Saturday, August 9

the Permapine decking dilemma

Folks , we have a dilemma. Now those of you who have read this blog waaay back will know that we are in the process of building a structure (fondly referred to around here as 'The Studio', although im not sure even what a 'stew-dio' really is ) in our garden which serves essentialy as the structural support of PV solar cells to power the house and all its modern sins. In the planning of this said 'stew-dio' we agreed to erect a substantial deck along its Northern facing side to enjoy more sunny space as the cafe doors fold back to allow deck and studio to become one flat floorspace. However, we never agreed as to what the decking would be made from. The time has now come to order materials to build the deck. Now here in Oz, in my experience the majority of decks are made from Permapine decking slats; a copper chrome arsenate (arsenic) treated pine which preserves the softwood making it weather resistant and repells termites. We both agreed NOT to use Permapine as we didnt want the boybean crawling around on that. Eco-pine addresses these issues somewhat as it is preserved using an organic azole co-biocide but its still a softwood and isnt as longwearing as hardwoods or composites. SHE (me) however had ideas about using another nice looking hardwood. BUT these are usually Merbau or Batu both of which are rainforest timbers. Non rainforest Merbau and Batu and other Australian hardwoods grown under the umbrealla of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Chain of Custody (COC) system, a system which connects responsible and equitable forest management practices, are available but its hard to find in a decking cut and is very expensive. Modwood, a composite recycled wooden decking is another alternative as is CleverDeck by Futurewood which is made from recycled plastics; recycled HDPE (old milk bottles and other post consumer plastic waste) and discarded rice husks or hulls and claims to be one of the most environmentally friendly decking options available. This is my husbands favoured choice of material. The biggest problem is, im a bit of a wood snob. Made-to-look-likes have to be designed really well and incorporate innovative building design to pull them off. Small scale building using plastic decking is not my idea of aesthetic living and i dont know how it would blend with the main house- you can see from the pic in my header that its a pretty organic building made from 100% reclaimed timbers and introducing plastic may be a tad weird. At $140 per square metre (we need 20 square metres) for Modwood composite decking and $90 psm for the Cleverdeck, the same price as rainforest hardwood like Merbau, there is no cost saving to using recycled, so you buy for the principle alone. I really like the idea of using a recycled waste material, what else are we going to do with all that plastic we have created? but Im not keen on the aesthetic. However, I may have to just bite the bullet and be an enviro-vanguard, join the trend in plastic decks, help create the new norm.


The Mad Ranting Xntrek said...

OK, admittedly, this comment is a bit late - but, I thought I'd drop my 2 cents worth.

I'm going through the same pain, and have come to a few conclusions - thought I'd share here for you and future readers in case it helps them.

As you said, the two composite options are both good -

clever deck as a complete re-cycled materials option, which while very enviro friendly, looks nothing like wood. Period. But the green points is worthwhile.

Modwood utilises reclaimed sawdust to make their composite - thus lending a more natural wood look and feel - but there is that 'is that fake?' look to it as the woodgrain isn't really there.

So, if you plan to be enviro friendly you have to choose one of those two or - if you plan on going wood - there's only three options left to you:

1. Re-claimed decking from house renovations/tear downs. There's a few places around that stock cleaned up (de-nailed, and stripped) decking and even uncleaned for 30% less if you don't mind doing that labour yourself.

2. Bamboo decking - specifically, try and get "knotted" bamboo slats as it looks most like wood. It's as strong as ironwood, can be pre-tinted to your preferred colour, is sustainable and as cheap as most softwoods.

3. Bite the bullet and buy eco wood - it's certified, renewable, actually is hardwood, but costs a pretty penny.

In the end, I'm leaning towards the cleverdeck for my backyard area - it has a nice antislip feature I like, and is reasonably priced (I have 85sqm to fill in!) but for the front door path and steps I am leaning towards the modwood as it looks (that tad bit) more natural.

My choices are based on a few things:
1. I am both time poor and lazy - anything that reduces my workload is a winner - composites get points here
2. Eco* - I've always been a bit of a greenie, but have made promises to myself in the last few years that I would, where given the option, always choose the eco-friendly option. This has mean't occasionally sacrificing aesthetics and cost - but rarely function.
3. Area - I have a huge amount of space to cover - and cost does come into it - so am willing to sacrifice some aesthetics for cost

At the end of the day, put your money where you would like to see the market going - placing money away from rainforest timbers is the best way to stop having those industries continue - no one keeps a non profitable business going.

Yeswanth said...

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