At Cladco we are often asked the question “is it possible to paint/stain Cladco composite decking?”

We’ve never really had a good answer to the question so we thought we’d try it out and attempt to answer the question.

The first thing we had to do was to get our minds straight, we keep coming back to our own question – “why would you want to?” Cladco composite decking is designed as a low maintenance product that will not need staining on a constant basis as wooden decking does. As composite decking suppliers it struck as odd that someone may want to stain their composite decking, but setting aside the fact that one of the main reasons for buying and installing composite decking is that you don’t need to constantly stain or paint it to keep it looking good and protected from the elements we thought we’d see if we could finally come up with an answer……

Our plan was that we would simply buy a few general composite decking stains and paints, try them out and then recommend the one that we felt gave the best results. Our first port of call was good old Google. However, Searches for ‘Composite Decking stain’, ‘Can I stain composite decking?’, ‘How do I paint composite decking?’ etc. returned a few results and seemed to elude to a single product available in the USA that claimed to be a composite decking stain. This was a new product to the market and not much information seemed to be available for it. Our attempts to buy some in the UK, or indeed in the USA and have it posted to the UK, were fruitless. We were back to square one having been unable to find a product designed to do the job. Putting the lack of a product on the market down to the fact that no one had designed one due to the fact that there isn’t really a need for one because of the low maintenance elements of composite decking we asked ourselves what else we could do.

The answer was simple. Paint or stain some Cladco composite decking with products that weren’t designed to do the job and see if any of them came up as a good solution. Cladco has been in business since 1972 and has moved premises a couple of times in that period, runs a successful roofing sheets business alongside being a composite decking supplier and over time has acquired many types of paints and stains for many different reasons.

The paint cupboard in Cladco’s warehouse

Inside the cupboard there are many different types of paints and stains

  • Dulux Matt - Interior
  • Dulux Satinwood – Interior
  • Dulux Trade Undercoat - Interior
  • Unlabelled Gloss Paint in an Aerosol Can – Interior
  • Dulux High Gloss - Interior
  • Creocote – Exterior
  • Cuprinol Wood Preserver – Exterior
  • Hammerite Smooth – Exterior
  • Cuprinol Garden Shades Wood Stain – Exterior
  • Dulux Weathershield Masonry Paint – Exterior
  • Blackfriar Wood Preserver – Exterior
  • Sparex Agri Colour – Exterior

Rather than going through a process of considering the merits of each one at this stage, possibly eliminating the interior ones etc. for obvious reasons, we felt it best to try them all just to see what would happen. Would any of them even take to composite decking? What results would we get?

We took a couple of lengths of Cladco composite decking and began applying each different paint to a section of the decking writing next to it so we could know in time which one was which.

Applying the products to Cladco Composite Decking

Our instinct was telling us that at least one of these paints/stains would fail at this stage, one of them is bound not to take to the composite decking properly and will need us to wipe it off, none of them are designed for the job after all. To our surprise all of them took to the Cladco composite decking really well initially, some of them immediately looked as if they would need a second coat but they took to it, even the ones like Hammerite that are designed to be applied to metal.

We left the Cladco composite decking with the paints and stains applied to it for 24 hours to see what would happen once they had dried. After inspecting them following the 24 hour drying time it was interesting to see that whilst the products you would classify as paints had dried the stains clearly had not and were still wet to the touch. We decided to extend the drying time to a week to see if these stains would eventually dry or whether they would have to be remove and therefore fail the test.

Cuprinol Exterior Wood Preserver after 24 hours

Having left the decking for a week we inspected it and discovered that nearly all of the products had now dried, the stain that had previously not dried had dried and had clearly soaked in to the Cladco composite decking. The Creocote however had not dried and we gave up on this product at this point.

Cuprinol Exterior Wood Preserver after 1 week

With the remaining products all now dried and having taken to the decking we turned our attention to whether we felt this was a good move or not, the first focus being on the look and feel of the finished results and to be honest all of the seemed to look reasonably good and felt like they should feel, obviously we’d used some colours that we’d never have chosen had they not only been available to us in that colour. Ignoring the colour choice, none of them had gone patchy or lumpy, some of them had soaked in and gone away from the smaller area that we’d painted, this wouldn’t be an issue if staining your whole decking area as this bleed would simply be into an area with stain on it anyway. We were still positive about the possibility of finding a positive answer to the original question at this stage.

Cladco composite decking painted with Dulux High Gloss paint

Would the product stand up to some wear and tear? Wanting to answer this question without putting the boards outside for a year and walking on them as you would be doing at home we tried to scratch the paint and stains of with our finger nail as the first test, obviously if we could remove the paint/stain with our nail then it wouldn’t be any good in general use conditions.

Fingernail test

All of the products apart from the Sparex Agri Colour (used for painting agricultural vehicles) and the random Aerosol gloss with no label (no one knows where this came from) failed the finger nail test, even the stains that had soaked in hadn’t soaked in enough to prevent us being able to pick them off with a fingernail and were clearly going to be no good in the long term as a way of staining or painting your Cladco composite decking. The test was not looking good!

With the remaining 2 products in the running we tried something a little harder. A large flat head screwdriver. Scraping carefully to ensure we were scraping the paint and not doing something outside of the normal usage conditions like heavy handedly scratching the board with a screwdriver. We decided to do the screwdriver test as this would be similar to furniture moving on the decking.

Screwdriver test

Both of the remaining 2 products failed at this point. The paint came off easily when the screwdriver was used to scrape against them with very little pressure. This test was not a precise way of testing, even so we’re pretty sure that none of the products we tried would last any length of time outside in normal decking usage conditions.

Here are the results of our experiment:

Our conclusion is simply that whilst there is no need to stain Cladco composite decking due to its design as a low maintenance product, if you do feel the temptation to paint or stain it because you think it could look nice then don’t! Maybe in time there will be products available in the UK designed for the purpose but until they are then don’t attempt it.

We hope this answers the age old question… "can I paint my composite decking?" The answer - No.