Disadvantages of Metal Decking

For those of us in Canada who have to endure long winters, spending time outdoors during the other seasons is a cherished activity.  While we strive to create beautiful outdoor living spaces to spend time with friends and family, the last thing we want is the responsibility of extensive maintenance and upkeep of these outdoor areas.

For this reason, we have seen an increase in products and companies advertising and selling maintenance free options. Most of you are likely aware of stone decking and composite decking products, but maybe not of the newest player in the decking game – metal decking. What is metal decking and are there any disadvantages to metal decking?

To be clear, when speaking of metal decking in this sense, we are not referring to products like Paverdeck or TileDeck, which are base decking materials made out of galvanized metal designed to be clad in stone. The metal decking we are talking about here is metal decking boards, designed and intended to be the finished surface of the deck. Metal is definitely long-lasting and strong, but are there disadvantages to metal decking?

Metal decking boards are a relatively new product on the market and as a result are somewhat limited in the number of manufacturers, styles and colors available. How is this a disadvantage to metal decking?  In essence, metal decking is planks made of aluminum and painted in a selection of colors. This is similar to the vast market of composite decking boards that are available. If you are a homeowner and want your deck to stand out and be different from what your neighbors have, this will definitely be a disadvantage. Also, since this product is somewhat limited in its market share, there are not as many contractors that have worked with the product. As a result, you could end up having a harder time sourcing a reputable installer and may be forced to pay more of a premium for the installation.

As mentioned, aluminum decking is painted, and the process used is called powder coating.  Though strong, it can still scratch and chip through normal wear and tear. It can also dent if it is hit hard or something solid is dropped onto it. Given that it is aluminum, it will not corrode once scratched or dented, but over time it will lose its luster and begin to look weathered. This is a definite disadvantage of metal decking considering it’s one of the most expensive maintenance free decking options.

You would expect an expensive option such as metal decking would be more versatile than it is. Given that it is essentially straight planking, you are limited in most cases to premanufactured lengths and, in some cases, predetermined layouts. It cannot be bent or cut without exposing the metal edge. This means creating a round deck becomes impossible unless the manufacturer has some sort of capping system available that is flexible and will hide the exposed cut edge. With aluminum, you also have to use the recommended fastener, otherwise, it may have a negative reaction with the aluminum. Also, if your build involves any pressure-treated lumber, you have to ensure it is not in contact with any exposed aluminum planking, as the chemical used in pressure treated preservation will react with it.

Considering these disadvantages of metal decking you have to take a few things into consideration if you were to use this maintenance-free option. Some consumers indicated it was a challenge to work with, citing the lack of clear installation instructions available and difficulty in cutting the product without damaging the cut edge. Also, despite a few manufacturers claiming to have a waterproof locking system, some customers reported leaks through the surface. There are also comments that the deck sounds “hollow and tinny” when walking on it.

As you do your research to find the best maintenance-free deck solution for your project, you have to look at all the pros and cons of each system.  Given that this product is new to the decking market, you will be wise to keep in mind some of the disadvantages of metal decking to make sure it is right for you.