With decking now manufactured from a wide selection of materials – from natural timber and timber/resin composites to porcelain, stone, and aluminium – architects and landscape designers have plenty of style choices. But decking must also meet several criteria other than style if it is to comply with regulations and meet customer expectations.
Let’s start with a look at the legal aspect. The Building (Amendment) Regulations 2018 state that all materials installed externally on a high-rise residential building must comply with Euroclass Class A fire rating; these regulations also cover roof gardens, balconies, and terraces, where decking is a popular feature.
Timber and composite decking don’t meet the standards required by the Regulations, so this leaves aluminium, natural stone or marble and porcelain. When installing a terrace on a flat roof, weight is a key factor as heavy materials may require additional structural support, particularly if the terrace is being installed on an existing roof.
This is where aluminium comes into its own, as it has an extremely high strength-to-weight ratio compared with the alternative products. It also scores highly in three other aspects:
It’s non-corrosive, meaning it will provide many years of hygienic, safe, low-maintenance service
It can be powder coated, meaning it can be easily finished to match or blend in with other aspects of the landscape design such as balustrades, window frames, benches and street furniture
It contains a high percentage of recyclable content and is often made from part-recycled aluminium, so it’s better for the environment
What Customers and Installers Say
So what do installers and users say about aluminium compared with other decking surfaces?
Aluminium decking does have its drawbacks, primarily because it is noisy. Disappointed customers have commented that the hollow sound generated by footsteps and heavy rainfall makes it feel cheap and unsubstantial.
Being made of metal that easily expands and contracts in heat and cold, aluminium decking can cause problems where it is fixed or connected to other materials. On the subject of heat, it can also become too warm to be walked on barefoot during hot summer months, which is a definite disadvantage for an area designed to be used for relaxation outdoors.
Durability can be another issue with aluminium decking. While it is often manufactured with a texture to prevent it from becoming slippery when wet, this texture isn’t as durable as the non-slip surface used on other decking products such as porcelain.
While natural aluminium requires no surface coating to protect it from corrosion its bright metallic finish doesn’t suit every application, so aluminium decking is often given a coloured powder coating to coordinate with other elements of the landscape architecture. The difficulty with this is that, although powder coating is extremely durable, it doesn’t stand up well to heavy footfall and will soon start to show wear.
It is also an expensive option that being quite complex to lay, gets a definite thumbs-down from installers. If you need Class A fire-rated decking to comply with regulations and want a stylish, durable product that will keep its good looks for longer, they would point you in the direction of porcelain.
Porcelain is the Preferred Choice
Weighing considerably less than natural stone but with a solidity that exudes permanence, porcelain tiles and porcelain decking from Raaft are manufactured in Italy, the home of premium quality porcelain and elegant design.
Their cool, soft-touch surfaces are a pleasure for bare feet, but at the same time are extremely durable and remain safely non-slip even when wet. Their naturalistic wood and stone designs retain their good looks for years without scratching, peeling or fading, and they are fully Class A fire-rated.
For more information on specifying, installing and designing with porcelain tiles and decking, contact the friendly team of experts at Raaft (call +44 (0)20 3146 7879 or email [email protected]).