Synthetic Decking Gets Bad Rap

Lawsuits against one manufacturer cast doubt on quality, recourse

by Paul Bianchina

landlord helpQ: I am removing 20-year-old pressure-treated decking and would like to replace it with something else. I see where Home Depot is selling out all their Trex decking at a great price. After reading on the Internet about the red flags and lawsuits against the company that makes it, I am kind of leery of using it, with the mold and the black spots. What’s your opinion on it?

A: As I understand it, a homeowner who had problems with his decking filed suit against the manufacturer after the manufacturer provided only replacement material as part of the warranty claim, but no replacement labor. I have no way of knowing whether or not that’s true, so I can’t comment on that specific case.

(Editor’s note: Trex Co. Inc. announced on July 31 that it had settled a class-action lawsuit filed in California, in which two customers claimed their decks suffered from surface flaking and that Trex failed to provide adequate remedies. Trex said a manufacturing problem affected “a small percentage of product” manufactured in its Fernley, Nev., plant beginning in 2003 and that the issue had been remediated. Under the terms of the settlement, Trex said it would fully honor its warranty by replacing product, and provide partial reimbursement of labor expenses to affected consumers.)

I will say, however, that this has been an issue that I’ve had with many manufacturers for a long time. I feel that if a manufacturer is going to produce a product and sell it to a consumer, and that the product fails even if the consumer can prove that he installed it according to the manufacturer’s specific instructions, then the manufacturers shouldn’t hide behind fine print in their warranties. They should stand behind their product 100 percent.

At one point, I was a definite proponent of synthetic decking. Now, while I would never recommend against it, I’m no longer quite as sold on it. My best advice would be to have a long talk with the dealer and the manufacturer. Be sure you fully understand the warranty, and what it does and doesn’t cover. Ask to see installations in your area that have been in place for several years, and talk to the homeowners who own them. Decks are a huge investment, so you really need to do your homework, and don’t rely just on an attractive price.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at [email protected].

Copyright 2010 Inman News

See Paul Bianchina’s feature, Is Do-it-Yourself in Your DNA?

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