Synthetic decking just gets better and better.  We’ve had embossed grain and hidden fasteners for a long time.  Improvements in decking technology have taken us from “low maintenance” to “extremely-low maintenance”.  Clients in the forefront have been enjoying stain-, scratch-, and mildew-resistant decking for years.  Real wood varies in color from board to board and also within each board.  To bring more of wood’s realism to their synthetic decking, manufacturers several years ago introduced varied, random colors to their decking.  So what’s new?   More realism and improved warranties.  I’ll review advances by the leading decking manufacturers over several blog posts.  Let’s begin first with Fiberon.

Fiberon has expanded two of its three product lines this year.  Their “Outdoor Flooring” series is the all-cellular PVC decking

Fiberon’s Spanish Cedar

Fiberon’s Jotoba (click to enlarge)

previously sold as Sensibuilt (Fiberon bought Sensibuilt in 2008).  Until this year, Fiberon’s PVC decking had only solid colors (Cedar, Driftwood, and Mocha), which competed directly against Azek.  This year Fiberon introduced two new colors: Jotoba and Spanish Cedar, and also added random, light-colored streaks to these colors. Do you like them?

Fiberon’s “Horizon” series imitates the look of tropical hardwoods.  Ipe and the popular Rosewood have been available for a few years.

Random color variations make each board unique and to many people’s eyes, more natural looking.  Early last year Fiberon changed the colors in Ipe from the reddish browns similar to Rosewood (indeed, the two were hard to distinguish) to light browns with dark grey highlights.  The newer Ipe is impossible to mistake;  it is dramatic:

Last Year’s “New” Ipe

People either love or hate the look.  What do you think?  (And don’t tell me you’re luke-warm about it.)

But enough about last year.  What’s new this year?  Well, Tudor Brown and Castle Grey, that’s what.  Tudor Brown is a crisp, true brown, with dark, random streaks.

Tudor Brown (click to enlarge)

Castle Grey (click to enlarge)

And Castle Grey is distinctly different – a light grey with some dark coloring.  Overall, it is a light grey board that will look good against many houses.

If I weren’t trying to be Mr. Niceguy here, I’d ask Fiberon “What took you so long to give us this grey?”  Among the synthetic decking, grey is the most popular color of all, especially here in New England.

Of course, all these Horizon colors have edge grooves so you can hide the fasteners, embossed grain patterns for greater realism, and a 20-year warranty against various types of misbehavior (checking, splintering, delaminating, etc.).  The warranty here is a mixed bag, however.  Fiberon recently extended its warranty to include stain resistance and — here’s an industry first —  color fading.  Wow.  But the color fade warranty is limited:  it kicks in only if your Fiberon board fades more than “5 Delta E Hunter units.”  So you’re asking me exactly what is a “Delta E Hunter unit?”  And just how bad are 5 of them stacked together?  I could tell you that 5 Delta E’s is a very low level, and that the sun turns my skin 6 Delta E’s during the short time it takes David Ortiz to strike out.  Well,…the truth be known, this is bunk.  I couldn’t tell one Delta E Hunter unit from a Delta L sitting right next to it. And really: No one knows just what 5 Delta E units are.  The vinyl siding people think “…a good warranty will guarantee products will not fade in excess of 4 Delta E Hunter units.”  So you can trust some vinyl siding salesman or you could read an authoritative article that specifies all the “negative yellows”, “Delta L”s, and “Illuminant TL4”s you could ever hope for.  Just click here.  Or you could read about the history of Delta E and study some really cool formulas for measuring Empfindung along all three axes — by clicking here.   Either article will put you to sleep.  Guaranteed.

What about the warranty’s notorious fine print on stains?  It is better than reasonable:  it covers wine, coffee, tea, ketchup, mustard,… “and any other food or beverage related items that would typically be present on a residential deck.”  Really, it says that.  So, some dark Guinness Stout?  Yup.  Redneck Hot Pepper Sauce?  Yes, and even Alabama Red Lightnin’ Hot Chili Sauce.**  Hot grease from your grill?  It ain’t excluded, and I sure do expect to see a grill on your deck.  OK, I’m starting to like this warranty now.  And it gets better:  Fiberon gives you a week to clean up your mess.  Yeah, a week!!   You gotta love it!  A week is forever!  The Red Sox can lose 5 games before you need to clean up that ketchup.

Remember that “mixed bag” I mentioned?  Well, here’s the bad part: Fiberon prorates that 20 year warranty after 10 years.  Honest.  At 14 years, they’ll replace only 60% of a stained board.  And at 18 years, you get only 20% of that board.  What do they expect us to do with a 2 foot piece of decking?  Was that really necessary?  Fiberon had something good going here with that 20 year stuff, and then they let some  **?$%!  lawyer get involved.

OK, OK, getting back on track.  Put all the features of the new Fiberon Horizon together – hidden fasteners, embossed grain patterns, random streaks, new natural looking colors, and guarantees against splinters, rot, fading, and staining by a 20 year, quirky warranty – and you’ve got an attractive product.  Compare these features and Fiberon’s slightly lower price, and you just might choose Fiberon over the other guys.

Coming soon: One of those other guys.

Useful Links:

  1. Fiberon’s official site:
  2. For an explanation of just how low the new low maintenance decking is, see my prior post.

Semi-useful Links:

  1. Listen to a vinyl siding salesman discuss Delta E fading:

  2. ** For an incomplete list of hot sauces that will not stain your deck (some with unprintable names) click here.

We at Advantage Design & Construction offer professional design and build services for clients west and north of Boston.  Over the past 23 years we have designed and built over 800 projects.  We have enhanced the depth of our expertise by limiting our work to decks, porches, and sunrooms.  To view some of these projects, visit our website. To learn how we treat our clients, check our ratings on Angie’s List or read a recent article about us in Remodeling Magazine. For a free design consultation and a relaxed and rewarding design and construction experience, contact us via e-mail, or by phone, 781-273-3500.

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