Can You Paint Trex or Composite Decking? A Complete Guide

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can you paint trex or composite decking

Most homeowners buy a composite decking like Trex because there is virtually no maintenance needed once installed. The single-color dyed during the manufacturing process is designed to last a lifetime.

Sometimes, though, you may find that you want to alter the color a little (or a lot). This can be due to premature fading, damaged areas, small repairs or to cover stains. The first idea turns to replacing the board, but this can lead to a drastic difference in color due to fading and time.

Should you paint Trex composite decking? It certainly is a possibility. We will cover everything you need to know in order to get a nice, even paint on your Trex or composite deck to get a new look.

Top Rated Composite Decking Brands

Trex isn’t the only name in the game. There are several brands of composite and PVC decking that stand out above the rest.

  • TimberTech (Azek). Easily Trex’s number one competition. Azek is durable, easy to install and affordable for most budgets.
  • DuraLife (Barrette Outdoor). A budget-friendly option that may not last as long as the top-tier brands but will last a long time for most uses.
  • Fiberon. A new take on the composite decking options, with plenty of style and options to choose from.
  • Lumberock. A composite board made from plastics and minerals instead of wood pulp to add strength and durability to your deck.

What is Composite Decking?

what is composite decking

Composite decking is a term that covers wood alternative materials that are generally made of a wood pulp and plastic. The composite material is formed into decking boards, dyed and embossed with a wood grain pattern.

Composite material is strong, durable, and can be worked just like real wood. You can cut it with a saw, use lumber nails and screws for attaching and it won’t crack, splinter or rot. Because of the plastic content, it is also dense and doesn’t attract insects or rodents.

The down side, of course, is the cost. In general composite decking is much more expensive than pressure treated lumber. However, it doesn’t require the long-term maintenance and upkeep that wood does, so over the life of your deck, composite will actually cost less.

Should you Paint a Colored Deck Board?

Composite wood decking is dyed during the manufacturing process. The colors are near limitless but most brands will stick to traditional colors, or colors that match the embossed grain pattern.

Because of the plastic composite and capping, the boards are also resistant to stains, fading and damage, which limits the need for repairs, including painting. Of course, there are instances when painting a composite deck board may be in your best interest.

Some brands and some composite materials can be subject to organic material staining. This is when something like a leaf holds moisture against the deck while it decomposes. The result is a dark stain on the board that isn’t easily removed. This also includes chemical stains, grease stains from barbecue grills and other things.

When you have discoloration from uneven fading over time, or an organic stain, it may be easier and cheaper to paint the deck to make it a uniform color once again. Your other option is to replace the worn or stained board, but the new one won’t have the fade time and will stand out compared to the older boards.

Benefits (and Drawbacks) of Painting Composite Decking

benefits and drawbacks of painting composite decking

Painting your deck used to be an annual or bi-annual event. This included sanding, pressure washing, removing old paint, and staining or varnishing the lumber. With composite decking you don’t have any of those tasks that are required. Not once a year and in most cases not for the life of the deck.

Composite decking’s biggest benefit is the extremely low maintenance required to keep it in shape, looking new and performing to expectations. In fact, almost all cases only require a broom and a garden hose to maintain the deck. You can use a pressure washer with the right cone angle, too.

Another benefit to composite decking is that it already comes as a solid color that doesn’t need to be painted over or updated to maintain the color or appearance. Only in extreme cases where this constant direct sunlight will some brands or styles show fading.

However, because the wood plastic composite is sturdy, acts like lumber and is subject to the elements, painting with the right types of paints is something you can do. Whether you need to hide imperfections or stains as mentioned above, or just want a new color.

The major drawback, though, is that once you do paint it, it will begin to act like regular lumber in terms of maintenance and you will need to reapply the paint every year just like with a natural wood deck.

The Best Paint for Composite Decking

Before you head out to the home improvement store and pick up a few gallons of paint, it is wise to check and make sure you get the best paint for the task. Anything that is highly acidic, or contains a bleaching element should be avoided.

You can skip painting altogether and use a varnish, but it must also be a non-bleaching varnish. You also need to think about what you want the end result to look like. Composite decking has a higher sheen than natural wood, due to the plastic content. If you wish to maintain this look you will want to use a semi-gloss or satin finish paint.

The best option for painting Trex or composite decking is to use a high-quality latex paint. Oil-based deck paints are highly durable and easy to apply due to the slower drying time. Acrylic paints are also viable due to the low VOC content. Acrylic is also easier to keep clean. For best results, though, latex paint with a semi-gloss finish is the go-to option.

How to Paint Composite Decking

how to paint composite decking

Before you start painting, you need to ensure you have the right tools and equipment. While this list isn’t exhaustive, it will be enough to complete most products.

  • The paint, in enough color-matched gallons as required for the size of your deck.
  • Pressure washer to clean the deck prior to painting.
  • Soft bristled brush.
  • Non-chemical cleaning items, like a water and vinegar mix.
  • Sandpaper for scuffing the deck surface.
  • Paint brushes, rollers or sprayers.
  • Enough latex primer to cover the deck.

You may also include things like drop cloths, painters tape, newspaper and cleaning rags to your list, too. Anything that you feel you need to get the job done as smoothly and professionally as you can should be added to your list.

Painting a Trex or Composite Deck: Step by Step

Now that you have the materials on hand and are ready to go, follow the steps below to get a new look on your deck and have a great time enjoying your decking in the years to come.

  1. Remove any obstacles from the deck. This includes furniture, potted plants, toys, grills, etc. Keep the entire deck clear or any items during the painting process.
  2. Clean the deck. If you have mildew, mold or stains you want to clean with a soft brush and a water and vinegar mix. Use a pressure washer to clean the entire deck and rinse the cleaning materials thoroughly.
  3. Allow the deck to fully dry.
  4. Sand the entire deck. You need to use a high-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the entire deck. 240-grit is recommended. Make sure you sand in the direction of the grain pattern to degloss the planks.
  5. sweep the bulk of dust off and use the pressure washer again to thoroughly rinse the deck of any debris or sanding dust.
  6. Allow the deck to dry completely.
  7. Prime the deck. Using your primer you want to apply a smooth, even coat of primer to the entire deck surface. Most primers will require at least 2 hours to dry before the topcoat can be applied. Read the primer instructions for recommended times for your primer brand, though.
  8. When priming you want to coat the entire plank, and make sure any embossed grain patterns are filled. Attempt to get as thin as possible with the primer without leaving any exposed areas.
  9. Paint the deck. Once the primer is dried or cured you can apply your color paint to the deck. Once again, make sure you apply smooth, thin layers to cover the deck and primer without losing any of the details. If you paint too thick, drying time will be raised and you may lose the grain pattern detail.
  10. Apply a second coat after the recommended wait time. A third coat may be needed in some rare cases, so inspect the entire deck after the second coat fully dries.

Frequently Asked Questions

faq can you paint trex or composite decking

Here, we will answer the more commonly asked questions about painting Trex or composite decking.

Q. Can I use stain instead of paint on a composite deck?

  1. Yes. If you wish to stain the deck instead of painting, you certainly can do that. Composite decks will accept a stain, but it needs to be a high quality stain, such as Cabot brand oils. You want to avoid water-based stains, though, as they will peel off rapidly.

Q. Can I use other options besides stains or paints for my composite deck?

  1. There are instances where a different coating may be needed. Decking near a pool or spa, for example, would make great use of a rubber surface paint, like Liquid Rubber, or an epoxy paint to add durability. These will cover any grain pattern your deck has, though, so be warned the look will be altered.

Q. Can I stain a capped composite deck?

  1. This should be avoided as the stain won’t be thick enough to penetrate the plastic capping. Instead you will want to apply two layers of latex paint to a capped composite deck to ensure even coverage and longer lasting finish.

Conclusion

Painting a Trex or composite deck is something that isn’t required. You may find an instance here and there where it is needed but in most cases, the deck you order and install will remain color-fast and durable for life.

If you do find that you need to paint or stain your composite deck, though, it can be done. As we have outlined here it is a straightforward process, just a time-consuming one. Once you apply paint to your composite deck, be ready to reapply every couple of years, though.

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AUTHOR

Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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