The plastic pipe market has a full head of steam going into 2006, with few visible roadblocks ahead.
``All plastic pipe is growing very nicely. Some end-use applications are experiencing a higher percentage of growth than others,'' said Stephen Boros, technical director of the Washington-based Plastic Pipe Institute.
In the forefront is cross-linked polyethylene, which continues to show strong results in plumbing and hydronic radiant floor heating applications. Its primary competitor, copper, suffered from higher prices in 2005, which further pushed demand for PEX for plumbing.
PVC continued to be in demand for plumbing as well as potable water and sewage transfer.
Bob Walker, executive director of the Dallas-based Unibell PVC Pipe Association, which represents makers of underground PVC pipe used in water and sewage applications, said the PVC market still has momentum from the housing boom of the past few years.
``Even the most dire predictions show that the construction market may be slightly off from , but nothing dramatic enough to derail the train we've been on for the past three or four years,'' Walker said.
Look for chlorinated PVC to keep growing as well, insiders said.
Michael Porter, the national sales manager for Yulee, Fla.-based Coastline Plastics Inc., said the CPVC market was likely to keep growing by at least 10 percent annually.
``There's significant growth in the marketplace for CPVC,'' he said. ``I would say, double-digit growth.''
CPVC can handle temperatures that PVC can't, making it a frequent option for hot, potable water applications in indoor plumbing systems.
Across the board, the large-diameter pipe market is going to be dynamic in 2006, said Tom Walsh, a Houston-based consultant to the pipe industry.
Concrete prices may dip a bit this year from the 12 percent upsurge in 2005, according to Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Arlington, Va.-based Associated General Contractors of America.
Regardless, Walsh believes that large-diameter plastic pipe will continue to replace concrete.
``It's a recognition of the economic competitiveness and overall value and corrosion resistance of plastic pipe,'' he said. ``[Polyethylene pipe] can give you a welded joint which allows for no infiltration or leakage in sanitary sewers.''
Boros called corrugated PE: ``One of our larger and stronger divisions.''
ABS pipe, which has a stronghold on the U.S. Pacific Coast and parts of Canada, can be found in many of the same applications as PVC throughout the rest of North America. Walsh indicated that ABS could shrink a little as comparable, but less expensive, PVC products replace it.
Also, the continued penetration of lighter-weight cellular-core pipe will continue to dig into ABS' market share, Walsh said, adding that ABS still has its place.