reused leftovers from other building materials, and therefore this decking is more environmentally friendly than milled wood or timber decking.
Traditional wood decks can become too hot to traverse. They also run the added risk of splintering, cracking, or shrinking! The composite decking material is slip-resistant, weather-resistant, and stain-resistant. Composite decks are less maintenance than wood and more durable. They can hold up against the elements and rotting that affects natural timber.
Does Composite Decking Get Hot?
Like anything else sitting in the sun for hours on end, composite decking will absorb heat and become warm, if not hot, to the touch. Many factors will affect just how much heat your composite deck will give off.
The material that the composite board is made from will play a role in how much heat the board can retain, and thus, transfer to your bare feet! The color of the boards themselves will also affect the amount of sun-absorption your decking will undergo. Under the deck, ventilation can cool the decking, while improper ventilation can cause a humid and muggy atmosphere. Shade both natural and artificial, vegetation, and even the incorporation of fans in your outdoor living space can affect how hot your composite deck will get.
Why Can Decking Become Too Hot to Walk On?
If we strip this question down to the basics of science, heat, and reflection, the more exposed to the sun your deck is, the hotter it can get. Decks are flat, so they will reflect the sun’s rays more than the earth and grass in your yard. Therefore, decking in the sun, no matter the material, will be much warmer than your yard surrounding it.
Depending on the material that the composite decking is made from will vary the amount of heat resistance the boards will have. Each company and brand will have a different makeup for the man-made composite boards, and thus each will be suited to different decking applications. A high-quality composite board will be made of good-quality wood fibers and high-density polymers (plastics).
Natural softwoods swell with moisture, rot, splinter, and crack. The moisture-filled timber can reach higher temperatures since water can get hotter and hold onto that heat much longer than other materials like wood or sand. Hardwoods or treated woods will weather the elements much more effectively. This same principle can be applied to composite wood boards. Depending on what type of timber fibers make up the core of the composite or what grade of plastics are being used, it will affect the decking’s quality, longevity, and heat-resistance.
Composite decking made with cheap polymers will not be UV stable, and thus sunlight will erode the bonds of the plastic, causing the boards to become discolored and brittle. Always opt for composite boards made with high-quality hardwoods and high-density polyethylene (HDPE instead of PVC).
No matter their material, darker colors will absorb the sun’s rays and retain that heat. If your decking is black, charcoal, or navy, you will notice it has the potential to get much warmer than white or beige decking.
If no ventilation is installed below your deck, there is nowhere for the excess heat to go but into your bare feet! Creating air flow and circulation is important to ensure your decking can cool down and stay that way!
How Hot Do Composite Decks Get
The lower range of temperatures is from lighter color samples, while the higher temperatures are from darker colored samples.
|Fahrenheit (°F)||Celsius (°C)|
|Trex||135°F – 147°F||58°C – 64°C|
|Fiberon||135°F – 151°F||58°C – 67°C|
|TimberTech AZEK||136°F – 140°F||58°C – 60°C|
|DuraLife||114°F – 125°F||46°C – 52°C|
Does Trex Decking Get Hot?
Like any other outdoor surface exposed to sunlight and heat, Trex composite decking can become hot. When a flat surface is exposed to sunlight from any period of time to a prolonged period of time, it will reflect the sun’s rays creating a warmer atmosphere than a grassy expanse. Trex decking is a composite material made of a wood fiber core surrounded by plastics. Each material will absorb and then transfer residual heat to your bare feet when you walk upon them.
Trex composite decking can reach temperatures over 35°F than the surrounding air. So on a warm and blustery 80°F day, the surface temperature of Trex decking can climb well above 115°F. That is sure to burn your feet!
You can take steps to mitigate scorching composite boards and burned bare feet. Consider opting for decking in lighter shades, so they will not absorb as much heat as darker boards. Utilizing natural and artificial shade to cool your outdoor space, installing fans to circulate and cool the air, and implementing proper ventilation beneath the composite boards will all contribute to creating a cooler deck.
Does Composite Decking Get Hotter Than Wood?
Natural wood timber and man-made composite decking transfer heat differently since the materials are different. Natural wood can collect and store more heat at its core than composite decking, where the heat is stored on the plastic surface.
Composite decking transfers heat much quicker than natural wood, so you will immediately feel that heat on your foot once you make contact with the decking. Your foot will absorb that heat, and the decking itself will become cooler underfoot.
Natural wood decking retains heat at its core and transfers that heat to your feet much slower than the initial shock of composite decking. It also stores much more heat, so it will continue to transfer that heat into your feet!
In essence, natural wood decking can feel much hotter than composite decking. If you’re standing on a hot wood deck, once you notice your feet are burning, they will continue to burn! If you’re standing on a hot composite deck, you may be shocked by the initial heat, but the boards will become noticeably cooler underfoot!
How To Keep Composite Decking Cool in the Summer
Since composite decking is a man-made material, many companies have their special technology to create the best product. With so much potential for variance based on the wood and fiber by-products at the core of the board and then a plastic material to coat it, each company and brand can offer something different! There will be materials that are better suited for heat resistance.
The lighter the hue of your composite boards, the less heat they will absorb. The darker the color you choose, the hotter the decking will feel in direct sunlight! Each brand or company that makes composite decking will recommend which specific colors will resist the heat the most. Across all companies, lighter shades are recommended for those in hotter climates.
All decking will benefit from adequate ventilation underneath. The decking will create shade underneath the deck, which will result in cooler air, paired with proximity to cold earth, which will help cool the boards. You can lay down a heat-absorbing ground cover material under the deck for extra insurance.
If you have lattice or any other material with holes and gaps that air can push and circulate through on the siding on your deck, this will increase airflow and act almost as a natural air conditioner underneath the floorboards of your decking! Hot air surrounding the deck from the summer heat will push cooler air underneath your deck through these ventilation gaps, and that cooler air will then be forced upwards through the gaps in the decking boards.
Overall, ventilation will help maintain cooler temperatures for your decking!
Creating shade to keep your composite decking from being blasted with hot direct sunlight will work wonders to keep your bare feet cool!
Shade can be created through natural or artificial means. You may opt to set up canopies or awnings over your deck. Hanging colored fabrics can add style or flair to the outdoor living area while also providing a means of shade. There are many different sized outdoor umbrellas for purchase. Gazebos and pergolas are also incredible shade-makers.
Utilize furniture as another way to create shade and cool down your deck! Patio seating, tables, couches, chairs, floor-coverings like outdoor rugs will all contribute to protecting the composite deck boards from direct sunlight.
Many different types of furniture are created specifically for outdoor use. Within that vein, there are specific types of outdoor furniture created with the intent of staying cool and absorbing as little heat as possible! Opting for these heat-resistant materials and furniture can transform your relationship with your outdoor living space during the days of continuous sun and heat.
Plants and vegetation are proven to lower the temperature around them by creating shade and through a process called evapotranspiration. This means there is water in the air from the process of evaporation from the soil and the plants themselves. Even this method of humidifying the air will have cooling effects in the area surrounding vegetation.
Planting trees and tall shrubs in the areas surrounding your deck, and utilizing large pots, planters, or groupings of pots, will help create this cooling effect in the area!
Forcing air circulation and whisking the hot air away from the radiating heat of the composite decking with overhead or standalone fans will significantly cool the boards. There is even the option to splurge on a misting fan that is sure to make even the hottest days enjoyable.
It is important to note that you do not have to implement every single one of these cautionary measures to achieve a walk-able composite deck. Assess your space, plan, and design, and then choose what is most important to you! From there, pick and choose which cautionary measures you can put into place to make your composite deck a cool outdoor oasis!
If you are in love with a darker color of the board, then create some shade with large plants, furniture, and canopies! If you know your deck will be in full sun all day, then take measures to control some variables, like material and ventilation, but do not stress about ensuring you have covered every cautionary measure available.
Best Composite Decking for Full Sun
For full sun, your best option is to go with the lightest shades available from whichever brand of composite decking you opt to use. Any flat surface will get hot under direct sunlight, but you can implement different solutions to mitigate the heat retention of your decking.
If you are dealing with decking in a location that gets blasted with sunlight all day long, opt for the MoistureShield brand of decking. On average, it stays cooler than other brands, especially if you choose a lighter shade of board. Their composite boards utilize CoolDeck® Technology to help reduce heat absorption by up to 35%. MoistureShield composite decking is also proven to resist fading from sun exposure, which will ensure you can enjoy your sunny deck for many years to come.
Best Heat Resistant Composite Decking
DuraLife composite boards are made with a hard plastic, polypropylene, which conducts less heat than the polyethylene (PVC) plastic that competitors use. Of the many options that DuraLife offers, their Landscape and Hardwoods series, especially in the lighter color options, stay the coolest.
TimberTech highlights every product they offer that is specially designed to stay cooler. From specific colors to different technologies, TimberTech clearly states which composite decking is best for your project and climate. TimberTech decking is made with a PVC core instead of the popular fiber-core, so it automatically retains less heat.
I hope you gained some insight into the option of composite decking over traditional natural wood decking! Overall, composite decks will stay cooler than natural timber, provide weather and slip resistance, and provide even more longevity for your outdoor living space.
If you need inspiration for design or how-tos, check out my other posts relating to deck construction. If you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends and family. Let us know what brands of composite decking are your favorite and why in the comments below!