Growing consumer interest in low-maintenance alternatives to traditional building materials is having a real effect on the residential decking market: By 2011, wood-plastic composites will account for almost a quarter of all residential decking sales, predicts the Freedonia Group, a research firm. That’s up from 4 percent in 1996.

As the popularity of composite decking increases, so too will the need for builders and remodelers to familiarize themselves with the category’s expanding number of products. Each manufacturer offers a distinct blend of polymers, organic fibers, and additives, meaning that material strength, durability, and resistance to mold and fire vary...

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