What are the differences between ThermoWood’s and Wood Plastic Composites (WPCs)?

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

What product should I choose?

This is a commonly asked question but not that easy to answer, and let’s be honest, many composite companies will always try and bias it towards their own product without spending the time to familiarize themselves with the facts. Many WPC brands will tell you that their material is miles better than timber because it doesn’t split, crack, warp, rot or twist alongside any other negative that they can think of to make you think that there is no alternative other than to buy their products.

These descriptions are based on low cost fast grown softwood materials that are heavy grooved and widely available in DIY/Merchant outlets and are not representative of the higher quality softwood and hardwood materials that are also available. Let’s take a look at the comparisons between ThermoWoods and Wood Plastic Composites.

Thermally Modified (ThermoWood) Products:

  1. ThermoWood products are 100% natural and the production process consists of just steam, pressure and heat. It’s a completely ecological, natural process from start to finish.

  2. Starting at the procurement stage of the raw materials through to the installation of the end product, ThermoWoods do not use any chemicals.

  3. The bonding waters in the timbers’ cell structure are removed. Thus, the thermally-modified timber becomes dimensionally stable and durable for outdoor applications. Therefore becoming suitable for all weather conditions.

  4. In principle, thermally-modifying the timber enhances the durability and stability of less durable timber species. Making them suitable for use internally and externally no matter what the environment is. In turn, reducing the need to source timber from tropical forests around the world such as the Amazon region.

  5. It is recyclable, harmless to all living species and can be maintained and renewed with little to no additional cost.

  6. ThermoWood timbers have a low carbon footprint and with the increasing use of timber, its absorption of gas emissions like CO2 also improves the management of controlled forests.

  7. It is an excellent product for accepting any kind of surface treatment due to its low moisture content, stability, and no resin/knot bleed.

  8. The lighter weight of the material and structural advantages makes it easier to transport and install. In the case of cladding applications, ThermoWood’s provide up to 20% better sound and heat insulation.

  9. An added bonus during the hot summer months is that you can still walk on thermally-modified timber with bare feet since the product absorbs heat and provides a lower surface temperature.

Wood Plastic Composites (WPC)

  1. WPC products have increased and improved their market position in the last few years.

  2. As a new product in the market, the results have not been clarified yet in terms of performance and the impact on nature. The product also occupies landfill sites when disposed of.

  3. Although WPCs use the word ‘WOOD’ in its definition, the ratio of plastic in the product accounts for 60-90% of petroleum waste during the manufacturing process that this product goes through.

  4. It is a common misconception that these products are stable. WPCs in fact expand and shrink along their length by 1-2mm to every meter.

  5. Since WPCs arent a natural product, when the board gets damaged, scratched or fades, it is not possible to restore the materials’ original colour, as you could with wood. Replacing this product would also result in a mismatching of the original and new colour. In this case, you are advised to order sufficient material for a project at the initial stage.

  6. Due to the amount of plastic present in the product the surface temperature can be high during warm weather. Consequently, making it uncomfortable to walk on bare feet. The heat is reflected off the surface, creating a similar experience to walking on hot tarmac.

  7. Many attempts are made at trying to replicate the grain and aesthetic look of timber, which of course is not entirely possible. Resulting in decking and cladding boards looking the same, with an unnatural appearance.

  8. Any cladding or decking materials that have plastic/UPVC content will generally expand and contract with changing temperatures. This expansion changes the length of the board as well as the width. Pressure-treated softwood deck boards expand and contract just in width, hence always leaving a 5mm gap between the boards. This gap will also need to be applied at the ends of composite boards.

  9. Capped composites are effectively a sleeve over a wood fibre/dust core. When you cut and install these boards you will be exposing this core which if not properly sealed, moisture will make its way into the board and eventually lead to the breakdown of the board.

  10. Many WPCs contain non-recyclable materials, which means that the majority of WPC boards will end up in landfill sites at the end of their lives.

  11. Manufacturing these products produces CO2 even if they are using recycled material. Whereas our natural timber materials absorb and stores CO2 from the atmosphere.

  12. Depending on how good the product is, some will crack and twist/warp if not properly secured.

What do our ThermoWoods provide that WPC's don't?

  • Our ThermoWoods are FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified. Which verifies that our timber originates from well-managed, sustainable forests. This standard eliminates illegal logging and deforestation in tropical regions.

  • All external timbers are either preservative treated with an environmentally safe solution, are naturally durable, or are thermally treated. In the case of thermal modification (ThermoWood) this is carried out using steam and heat generated by using waste wood in a furnace alongside gas.

Our AtelierDeck® and AtelierClad® ranges made from our thermally modified Ash Hardwood (for example) offer the following:

  • A non-tropical species which is thermally modified to provide upwards of 25 years of durability.

  • They are dimensionally very stable.

  • Every board has a different grain structure adding visual interest.

  • No waste goes to landfill as our material can be recycled or used in wood burners.

  • Our AtelierDeck® range is non-slip BS7976 rated.

  • Every deck board looks different due to its vibrant brushed grain structure.

  • We offer a range of 12 colour compositions.

  • We offer a hidden Invizifix® clip system allowing for quick and easy installs.

  • These ranges offer virtually no maintenance other than soapy water and a hose to keep the dirt at bay.

  • The AtelierDeck® and AtelierClad® come with a flexible UV Class 0 Fire rated finish.

Ultimately the choice is yours in terms of the look and aesthetic appeal that you want to achieve in the medium to long term with your next project.

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