Outdoor Engineering GRAD written by Chris Short of Alfresco Floors

The most efficient decking system on the market

Here’s the contradiction… If you quiz all of our clients, nobody really wants a composite deck, yet every week we are selling more and more of them. Sounds a bit counterintuitive I know, but the truth seems to be that what everybody actually wants is an affordable, practical, durable, designer deck - and right now it just so happens that composite materials are the major compromise people are prepared to make to get that. Don’t get me wrong. The aesthetics and performance of composite deck boards are improving every month and within a couple of years there will be products out there that many people will find indistinguishable from traditional tim- ber, but in the meantime, that traditional timber market is fighting back with some technical advances of its own.

I don’t think many people would argue that in an ideal world we would all be including the incomparable look and feel of real timber into our more prestigious hardscaping designs - but it’s not an ideal world, it’s the real world. In the real world ‘real’ timber can be expensive to source, complex to install and potentially time consuming to maintain. This is currently where composite materials are showing an advantage - initially they may be just as demanding to install, but then their lower ongoing maintenance requirements begin to sway clients away from the real timber deck they might actually want. However, the economics of all that is now starting to swing back the other way, thanks largely to decking systems like Grad.

We introduced the Grad decking system to the UK in 2017 and since then most of our decking contracts have used it. We consider Grad to have three clear advantages over traditional timber decking, which combine to make it the most efficient and effective system we have ever seen in the UK.

Grad’s first advantage is the aluminium support rails on which it sits. These rails (available in different depths, depending on your load require- ments) are designed to rest on height adjustable pedestals - a tried and tested raised floor construction technique, that has proved itself to be fast, strong and reliable on thousands of building sites over the last three dec- ades. In one stroke, this feature eliminates all the install and maintenance problems inherent to traditional timber sub-frames.

Grad’s second advantage is the unique ‘hidden fixing’ clip system it uses to instantly secure the specially profiled boards onto the support rails. Other hidden fixing systems we have used still have edge gripping brackets clearly visible in the gaps, whereas with Grad all the clever clip stuff goes on underneath the boards. Hand pressure will secure each Grad board into place, but then only a specially designed removal tool will enable that board to removed. Crucially, if you do need to remove boards after installation, the Grad system will allow you to do so with no damage to the timber whatsoever.

Finally, the Grad system uses the latest timber technology for its board options. Currently we supply Thermo-Pine, Thermo-Ash, Kebony and Accoya - all specially machined to take advantage of the instant lock clip system, and all treated and processed to give you rot-free guarantees that don’t just compete with the latest composite materials, but in some cases exceed them by many years.

Finally (and most importantly) what does all this mean to the aesthetics and economics of a commercial decking contract? The Grad system means that you can now enjoy high-end, high spec, real timber decks - installed in about half the normal time and guaranteed rot-free for longer than the composite alternatives. Compared to the best performing com- posite and hardwood systems, a Grad deck is currently cheaper to buy, far quicker to build, and will be guaranteed not to decay for up to 65 years.


So, if you are one of those people now considering a composite deck because of your head and not your heart - you might want to take a look at Grad first.

The Grad decking system is available in the UK from Alfresco Floors, who also offer a national installation service. Email or call us on 020 8977 0904

TEL: 0208 977 0904 31


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