Does Plastic Decking Float?

When it comes to enhancing your outdoor living spaces, one material has been making waves – quite literally. Plastic decking, a contemporary marvel in outdoor construction, is gaining popularity for its durability, low maintenance, and unique ability to float.

The demand for plastic decking has soared as homeowners and builders seek a versatile alternative to traditional wood decking. Understanding its composition is the foundation for recognizing the numerous advantages it offers.

But the intrigue doesn’t end there. The burning question on many minds is, “Does plastic decking float?” This guide delves into the fascinating science behind this phenomenon, exploring the Archimedes principle, which governs buoyancy.

Discover why plastic decking floats and how it compares to its wooden counterparts.

Does Plastic Decking Float?

Yes, plastic decking typically floats on water due to its buoyant properties. Plastic decking, following the principles of Archimedes, possesses buoyancy, enabling it to float on water. This property makes it an excellent choice for applications like floating docks and waterside decks. However, properly securing the decking is crucial, as Archimedes’ principle also implies that the decking will displace an amount of water equal to its weight, potentially causing instability if not anchored securely.

What is Plastic Decking?

Plastic decking, a modern marvel in outdoor construction, is a versatile and durable alternative to traditional wood decking.

Composition of Plastic Decking

Plastic decking is typically crafted from recycled plastics and wood fibers. These materials are skillfully combined with additives, such as colorants and stabilizers, to create a robust, weather-resistant product.

While the exact composition may vary depending on the manufacturer, the fundamental idea remains consistent: plastic decking is designed to endure the elements while providing an attractive outdoor surface.

Differences from Traditional Wood Decking

Now, let’s dive into how plastic decking sets itself apart from traditional wood decking in several significant ways:

  1. Durability: Unlike wood, plastic decking is highly resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage. It won’t splinter or warp over time, ensuring a longer lifespan.
  2. Low maintenance: Plastic decking requires minimal upkeep. Forget about staining, sealing, or periodic sanding – a simple regular cleaning is usually all that’s necessary.
  3. Color options: Plastic decking offers a wide array of colors, allowing homeowners to choose a shade that perfectly complements their outdoor aesthetic.
  4. Eco-friendly: Many plastic decking products incorporate recycled materials, making them an environmentally conscious choice for eco-minded individuals.
  5. Moisture resistance: Plastic decking is not prone to moisture-related issues, making it ideal for areas near water, like pools or waterfront properties.
  6. Splinter-free: One of the most significant advantages is that it’s splinter-free, providing a safer and more comfortable surface for walking barefoot.

As you can see, the appeal of plastic decking extends far beyond its durability, making it a compelling choice for outdoor projects. Plastic decking has got you covered whether you’re looking for longevity, low maintenance, or simply a safer and more visually appealing deck.

The Archimedes Principle and Its Relevance

We need to acquaint ourselves with the Archimedes principle to understand why plastic decking floats. Named after the ancient Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes, this principle states that an object displaces its weight in the fluid in which it’s submerged. In simpler terms, an object will float if it is less dense than the fluid it’s placed in.

In the case of plastic decking, the combination of recycled plastics and wood fibers, along with various additives, results in a relatively low density. This low density allows plastic decking to displace enough water to make it buoyant. Placing plastic decking on water won’t sink because it is less dense than the water it displaces.

Why Plastic Decking Floats and How it Compares to Wood Decking

  1. Low density: As mentioned earlier, plastic decking has a lower density than wood. Traditional wood decking is denser and, therefore, heavier. This density difference is why plastic decking has a natural buoyancy, while wood decking tends to sink when placed in water.
  2. Water resistance: Plastic decking is designed to resist moisture, making it less susceptible to water absorption. Wood, on the other hand, can absorb water, which increases its weight and causes it to sink more readily.
  3. Ideal for waterfront areas: Plastic decking’s ability to float makes it an excellent choice for waterfront properties and applications like floating docks. It provides a stable and safe surface above the water.

Conditions Under Which Plastic Decking Floats

Plastic decking will typically float in various conditions, including:

  1. Freshwater: Plastic decking readily floats in freshwater environments, such as lakes and ponds.
  2. Saltwater: Many plastic decking products are also buoyant in saltwater, making them suitable for coastal areas and marine applications.
  3. Proper installation: The floating capability of plastic decking is contingent on proper installation. To ensure stability and safety, you should securely fasten to a structure or framework.
  4. Even Weight Distribution: To ensure that plastic decking remains buoyant and level, it’s crucial to distribute weight evenly across the surface.

Types of Plastic Decking

When it comes to plastic decking, you’ll encounter a variety of options, each with its unique characteristics and benefits.

There are two primary types of plastic decking: composite and PVC decking.

Composite Decking

Composite decking is a popular choice among homeowners and builders. It combines wood fibers, often recycled, with plastic materials. The resulting composite boards offer several advantages:

  • Natural appearance: Composite decking often mimics the look of real wood, providing a natural and attractive aesthetic.
  • Low maintenance: It requires minimal maintenance, such as regular cleaning, and doesn’t need staining or sealing.
  • Durability: Composite decking is highly durable and resistant to rot, decay, and insect damage, making it a long-lasting choice.
  • Eco-friendly: Many composite decking products use recycled materials, an environmentally responsible option.
  • Slight weight: Composite decking is relatively lightweight, which can benefit installation.

However, there are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Price range: Composite decking can vary significantly, and higher-quality options are more expensive.
  • Heat retention: Some composite decking boards can get hot in direct sunlight, which might be uncomfortable for bare feet.
PVC Decking

PVC decking is another prominent choice in the world of plastic decking. It’s made entirely from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) materials and offers unique characteristics:

  • Exceptional durability: PVC decking is exceptionally durable, resisting rot, mold, mildew, and insect damage.
  • Low maintenance: It requires minimal maintenance, typically only needing regular cleaning.
  • Color variety: PVC decking comes in various colors and styles, allowing for various design options.
  • Lightweight: PVC boards are lightweight and easy to handle during installation.
  • Impervious to moisture: PVC decking is entirely moisture-resistant, making it ideal for waterfront and wet area applications.

However, there are some considerations to be aware of with PVC decking:

  • Price: PVC decking is often at the higher end of the price range for decking materials.
  • Heat retention: Similar to composite decking, some PVC boards can warm in direct sunlight.
  • Non-natural look: Unlike composite decking, PVC decking does not have a wood-like appearance.
Comparing Composite and PVC Decking

To summarize the key differences:

  • Composite decking combines wood fibers with plastics, while PVC decking is entirely made from PVC materials.
  • Composite decking often replicates the appearance of real wood, while PVC decking has a non-natural look.
  • Both types are low maintenance, durable, and moisture-resistant.
  • Composite decking can get hot in sunlight, whereas PVC decking doesn’t retain heat as much.

These options allow you to choose the plastic decking best suits your preferences and specific project requirements.

Read Also: Will Black Plastic Kill Weeds? 

Applications of Plastic Decking

Plastic decking is a versatile solution that finds its place in a range of residential and commercial applications. These are some of the diverse applications of plastic decking, emphasizing its suitability for floating docks, and provide some real-world examples of successful plastic decking installations.

Residential Use

Plastic decking has become a go-to choice for homeowners seeking a low-maintenance, long-lasting, and visually appealing outdoor surface. Here are some common residential applications:

  1. Decks and Patios: Plastic decking is ideal for constructing decks and patios. Its resistance to moisture, rot, and insects ensures it remains beautiful and functional in various weather conditions.
  2. Pool Decks: Many homeowners opt for plastic decking around their pools because it can resist moisture and provide a safe, non-slip surface for swimmers.
  3. Front Porches: Plastic decking’s durability and ease of maintenance make it a practical option for front porch applications, enhancing curb appeal.
  4. Balconies and Terraces: In urban settings, plastic decking is used on balconies and terraces to create comfortable outdoor spaces for residents.
Commercial Use

Beyond residential settings, plastic decking also serves various commercial applications:

  1. Boardwalks and trails: Many coastal boardwalks and nature trails are constructed using plastic decking because of their resistance to moisture and salt water.
  2. Restaurants and outdoor seating areas: Restaurants and cafes often utilize plastic decking in outdoor seating areas, providing a comfortable and visually appealing space for patrons.
  3. Hotels and resorts: Plastic decking can be found in the outdoor areas of hotels and resorts, providing guests with a durable and attractive environment.
  4. Educational facilities: Schools and universities use plastic decking for outdoor classroom spaces and seating areas.
Why Plastic Decking is Ideal for Floating Docks

Floating docks require a unique set of qualities, and plastic decking is the perfect match for this application:

  1. Buoyancy: The ability to float makes plastic decking ideal for floating docks, ensuring stability and safety even in changing water levels.
  2. Moisture resistance: Floating docks are constantly exposed to water, making the moisture resistance of plastic decking a crucial feature.
  3. Durability: Floating docks endure constant use, and plastic decking’s durability ensures they can withstand heavy foot traffic and potential impacts.
Successful Installations of Plastic Decking

Plastic decking has seen numerous successful installations worldwide. For example:

  1. The Miami Beach Boardwalk: The Miami Beach Boardwalk is constructed using plastic decking, offering a durable and visually appealing path along the beach.
  2. Disney Springs, Orlando: Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida, features plastic decking in various outdoor areas, providing a comfortable and beautiful environment for visitors.
  3. Residential Waterfront Properties: Many homeowners with waterfront properties have successfully installed plastic decking for their private docks, enhancing their outdoor living spaces.

Read Also: How to Glue PVC to Brass

Frequently Asked Questions

Does PVC Boards Float?

PVC boards typically float due to their low density and water-resistant properties. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is less dense than water, which makes it buoyant, and it does not readily absorb water. This buoyancy makes PVC boards suitable for various applications, including watercraft, docks, and other water-related structures. However, the exact buoyancy may vary depending on the specific composition and thickness of the PVC board, so it’s essential to consider these factors when designing or using them in aquatic environments.

Does Plastic Sheet Float on Water?

Yes, plastic sheets, like those made from materials such as polyethylene or polypropylene, typically float on water. This is because these plastics have a lower density than water and do not readily absorb or become saturated with water. As a result, they exhibit buoyant properties, making them suitable for various applications where flotation on water is required, such as in the construction of rafts, boats, or other floating structures. However, the specific buoyancy of a plastic sheet may vary based on its thickness and composition.

Read Also: Is Bleach Corrosive to Plastic? 

Bottom Line

Our exploration of plastic decking leads us to a compelling conclusion—a future where innovation and practicality meet outdoor living. With its buoyant capabilities, durability, and low-maintenance qualities, plastic decking has emerged as the solution for elevating outdoor spaces.

We’ve delved into the two primary types of plastic decking, composite, and PVC, understanding the nuances that set them apart. These options cater to various projects, from residential decks to commercial boardwalks, offering lasting beauty and functionality.

The versatility of plastic decking extends to both freshwater and saltwater applications, making it an ideal choice for homes and businesses near bodies of water. Its eco-friendly attributes, moisture resistance, and long lifespan solidify its top-tier outdoor construction material position.

Plastic decking is the answer whether you’re planning to construct a new deck, enhance a poolside area, or create a floating dock. So, as you embark on your outdoor renovation journey, remember that plastic decking isn’t just a material—it’s your ticket to a future where your outdoor spaces remain beautiful, practical, and ready to float above the rest. Choose plastic decking and set sail into a brighter future for your outdoor living.