Wood has a long history of use, from tools in the Stone Age to carts in the Middle Ages and modern-day furniture. It remains a primary material today in applications ranging from wood-frame houses to utility poles. But wood has distinct disadvantages, including susceptibility to pests, moisture and warping.
Wood is actually a natural composite – a combination of cellulose fiber and lignin. Some composite applications, including fishing poles and golf club shafts, copy the natural design of woods such as bamboo. But manmade composites have clear-cut advantages over wood:
- Composites are long lasting – Wood eventually rots, but composites are durable. Think about the marine industry: Wooden boats require considerable care to last an owner’s lifetime, while many composite boats remain afloat for 50-plus years with routine maintenance.
- Composites are dimensionally stable – They retain their shape and size when they are hot or cool, wet or dry. Wood, on the other hand, swells and shrinks as the humidity changes.
- Composites are low maintenance – In an application such as a residential deck, this is critical. Composite decks can be cleaned with soap and water, while wood decks need to be regularly power washed, inspected for rot, sanded and stained.
- Composites are easy to transport and install – Because they are lightweight, composites are an ideal replacement for wood in applications such as utility poles: They cost less to transport and are simpler to install in remote locations than their wooden counterparts.
- Composites are resistant to pests – Termites, carpenter ants, beetles and other pests eat away at wood, causing extensive damage. Composites are pest-free, making them ideal for everything from window frames to retaining walls.
These are just some of the reasons why composites may be a better material choice than wood. For more information, read about the attributes and benefits of composites.