Green Decks Checklist:
- How much fossil fuel does it take to create the “Green Decking”?
- Is the cost of fuel to deliver the deck product factored in?
- How much electricity does the production plant use– what method to produce?
- Are the chemicals and materials that go into the decking dangerous to humans
- Do the byproducts of the production of the decking products have to be disposed of in a landfill?
- Is the product made of recycled materials, what percentage?
- Is CO2 a factor–does it matter?
- What noxious chemicals are in the preservative (if used)
Sustainable Decking Products
While it is true that clearcutting old-growth timber is not environmentally responsible, but, what exactly is a Sustainable decking product?
Trex creates their decking from redirected recycled plastic and pulp from sawmills. Nowadays though, they have a vinyl cap (not recycled), so that it will hold its color better and resist scratching.
A wood deck with inspected materials from a lumber yard locally might be construed as Green– since the wood is mostly farmed somewhere. The trouble is, since the EPA banned Arsenic from treating products about 20 years ago, Pressure-Treated Lumber only lasts about half as long.
Any deck using low maintenance decking could be seen as a Green Deck, however, just because the decking will last 30-50 years, doesn’t mean that the deck will. Most builders lack the knowledge and insight to build a deck to last more than 20 years.
What is Sustainable Harvesting?
I found no less than a dozen descriptions for Sustainable Harvesting… Here’s Canada’s
Forests all over the country are harvested sustainably. Across Canada, all forests harvested on public lands must be regenerated — it is the law. This ensures that forests remain healthy and that the forest industry can continue providing Canadians with benefits.
When it comes to lumber, being sustainably harvested is important, though, the meaning of sustainable may have been skewed in the past few years. In my mind, I expect that they leave every 5th tree standing and take the others out so that the trees left standing will thrive. I would also expect that they plant new forests to make up for the trees that have been cut.
How about harvesting in mile-wide paths to create fire breaks?
It seems that “Sustainable Harvested” is a moving target.
Pressure Treated Lumber is not Green
Think of the labor, fuel, and transportation to cut the trees, load them on a truck, run them through the mill, and then put the lumber on another truck to go to a pressure-treating plant.
Then the plant puts the lumber in a toxic soup of chemicals in an attempt to preserve it. Then, more trucks to send a lift here, and a lift there… Then, a diesel lift truck moves it around the yard. Buck in a truck comes and picks up a few pieces now and then. Bigger loads are moved on a big diesel truck to the end user.
How long will the deck last? Are the ends of the timbers sealed? Did they use tape on the top of the joists? 5-10 years in general. Elite builders can make a wood deck last 40-50 years… but, that is the exception.
Is Composite Decking Green?
The Original Trex Decking was quite green as long as you didn’t factor in delivery and distribution power and other inputs in the manufacturing process. It grew over time, the color faded fast, but, it was “Greener” than most others.
Nowadays they have a plastic cap which detracts from the green tone slightly.
When compared to a poorly built pressure-treated deck that will last 5 or 10 years, a (Well Built) Trex Deck can be green when it is designed to last 40 years. Especially when you factor in multiple coats of stain which is not biologically inert to the environment.
High-quality PVC Decking is also relatively green. Brands like Azek and Wolf last well and are expected to last 30-50 years.
The Greenest Decks in the World are made of…
Rough Sawn, locally grown and hewn lumber… of the right species.
Here in Ontario Canada we use Hemlock/Tamarack fairly often. It is heavy, durable, and long-lasting. There are barns around that were clad with hemlock over 100 years ago and are still doing well.
The deck above was installed 15 years ago and is still solid without evident rot. Up close it looks rough…it is. It wasn’t designed to be pretty… but practical and sustainable. It came from a local mill on a truck and was assembled by a local carpenter in a couple of days. No paint, no tape, no concrete. This green deck is on helical footings.
In the Southern States, they have access to Cypress, on the west coast they have Red Cedar and Redwood. If you want to get fancy… set the nails, use a floor sander, and sand it smooth to apply a finish. The longer the deck lasts without stains or repairs– the greener it truly is. Aluminum powder-coated railings are in our opinion green because they will last 50 years.