Out of all the materials used in decks today, aluminum is overlooked and underestimated in comparison to wood and composite planks. While they are definitely not for everyone, they aluminum decking has several unique properties that make it ideal for regions that get a lot of rain as well as consumers that want something durable.
The Advantages of Aluminum Decking
Every style of decking has pros and cons, including aluminum. Before we get to issues you could experience with this material; we’re going to tell you what makes it stand out. In this case, it all starts with durability.
When it comes to building materials, metal is always a better option than wood when longevity is a concern. Aluminum that’s been anodized or coated will outlast wood and PVC planks by decades. In fact, the top companies offer limited lifetime guarantees for their products, which means your deck is likely to outlast you when properly maintained.
On that note, maintenance is extremely low as well with aluminum decking. It’s not organic, so it won’t splinter, warp or crack like traditional wood or fade out like composite boards. You will never get a splinter, and won’t have to refinish your decks anytime soon. Eventually, they may need to be painted, but mold, UV rays, and mildew won’t cause you any headaches.
When those decks do get dirty, a water hose and a scrub brush can keep your decks looking fresh year after year. You will need to heed the manufacturer’s instructions in that regard, but trust us when we say it’s very easy to maintain.
It’s also fire-resistant, and one of the lightest materials next to PVC, yet stronger than any other style of decking. While we can’t imagine why anyone would want to remove an aluminum deck, you will be glad to know they are recyclable, which gives them an eco-friendly edge.
Aluminum Decking Cons
There aren’t many cons with aluminum decking as it’s built to last, so price and the style or usually the two biggest concerns.
While it depends on the grade and species, aluminum is considerably more expensive than wood and 2-3 times higher than most composites. Its closest competitor from a price standpoint is capped PVC although that’s the only two things these materials have in common.
To say aluminum decking is an acquired taste is an understatement. Manufacturing techniques allow companies to make aluminum with patterns similar to wood, but it does not measure up to the real thing underfoot. It feels solid, but can be loud and tends to stay cool, whereas other forms of decking are warmer in the summer months.
Slippage isn’t a major concern with aluminum decks as the best brands combat that with a coating that can give you more traction than other styles of decking. That said, pets could be a problem along with ice even when rain itself is not an issue. Your color options are also a bit limited compared to other building materials.
How to Choose the Right Aluminum Decking
Aluminum Deck Boards
When you need something basic, a regular Aluminum deck board is your best option. They are just as easy to maintain as the other styles, but are not watertight and don’t come with any type of drainage system.
This is the most affordable style of decking and quite a bit cheaper than top-tier waterproof planks or composite systems. Needless to say, it’s a great choice if you don’t need to keep the area underneath your deck dry.
Waterproof Aluminum Decking
Whenever you see aluminum decking labeled as “waterproof,” it means the company has designed the product to keep things dry beneath your deck. These boards usually have an interlocking system which provides you with a uniform look and no gaps.
Built-in Channels or a gutter system on these boards will certainly keep the water away. You’ll pay more for this type of aluminum decking, but it’s ideal for rainy regions or areas what will stay wet more often than not.
In addition to waterproof and regular aluminum boards, there are also deck “systems” and modular aluminum decking to consider. Both styles are basically “decks in a box” to a degree and can come complete with railing, lighting and everything you need to install the deck aside from manpower and tools.
As mentioned, one of the few aluminum decking cons is the fact you don’t have as many finishes to choose from. Depending on the manufacturer, you are generally looking at powder coated planks, along with anodized and mill finished decking.
Powder coated aluminum decks are the most popular option for residential use and provide you with the biggest array of colors. While you won’t find anything too wild or realistic, you can get shades comparable to what you’d find with real wood or composites.
Powder coated finishes give you a small range of color, but it’s an area where you will want to look before you leap. Companies tend to discontinue lines and colors, so you want to make sure there’s enough stock available for your project before choosing a hue.
Mill finished decking is what you’ll find on bleachers and other projects where colors and style aren’t a major concern. It’s not coated but will oxidize itself which provides natural protection from the elements. It’s usually not found on residential structures but is an option depending on your needs.
Considering most stores don’t have aluminum decking out on the shelves, you will want to pick up a few extra boards in case you need to repair your deck down the line regardless of the finish you choose. That’s a common mistake when buying any style of decking, but more costly with aluminum.
It’s also important to remember that most aluminum decking is solid in 2-inch increments when it comes to length, which allows you to fine-tune things and make fewer cuts. Widths vary to a degree, and some companies provide both standard and wider sized planks.
DIY or Professional Installation?
Some forms of decking are much easier to install than others – it’s a fact. Wood is more forgiving than PVC if you need to rip a board, but aluminum is an oddball when it comes to ease of installation. It’s not necessarily hard to lay down planks made from aluminum, but there are certainly easier alternatives if you plan to do it yourself.
If you want to set up your own deck, consider the cost of the hardware needed beforehand. Like composite boards and PVC, many companies use hidden fastening systems that keep things smooth and nails or screws out of site. You’ll also need tools which include a saw with a blade capable of cutting nonferrous metals like aluminum. A steady hand is a must if you need to rip a board, although the way these boards are sized can simplify things.
When cordless drills and saws make you cringe, a professional is your best option. The aluminum decking installation price varies by region, but our pricing tool will give you an idea on what to expect.
The Best Aluminum Decking Brands
Wahoo is a company that only sells aluminum decking, not composites or wood. While they only have two residential products, they also produce commercial decking, drainage systems, and railings to match your new deck.
Wahoo Fortis is the closest thing you’ll find to a wooden plank and an excellent choice if you want aluminum but don’t like the look of a solid deck. These planks are gapped which gives them a more traditional look, but powder coated and available in three colors with Artisan Clay, Granite, and Sandstone. The boards are 8 inches wide and available in lengths up to 24 feet depending on your needs.
You’ll get the same three shades to choose from with Wahoo AridDek, but these boards are made from 6005 T-5 marine-grade aluminum. They have an integrated gutter to ensure anything below your deck stays dry and come in lengths up to 36 feet. Both styles are recyclable and made from up to 50% recycled material as well. If you’re interested in AridDeck or Fortress, you’ll need to request a quote from the company.
Versadeck is another company that specialized in aluminum decking, and they have a couple of product lines in the standard profiles. What sets them apart is the array of colors available and their modular deck system called Versamods.
Consumers that want standard deck boards will appreciate Versadeck Plank Decking which is available in residential and commercial grades. Their waterproof product is just as durable, but called Versadry and geared to keep the area underneath your deck totally dry. Both products give you eight colors to choose from and have a thick 60 – 80 mils layer of Polyurea deck coating.
If price is no object, the Erect A Deck system is an interesting option that gives you a complete deck from the ground up for between $11,000 - $33,000. Alternatively, the R-40 and C-60 modular deck system allows you to build your deck from planks welded onto modular panels. Prices on their products start at around $30 per square foot aside from the full decking kits.
Aluminum deck reviews are hard to come by partly due to the price of decking and the fact it’s not something people tend to buy online. LockDry is one of the few brands we were able to track down verified reviews for, and it’s one of two products made from Nexan Building Products.
As you might suspect, Nexan’s lineup consists of one waterproof product and one that’s not. LockDry is their “stay dry” decking line and on par with other company’s planks but in more colors. There are six shades available, including Dakota Oak Wood Grain if you want something more realistic. That color may be hard to come by along with White and Golden Clay which are listed as discontinued so stock may be low.
Nextdeck is the more affordable of the two, and while it’s not watertight, it will look great on any modern home. It comes in four colors, and none should be hard to track down, although pricing is a different story. Nexan sells direct to the public but doesn’t list their pricing so you’ll need to request a quote for your project.