Composite decking, such as Trex, has been popular ever since it was introduced.
This is because composite decking has the advantages of less maintenance and resistance to rot.
However, the downside is that unprotected composite decking is vulnerable to color fading from ultraviolet or UV rays.
This led to whether composite decking such as Trex could be painted or stained.
The short answer is that the Trex surfaces can be painted if you use the right combination of primer and paint, although it’s not always required.
If you need to paint, an acrylic latex primer followed by a latex semi-gloss or satin finish paint will work the best.
For staining, it is best to use an acrylic latex version that includes inhibitors for UV rays and mildew.
But before applying anything on your old Trex boards, clean and prep them properly to get the paint job done right.
How to Clean Trex before Painting?
The first step is to sweep the Trex deck boards, including all its cut ends and edges. Clean them nicely so no loose particles such as dust, dirt, or dried leaves remain.
Once swept, you can use a composite deck cleaner to remove any grime or stains on the surface.
When the product has been applied, and the deck scrubbed, rinse away the residue with warm, soapy water.
You can either spray the deck with a hose or use a soft-bristle brush if required.
Using a pressure wash for your Trex decking is also fine, but with low pressure – a high-pressure range can damage the Trex material and can void the composite material warranty.
Once you have cleaned, let the deck dry for a few days, and then sweep it again to clear away any leaves, dust, or dirt that may have collected during that time.
Finally, apply a deck “brightener” to the surface, which contains oxalic acid and can help remove tannins caused due to debris.
Removing Old Paint from Trex
If there’s an old paint layer on your Trex already, remember it cannot be sanded.
Unlike other surfaces, you also cannot use chemicals or solvents on Trex as they can damage the surface.
The best-recommended way to strip latex paint off of your Trex boards is by applying warm, soapy water and scrubbing the paint gently with the soft-bristled brush.
Make sure you do not scrub hard, or you may mar the surface while removing the loose paint particles.
I once used Krud Kutter Cleaner & Degreaser to remove the drips and overspray while painting Trex. It worked.
Not very sure if it works for removing the old dried paint – but you can try.
How to Paint a Trex Composite Decking?
Now you are ready to paint.
It is best to paint the deck before it has a chance to fade. But even if it’s in the beginning stages, the paint will stop the process.
What follows are the steps you need to follow.
Step 1- Cover
Provide cover to plants and grass that cannot be removed from the area.
Use a plastic or canvas cloth, so no chemicals are spilled on them.
Step 2- Clean & Sand Trex
It is best to clean the area one more time before you start the next step.
Inspect the Trex fascia board deck and do any spot cleaning first, then sand gently.
A light sanding will not only smooth out the planks it will also help the paint to stick to the surface.
You can use 240-grit sandpaper and then cover the entire surface of the Trex deck.
Ensure you do not sand the composite decking aggressively, as it could cause damage and void the warranty.
Once completed, you should sweep the dust generated away and then rinse with water again.
Step 3- Primer & Paint the Trex
Once the deck is fully dry, you can apply the primer.
An acrylic latex exterior primer is the best. Be sure to apply it in the direction of the planks for the best result.
When the primer dries, you can now paint the deck.
Use an outdoor porch paint and apply it with a roller for the best results.
Apply the first coat, let it dry, and then apply a second layer for maximum protection.
The manufacturer’s instructions for the coatings will indicate how long the Trex will take the paint to dry fully.
It should be ready for use in about 24 to 36 hours, depending on the type of coating and climatic conditions.
What is Trex or Composite Deck?
As the name suggests, composite materials consist of both wood and plastic.
In many cases, the materials are recycled for other uses.
Trex, in general, is the brand that is known to be the world’s largest manufacturer of high-performance wood-alternative decking, porches, railing, lighting, trim, framing, and furniture.
Formed in 1996, they are currently in business with North America’s largest market share of composite decking.
Trex uses sawdust and plastic from different sources for greater resiliency. However, not all composite decks indeed are the same.
This is when the product mostly or entirely is made from PVC, often using the compression molding technique.
Such materials are generally the strongest and most durable, with a price tag to match.
However, the advantages are considerable, especially since it resists rot, mold, and mildew along with turning away otherwise damaging insects such as termites.
This is generally a manufacturing process – that combines raw materials and then melts them together.
Popular brands of extruded wood are DuraLife and Lumberrock.
However, Lumberrock only contains plastic and minerals as no wood is present.
This is when the ingredients are placed into a mold and heated.
The result is planks made of composite materials, which can be used to create decks much like with Trex.
Can All Composite Decking Be Painted?
Just about all composite decks can be painted unless they say otherwise.
Some of the exceptions include the following.
This brand claims that the paint or stain will not stick to the surface, which leads to peeling or flaking.
Because this brand is 100% PVC, the paint will not adhere to the surface very well, even with sanding.
Plus, painting the deck will violate their warranty, so it is advisable not to apply any paint.
There are some decks – under the Trex brand – that are not advisable to paint.
They are Escapes and Transcend, which are two types of decking where the paint does not adhere well at all.
These are more expensive types of composite decking material where the painting is not required or advised.
How Long Does Trex Composite Decking Last?
As for how long composite decks are built to last, the average range is from 25 to 30 years, with little to no maintenance required at all.
The only thing you can do is clean the deck, but the toughness of the material means that even when it is not cleaned, the dirt and grime do not affect the deck’s longevity.
This is because the decking is made from a combination of materials, normally wood and plastic or minerals and plastic with no wood.
It may look like wood, but in many cases, the amount present is not that much. Because plastic and minerals are highly resistant to weathering, they can last long.
Having said that, they are vulnerable to impacts as with any wooden deck. Although because of the dense material used, it is more difficult to damage.
Plus, composite decks are environmentally friendly because they use materials that otherwise would go into landfills.
Plastic is particularly good because it has strength and durability and resists mold, mildew, and insects to a far greater degree than wood.
And because it looks so much like wood, especially the higher-end products, it can be difficult to tell it from real wood.
What Can Void the Trex Warranty – Mistakes You Should Avoid
According to the manufacturer, Trex products are backed up by 25-Year Limited Residential Fade & Stain Warranty so that you can rest assured about your investment.
But remember, the warranty can get void due to negligence or if you do not care for your product well.
Below are a few tips you must follow when cleaning and maintaining the Trex composite material…
a). Mold and mildews:
Molds and mildews can be an issue if dirt, debris, or pollen is allowed to remain on the surface for a long.
So, it’s recommended to remove all these food sources for mold regularly by spraying the surface with a hose and warm soapy water.
b). Oily, greasy foods:
Stains caused due to food spills are always an issue for those who love enjoying weekend barbeque parties with their friends and family outside on their deck.
Trex manufacturers recommend that the surface and stains be cleaned within seven days if you do not want to void the Trex stain warranties.
You can most likely remove the stains within seven days using a soft bristle brush and warm soapy water.
c). Ice and snow removal:
If you live in a region with snowfall, always use a plastic shovel to remove any snow or ice from your Trex deck.
If possible, you should first use some calcium chloride or rock salt to melt the snow before removing it from the Trex surface.
In addition to snow and ice, hard water with high amounts of mineral deposits (like lime, silica, and calcium) can also deposit and stain the Trex surfaces if left unnoticed.
To remove these hard water stains and deposits, you can use a homemade cleaner such as white vinegar, followed by rinsing with clean water.
You should never use harsh chemicals such as acetone or other solvents on Trex as it can negatively affect the beauty of the surface.
A few other tips you can follow to increase the longevity of your Trex material include:
- Do not use rubber-backed welcome mats as they can cause discoloration
- Use General Purpose Staticide and Heavy Duty Staticide for fixing issues like static electricity that can occur in dry climates while walking
- Use products such as Mr. Clean, Magic Eraser, and Dupli-Color Clear Scratch Seal Pen for fixing color transfer issues, light scratches, and scuff marks
All these products are non-toxic, non-staining, biodegradable, as well as safe to use on Trex.
How to remove paint from composite decking?
If you have paint drips or old paint stains on your composite decking, there are a few ways to remove them.
Try scraping it off with a putty knife or lightly sanding it off with sandpaper.
Use a power washer with warm, soapy water to remove any loose paint particles later.
If the paint stains are stubborn, you can try applying mineral spirits.
But be sure to test it on a small, inconspicuous area of the decking first to ensure it doesn’t damage the surface.
How can you get the rust off the Trex decking surface?
Rust stains can develop on your Trex decking over time if the metal items (like your furniture) are allowed to remain wet on the surface for a long.
To remove rust stains from your Trex decking, follow these steps:
- Mix some dishwashing liquid with warm water (in a 1:2 ratio) in the bucket
- Using a soft bristle cleaning brush, rub the mixture onto the surface where there are rust stains visible
- Finally, rinse the surface with a garden hose until all rust particles and stains are gone
If you see the rust stains remaining, mix a solution of 1 part bleach with three parts water and apply it to the rust spots.
Allow it to sit for about 15-20 minutes, and then rinse the surface well with clean water and a garden hose.
The Bottom Line
Trex can be extremely useful when installing timber boards but is an issue for decks and trims for varied reasons.
Just make sure you follow the proper steps for its refinishing and maintenance as the material is sensitive and can get damaged if not cared for well.
When painting your vintage Trex boards, choose the right type of paint and do the job patiently, so you do not get the decking damaged.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.