Unveiling the Truth: The Superiority of Exotic Hardwoods Over Composite Decking

West Van 1Every spring homeowners, construction companies and various businesses start planning and preparing to build or rebuild their decks, boardwalks, and other outdoor structures that will add not only value but beauty and comfort to their properties.

No big secret we, at Kayu™ Canada, supply high quality exterior exotic hardwood that is sustainably harvested. And as any company who takes pride in its products, we follow the trends in the industry to keep on top of things.

One of the biggest trends in the lumber industry is the use of composite decking.

You might call us biased since we sell high quality exotic hardwood but hear us out. There are compelling reasons to consider natural hardwoods, such as IPE, Batu, Bangkirai and Meranti as a superior choice to composite decking.

Let me share why.


Exotic Hardwood vs. Composite Decking: A Closer Look

Durability Under Pressure: Ipe and Bangkirai are significantly harder than composite decking materials, nearly ten times so. This might not seem like a big deal for a lightly trafficked backyard deck, but imagine the wear and tear from hundreds of thousands of people walking on a big deck by a hotel or a boardwalk daily. The softer composite materials are more prone to damage under such intense use.

The Heat Factor: Composite decking, at its core, is plastic, which means it can get uncomfortably hot under direct sunlight. This isn’t just about the discomfort of walking barefoot on a hot surface but also about the material’s longevity. Plastics, when heated, can degrade, emitting oils or gases and weakening over time. Imagine a boardwalk or commercial walkway that not only gets too hot to touch but also smells like burning plastic.

A Slippery Slope: Despite efforts to add texture to composite decking, its inherent slipperiness, especially when wet, poses a safety risk. Factor in the spills and stains from everyday use and you’ve got a recipe for accidents waiting to happen.

Environmental Concerns: Composite decking is touted for its green credentials, but what happens when it’s time to replace it? Unfortunately, it ends up in landfills where it does not degrade. And in the event of a storm, pieces of composite decking can be swept out to sea, causing environmental damage that lasts for millennia. In contrast, natural woods like IPE degrade much more rapidly and gently.

Not Renewable: Polyethylene, polypropylene, and poly vinyl chloride do not grow on trees.  These are petroleum products that rely upon one of the most environmentally unfriendly industries around.  As I have shown above, we are still talking about a non degradable material that will need to be replaced and eventually end up in a land fill.  How is that green? Ipe, Cumaru, Red Balau, Bangkirai and Meranti do grow on trees, however, the myths of the lumber industry deforestation are just not true, and heavy regulation and forestry management and by planting 10-20 trees per each one cut down.  These grow back and are constantly renewable, let alone the key role that trees plays in our environment.  The entire lumber industry makes up about 2-3% of deforestation in reality.

Mold and Weather Resistance: Early composite decking materials quickly fell out of favor due to their susceptibility to moisture absorption, leading to mold and decay. Even with technological advances, the risk of damage to the inner core from moisture remains a concern.

Scratch Resistance and Strength: The outer layer of composite decking, designed to protect the inner wood core, is easily scratched, exposing the core to the elements. Additionally, the recommended closer spacing of joists to prevent sagging increases construction costs.

Fire Resistance: Unlike composite materials, natural wood options like IPE are renewable and have a class A fire rating, making them a safer and more sustainable choice for public projects.

The Kayu™ Canada IPE, Red Balau Batu, Yellow Balau Bangkirai, Meranti, Cumaru, are fire resistant and meet the requirements necessary for Class A Fire Rating.

Class A fire ratings indicate a flame spread rating somewhere between zero and 25.

Movement and Stability: Wood moves predictably with changes in humidity, a factor well understood and managed in construction. Composite materials, however, can expand and contract unpredictably, leading to potential warping and structural issues.

In wrapping up, while the initial appeal of composite decking for decking projects might be strong, considering its supposed environmental benefits and low maintenance, the reality of its performance and impact tells a different story. Natural wood, with its durability, environmental friendliness, and aesthetic appeal, stands out as the better choice for such significant private or public investments.

So, to the city planners, landscape architects and contractors, next time you’re faced with a decision on materials for a commercial walkway or boardwalk project or benches and any other landscape project, we encourage you to weigh the long-term implications of your choice. Not just for the environment but for the safety, enjoyment, and well-being of the countless individuals who will visit these iconic structures.


Contact Kayu™ Canada Today for more information or a quote.

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Kayu Team
We are recognized as the leading authority on tropical hardwoods, boasting over 30 years of expertise in this domain.
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