A reader e-mailed me with this question:
“My father is looking at contractors to build a deck, and wants to go with Trex. He was told that Williams Lumber has a better quality of Trex than Home Depot. Do you get different quality products at a local home store than you would at the big box stores? Thoughts?”
My first thought was: What exactly is Trex? Well, it’s an extruded decking and fencing product made of recycled plastic bags and wood waste. It’s stain-, fade- and mold-resistant, and won’t splinter, the Trex Web site claims.
My second thought is that I should admit I’m a big fan of Williams Lumber, and not just because the manager of the store near me cut me a fabulous deal on Cabot stain when I was getting our barn done. I like their cheerful customer service and that whole small-town-hardware-store vibe they exude even in the big fancy Rhinebeck branch.
That said, it’s hard to winkle information out of them if you identify yourself as a member of the press. Staffers have been instructed to direct such calls to their PR department, which can take forever. We bloggers are in a rush. So I called a branch of Home Depot, posing as a potential customer, and a polite sales assistant who called me “ma’am” assured me that there’s only one quality of Trex, although if you’re up for spending some extra bucks you can go with the Hideaway System, which involves forking over $300 for fasteners for a 500-square-foot deck.
This turns out to be not quite true. Flush with my success posing as a customer, I called another branch of Williams and tried the same subterfuge. (They really are very helpful.) The lumber expert I won’t name in case I get him into trouble told me that there’s a higher-end Trex called Transcend, which is essentially the same board but with a different coating. Williams stocks the Trex Accent line, but can order anything you want.
More significantly, this lumber expert said the reason things cost a little less at the big-box stores is that manufacturers make special lines for them. Trex makes a thinner (therefore inferior) board for Home Depot. “Some people like price better than quality,” he said. So the answer to your question is, yes, Williams has better quality Trex.
Why not shop at a local store anyway? If you spend $100 at Williams, about $85 of that stays in the community, as opposed to only $10 if you spend the money at a big chain, with the rest going into the pocket of some fat-cat CEO in Palm Beach. OK, those figures may not be accurate (and the CEO may not live in Palm Beach, either). But it’s true that money spent in our local stores boosts the region’s economy, keeps jobs, increases the tax base, and assures you a place in Heaven. So I say cough up the extra couple of bucks and get the good stuff at Williams.