How to Make Trex Decking Less Slippery

The residential decking market was valued at $3.1 billion in 2018 and was expected to grow by 6.5% annually through 2021, according to Principia Consulting. Even with the COVID-19 slowdown likely to trim those projections, that’s still a lot of outdoor decks, patios, and stairs!

In the segment of wood-alternative decking material, Trex is the largest single manufacturer with over $680 million in 2018 revenue. Trex holds the original patent for producing a “Wood-Thermoplastic Composite Material” that requires less maintenance and often lasts longer than natural wood.  

The first generation Trex boards of the late 1990s began life as recycled plastic, wood dust, and wood chips.  These ingredients were then heated and formed into board-type shapes using a heat extrusion process. (Think Playdoh being pushed through a form to create a log of clay.) 

The patent application for Trex first-generation composite decking highlights the following unique characteristics:

“(Trex composite decking) may be used in many of the same applications as an all-wood product but offer the advantages of providing high resistance to rot, insects, and moisture. These products can have the same workability as wood and are splinter-free.”

Indeed, Trex marketed the original composite decking, which was several times more expensive than treated lumber, based on the longevity of the product and low maintenance required.  Over the years Trex has acquired tens of thousands of satisfied customers, but they also have faced a class action lawsuit which claimed that the non-shelled, wood-plastic composite decking was, according to the lawsuit:

“defective and susceptible to mold, mildew, fungal, or other dark or gray growth or spotting, or color variation or color fading…”

The recently settled legal matter focused on the propensity of the first generation, uncapped Trex boards to grow mold, mildew, and discolor over time.  It’s possible that the propensity of the first generation Trex decking to allow the growth of mold and mildew might have been a factor in some Trex decking to be slippery, depending on the environmental conditions.

How Can I Reduce Slips and Falls On My Trex Decking?

The Handi-Treads Stop-the-Slip Configurator is an excellent place to begin your evaluation of various slip, trip, or fall conditions. Using a series of questions, the configurator will identify and rank the most effective and efficient solutions for your slippery Trex deck in less than a minute.  

If the slick areas of your Trex deck are limited to the steps, then our Handi-Treads aluminum non-slip treads and aluminum nosings are the perfect solution.  Not only do they offer greatly improved traction in all weather conditions, but they also come in several finishes that will look great on virtually any Trex color deck. Just as important, attaching our aluminum treads to Trex boards with the appropriate stainless steel screws will likely not void your warranty. (Because warranties change, it’s important that you read your Trex warranty carefully before purchasing and installing any non-slip tread on Trex stairs.)

We also carry the highest-grade anti-slip epoxy paint line, Slip Doctor’s Dura Grip paint, that can be an excellent choice.  Slip Doctor bare foot friendly traction paints come in ten colors and can even be custom-matched to your particular need.

What If My Entire Trex Deck is Slippery?

If most of your Trex Deck is slick, then you’ll need a different solution.  The 2012 Trex Installation Guide addresses the issue of a slippery composite decking surface in the following manner.

“If there is an ADA requirement for slip resistance, an appropriate type of paint with grit or grit additive can be applied. For standard Trex decking products, a product like Benjamin Moore®***** Anti-Slip 116 (note this is not clear-based) or an equivalent anti-slip alternative will provide an abrasive coating to materials for ramps that must meet ADA requirements. For Transcend decking, a latex or acrylic-based paint will not adhere but oil-based paint with grit will adhere and provide proper friction properties.” 

The 2012 Trex recommendation of painting first-generation Trex decks with enamel paint with grit additive makes sense to us.  Assuming the enamel paint with a grit additive will adhere to your particular Trex product, that’s a reasonable for a first-generation Trex deck where nearly the entire surface is slippery. However, if you want a longer-lasting, more resilient traction paint, we recommend the Slip Doctor product line of epoxy grit pain.

Grit paint does wear down over time and if you live in an area with snow, you can’t use a metal snow shovel on the painted surface.  Even in the best of outdoor conditions, you can anticipate the need to reapply a coat of grit paint every 5 years or so.  Needless to say, the maintenance requirement of grit paint adds to the cost of ownership and is something to consider as choose a proper solution.

Please note that before you apply any grit paint to a slippery Trex deck we strongly recommend that you contact Trex and check the warranty for your specific year of manufacture.  We’ve seen recent Trex installation instructions that suggest applying paint to any of their composite decking will shorten or even eliminate the warranty.

Can the Latest Trex Transcend, Enhance and Select Decking Be Painted With Grit Paint?

In 2014, we noticed a change to the Trex decking installation instructions.  Where previously the 2012 installation guide indicated that plastic-capped Transcend decking could be painted with an oil-based grit paint, the 2014 Installation Guide clearly states that paint should not be applied to the Transcend, Enhance and Select Trex decking product lines. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t find a paint that will adhere to the plastic-capped composite decking, but you will almost certainly void your warranty by doing so. Nonetheless, if you’re slipping on your synthetic wood deck, voiding the warranty is the least of your worries.

If your deck is made of Trex composite material that was manufactured after 2012 and you don’t want to void your warranty, then you’ve got two options, each of which has its downside.  First, you could use heavy rubber mats, like the ones used in commercial kitchens, in the most highly trafficked areas.  Second, you could apply our Grit Tape to the most slippery areas. Grit tape will definitely improve traction, but it’s obviously going to be very visible because it is black. Both are imperfect solutions, but they just might save a slip or fall that sends a loved one to the hospital.

If your decking is not in direct sunlight, and you’re willing to scuff-sand the deck and apply a bonding agent first, then the Slip Doctor Dura Grip anti-slip coating, which is bare foot friendly, can adhere to the deck and improve traction

As always, we’re here to help you navigate any slip, trip, or fall hazard with a customized solution designed just for you.  Contact us today for a free consultation.