The world of polymer-based fence, deck and railing products is made up mostly of two groups: vinyl and wood-plastic composites.
And then, somewhere in the middle, there's Eon - a plastic lumber extruded from closed-cell polystyrene by Mississauga, Ontario-based CPI Plastics Group Ltd.
In terms of uniqueness, Eon may be without equal in the outdoor living segment.
Known for its rich colors and wood-grain appearance, Eon built its reputation and sales in the spa accessory market. Fence, deck and railing followed.
Eon fence product came to market in kit form. The privacy fence is sold in 6-by-6-foot panels in a kit format through Home Depot retail stores.
In January, the company launched its Pro Series fence - a 6-by-8-foot-panel system distributed through the pro dealer channel rather than via retail.
In a tough construction market that has adversely affected most building products makers, CPI's Eon Pro Series has been a bright spot, company officials said.
``We've been producing and marketing Eon for a number of years, working predominantly in retail, making it popular to do-it-yourselfers,'' marketing director Cliff Hatch said in a telephone interview. ``We discovered we were missing about 50 percent of the market - this professional channel.''
While the do-it-yourself community has been working with plastic products for only a relatively short time, professional installers have been working with them for 20 years.
``Plastics are nothing new to this channel,'' Hatch said. ``They were open to plastic as a material because they're so used to working with PVC. Eon was a material they've never seen before, in colors never achieved before.''
CPI officials said they are excited about the sales potential. Through Home Depot, Eon has nearly 2,000 points of retail distribution. The Pro Series, despite having just 250 points of distribution by comparison, has generated twice as much business, Hatch said.
CPI extrudes Eon profiles at six plants: five clustered in the Mississauga area and the company's newest facility in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. The company runs about 140 extruders, Hatch said.
Thomas Gavaghan, owner of Pinellas Park, Fla.-based West Coast Fence Corp., is relatively new to Eon's alternative fence system, but the first half-dozen jobs his company has installed in the Tampa Bay area have generated nothing but positive feedback, he said.
Some deed-restricted communities have gone as far as to ban white vinyl fencing in the region, Gavaghan said.
Despite the availability of earth-tone and variegated vinyl profiles, customers have responded favorably to the woodlike appearance of Eon's fence panels, he said.
``People wanted fence that matched the exterior of their home or building,'' he said. ``And they definitely wanted the low-maintenance aspect of it.''
Eon's Pro Series fencing sells for $35-$45 per foot installed.