Does Composite Decking Fade? When, Why, and What to Do

If only everything we bought for our outside area stayed as new as the day we bought it. Sadly, for many items of furniture and other ornamental products, fading occurs alongside the build of dirt and other issues. Does this apply to your composite decking too? Does composite decking fade? As composite decking professionals, we have a long span of experience in answering this question, particularly in South Africa where the effects of UV rays can be quite strong.

So in this article. We’re going to answer that exact question. With some visual information to help illustrate it.

Starting with a quick summary and then going into more details...

Older first-generation composite decking will fade by up to 40% within the first 3-6 months. Further fading will occur by around 2% - 4% per annum. Second-generation, or “capped” composite decking fades at a much slower rate, less than 1% per annum after some minor initial fading occurs.

That’s the somewhat technical answer and based on our experience carrying out installations in all areas, such as Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban, and we’ll discuss what the initial fading stage is later. But from this estimation, you should be able to get an idea of how much to expect your new decking to fade.

There are safeguards you can take action on to slow down the effects of fading, and we’ll get into those further down too.

Why composite decking fades?

So first, let’s take a quick look at why fading occurs in composite decking. We’ll start with the elements that cause this.

  • Fading from rain

As you might expect, rain constantly hitting any outdoor furniture or items is going to take its toll. Certainly in the initial stages, but the rain mostly serves to wash away essential oils in particular types of decking, stripping the deck of much of its natural coatings. This is another good reason why you want to avoid any guttering water from constantly watering over your composite decking too.

  • Fading from UV rays

The sun will bleach almost everything it comes into contact with. It affects all materials at an atomic level, and more so with manmade materials and is particularly more noticeable where artificial colour has been introduced. But it can take time, and often the effects are unnoticeable on a daily basis. According to experts in this area...

“Ultraviolet rays are one of the causes of fading because they can break down chemical bonds and fade the color in an object. Other major contributors to fading include visible light and solar heat”

So even if you’re living in a climate that sees very little direct sunlight, your composite decking will still be subject to UV rays with some degree of strength from just visible light and solar heat.

  • Wear and tear

We should probably add that high traffic areas can contribute to the fading effect. Constant wear erodes the surface of the decking.

This is mostly concerning first-generation composite decking. Second generation composite decking, which we’ll learn shortly has now improved on this to dramatically reduce fading.


When does composite decking fade?

So you want to know how long it will take for your beautiful shade of composite decking to bleach from its original colour.

Well, concerning first generation decking, you can expect an initial loss of colour. Here’s how the first stage works...

  • Short term fading

Typically for short term fading, you’re looking at a higher fading rate over the first 3-6 months after installation. Again, this depends on the generation of decking you have...


First Generation - Uncapped:

“Extractive bleeding” is the official term given to the initial fading that occurs on first-generation composite decking. Natural wood oils contained within the wood fibre of the boards begin to be washed away by any occurrences of rain and from general moisture in the air. You might also think that darker composite boards would suffer a greater degree of fading at this stage, but in first-generation composite decking, lighter boards are more prone to fading as there are a greater number of natural wood oil products used to obtain this shading.


Second Generation - Capped:

2nd Gen composite decking is now manufactured to limit fading from UV rays, moisture, rain and other elements. These composite boards are treated with better products and are referred to as “capped” or “shielded” Co-Extrusion decking. You will see a much reduced fading effect from second generation composite decking.

As a visual estimation, here’s an infographic that illustrates the comparison in the rate of fading of composite generations...


Wood Plastic Composite Fade Lifespan

  • Long term fading

Beyond the initial stages of fading that may be more noticeable, there will be a much more gradual decline in fading from that point. Depending also on which generation of boarding you have installed. The second stage is more of a gradual decline based on the effects of UV light. This is more likely to be a slow and steady fading over the course of the next 20 to 25 years or the life of the decking.

If you want to know what the lifespan of your composite decking is, then see our article on how long Composite decking lasts.  

Certain factors can come into play here too, mainly whether the boarding is first or second-generation composite decking. And others, such as the quality of materials used in the manufacturing process.

How to gauge composite decking fading?

The easiest way to estimate the amount of fading is by comparison and it’s pretty easy to do. Always keep stored in your garage or somewhere else indoors, away from light, a sample of the original decking. Mark on your calendar a 3 -month and 6-month period, and at these points, take the sample and compare it alongside the installed outside decking. This will give you a visual confirmation of any fading that’s occurred.

Take photos if necessary, as it’s at these points you can be more certain as to the generation of decking. Of course, you’ve already purchased and installed the decking at this point. So be sure to follow our advice before purchasing and having it installed to prevent any disappointment

Our advice:

Be wary when discussing composite decking with a supplier. If you’re specifically looking for second-generation decking, then ask for information, documentation, or a guarantee that verifies the generation of decking that is being quoted and installed.

To gauge the UV fade rate and colour stabilisation after the first 6 months of your composite deck’s life, you can place a sample next to your deck that has not been exposed to the elements. This should give you a true reflection of the colour difference and how your deck will look for the remainder of its service life.

To summarize

So here’s a quick roundup of what we’ve discussed 

  • Expect first-generation decking to fade by up to 40% within the first 3-6 months
  • Lighter colour decking fades more so in the first 6 months due to greater natural wood oils
  • Second generation composite decking is “capped” to greatly reduce fading from installation
  • Fading occurs from UV rays, light sources, solar heat, rain, moisture and other elements
  • After 6 months you can expect first-generation composite decking to fade at 2-4% per annum
  • Second-generation composite decking will fade at less than 1% per annum
  • Be sure to treat your decking to prevent fading
  • Compare a piece of decking kept indoors with the outside area to assess how much it has faded by

So finally...

With composite decking, you can generally say that you get what you pay for. Cheap imitations sound great on the wallet, but long term they may well let you down in terms of quality, robustness, and in maintaining their style and colour.

Before choosing your decking, come and talk to us, or simply get a quote. We’ve installed decking in most areas of South Africa, so we have years of experience in guiding our customers to select the right composite decking for their needs.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published