But where there's a will, there is always a way.
The use of composites revolutionized the decking industry, in much the same way as the advent of pressure-treated wood created new opportunities for the lumber industry. Before pressure treatment came along, the only way to preserve wood was to constantly seal it, an expensive and labor-intensive process. Either that, or build your deck from cedar—again, an expensive option.
Still, even with treated wood there is always the possibility that a board will go wonky, and the wood will degrade and splinter, requiring repairs.
Busy homeowners without the time, or the inclination to keep fussing over their decks, cast around for another option.
They found it in composites—decking made from recycled plastic and other materials. Brochures promised that for about the same price as wood, composites would not fade, or splinter. They need not be stained or painted. They would resist the absorption of heat from direct sunlight, saving users from the discomfort of the proverbial 'hotfoot' on a warm day.
Proud homeowners bragged to their wood-decked neighbors that their composite deck would outlast the house.
However, you know what they say—if it sounds too good to be true...
In August of 2005 Kadant Composites LLC recalled about 11,000 GeoDeck composite deck boards and railings after the product was found to have been manufactured without the required level of antioxidants, which would contribute to accelerated aging of the product. Indeed, more then 370 complaints had come in from disgruntled homeowners reporting problems with their composite deck boards and railings that were barely a few years old.
Kadant Composites LLC proceeded to sell the GeoDeck composite deck and railing business, and used the proceeds from the sale to pay out warranty claims. However, when that funding dried up and the company exhausted all other sources of revenue, it ceased operations in September.
A visit to the Kadant Composites LLC website brings up a single page which briefly summarizes the problem, together with a red-text warning advising consumers that "decks affected by oxidative degradation are potentially unsafe, and should not be used until they are repaired or replaced."
It also quietly reminds consumers that Kadant has wound up operations, and the recall and warranty programs have been terminated.
Thanks for coming. Have a nice day.
Meanwhile, your neighbor up the street, the guy you were bragging to about your new, state-of-the-art deck, is getting the last laugh now. Sure, he had to replace a board. But his wood deck has been sitting there for 15 years and is still as sound as Gibraltar, while yours has been up for barely three and is turning to mush.
However, there may be hope for you, yet.
GeoDeck lives on, and is thriving under the leadership of Liberty Diversified Industries, one of the largest, privately held companies in the Midwest. Founded in 1918, LDI has been steaming along for nearly 100 years.
GeoDeck is steaming along, too—with profiles in major magazines and media. It appears that composites have become the darling of environmentalists pursuing the look of wood, without the killing of trees.
Okay, so you just got a bad batch of the stuff. It happens. But the people you bought it from are persona non grata. What to do?
What isn't known is whether or not LDI purchased the future liability for GeoDeck from Kadant, when the sale went through. Often such liabilities are transferable. Currently, LDI is offering a 20-year limited warranty on GeoDeck products.
And there is a lawsuit being considered. Not surprising, considering that we're not simply talking about a defective product, like an appliance, that you can unplug and take back to the store. You likely have invested a great deal of sweat equity, or paid a contractor a handsome fee to build your deck from material that is now turning soft. Replacing that material may very well mean replacing the entire deck, which would not be accomplished easily or cheaply.
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Aside from the date stamp a visual inspection will help determine, beyond the purchase and installation date, whether or not you have compromised product.
If you determine that your deck is unsafe or unusable, don't simply tuck your tail between your legs and sulk. After all, you did a good thing: you researched a product that was better for the environment, made from recycled product, saved trees, and would last. Others, with properly formulated product, are today enjoying all the benefits GeoDeck has to offer.
You should too. So explore your options.