When it came time in 2006 to replace the deck at my log home in Eastern Washington, I wanted to go low maintenance. I already had plenty of maintenance tasks with the logs, the waterfront, the dock, and the teak furniture, so I decided to go with the most well-known and trusted brand in maintenance-free deck materials: Trex.
Replacing My Old Deck with Trex
I hired a well-reviewed local contractor who added additional deck joists (so they were 12″ on center) and installed my new Trex deck.
Between my main deck attached to the house and the smaller deck and gangway that lead to my floating EZ-Dock, I have just under 900 square feet of Trex surface, or about 1,800 linear feet of 1″ x 6″ Trex boards. I selected Trex’s Brasilia product in Burnished Amber, which has a grain-like pattern through it that matched the natural look of the house’s logs. Here’s Trex’s official product shot:
And here it is installed on my deck:
I used the same material so that the deck and gangway leading to my floating dock would match:
Having matching materials was important because you stare directly at the dock while standing on the deck (the coloring is off in this photo due to the shadow and light and the fact that it was taken by an iPhone, but the colors of both Trex surfaces do match to the naked eye):
You Choose Trex for their Warranty, Right? RIGHT?!?!?
One of the reasons I chose to pay the premium for Trex over real wood is Trex’s 25 year warranty, which they tout on their website:
UNMATCHED PROTECTION FOR UNMATCHED PRODUCTS
The power of the outdoors has met its match. Trex is engineered to endure decades of foul weather and foot traffic …with the warranty coverage to prove it. With virtually every product covered by our 25-Year Limited Residential Warranty, you can rest assured that your backyard investment is well protected. And even better: our high-performance decking products come with an extra layer of coverage: an additional 25-Year Limited Residential Fade & Stain Warranty.
Which is why I scratched my head when a bunch of my boards particularly the ones on my dock’s gangway, started flaking like this:
Here’s a closer look:
I didn’t worry, because Trex advertises that their warranty means I “can rest assured that your backyard investment is well protected.” I actually let two or three years go by, but finally decided I’d contact Trex to get those boards replaced under warranty.
Trex’s Class Action Lawsuit
In October 2012, I contacted Trex’s customer support number, and was surprised when I was informed that there was a class action suit for this exact problem. Their website has more info than you’ll ever want to know about this class action lawsuit and settlement:
I informed Trex that I didn’t want to go through the hassle of a class action… I just wanted to “rest assured” and have them honor my warranty. But I was informed that this was the only way I could get those boards replaced, so I agreed to let them send me a claim form.
On October 22, 2012, I received the following email from email@example.com:
Date: Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 9:13 AM
Subject: Trex Surface Flaking Litigation Claim
Dear Steve Jenkins,
Attached is the Trex Surface Flaking Litigation claim form that you
requested in order to file a class action claim.
Trex Consumer Relations
Attached to the email was a PDF file titled “Class_Action_94536_64829.pdf.” It was identical to the trexmd_000952.pdf you can download from their website, except that it had my name and claim number (TX-94536) already filled in. After looking through all five pages of the form, and all the answers, and documentation, and photos, and measurements, and copy of the deed to the property… I was too exhausted to fill it all out. Again, I let things sit for another 3 years.
Finally Filling Out the Claim Forms
I’m currently in the process of re-doing the deck railing at the cabin (replacing the logs with metal and wire), so I knew I’d need to replace all the Trex boards where the old railing attached to the deck. I knew my class action claim form was still waiting in my email inbox, but again, it still seemed like too much hassle to deal with. So I visited my local Home Depot to see how much it would cost for me to simply replace all the “outer” boards, and I figured I’d buy a few more boards for my dock’s gangway and do it all at the same time.
But when I got to Home Depot, I was informed that Trex no longer makes Burnished Amber Brasilia… and so I was out of luck. Finally, that was enough motivation to print out my claim form and jump through whatever hoops Trex requires.
Last week, I finally drove the 2.5 hours to our cabin, took all the photos, did all the measurements, and gathered all the required information and documentation. Today, I mailed the large envelope off to Trex via Priority Mail. In the envelope was the following:
- My completed and signed claim form
- The invoice from the contractor (Beazley Construction) who built the deck
- A signed letter from Lake Chelan Building supply (who supplied the Trex to Beazley Construction) indicating that while they are able to verify that they sold the Brasilia Burnished Amber Trex to Beazley Construction in 2006 for my project, their system does not go back that far to generate an itemized receipt.
- Multiple photos of the deck, dock, underside of the deck, and close-ups of the flaking portions.
- A copy of the deed of trust, showing me as the owner of the property.
- A printout of the county assessor’s report, showing me as the owner of the property.
The tracking number of the envelope is 9505 5150 4097 6116 0417 28, which you can track by clicking on that tracking number.
What Happens Now?
Honestly? I have no idea. Here’s what the official Notice of Class Action says will happen:
a. Upon proper proof of claim (as set forth below), any Class Member experiencing Surface Flaking of a Trex Product will be provided an equivalent amount of replacement product or a cash equivalent at retail price for any decking board or railing manifesting any Surface Flaking, whether in whole or in part. If any part of a decking board manifests Surface Flaking, the Claimant will receive replacement product or cash equivalent, as provided below. All decisions as to whether to provide an equivalent amount of replacement product or a cash equivalent will be made by Trex in its sole discretion. Trex’s decision will be based on the amount of Trex Product to be replaced and the proximity between its distribution centers and the Settlement Class Member’s property. If Trex provides replacement product for less than the whole Trex structure, the replacement product will be the same color option and same texture option as the originally installed Trex Product. The replacement product will carry the same limited warranty as the originally installed Trex Product (before replacement) and the limited warranty will remain in effect until the original limited warranty on the originally installed Trex Product expires. If at any time within the Claims Period, more than 50 percent of the Trex decking boards (measured by linear feet) manifest any Surface Flaking, Trex shall provide replacement product or cash equivalent for all of the remaining decking boards in the structure (excluding those that have already been replaced).
b. Upon proper proof of claim (as set forth below), any Class Member experiencing Surface Flaking of a Trex Product who has not previously received some form of compensatory relief from Trex will receive a labor payment determined on a formulaic basis of 18 cents/linear foot of replaced Trex Product. (Number of pieces of Trex Product to be replaced multiplied by the length of Trex Product to be replaced multiplied by 18 cents ($0.18)). This number shall endeavor to result in a payment of $225 per Class Member with an average sized Trex deck.
I won’t even address the 18 cents per linear foot “labor payment,” since that’s not enough enough to pay someone to take the old product out… let alone measure, cut, and install any new product.
What really concerns me is that it seems that since less than 50% of my decking surface seems to be affected (though hopefully, the Trex inspector who comes finds otherwise), Trex can choose to either give me replacement product for the affected boards, or the cash equivalent for what it would cost to buy only those boards. The problem is, I can’t buy those boards! They’re discontinued! What Trex should do, and what I hope they do, is scrounge through their system and find enough “new old stock” of the Brasilia Burnished Amber for me to replace all the affected boards. But if they’re not able to do that, I hope they’ll do the right thing and supply sufficient replacement Trex material in a similar color for me to completely re-do both decking surfaces, so that they still match. I’ll handle the labor.
However, what I’m afraid Trex might do is merely cut me a check for the “cash equivalent” of only the flaking boards. That would be tantamount to saying “Gee.. sorry your deck and dock aren’t going to match any more. Here’s enough money to buy some boards that you can’t buy any more. Good luck with that! And remember… Trex means you can rest assured!”
That’s why I’m writing this blog post. Thankfully, Google likes my blog, so my goal is that any time anyone searches for Trex, or Trex Warranty, or Trex Class Action, or Trex flaking, this article pops up in the results, and you can all follow along to see what happens with my claim. As always, I’ll be 100% honest with my narrative as to what happens, as it happens… just has I’ve always been with any of the products or services I’ve reviewed. I’ll also pass along any and all communications I receive from Trex, whether via email or social media, without editing anything but personally identifiable information (such as my address).
I want to optimistically hope that Trex will actually stand behind their 25 year warranty, in which case I’ll gladly buy their products again and recommend them to my friends — as I do with all the other excellent customer service experiences I’ve written about on this blog (I’m looking at you, Kohler). But if I’m being honest, I have to admit I haven’t had the best experiences with class action settlements in the past. It seems that the attorneys are the only ones who actually get taken care of.
So this is your opportunity, Trex, to show me, my readers, and anyone else who comes across this article that only the defective boards are flaky… and that your reputation is not. Again, my claim number is TX-94536.
I welcome readers’ questions, comments, and feedback below.
Within a week of sending in my paperwork, I had received a voicemail from an individual who identified himself as an independent inspector, contracted by Trex under the terms of the settlement, to come to my property and inspect my deck. I called him back and gave him permission to come on the property, even if I wasn’t there. He informed me he’d be in that area within the next week or two.
As promised, the inspector came to my cabin (I wasn’t there at the time), took photos and measurements, then called me back to inform me he was done. He wasn’t able to discuss anything else about the claim, which I understand. He informed me he’d send the information to Trex, and that they would make the decision regarding how to process the claim.
I received a letter from Trex dated May 27, 2016. The letter offered to provide a specific number of replacement Trex boards. The letter also acknowledged that the product I currently have is discontinued, and offered to let me choose between four colors of a newer generation product. The letter further offered a specific dollar amount to help offset installation costs of the new material. If I agree to the offer by signing it and sending it back, they will deliver the replacement product to my house at no cost. By signing the offer and returning it to them, I am releasing them from future liability, and agreeing to keep the details of the settlement with Trex “confidential and refrain from making any negative or disparaging remarks to any third party regarding Trex or the quality of its products.”
That means I can’t tell you how many boards they offered to replace, nor can I tell you the amount of the check they offered to send. I will say, however, that I am satisfied with the final outcome. No, that would be understating it. I am extremely satisfied with the final outcome. I have signed the letter and sent it back to them.
On a totally unrelated note, I’ll probably be posting photos of what my deck looks like after I’ve done some work on it this summer (wink, wink).