Trex decking: waste made extraordinarily good

In the US it's become a generic term for decking, though Trex isn't quite so well known on our side of the pond. Yet. But it's wooing us Europeans with its new Trex Contour decking, which is super eco, super hardwearing and super smart

Trex Decking is eco friendly

Trex wants everyone to enjoy the delights of decking - but without so many trees having to be felled. Since 1996 Trex has been making composite decking from 95 per cent recycled polyethylene and wood scraps. And it's just launched the new Trex Contour decking, which looks like real timber and is made in a way that uses less raw material. Around £75m2 at UK supplier Arbordeck 

Decking has proved an enduringly popular feature in gardens and outside spaces for obvious reasons. It looks smart, it delineates areas for specific purposes, and if it's made from wood we feel it's a natural, sustainable choice of material.

On the whole, says north London gardener Patrick Wagstaff of The Plot Doctor, 'nearly everyone who wants their garden done wants some decking - usually it's an area for a table, chairs and some pot plants. Decking is neat and it makes the area feel like an extension of your living space.'

And if your wood decking is made from hardwood, it'll be pretty hardwearing. However, it will lose its colour, become slippery when it rains, and if you don't pressure wash it fairly regularly mould will grow on it. 

Choose inexpensive softwood decking and as well as the above, it'll more than likely rot within a few years.

Enter Trex

These issues with wood decking resulted in the development in the US of Trex, which launched in 1996. It's a wood composite decking with impeccable green credentials in that it's made from 95 per cent post consumer recycled materials.


Trex Contour has a proprietary shell around three sides to prevent rotting, fading, staining
Trex Contour comes in various colours including Pebble Grey - so you don't need to paint it
The contoured shape of the boards means less material is used in their manufacture
Create shapes and patterns with Trex Contour

'We make Trex Contour from a combination of recycled polyethylene - plastic bags, casings from common household goods, building materials' packaging - and wood waste,' says Bryan Fairbanks, an executive director at Trex. 'Those wood scraps and sawdust are leftover from cabinet makers and we are proud that ultimately not a single tree has been felled in the making of our products.'

(Incidentally, Trex is one of the largest plastics recyclers in the US, saving around 400,000,000 lbs of plastic and wood waste from landfill annually, and it's a member of the US Green Building Council.)

Trex Contour hits the European market

Fairbanks says products that suit one market don't suit all, and European tastes do differ from American. 'For example, in Britain and in the EU, people tend to prefer low-to-the-ground patios so there's a seamless flow from the indoors to the outside. And with wood composite boards you prefer to see more realistic graining, so it emphasises the look of real wood.'

To tempt us over to Trex, the award-winning company has developed its Contour boards  - which are classed as low-slip risk - specifically for the European market. It comes in a host of woody hues, and in Pebble Grey, and the boards been designed for ease of installation at ground level, though of course they're suitable for elevated frames too. 

The boards have a scalloped bottom, so the underside isn't flat. This design feature was done for both green and practical reasons, says Fairbanks. 'It doesn't take away from performance, but it allows for less material to be used in manufacturing, which reduces the cost of making the range so it is more affordable, and it cuts freight costs, bearing in mind we manufacture at two plants - one in Fernley, Nevada and the other in our home town of Winchester, Virginia.'

The boards' wrapper features realistic wood grain detailing
Trex Contour is great for that seamless indoor to outdoor experience
Choose a colour you love
Decking works well when mixed with other outdoor materials, e.g. stone, and grass

Low maintenance

Trex boards are covered with a special shell (the other five per cent of Trex ingredients), which wraps around three sides and prevents the boards from rottingsplittingcracking and warping. The shell also provides UV resistance so the colour won't fade in the sun and it allows for a deep grain to be worked into boards.

'Our decking is high performance and it won't degrade - note we offer a 25-year fade and stain warranty,' says Fairbanks. 'For homeowners, the biggest difference between Trex and wood decking lies in the maintenance required.

'With just an annual soap and water cleaning, our decks will retain their as-new appearance and performance. Wood on the other hand needs regular sanding, staining, painting and over time can be subject to weatherization and natural deterioration.'


So in the hardwood v wood plastic composite debate, the latter may win when it comes to ease of maintenance, but what about cost; isn't Trex also considerably more expensive?

'In the long run,' asserts Fairbanks, 'when you factor in time, labour and materials needed to maintain a wood deck effectively, the upfront cost of a composite deck evens out after just a few years.'

Trex Contour boards have a 25-year fade and stain warranty. Wash annually with soap and water
It's fun to build decks and structures outside if you have the space

Trex is, naturally, hoping to persuade those of us Europeans who are dyed in the wood when it comes to decking to give their WPC (wood plastic composite) a chance. And it certainly does appear to have many advantages - eco and durability in particular, albeit at a higher (initial) financial outlay.

'With Trex Contour you'll enjoy a beautiful high performance deck or patio for years to come,' says Fairbanks, who has been launching Trex Contour in Munich at the BAU trade fair for architecture, materials and systems. 'You can feel good knowing it's made from recycled materials and still reap the benefits of a true wood aesthetic,' says Fairbanks.

Choose from a variety of woodgrain patterns and five colours: sand brown, honey brown, clover brown, russet red and pebble grey.

Trex is closely involved with many national and local recycling programs, including the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.

You can buy Trex decking in the UK through Arbordeck.