Friday, December 15, 2017
High-altitude settings require special consideration when it comes to selecting building materials. For a wooden deck, for example, the boards in a high-altitude environment are more quickly broken down by the intensity of UV rays. With the right maintenance regime, it is possible to delay those effects, but it will need to be done carefully and consistently. I have several loyal clients who – after they’ve hired me to build a deck – will continue to hire me year after year to take care of these decks in their mountain vacation homes.
Luckily, over the years I have found that there are some materials better able to handle the challenging weather of high-altitudes – with less maintenance than wood. Having spent a few seasons working for clients up in the mountains and the high desert, I can appreciate the value of reduced maintenance, and I like to think that I’ve also discovered the best decking for a high- altitude. Here’s what I’ve learned through trial, error, and research.
The Effects of a High Altitude on Your Deck
For many of us, the first thing we think about when we hear the words “high-altitude” is the cold, followed closely by snow. But in many ways, the sun is an even more powerful adversary. It’s no great secret that UV rays literally dry out and cook materials over a long enough time span (think of your skin burning in the sun). Here’s why a high altitude can be hard on your decking:
The Best Decking for a High Altitude
In my building work, I generally use two main materials for decks: wood and fully capped composite. The strategies of protection for the two of them vary greatly. Protecting a wooden deck is a matter of selecting the best possible stain, paint, or sealer for the situation. Protecting composite decking is an exercise in picking out a brand with the most innately protective elements. Below I’ll walk through my recommendations on maintenance at high altitudes, as well as what I consider to be the best choice for decking.
How to Protect Wood from UV Rays
For many years, the most common decking material in my practice was certainly wood: cedar, redwood, pressure-treated, ipe, or otherwise. These are a couple of the usual methods for keeping a wooden deck healthy, no matter which of these woods you select.
Protecting Composite Decking from UV Rays
While protecting a wooden deck involves selecting the best possible protective coatings for the job, protecting a composite deck is a matter of picking the best possible version of composite decking, since it doesn’t require paints, stains, or finishes. So, what should you look for in composites for your high-altitude deck? There are a few features you’ll want to seek out.
I never used to build composite decks, and until recently I certainly wouldn’t have considered them for a high-altitude location. But advancements in the design of high-quality composite means that it’s now an excellent substitute for wood that takes much less work to keep beautiful. A decking board with a resin cap, manufactured with plenty of UV inhibitors, can last for years while looking just as good as it did when it was first installed. While I still use both wood and fully capped composite decking to build decks at high elevation, I tend to prioritize recommending the latter. This is especially true for people with vacation homes – since these boards require so much less maintenance and care. If they choose composite, one of my first recommendations is Fortress Building Products, as their boards use one of the most advanced capping materials on the market, designed to resist even the sun at high altitudes. Fortress decking doesn’t mold, mildew, or absorb moisture, either. After we get the deck installed, and other projects arise, I sometimes recommend taking a look at Fortress®' other products, like railings and fences. All of these building products are high quality and extremely durable, making them great choices for high altitudes.