Front Porch Progress & Decisions (Plus, Realizing My Biggest Front Porch Mistake)
We had more gorgeous weather this weekend, so I decided to take advantage of it to do more work on the porch. My main goal right now is to get the porch boards stained and sealed before my studio cabinets arrive on Wednesday. Once those cabinets arrive, my front porch will be the last thing on my mind.
I had already pressure washed the entire front porch area a couple of weeks ago and the front porch boards were looking much better.
So I planned to do just a little bit of sanding to remove the roughness left by pressure washing, and then move on to sealing the boards. But once I started sanding, the color of the boards started changing pretty drastically.
I realized that there was really no way I could do just a quick sanding job. I ended up taking way longer than I had anticipated, and doing a much more thorough sanding job than I had originally thought the porch needed. I was pretty amazed at how much color the sanding removed.
After the whole thing was sanded, the boards looked almost new. Almost. Here’s what it looked like once the whole porch was sanded and swept.
That took me way longer than the quick sanding I had planned to do, so I didn’t get the stain/sealer on the porch yet. But after researching the possible deck stains and sealers available, and reading a ridiculous number of customer reviews, I finally decided to use Cabot Australian Timber Oil. I used timber oil the first time as well, but it was a different brand. So I’m sticking with what I know because I was pretty happy with timber oil the first time around.
But the entire time I was working on this, down on my knees and sanding each and every board with my 5-inch sander, I was thinking that my biggest mistake on this porch was using real wood for the actual porch boards and not spending the extra money for Trex or something similar.
And why did I not use Trex the first time? The cost. I didn’t want to pay that much money for the front porch. I wanted to do the porch makeover on a budget, so I used cedar. Cedar wasn’t the cheapest wood I could have used. I did choose cedar because it’s a very weather-resistant wood, so I was okay paying a little more for it.
But in hindsight, I realize that when it comes to outdoor projects like porches, decking, etc., trying to save money up front means you’re stuck with a lifetime of maintenance as long as you have that porch or deck. That means you will end up paying that money, but it’ll be spread out over the years. And in addition to the money, you’ll also either have to spend hours and hours of your time doing the required maintenance, or you’ll have to pay additional money to have someone ese do the maintenance.
I’ve come to realize that it’s not worth it to try to save the money upfront, especially on outdoor projects that have to withstand the abuse of the weather and sun throughout the year. It would have been much better to spend the extra money upfront, and then just to be able to enjoy the front porch without having to worry about continual maintenance.
So that helped me decide how I want to handle things like the wood on the columns that has separated at the joints, and this area on the skirting that is literally spongy.
For now, I’m not replacing anything. I’m going to use wood hardener on the spongy wood, and wood filler and caulk on the non-spongy areas that need attention, and I’m going to paint them. And of course, I’m going to re-seal the porch boards now that it’s all sanded and ready for stain and sealer.
But this is the last time I’m going to do this. When we have our addition built, which will include a deck on the back of the house, I’m going to have that done with Trex. And at that time (or whenever this porch needs to be redone again), I’m going to have it redone with Trex as well. And from now on, any other outdoor projects will be done with longevity in mind, and not with the goal of spending as little money as possible at the time.
If you have a Trex porch or deck, I’d love to know what you think of it! The company claims that it requires literally zero maintenance. Has that been your experience? Or if you have a different brand of no-maintenance composite deck boards, I’d love to hear about those as well.
Addicted 2 Decorating is where I share my DIY and decorating journey as I remodel and decorate the 1948 fixer upper that my husband, Matt, and I bought in 2013. Matt has M.S. and is unable to do physical work, so I do the majority of the work on the house by myself. You can learn more about me here.
Trex and other composites are less maintenance, true, but you also need to be aware that they are heavy boards, so are best when laid over joists that are 12″ on center. You can get away with 16″ OC (check codes first, some municipalities require 12″ OC) , but there will be more “give”.
Trex does fade in the sun. Not to the degree of stained wood, but it’s something to be aware of (it can’t be painted.) It also gets very hot in the sun – too hot to walk on barefoot, so watch those puppy paws and going barefoot (the best solution is an outdoor area rug for walking spaces).
It’s slippery when wet, so you need to be careful if you use it for steps (and especially if you have a freezing rain or icing – since it’s not porous, the water stays on the surface).
We have had Trex and a neighbor has it now. Shady spots are fine, but I would hesitate to use it in full sun.
Everything I was going to mention Michelle addressed. I actually used a product from Menards because I couldn’t get the finish pieces from my Lowes. But make sure you have the deck built with the spacing specified or else you will see your boards sag.
My contractor who built my deck told us composite decking gets extremely hot and not good for pets or kids. He also said that although the bottom boards hold up great with no maintenance the railings warp tremendously and does not recommend them at all for railings. He advised us against it which I was leaning heavily towards. He is not an average contractor either. He is one of the top in my area and has an amazing business for over 30 years. However, I’m in your boat, I am not going to maintenance my deck every few years so I’m ready to at least lay down new decking boards with trex. I’ll just make sure to wear shoes so my feet don’t get scorched. 🥵
…..and the older you get, the less you are going to want or do that much work on your hands and knees or have the energy. I always buy the cheapest too, but in the long run, it never works out. Spend the extra, it may hurt for a little while, but it will be worth it in the long run.
I agree with the other comment that Trex gets HOT in the sun. Be mindful and pick a lighter shade. I picked dark chocolate brown and it will literally burn your bare feet. It also requires some pressure washing in shaded areas. Ours gets some mossy/algae film in our northern facing areas. All that said, I absolutely, HANDS DOWN, prefer it to staining and sealing a wooden deck.
I was so happy to read this post. My deck boards on the back deck have been pressure washed and now need painting. I am going to get an estimate for Trex! Thank you!
Have you considered using a marine grade stain? That was suggested to us for a long lasting exterior stain. We haven’t done it yet but I am curious if lasts longer or not?
I have used the Marine varnish. (Fir boats) Our first house had very old and rotten wood windows. We had new windows put in but we had to save up for another year to afford new siding. They had wood all around, which would be exposed to weather.Two of those
windows faced south and got a lot of sun as well as rain. So I used marine varnish on them and the gentleman who was installing the siding( had yo wait 2 years for it) thought we just had them installed before he came. I used that stuff on everyhing wood outdoors.
You have a beautiful deck.
I do not have a composite deck, but the ones I have seen — look terrible (IMO). They discolour and I have seen lots of cracks and ‘break off’.
Trex is the way to go if you don’t want maintenance! We have had trex in the past and just got product delivered to start replacing all of our current decking. We love it. Yes it does get hot, but we have a southern exposure and our current redwood decking gets SO hot we have to use rugs in the walking areas! Pricey yes, but with the price of lumber now and if you factor the hours every year to maintain a wood deck its a bargain!
The time and effort you put into sanding your porch was well worth it!!! It looks great and I’m sure the stain/sealant will look much better on the well sanded wood. We had a screen porch built on the back of our house a year ago. We used TimberTech AZEK flooring. It is entirely PVC plastic and has a 50 year warranty. Trex is a combination of plastic and wood which can develop mold and rot. The Azek doesn’t get overly hot in the sun. Perhaps you can find a display in full sun to test it out. I liked the finer grain texture it has. AZEK is more expensive. You can research the difference between the two, and also brands of composite decking. We used aluminum handrails. I also want to say I enjoyed reading your blog about Decor magazine “The Most Stunning Rooms Ever” issue. I loved seeing the photos. I am a traditional/French Country gal and having reached the senior citizen phase of life, I no longer worry about what’s in or outdated.
We have TimberTeck as well and LOVE it. No fading, no algae, no hot feet! We have aluminum handrails which gives us a better view into our yard. Be sure you leave a large enough gap between boards to allow seeds from the trees to fall through!
Our contractor warned us against the non-wood deck boards because he said his is so hot in the Summer he can’t walk on it without shoes.
We put a trex front porch on in 2006! and have never had to do anything. we did however use real wood for the railing and posts….which need a TON of maintenance!!
Your front porch seems pretty shaded so the temperature probably is a non issue. But I think, and I’ve never used TREX, that there are many other products out there nowadays that are an improvement over TREX. I’m sure you’ll do your research. You could buy a piece of composite and lay it in the sun to see how it behaves, especially if you’re a year or two from doing the back deck.
We have had a Trex Deck in our backyard for about 7 years. It does get hot but my real issue is that it looks dirty all the time. We have to power wash it several times over the summer. And my husband dropped some tools on it causing it to crack. We had some left over pieces so we may replace if the color hasn’t changed too much. All that said, I MUCH prefer it to maintaining a wood deck—which we had for about 10 years before replacing it with the Trex. We have Trex railings too and I haven’t had any problems with sagging.
I used PVC tongue and groove porch flooring on a porch that gets full sun after first trying real wood porch flooring. The sun and rain destroyed real wood and was a maintenance nightmare. The PVC has the grain of real wood, is not hot at all to walk on, and looks so good I forget that it’s not real wood. The grey color has never faded, either.
Mind telling me what brand and/or where you got tongue and groove porch flooring? We need to replace ours and are looking for a wood alternative. Thanks
Our carpenter refused to do Trex for us because he said it was “as slippery as snot” when wet. I could have wheedled him into it, but I didn’t, and I’m glad. Our neighbors had Trex put in; we went over there for a gathering that included hot-tub use; whoa–the deck was soooo slippery! Really bad for a person like me who has had a knee replacement. We get a lot of rain and snow where I live, so I’m glad we stuck with wood. It does have maintenance. Our carpenter is stuck with Trex on his own deck. He painted it with a really gritty coat of something that did adhere. He has to touch it up every spring, much like we do with our deck.
You have worked so hard on your porch, and it looks lovely. You need a larger sander. I’ve never had anything but wood porches or decks, so I don’t know how the others actually work. I know you are anxious to seriously work on your Studio.
I love reading about your projects.
I have a TimberTech composite deck. My neighbors have Trex. Both appear to be of similar quality and price. For me, I liked a TimberTech color better, which is why I went with it. Pay attention to how the boards are. Some composite decking is unprotected on the underside of the board and the longevity isn’t as long. Typically you see this on the super cheap composite deck options, so you have to pay close attention to what you’re buying. I’ve had my deck 2 years now and love it. Absolutely would do it again and highly recommend.
Yes, very true. One thing I would advice is if you can swing it , get the trex (or whatever composite you choose) boards for the front- even though they won’t be installed at the same time as the back porch boards- You know lots & dyes do change over the years. Also have to be careful when power washing. They do fade, it’s gradual,but they don’t crack and splinter like wood.
This was also going to be my suggestion, getting the material all at once so the decks match. Glad to see someone else beat me to it!
My in-laws had a Trex deck in the desert, and we definitely hot-stepped across it on bare feet in the summer. They ended up with many outdoor runners laid down along the route to the pool and such. It was lovely under cover though, and very easy to clean the winter getting and algae off with a pressure washer come spring.
I’m reading the comments from others as I’d love to replace our deck boards with a composite product, but we’ll need to add joists since ours are 16″OC. We are also in a coastal location so we get half a year worth of rain with a few good snowfalls per year, so we’ll need a product that can stand up to the wet.
I used Cabot Australian Timber Oil on my mother’s deck in Iowa. I thought it would be good because it is not available in California where I live…and California doesn’t allow anything that works well! It did not wear well. Three years later and it needs refinishing.
As an Australian, I can tell you that we don’t use this on external weather exposed surfaces. We use marine grade only on our hand railings. Our verandahs and decks are timber, and we treat them with a mix of linseed oil and turps every few years. A piece of cake, just wash floor and mix up 50/50 and roll it on with a long handled paint roller. Of course, you end up with a dark grey colored floor.
We have used composite decking on our pier and very satisfied.
I’ve never had composite decking, but I know it’s far superior to today’s “treated” wood decking -which is total garbage. I actually love your cedar floor, and am considering cedar to replace my treated garbage. My only issue with the composite is that my neighbor’s decks are always covered in algae, even in sunny areas. The composite boards apparently should be scrubbed a couple of times each year, but that’s probably not such a big deal.
I’m a big fan of Cabots Australian Timber Oil as well. Our deck is an amazing 32 years old and has absorbed a tanker full of treatment over the years. Slight exaggeration. Slight. And none of those treatments are cheap. So, yes, you end up paying a lot, either at the front or little by little. But the older I get, the less I like that scrubbing and treating. So our next project will use a composite. The improvements in composites are phenomenal. Nothing is totally maintenance free but a little power washing or a treatment of 30 Second Cleaner is a whole lot easier.
We had a composition deck at a previous house, not sure if it was Trex, though. Our grew mold or algae or some kind of stain that we couldn’t get off. We were told you can’t pressure wash it.
I have composite decking on the front and back of my house. I love it!!! Installation has to be done in a certain way with certain nails, so have a contractor do it. Also, I do NOT find it slippery when wet. There’s enough “grain” in it to keep it non-slippery. It does get hot in the summer, but not enough to make me not wear shoes. When it’s dirty, we use Dawn Powerwash, a scrub mop and hose and it looks great. We’ve also powerwashed it around our grill area and it comes out fantastic. These opinions are just mine, but I wanted to let you know I love composite decking. When you do go to replace the front columns and rails, check out the composite for those too!
We have had a composite deck (Trex in Toasted Sand, which is stocked at Lowe’s, now, no special order) for about 4-5 years now, and we LOVE it. The only maintenance we do is a good cleaning after the worst of the pollen in the spring. The rails are also made by Trex, although I think they’re straight PVC, no composite, and have required similar maintenance. We had two neighbors get theirs done at the same time—one did Trex (a lower-level line, though), and the last did wood. The two with Trex still look great, while the wood one has grown streaky and weathered.
As far as the cons people mentioned, I haven’t really noticed it being slicker or hotter than our previous deck—I do think your color matters for the temp, just like with stain. We’re not often outside with bare feet, especially in the middle of the day, so ymmv. Our dogs have had no issues with their paws on the surface.
I will also note that my parents had their deck built with early Trex, before it was made to more resemble wood, with a stained grain appearance, and it’s held up well over the past twenty or so years. That said, I think significant improvements have been made to the product in terms of appearance and durability.
We say Trex like Kleenex now…its the word for composite decking. Check different brands. The original boards grow mold spots on them and need power washing. And make sure you don’t power wash to strong or close, it cause the ‘boards’ to pit. It does fade, is hot, and does warp, but still I wouldn’t go back to real wood!
I was reading recently about aluminum decking. Does anyone have experience with it? The pictures I saw looked wood-like and the information said they don’t get hot and are not slippery.
I’d be cautious of off-brands. One we looked at from Menards gave clear pictures in their flyer of expected faded colors. After a lot of research we just ordered Trex Transcend (most expensive) decking today for our porch. We’ve had treated lumber and cedar railing the past 25 years and we’re DONE with the maintaining. Ugh. Plus the cedar is rotting. We decided to go with Westbury aluminum railing because the composite railings we’ve seen don’t seem very solid.
We have a composite deck on the back of our house. It was long enough ago that the “wood” doesn’t look that realistic but I can’t argue with the low-maintenance factor. We do power wash it in the spring but that’s all we do. My ONLY complaint is that the boards get VERY hot in the sun. Even the light colored ones. So if you plan on being barefoot a lot on the porch, take that into consideration.
We have Timbertec on our Pool deck. It holds up way better than Trex. Ours is a light gray and it does NOT get hot. I do have a small rug on it for decorative purposes only.
Just to introduce a different option…we just bought (and are almost done with installation) aluminum decking and railing. It’s not cheap (in fact, it’s the priciest option out there), but aluminum doesn’t rust, carpenter bees can’t burrow into it (they love Trex), it won’t rot, it isn’t as heavy as Trex (and thus doesn’t need as much reinforcement), termites can’t eat it, and it’s powder coated and won’t need repainting every year. I’m told that the powder coated paint may wear down in about 20 years, but at that point, I’d pay someone to re-coat it. Oh, and for everyone that thinks aluminum will be super hot – it bizarrely feels cooler to me in the sun than the old painted wood did. I even did a test with a sample piece before buying it by laying it on the wood railing in the sun, and the wood felt hotter to me. Anyway, it was worth the investment to me, so maybe research it if you’re interested!
We put in MoistureShield Infuse decking in a light gray 3 years ago. Huge improvement over the old pressure treated wood. It does get hot but this brand supposedly is cooler than others. I have not found it to be slippery and no cracking or mildew growth. We also have joists 16″ oc and do not have sagging. All in all we are very happy with it.
We installed Trex decking 10 years ago and it still looks as good as the day it was installed. We had had stained wood prior to that and with heavy Minnesota snows, freezes and hot summers the deck never looked good. Shoveling snow would scratch the surface and it would need touch ups all the time. Hot sun led to peeling and splinters. Trex has handled all that well. The only thing that needs touch ups are the backings to the three steps because those are wood and not Trex. The only downside is that it does retain heat really well and might burn feet in the summer time. I never go barefoot anymore so I don’t worry about that.
We used Trex for the floor, railings, and columns on the porch we had added to the north and east sides of our house in Wisconsin. This will be its’ 7th summer and we still love it. Perhaps it’s because we had the porch roof insulated, but we haven’t noticed the Trex getting uncomfortably hot nor has there been any warping. We chose dark brown and I have to agree with others that you’d probably need to power wash it if you wanted the floor to look really clean. A little dirt on an outside floor doesn’t bother us, so we haven’t bothered doing that.
I’ve had a Trex deck for over 10 years now and if no to low maintenance is what you want it’s great! Plus their customer service for a manufacturer is great too. Every spring we have to listen to our neighbor sand and replace boards on his deck while all we do is wash down ours ( with a hose no less, not even a pressure washer). We do have fading and some mold stains within the wood, but I believe the newer stuff doesn’t have that issue. We use Olympic deck cleaner ( used to use diluted bleach which probably contributed to the fading). I would suggest you do everything you want now because we did a small 10 x 10 deck with a patio, and now I wished we had done a much bigger deck. It won’t match now so not sure if we can move forward with that and not have it look weird. Good Luck,let me know if you want more info, I’ll be happy to email you pictures.
In response to those who mentioned about it being hot underfoot, yes it is, so go with lighter floor boards rather than dark. We did saddle on the main deck and dark brown on the spindles. It’s also a great excuse to buy an outdoor rug. Our deck is in the sun until about 2pm every day and if it’s really hot out, my kids quickly learned to wear flip flops and our dog just knew to hurry down the steps, never an issue.
I have a composite deck and love it— I power wash it once or twice a year. It is light brown and shaded by honey locust trees, so heat has never been a problem, but they are a little slicker than regular wood. If you have a contractor climbing up to your roof, have them put the ladder on the ground, not the deck.
My dad built a Trex porch on the front of my parent’s house last year and it still looks like new. We had a harsh winter too and it’s held up beautifully. Trex sells caps or covers or whatever it is called for wood decks. You just lay it over the top of the wood and screw it down. It allows you to redo your porch without having to remove all of the old boards. I’m pretty sure Home Depot sells it.
I’ve used Cabot’s and it is great – a hybrid oil/acrylic maybe??
But an even better product that lived up to the sales hypes is called Floods Spa n Deck. Best product I’ve ever used. 🙂