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Problems With Trex Decking

problems with trex decking banner pic - Gambrick

Problems With Trex Decking

In 1996 Trex launched its line of composite decking products to rave reviews and revolutionized the decking industry. Since that time Trex has diligently worked to revise, expand, and perfect their line of composite decking products. Going public in 1999, Trex has become the world’s largest manufacturer of wood alternative decking products offering the industry’s widest array of composite deck products, which are available in more than 40 countries around the world. Now it seems more people are becoming dissatisfied with the longevity and quality of Trex products. So, what are the biggest problems with Trex decking, and what can you do about them?

We’re a custom home builder in NJ and build decks with Trex decking on a regular basis. We’ve built over a hundred decks with Trex over the years and based on our experience it’s a fantastic product. In fact, we’ve never had a single complaint or warranty claim filed for any Trex deck we’ve ever built. Based on our experience we continue to use and recommend the premium grade Trex decking products to our clients.

We don’t want this article to scare away anyone from using Trex decking as problems are extremely rare. However, if you do your research you’ll find that problems with Trex decking does happen from time to time. And when it does it seams that lately their customer service could be better and warranty claims are not always settled like they should be.

paw prints on Trex decking Trex decking problems | Gambrick

Trex Decking Is Hard To Keep Clean

Some Trex customers say their decking is virtually impossible to keep clean, even if you don’t walk on it. Cleaning with a soft bristle brush and warm soapy water per the cleaning instructions and waiting for it to dry still doesn’t clean it. “As my dogs walked across the deck, it left paw prints, which I immediately tried to sweep and then simply hose off, without success. So the only way to keep the deck clean is to scrub it with warm soapy water every time it gets dirt on it. I live in the country. It’s dusty and muddy and dirty. My old wooden deck was painted and lasted 30 years. I could just go out and sweep most of the dirt off and hose most everything else. The only time I needed to scrub anything was when I’d spill something greasy.” Says Marnie of Corning, CA.

Footprints Are Hard To Clean

“I was lured by the durability and lack of maintenance as advertised. However, after installation, I realized that it is more difficult to remove dirt footprints off the Trex decking than off of regular wood decks. I have scrubbed on knees, power washed the deck three times and followed the customer service step by step instructions with no success. After the deck dries, the dirt footprints remain.” Says Selka of Dublin, OH.

Trex Cleaning Complaints Are Common

Cleaning complaints are fairly common problems with Trex decking that are actually an issue with all types of composite decking. Dirt clings to composite decking more so than wood and it stands out a lot more too. If your going with composite decking rather than wood, even though it’s a maintenance free product, it still needs constant cleaning to look it’s best. And by constant cleaning we mean more than just a simple sweeping or spraying with a hose.

Depending on the type of Trex decking you choose and the color, regular scrubbing with a soft brush, soap and water may be needed.

Decomposed first generation Trex decking.

Trex Decking Decomposes

Many Trex deck owners have complained of flaking, deterioration and even in extreme cases virtual disintegration of their Trex decks. It seems that under some conditions the coating seal placed on Trex composite decking can fail, exposing it to the elements. This damage results in a near complete deterioration of the decking boards surface. Replacing severely damaged boards seems to be the only remedy.

“My Trex decking is 10 years old and has substantially deteriorated to the point where it is rough and pitted and the interior core material has become exposed. Since Trex decking is warranted for 25 years, I filed a warranty claim only to find out the quality problem I experienced was systemic and subject to a Class Action suit against Trex. So Trex agreed to replace the defective decking but decided as a matter of ‘policy’ that they would only replace 113 of the 144 defective boards. Arguing that they only replace defective product on a square footage basis. Even though acknowledging that there would not be enough boards to replace the defective ones. Are you kidding? I should splice deck boards to comport to their minimized square footage solution? Incredibly frustrating, unresponsive and inane.” Says Michael of Bend, OR.

“We installed Trex back in 2006-2008 not sure of exact date. It started literally shredding and falling apart. I called and filed a complaint. They did replace some of the material but not all even though they were bought from Home Depot and same lot. 5 years ago the rest started falling apart. I would NEVER ever recommend this brand. It’s absolutely terrible.” Says and unnamed source.

moldy trex deck common issues with trex decking | Gambrick

Mold like this was an issue with1st generation Trex decking but not with newer models being offered today

Mold & Mildew Problems With Trex Decking

Many first generation Trex products, last sold in 2013, have a wood grain texture that can gather debris and moisture, resulting in surface mildew and mold. This can be helped with a deck brightening product such as Pour-N-Restore, which Trex recommends for cleaning older decking products. Visit your home center paint department and ask for deck brightener. These products contain bleach that will brighten your deck and kill the mold spores. Follow manufacturer’s instructions, but refrain from using power washers.

Especially prevalent on older and uncapped composited decking, mold shows up quickly and is more difficult to eradicate than you’d expect. The mold seems to grow heavily not just on the surface, but inside the rough texture of uncapped decking. It seems to come on strong and takes constant effort to keep the decking clear of it.

Pro Tip: Check with Trex before using any cleaning product on the deck. Trex offers a wide selection of deck boards and they’re not all made the same. Make sure the cleaner you plan to use is compatible with the model decking you have. Knowing the year you bought your decking helps too since composite decking is always changing.

Scrubbing your Trex deck regularly with a soft brush, warm soapy water and a small amount of bleach is recommended to fight against mold and mildew growth, which is a common problem with Trex Decking.

Note: This section refers only to older model Trex decking sold up until 2013. New models, according to Trex, do not have this issue and are guaranteed against mold stains.

Mold Issues Can Happen Fast

“We purchased the Trex in 2008, and it was an expensive mistake. The product fades, warps, holds water, molds terrible, and now it’s literally falling apart! We have a large deck, and replacing only the bad boards isn’t an option since there is so much damage and fading the new boards will look like a completely different product. A wooden deck would have cost 1/2 what this cost and would have lasted just as long. Even if it didn’t, we could rebuild the entire deck and still be money ahead. VERY unhappy with this product!!” Says T. K. of Longview, WA.

“Moving to an adult community, we decided to replace the wood deck with Trex, as their ads touted ‘easy care’, ‘low maintenance’. It looked beautiful! Just a few months after installation, mold started to appear. Black spots and streaks, brown blobs & green junk that would NOT scrub off. We contacted Trex, got the runaround. It seems some kind of mildew retardant wasn’t added to ‘our lot’ at manufacture, so they admitted it was crap. They even sent a company out to clean the deck, which didn’t do anything, and killed all my flowers.” Says E of Toms River, NJ.

Chalk & Other Marking Issues

Chalk lines are typically used in construction to mark straight lines. Any chalk lines and other marks that do not dust off will be permanent, but may be lightened with acetone, which is available in the paint department of any hardware store. Apply a small amount with a soft cloth and rub. Rinse area with water.

Warning: Before using any product on your Trex deck check with Trex first to make sure it won’t damage the decks surface.

Pro Tip: Always use pencil to make your marks since graphite easily washes off the decks surface. We never use markers or snap lines with chalk. Never use a marker unless your completely cutting off the mark. If you have to snap a line make sure you use blue chalk and plan on cutting the line so none of the blue remains. Never use red chalk. It’s permanent and won’t wash off. Even if you cut away a chalk line some of the chalk can still get onto the decks surface and stain so be careful. Even the chalk dusting off the line can cause a permanent stain.

trex deck with black stains | Gambrick

Blacking like this was a problem with 1st generation Trex decking that has been corrected with newer models

Staining Problems With Trex Decking

Staining is a major problem with older model Trex decking and a huge issue with older composite decking products in general. Because with a Trex deck you can’t sand or refinish the deck. If a stain occurs and can’t be cleaned the only remedy is replacing the entire board. This can be an issue with an older deck once fading has occurred since the new deck boards won’t match the old. It could be also a total disaster if you can’t get the exact same deck board because in that case you’d have to replace all the decking.

Something as simple as leaves or branches sitting on a Trex deck can stain. A chemical called tannin carries the color in most leaves and wood. Tannin can then leach into your deck causing discolorations. A thorough cleaning with a mop and gentle detergent, such as dish soap, may help remove residual grime and lighten the stain. Removing leaves and debris with a broom or leaf blower frequently is the best preventive measure.

Grease badly stains Trex decking. Make sure to keep grease away from a Trex deck. It quickly absorbs into the decking and will never come out.

If any food or drinks spills clean it up right away, don’t let it sit on the deck for too long.

As a general rule of thumb assume everything stains a Trex deck. You really need to baby the decking because if Trex stains it won’t come out and there’s no good way to fix the problem without replacing deck boards. Perform regular cleanings.

Trex Says Newer Products Don’t Stain

New model Trex decking with capped design don’t have staining problems like the older products do according to Trex. In fact, Trex is so confident in the stain resietance of their products they back their entire decking portfolio with a 25 – year Limited Fade & Stain Warranty.

Black Stains

Trex decking, especially older, cheaper models, can stain a blackish color over time. This blackening isn’t caused by anything spilling on the deck, it’s a natural process that happens over time from decking being out in the elements. It doesn’t always happen on ever deck but when it does it really looks bad.

The only way to prevent this is constant, regular cleanings. Newer, premium grade Trex decking doesn’t have this problem. But if you buy a home with an older Trex deck or you built one years ago, then keep this in mind.

Blackening like this happens more in dark areas that don’t get much sun.

trex decking badly faded issue | Gambrick

An Example Of Excessive Fading. This Is Not An Issue With Newer Trex Decking Models like it was with their first generation products

Does Trex Decking Fade?

Yes. One of the biggest problems with older Trex decking is color fading. Everybody knows color fades in the sun, but composite decking companies seem to be oblivious to how badly their products actually look when left out in the sun. Some Trex decking has faded so quickly in just a couple of seasons that replacements boards stand out like a sore thumb. Color fading is something the company knows about and acknowledges. On their own website and in their own literature they state decking will fade and even give guidelines in their warranty regarding how much fading should occur and how much would be covered.

Because of this acknowledgement you can be sure when you buy a Trex deck you will have color fading. How much however is uncertain. And this creates a secondary issue where some of the deck is in sunlight and some isn’t. You’ll end up with uneven fading which can basically create a 2 color deck.

Fading issues are unpredictable and hard to understand. Some Trex decking will have problems and others of the same type will not. This leads us to believe variables in the manufacturing process makes fading worse or better depending on what’s done at the factory. The deck boards look exactly the same, but don’t always perform the same when in the field.

Excessive fading is covered under the Trex warranty.

Trex Says Newer Products Don’t Fade

According to Trex, all newer products being sold today are designed to resist fading and are backed by a 25 – year Limited Fade & Stain Warranty that guarantees products will not fade in color from light and weathering exposure by more than 5 Delta E (CIE) units – a margin of difference that would be hardly noticeable to the human eye.

Warping & Shrinking Issues

It’s not wood, so it shouldn’t be expanding and contracting due to temperature changes, right? Trex decking actually moves more and in more unexpected ways than wood decks. Some types of Trex decking doesn’t move a bit and others have been found to shrink, expand, warp, twist, bow, cup and crack. Again, it seems completely random when this happens, but it happens often enough that you should know about it.

Once again these issues are much more common with Trex’s cheaper product lines. Premium grade Trex decking seams to perform much better in the field as does newer decking.

Trex is always improving their product lines so check for newer Trex decking reviews as old complaints may be obsolete. Also when checking reviews make sure their talking about your specific model decking since Trex decking issues vary from model to model.

Improperly Sized Gaps

Setting the gaps for your deck boards is a tricky issue. Smaller is nicer but too small can be a problem. Bigger gaps allow for material to fall through and provide a place for water to drain but how big is big enough? This is where Trex hidden deck fasteners come into play. We highly recommend them. They not only look great because you don’t see the screws but they also set each gap perfectly. You don’t have to think about it. Just install the fasteners and deck boards, your gaps will all be perfect.

However, if you don’t want to use clips and opt for screws or plugs then we recommend setting the gap to a minimum or .25″ which is what Trex recommends. An old fashioned way of installing deck boards is to find a nail that’s .25″ and use them as spacers. Drive a nail every few joists before you install your next deck board. The nails act as a spacer just like when you install tile. All the nails are the same so the space will be even. Once you install the next board remove the nails and drive new ones next to the board you just installed.

Deck board spacers are also available. These work fine but we prefer using the nails.

If you want a larger or smaller gap just buy bigger or smaller nails. However, we’ve found that a 10 penny is the perfect size.

Avoid Improper Decking Gaps

“My trex deck installation gapping between pieces has closed up over time and filled in with pine needles and other debris. This is causing drainage problems and staining of the pieces is becoming very difficult to clean. What can be done to open up the gaps between runs? Considering Can running a skill saw with an 1/8” blade between each piece it to open up a gap for drainage?” Says Bob regarding his horrible Trex deck gaps.

Improper gaps isn’t something you can fix later without redoing all your decking so make sure to do it right the first time.

Are Trex Decks Bouncy

Any type of deck board can be bouncy if the joists aren’t spaced properly, that’s why deck joists are supposed to be 16″ o.c. or 12″ o.c. Deck boards are thin so they can’t safely span longer distances than 16″. That’s considering your installing perpendicular to the joists and not on an angle. Typically if you install Trex decking on a 45 degree angle you need 12″ o.c. deck joists.

Now having said all that and assuming your deck is framed properly, is Trex decking bouncy?

Under normal circumstances the answer is No, Trex decking isn’t bouncy.

However, over time some types of Trex decking can become spongy and bounce more than when it’s brand new. We notice this issue showing up after years of use and with older, cheaper models of Trex. But it certainly shows up and when it does the deck can become unusable.

If your building a new deck choose one of their premium models and make sure to frame the deck properly. If you do those things then bounce won’t be an issue. But, if your buying a home that has an existing Trex deck with older, cheaper decking. Excessive bounce could become a problem in the future.

Warnings Issued For Trex Decking

Sanding is not recommended for Trex decking products. Unlike wood, Trex is made up of layers, including a harder outer coat or shell that provides resistance to the elements. Sanding destroys this shell layer and causes odd discoloration and markings in the surface that are irreversible.

Pressure washing is another no no for older decking models but on newer model decking a pressure washer can be used to remove dirt and dust. While great for driveways, wooden decks and siding, 1500 psi pressure washers will damage older decking, possibly voiding your warranty. A simple garden hose with a lower pressure fitting, coupled with detergent and a mop for tough spots, is your best bet for cleaning Trex deck.

Avoid some types of harsh cleaners. Check with Trex before using any cleaner on your decking. The wrong type can eat into your deck causing spots that won’t come out.

Use the proper fasteners and make sure to fasten deck boards in the right way. Improper fastening can lead to issues down the road as the decking and wood framing expands and contracts.

Staining is an option with Trex but only certain types will work. Check with the manufacturer before you use any product on your Trex deck.

beautiful trex deck by an in ground pool

A beautiful deck by an in ground pool.

How To Avoid Trex Decking Problems

Hire a certified Trex pro or a builder with experience installing Trex brand products. Use Trex hidden deck fasteners the spacing will stay as it should for the life of the deck and the deck boards will all be securely fastened.

You’ll pay more for the installation going with a pro, but it is worth it. Trex has a hard time denying the warranty if your contractor follows the proper procedures. Sometimes the materials fail, but it’s very rare. Every material in the construction trade can have a bad manufacturing run. In fact that’s true of just about anything you buy. That’s the reason we have lemon laws for cars and laws protecting consumers. Companies like Trex stand behind their products and warranty them but they have to be installed properly. Improper installation will void the warranty in most cases so make sure if a problem occurs it’s the product that’s the problem and not the installer.

Trex has absolutely had problems in the past but their constantly trying to improve and perfect their decking products. With each failure they’ve learned a lesson and improved the product.

If you can afford it, go with premium Trex decking. It makes a big difference.

Your decking will only be a straight as the lumber you install it on. Wood will always warp, crack, and split. We recommend using Trex Elevations light gauge steel framing for most of our projects. Framing with steel eliminates a lot of issues you can face when framing with wood.

How Long Will Trex Decking Last

We build using Trex composite decking regularly because it’s known for it’s gorgeous style and long lifespan. When homeowners ask us how long will Trex decking last, we start with the minimum 25 to 30 year span covered by the warranty. But we also let them know that composite decks can last far longer. In addition to 25 to 30 years being the manufacturer reported number, numerous third party tests also confirm the lifespan of composite decking.

Trex is definitely a long lasting product if you care for it properly and are lucky enough to avoid all of these potential decking issues. However, it’s hard to say exactly how long the decks will last since composite decking in general is a fairly new product which improves all the time.

With the premium grade Trex decking products, we’re confident you should get over the 25 year warranty period provided the decking is installed properly, the deck is built right, and it’s all well maintained. Skimp on any of these 3 issues and you could have problems down the road.

Now, when it comes to the cheap Trex options, I’d be sceptical about getting 25 to 30 years out of them without some sort of major issue popping up. It’s worth the money to avoid costly problems in the future.

Decking Gallery

Trex truly is a fantastic decking product. Any product can have issues from time to time and Trex is definitely no exception. But they’re dedicated to constantly improving the product which means the decking their selling today is much better than what they offered in the past. And while their customer service and warranty department could be better, they do offer a good warranty which will protect you if major defects occur.

Here’s a gallery of beautiful decks to remind you exactly why you wanted that Trex deck in the first place.

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