It was the talk of the show. And it was made in China.
Luxrae decking from Mississauga, Ontario-based Onyx Innovation Inc. made its North American debut at DeckExpo, held Feb. 27 to March 1 in Las Vegas. The rice-hull-reinforced PVC deck and fascia boards are extruded in the company's 300,000-square-foot Beijing plant, which employs about 150.
Onyx has 12 lines running, and company officials said they are turning away business until they add more capacity, reporting that they are 80 percent sold out through 2007.
Luxrae is coming to market in six colors, including a few exotic hardwoodlike products that have proved to be the latest aesthetic trend in composite decks.
Company officials are focusing not on wood or composites as competition, but rather on the luxury market for alternative building materials.
The primary differentiator, according to company officials, is the use of nanotechnology in the product's coating.
The coating ``covers each board with submicroscopic particles to make it resistant to aggressive corrosive and adhesive substances,'' according to company literature. Under direct sunlight, the boards are 10 percent cooler than other materials due to the ultraviolet-light-resistant properties of the nanocoating, officials said.
Luxrae was not the only China-made market entry at DeckExpo.
Structure, a subsidiary of Cranston, R.I.-based W&E International LLC, introduced a fiber-reinforced cellular PVC deck board. Structure's Cellek-brand decking is extruded at the company's newly built plant in Shanghai.
Structure President Qing Shui proudly called Cellek ``the strongest deck board in the industry,'' sharing photos of a Cellek-board platform holding up a car, and another supporting a forklift.
The embossed boards are available in a variety of colors with semi-gloss and nonglossy surfaces. Shui also claimed Structure is the first cellular PVC deck board with side grooves for hidden fasteners - a fast-developing trend in wood-plastic composite decks.
``This is different and new,'' Shui said. ``There has been a lot of business interest.''
Another new entry to the North American market is NewTech, whose composite products are made of rice-hull fibers and recycled plastic. NewTech is owned by Humble, Texas-based recycler T&T Group Inc. The products are manufactured by a third party, Meixin Manufacturing Co. Ltd. in Huizhou, China.
NewTech offers an array of deck boards, posts and rails, roofing products, pallets and park benches. James Broussard, T&T's purchasing manager, said NewTech supplies all of the benches at Hong Kong Disneyland. However, the company will focus on deck and rail, he said.
``We don't necessarily want to be all things to all people,'' he said.
But NewTech does seek respect.
``Just because we're made in China, doesn't mean we're cheap,'' Broussard said. ``Anybody can make a cheap product and bring it to market. We want to be known for good, quality products.''
Imports make up less than 5 percent of the North American composite decking market, and might not even make up 1 percent, said Steve Van Kouteren, a principal with Exton, Pa.-based building industry consulting firm Principia Partners.
``Building products distributors are weary of lining themselves up with a source so far away,'' he said. ``Turnaround time, service, call-backs, all those factors come into play.
``I don't think you're going to see much of an inroad. But there is always an exception with a great product.''