Cliff Hatch walked through CPI Plastics Group Ltd.'s booth at the 2006 International Builders' Show, talking numbers for the average do-it-yourselfer to understand: It takes about 10 minutes for the average Joe or Jane Q. Home Improver to assemble one full panel of CPI's new polystyrene privacy fence.
``It's assembling something like Legos,'' said Hatch, marketing director for the Eon brand, in a Jan. 14 interview. ``Up until now, the fence only has been vinyl and it's been in white or tan colors. We spent a year doing research, and consumers want darker tones.''
It was a clear trend at this year's show, held Jan. 11-14 in Orlando, as plastics-related companies announced growth into the fencing market.
CPI of Mississauga, Ontario, launched two Eon products colored in cedar and redwood and made of closed-cell polystyrene. Its privacy fence surrounded its booth at the show, showcasing the 6-by-6 privacy panels and another panel topped with lattice. The product is extruded in CPI facilities in Mississauga. CPI's goal is to give consumers a wood-looking product that is maintenance-free.
``There's been a certain backlash in recent years,'' Hatch said, in which certain communities are banning all-white fencing. Companies like CPI could not ignore the market-share growth vinyl has enjoyed, with 15-20 percent annual growth in fencing applications. CPI for its part is offering its fencing at the same price as vinyl fencing. Officials will launch the product at independent retailers across North America, including Home Depot Stores Inc.
Composite deck maker Trex Co. Inc. launched its own new line of privacy fencing. The move marks the Winchester, Va.-based extruder's first foray into the fencing market.
Commercial production of the new Seclusions fencing line began at Trex's Winchester plant this month.
Trex officials said the company makes all the parts for the composite fencing except the injection molded post caps; Trex declined to disclose what company makes the caps.
The 6-foot fencing is made of identical material and color as Trex deck and railing.
The same four colors available for decks are available for the fencing, which has the same polyethylene-wood flour mix as its decking counterpart. Trex's composite lumber has recycled content.
About 80 percent of the residential fencing market is in privacy fences, said Adam Zambanini, Trex's senior product manager for fencing.
Zambanini said he is confident the Trex brand name will help the fencing line take off. Trex officials said the color and wood look of the fencing will give it a competitive edge over vinyl products.
``Consumers don't necessarily like vinyl,'' Zambanini said. ``They like low maintenance.''
As demand for the Trex fencing picks up, the company may shift some of the production to its facility in Olive Branch, Miss., Zambanini said.
Trex officials said they have locked up agreements with three of the country's largest fence installers.
The company also touts the product's ease of installation and toughness. Trex said the fence can hold up more than 200 pounds and can withstand winds greater than 100 mph.
Trex spokeswoman Maureen Murray said Trex is offering a 25-year warranty to Seclusions purchasers.