Composite, cPVC Decking Gaining Market Share

Wood-plastic composites are chipping away at pressure-treated lumber's lead as the primary material used in decking, U.S. Department of Commerce research shows.

April 30, 2009
On the Upswing?

Wood-plastic composites are chipping away at pressure-treated lumber's lead as the primary material used in decking, U.S. Department of Commerce research shows. The housing slump is likely a factor.

“I see the demand for composite decking increasing 1 to 2 percent in the next few years,” says Chris Fox, marketing manager for Universal Forest Products. “Alternative decking material, which includes composites, will reduce the overall market share of pressure-treated decking.” Fox also says he believes more homeowners will consider composite decking for its low-maintenance attributes.

Factors to Consider

More homeowners are opting for composites for their low-maintenance characteristics.
Photo: Universal Forest Products

TimberTech's Kevin Brennan, senior vice president of sales and marketing, echoes Fox. He's seen composite brands that have experienced a steady 7 to 12 percent annual growth at the expense of wood products. TimberTech estimates that in spite of the current economic climate, this trend will continue. “Every year manufacturers are doing a better job meeting consumer demands by offering better performing products that are more aesthetically pleasing,” he says.

Pricing pressure to keep the existing market share and volume has in fact kept the wood-plastic composite price point steady. The pricing scale along with the number of manufactures competing will force some consolidation and closures, says Mark E. Lipsius, director of sales, building products, for Deceuninck. The company is responsible for, among other brands, Kodiak composite decking and railings.

“Over 75 percent of the business is in repair and remodel and is therefore bought by educated buyers experienced with issues of maintaining wood decking,” he says, adding that in 2006 the expected market share for wood-plastic composite in the decking market was about 24 percent and the projected share in 2010 40 percent. But the estimate came before the downturn. “We have since seen a shrinkage of the pie, but I would say the market share would be close to those projections.”

The next price Lipsius points to is PVC-based deck boards, which the company sees as a growing demand. Ralph Bruno, president of Azek's Building Products division, says cellular PVC (cPVC) has become its own decking category since the company introduced it a few years ago. CPVC is separate from wood or composites and is growing at an accelerated rate, Bruno says, and it continues to chip away at the wood and composite market share. “The growth of cPVC decking has been fueled by consumers looking for advancements in technology with higher expectations of stain and scratch resistance in deck and porch products. They are also looking for the assurance of code-listings, which is a must for safety and performance,” Bruno says.

Jockeying for Market Share: The Playing Field is Evolving.

Cellular PVC decking is a growing part of the market, as manufacturers argue it is superior to composites.
Photo: Fiberon

“Alternative deck producers are starting to take it out on each other,” says Mick Whelan, corporate director of marketing for Tamko Building Products. “Manufacturers who produce only 100 percent PVC decking, for instance, are now advertising and arguing that their products won't stain, scratch, fade, rot, mold, require less maintenance, absorb less moisture, and are more color stable than their composite counterparts.”

In terms of how companies differentiate themselves from their competitors, it comes down to quality and innovation, says Brennan. He thinks home buyers and contractors should look for products that live up to their claims and should choose companies that continually strive to be at the forefront of the market with new products. “A number of companies will no longer be in the space in a few years due to product performance, the company's business model, the state of the economy, etc.,” says Brennan. (“Not to overlook upstarts, but going with a long-standing manufacturer that has a good reputation and ensures that consumers and contractors will have resources available to them should a problem arise, is the way to go.”)

Wood is Still King

Despite the competition between the brands, many manufacturers aren't willing to fire upon or necessarily favor one type of deck board over the other. Many offer a mix of all three decking materials. Essentially, it comes down to price points, functionality and aesthetics when homeowners choose their decks. And at least, for now, a greater share of your clients will choose wood.


On the Upswing?

Keep focused on outdoor living. According to New England Hardscapes, the company is seeing an increase in spending on outdoor living areas such as backyard patios, terraces and pool decks over the first two months of 2009. The company recently conducted a survey of potential clients, and nearly 75 percent of their interest relates to the fact people are cutting back, they are not traveling and they will be spending more time at home in 2009.

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