Materials That Make the Mark

September 17th, 2012 Category: General

Choosing the right materials for your outdoor project is important, whether it’s a deck, patio, railing, or other improvement to your home or yard. Materials can mean the difference between having to redo your deck within just a couple of years while treating it all the time, or never having to maintain or redo it at all.

The decision process for selecting and combining the right decking, railing, lumber, stone, or paver materials is kind of like baking a pizza; the fresher and better quality ingredients you start with, the better flavor (design aesthetics) and better overall health (structural integrity) you get. But picking out a pizza is easy; selecting the best materials out of so many different options for your outdoor solution can be more of a challenge.

At Outdoor Specialties, we’re here to provide you with top materials and expert help. So here are some quick tips and three simple questions to help you select the right materials to match your outdoor add-on needs.

1) What Is Your Key Criteria?

For diamond rings, it’s pretty much narrowed down to the 4 C’s—carat, cut, clarity, and color (and cost)—while for cars the buying criteria ranges from mileage and performance down to the feel of the driver’s seat, and plenty of consumer reviews exist to help. Where should you start with choosing outdoor materials? We honed it down to 5 basic criteria groups. Ask yourself what’s most important to your desired overall results.

  1. Color: Probably the most obvious of them all, choosing by color scheme can be the main factor or the one thing that determines the winner from a close tie between two similar products. If you’re planning for longevity, it’s also the first thing a prospective home buyer will notice. But you don’t have to be cliché and boring—there are tons of colors and palettes—choose one that makes you happy and excited to be on your deck or patio.
  2. Texture: Texture adds that touch of class to color. If you like the authentic wooden look but like the synthetic lumber for its function, get a grain texture for the best of both worlds. Texture also has the tactile value of smooth or non-slip grip surfaces.
  3. Shapes/Sizes: The lengths of the decking materials or the heights of the rails add form to function. A higher railing can be safer but harder to see over; and longer lengths may make a small deck seem larger.
  4. Systems: Remember playing with Lego’s—and their knock-offs? The knock-offs just were not created equal, since they were not part of the bigger Lego system with interchangeable parts. In the same way, certain brands offer greater value as a system. For example, some offer decking and railing in matching colors and styles, so you get a seamless overall design instead of something forced and still a bit off.
  5. Composition/Construction: Finally, what a material is made out of (wood, composite lumber, PVC, etc.) and how it has been treated (like pressure-treating) or augmented is possibly the least obvious of all factors, but probably one of the most important, as it directly impacts the longevity, durability, recyclability, and maintenance requirements of your outdoor project.

Look at some home décor magazine pictures to get ideas for your overall look and feel, then witness it up close and personal at one of Outdoor Specialties’ showrooms in Laurel or Hampstead, MD.

2) What Makes Each Product Unique?

Products can strive for quality or affordability, or even a mixture of both. Seamless construction, durability, scratch- and water-resistance, and luster/sheen are just some of the other ways to grade an outdoor product. While there is bound to be overlap in certain qualities, finding out what exactly is unique about a product can provide real insight into your selection process.

Here are a few of the items that stand out about some of the brands and products Outdoor Specialties carries and installs:


  • Has advanced formulations for more strength with less weight
  • Fibertech (patent pending) technology minimizes weathering from expansion and contraction
  • Performance-oriented cellular PVC technology
  • Resistant to stain, mold, insects, termites
  • Realistic wood grain finishes available

Wolf PVC

  • Resistant to scratches, stains, mold, mildew
  • Exceptional durability—won’t rot, warp, or split
  • UV performance
  • Moisture-blocking cellular PVC technology
  • Easy installation & fastening compatibility


  • High-density polyethylene surface, chemically bonded to composite deck board
  • Plenty of styles and collections to choose from


  • Composite decking with protective PVC technology for organic-looking wood grain
  • Certain products are made from 95% recycled materials
  • Great variety of colors to choose from
  • Color matching railing available
  • Can be heated for bending


  • Resistant to stains, fading, and mold
  • Reversible boards save on cuts and waste
  • Color matching railing available
  • Easy installation and low maintenance
  • PermaTech (patent pending) surface technology outperforms traditional composite decking

Evergrain Composite Decking by Tamko

  • Multiple grain patterns with compression molding for a natural, lasting wood grain look
  • Color matching railing available
  • Slip-resistance that exceeds ADA accessibility guidelines
  • Minimal care and cleaning
  • Hardest, most scratch resistant of all of our products


Browse a catalog, or better yet, ask an expert from Outdoor Specialties to help you quickly get the answers you’re looking for, compare products on a variety of factors, and help narrow down your search.

3) What Best Fits into Your Backyard… and Budget?

While you determine your budget for your outdoor project, Outdoor Specialties can help by providing you with affordable pricing to give you the right value for the best materials available. Just come into one of our convenient locations (Laurel, Hampstead, or Elkridge) or call us today at 410-796-4439 to get started.

Visit Our Showroom

Come visit our one of a kind showroom and display conveniently located in Carroll County, Maryland. Our showroom hours are Monday-Friday: 8:00AM - 4:00PM and Saturday by appointment only.

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View Our Areas Served

We deliver our outdoor product supplies to all of Maryland, Washington, D.C., Southern Pennsylvania, and Northern Virginia. Some of the counties we commonly serve are:

Frederick County: Frederick (21701, 20702, 21703, 21709), New Market (21774) , Mount Airy (21771), Urbana (21704), Ijamsville (21754), Walkersville (21793), Libertytown (21762), Damascus (20872), and more.

Howard County: Clarksville (21029), Columbia (21044), Cooksville (21723), Dorsey (21075), Elkridge (21075), Ellicott City (21043), Fulton (20759), Glenelg (21737), Glenwood (21738), Granite (21163), Hanover (21076), Highland (20777), Jessup (20794), Lisbon (21765), Marriottsville (21104), North Laurel (20723), West Friendship (21794), Woodbine (21797), Woodstock (21163), and more.

Montgomery County: Olney (20832), Damascus (20872), Laytonsville (20882), Silver Spring (20910), Clarksburg (20871), Gaithersburg (20878), Germantown (20876), Bethesda (20816), Chevy Chase (20815), Potomac (20817) and more.

Anne Arundel County: Annapolis (21401, 21403, 21409), Arnold (21012), Crofton (21114), Crownsville (21032), Gambrills (21054), Glen Burnie (21060, 21061), Hanover (21076), Jessup (20794), Pasadena (21122), Severn (21144), Severna Park (21146).

Baltimore County: Arbutus (21227), Catonsville (21228, 21250), Cockeysville (21030, 21031, 21065), Dundalk (21222), Edgemere (21219), Essex (21221), Garrison (21055), Lansdowne (21227), Lochearn (21207), Lutherville (21093), Middle River (21220), Milford Mill (21244), Overlea (21236), Owings Mills (21117), Parkville (21234), Park Heights (21215), Pikesville (21208), Randallstown (21133), Reisterstown (21136), Rosedale (21237), Timonium (21093), Towson (21204), White Marsh (21162), Woodlawn (21207), and more.

Carroll County: Eldersburg (21784), Finksburg (21048), Hampstead (21074), Manchester (21102), Marriottsville (21104), Taneytown (21787), Union Bridge (21791), Westminster (21157, 21158), Mount Airy (21771), New Windsor (21776), Sykesville (21784), Woodbine (21797), Taneytown (21787), and more.

Harford County: Aberdeen (21001), Abingdon (21009), Bel Air (21014, 21015), Darlington (21034), Edgewood (21040), Forest Hill (21050), Jarrettsville (21084), Joppa (21085), Pylesville (21132), Whiteford (21160), White Hall (21161)

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