When people talk about home decks, the first thing that comes to their mind is deck boards made of hardwood and PVC. These are certainly the most popular options and often are the preferred type of decking material.
Deck boards, however, do not only come in wood or plastic. Some companies have formulated and developed other types of planks that eliminate common decking issues homeowners often complain about. One example of this is aluminum decking.
Aluminum decking, though often overlooked, has been on the rise since it was introduced to the market. Still, some folks are wary about its durability — if it is up to par and can withstand certain weather conditions—as well as how it looks once installed.
This comprehensive article will help you assess whether aluminum decking is the right choice of material for your space or not.
What Is Aluminum Decking?
Aluminum decking refers to deck boards made out of aluminum metal. The planks are typically coated with a polyurea elastomer coating that serves several important purposes.
For starters, it helps the boards retain their original color and appearance over time. It reduces the metallic sound of aluminum when walked on and provides a non-slip surface for safety. Lastly, it protects against weathering and corrosion.
The polyurea coating gives aluminum deck boards durability similar to wood or composite decking but with added benefits like fade resistance.
Aluminum decking planks come in a variety of designs and colors, resembling natural hardwoods as well as more modern, minimalist looks, depending on the brand. The size of aluminum deck boards is generally 12 to 20 inches long by around 6 inches wide, but exact dimensions can vary.
Pros and Cons of Aluminum Deck Boards
Like any deck board material, aluminum decking has its unique advantages and disadvantages to consider:
- Extremely durable. Aluminum itself is highly durable, and the protective polyurea coating makes aluminum deck planks resistant to damage from moisture, sun exposure, and heavy foot traffic over decades of use. Properly maintained aluminum decking can easily outlast almost any other deck board type.
- Low maintenance. Since aluminum boards contain no wood, they won’t warp, crack, splinter, or become prone to mold growth. The durable coating eliminates the need for frequent refinishing to maintain appearance. Just an occasional soap-and-water clean is all that’s required.
- Fire and scratch-resistant. The non-combustible metal construction makes aluminum decking fire-resistant. The tough surface also resists scratches from pets or shifted patio furniture.
- Eco-friendly and recyclable. As a recyclable metal, aluminum decking is an environmentally sustainable choice.
However, aluminum decking also has drawbacks:
- Higher cost. High-quality aluminum decking costs approximately two to three times more than pressure-treated lumber or composite deck boards. Part of what you pay for is exceptional durability.
- Limited style options. While available in a range of wood-like finishes, the selection is not as varied as wood or composite decking. If you want a specific stained or exotic hardwood look, aluminum may not offer that aesthetic.
- Conducts heat. On hot sunny days, bare feet can feel uncomfortable on aluminum decking as the metal readily absorbs and conducts heat. Composite deck boards typically feel cooler.
Cost Breakdown: How Much Does Aluminum Decking Cost?
A high-performance material like aluminum commands a premium price:
Basic aluminum deck board prices range from $25 to $35 per square foot installed. In contrast, high-end aluminum decking with premium finishes and warranties generally costs $30 to $50 per square foot. Compare that to pressure-treated pine lumber at $8 to $12 per square foot or composite decking at $15 to $30 per square foot installed.
The investment in aluminum pays off in the long term when you consider decades of near-zero maintenance. But the up-front cost can be too prohibitive for some budgets.
Factors Affecting Cost
Several factors impact the total installed cost. Higher-end aluminum decking with thicker planks, premium finishes, and longer warranties costs more than basic products.
Color and finish is another factor. Multi-toned and exotic wood-look boards command a small premium over standard colors.
Matching aluminum railings, gates, trim pieces, and fasteners boost costs but create a seamless look. Lastly, labor can significantly impact price. Hiring a deck pro for installation adds $15 to $25 per square foot. DIY cuts labor expenses.
A major selling point for aluminum decking is minimal maintenance, thanks to its durable construction. Here are a few care tips:
- For regular cleaning, use mild soap, water, and a soft brush. Avoid harsh cleaners.
- Manufacturers typically allow pressure washing. Use a fan tip and keep the wand moving to prevent moisture issues behind the boards.
- Check the polyurea coating yearly for any chips/scratches and touch-ups to prevent moisture intrusion.
- Consider treating the surface every three to five years to refresh the protective barrier.
Proper maintenance preserves aluminum decking’s integrity and appearance for exceptional long-term performance.
So, Is Aluminum Decking a Good Choice?
So, is aluminum decking worth the higher initial investment compared to traditional deck boards? For its longevity and low maintenance needs, aluminum decking is hard to beat. You’ll likely never need to replace aluminum deck boards once properly installed.
However, the higher up-front cost deters some homeowners. And for certain aesthetic preferences like wood grains, aluminum visuals have limitations.
Ultimately, aluminum decking excels for homeowners who prioritize lifetime performance over initial affordability. The recyclability and eco-friendly properties are added perks. If budget allows, consider aluminum decking alongside composites and lumber to determine the best choice.
FAQs About Aluminum Decking
Does aluminum decking get too hot?
Like metal surfaces, aluminum decking will absorb and conduct heat. Using umbrellas and wearing shoes can help compensate. Newer aluminum-plastic blends better resist heat transfer.
How sturdy is aluminum decking?
Quality aluminum decking has met stringent specifications for structural flooring that lasts over 20 years. Proper joist spacing is also required. Aluminum boards themselves resist bending and cracking under heavy loads.
Can you refinish aluminum decking?
The polyurea coating maintains its appearance for decades without refinishing. But if excessively worn, professionals can restore the look and protectiveness with new coatings.
Does aluminum rust?
Quality aluminum decking has a protective coating that prevents oxidation and rust. I recommend periodic sealing of surface scratches. Properly maintained aluminum decking doesn’t rust.
Can you paint aluminum deck boards?
Painting factory-finished aluminum decking isn’t advisable as it voids most warranties. However, some adhesives and paints allow for color alteration after installation with proper prep and treatment.