Strolling along boardwalks is a time-honored summer tradition. Over the years, due to natural disasters or general wear and tear, these iconic landmarks sometimes need to be replaced. Environmentalist organizations continue to aggressively promote the use of composite decking materials to replace wooden boardwalks. Though their motives may be pure, there are some definite downsides when using composite decking. This three-part series will seek to articulate a few of the reasons why, when it comes to constructing boardwalks, natural wood is a better choice than composite materials for overall quality and lasting results.
This first article will seek to explain some of the safety hazards associated with composite decking materials.
1. Composite Decking Could Increase the Risk of Slip & Fall Accidents
Because plastic is oil-based, its surface can naturally tend to become slippery when wet. In order to remedy this well-known problem with composite decking, manufacturers have sought to mimic the texture of wood in their products. While this technique might work initially, the faux wood grain can tend to fade over time due to intense heat. As water and other liquid substances accumulate along boardwalks that are typically located along shorelines, the risk of slip and fall accidents on composite decking boardwalks increases significantly. It’s an accident just waiting to happen that can cause potential legal nightmares for city governments.
2. Composite Decking is Flammable
Certain wood decking materials typically used for boardwalks, such as Ipe, have exceptional resistance to fire. In contrast, composite decking material can be extremely flammable. To make matters worse, if they do catch on fire, composite materials emit noxious fumes that can be harmful if inhaled by passersby. Since city boardwalks are often popular tourist attractions, it’s only natural for them to attract businesses with outdoor cooking stations. All it may take for a disaster to start would be a small fire at a boardwalk food cart or nearby restaurant which could quickly spread to the boardwalk itself. In just a few minutes the composite material would start melting, and tourists could find themselves choking and gagging on toxic gasses. Composite material fires can be difficult to extinguish, and any disfigured boards would need to be replaced.
3. Composite Decking Retains Heat
When the summer sunshine beats down on a boardwalk made from composite decking, the surface can quickly grow unbearably hot. Though signs can be posted to remind visitors to wear footwear on the boardwalk, many people probably aren’t going to heed the warning signs. Their feet could end up getting seriously hurt from coming into contact with these heat-conducting surfaces.
Another problem with sun-soaked boardwalks is their tendency to actually structurally deteriorate in the heat. They can release toxic gases that cause them to put forth unpleasant odors. Because they’re made from oil, they can actually begin to leak out that oil in the hot sun. This breakdown causes the boardwalk to lose its strength relatively rapidly.
As you can see, composite decking material poses some real concerns when it comes to safety. Rather than take a risk, using a strong, durable wood product for your next boardwalk project just makes sense.
The next article in this three-part series will address some of the inherent structural weaknesses of composite decking materials.