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solid or hollow composite decking

Composite decking, although having been used since the 1990s, has only really increased in popularity in the last 5-10 years due to its closeness in cost with its friendly competitor, timber decking. Now you’ve got your choice of composite and timber decking, you can also choose between solid or hollow composite decking too…so, solid or hollow composite decking, which is better and why?

If you’re about to start an Autumn project or think about planning for that springtime decking area, it’s important to know whether the materials you are laying in your garden are right for your needs, not to mention your bank balance.

Below we look at the differences, features, and benefits of each type of composite decking to help you choose.

What are hollow composite decking boards?

Hollow composite decking boards, which have an open patterned centre, will tend to be more flexible and potentially better at absorbing shock. They also tend to be a cheaper option than solid decking boards.

Advantages and drawbacks of hollow boards

As they are quite flexible, hollow composite boards are best used in areas that are likely to get heavy footfall – either in outdoor public areas or for families planning numerous parties and gatherings or who use the deck area for various sports and activities.

Although the hollow boards are lighter, if they are not properly fixed or develop any holes, the hollow centres can start to collect water. This can mean that they require more and more regular maintenance which goes against one of the many reasons you would choose composite. Applying the various fascia, nose and end caps can help keep out moisture as well as finish off your deck beautifully.

Despite their lighter construction, hollow composite boards offer many of the same benefits as solid boards, including durability and resistance to mould and mildew. Due to their hollow, honeycomb-like centres, the boards benefit from incredible sturdiness and strength while maintaining a lightweight. Over time, solid boards expand and contract with high and low temperatures, respectively, they can become susceptible to cracks or just cause your deck’s surface to warp and fasteners to come loose (we should note that the same effect over temperature extremes will affect timber decking boards too) For this reason, if you live in an area with extreme temperature variation throughout the year, hollow boards may be your best option.

One, often-forgotten benefit is that if you plan to fit your decking area with electronic equipment, the open centre allows you to easily run wires through them and hide them out of view. The most obvious advantage of the hollow boards is that they weigh less. This is due to them featuring a lightweight centre, which makes them ideal for smaller projects where there are fewer hands to help. One significant disadvantage of hollow decking is that it resembles real wood less than its solid counterparts.

Are you thinking of hollow composite boards for your deck now?  While they’re a versatile choice, it’s a good idea to weigh up all of your options for several reasons. Why? Read on to find out…


What are solid composite decking boards?

Solid composite decking boards are, as the name suggests, solid in construction.

They are less flexible than their hollow friends, but have a significantly higher load bearing capacity. They may prove to be the better option if you’re planning to place heavy objects, e.g. a barbecue on your deck (see our blog ‘Can I use a BBQ on my composite decking?‘)  Additionally, these boards may be less susceptible to the harmful effects of weather, as their solid centres are much less likely to their hollow friends and wooden boards to allow water ingress.

Advantages and drawbacks of solid boards

One downside of solid composite boards is that they are usually heavier and more difficult to install, which can make your project more challenging if you’re working on your own. Additionally, solid boards are more likely than hollow to warp and bend in extreme weather conditions, potentially loosening fasteners around the joists. Again, proper installation and use of the correct, specific decking fixings will greatly reduce this risk.

An upside is that solid boards tend to better mimic natural wood, making for a more aesthetically pleasing outside area. Additionally, solid composite decking boards are better than their hollow counterparts at absorbing sound, which can be helpful if you’re hoping to reduce noise in your garden.

Which is better, solid or hollow composite decking boards?

Hollow composite decking boards are often cheaper and, because they’re lighter, they can be easier to install. However, they typically have a more uniform look than solid boards and therefore appear less realistic.

Solid composite decking not only looks more realistic but also offers additional strength. Whilst this makes installation a little trickier, it means it’s ideal for use in high-footfall areas. What’s more, although hollow decking may be cheaper at first, repairs and maintenance may well leave you out of pocket in the end.

Solid composite decking boards are the right choice if you want strong, stable, long-lasting decking that looks great and delivers outstanding performance, but hollow decking is a versatile second-best.

The decision is yours…

For more ideas and inspiration, see our full decking range.

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