Wood composite deck maker TimberTech Ltd. is bringing a cellular PVC deck board to market later this year - a sign that wood composite lumber extruders recognize the performance of the material made popular by Procell Decking Systems, and are working to be players in the category.
TimberTech's new decking, XLM, is being extruded in-house. The boards are made from a proprietary blend of foamed PVC and minerals. The Wilmington, Ohio-based company is the first wood composite deck maker also to offer cellular PVC.
Moosic, Pa.-based Azek Building Products Inc. bought Procell in 2006 and has changed the name to Azek Deck. Azek is known for its cellular PVC trim and molding profiles.
The company sent more ripples throughout the alternative decking industry this year when it signed a distribution agreement with Batavia, Ill.-based Parksite Plunkett-Webster, a large building products distributor.
The deal with Azek prompted Winchester, Va.-based Trex Co. Inc. to dissolve its relationship with PPW. PPW generated about $50 million in annual sales for Trex, the market leader in wood composite decking.
TimberTech is also an upper-tier wood composite deck maker, along with New London, N.C.-based Fiber Composites LLC, the company that acquired Nashville, Tenn.-based Louisiana-Pacific Corp.'s WeatherBest decking in July.
Tom Day, TimberTech's senior product manager, said the company made a ``significant investment'' adding the extrusion equipment to make the XLM boards, but he declined to disclose a dollar amount or to say how many lines were added.
Day credited TimberTech's parent company, Columbus, Ohio-based Crane Group Cos., for making XLM a reality.
``Crane Plastics has 60 years in PVC technology,'' Day said in a Sept. 20 telephone interview. ``We're certainly going to leverage that expertise.''
XLM boards will be made in addition to, not at the expense of, TimberTech's wood composite lines.
``We don't believe it will cannibalize our other products,'' Day said. ``We now serve all of what we call the aesthetic premium market.''
Day said XLM will be priced to be competitive with Azek Deck.
XLM boards are 40 percent lighter than TimberTech's composite lumber, he said, adding that XLM exhibits all of the traits that recently have made cellular PVC decking a popular choice in the alternative decking world: high scratch and stain resistance, color fastness, easy cleanup and maximum mildew resistance.
TimberTech is working to add a color-match rail to its XLM line.
The majority of wood composite lumber on the market comprises polyethylene and wood flour.
Generally, cellular PVC decking looks more like painted wood. XLM will come in three colors - cedar, gray and tan, Day said.
By all accounts, the material performs better than a PE-wood flour composite, though there continues to be lab work done to remedy that on the wood composite side.
Cellular PVC, while not new to those within the alternative decking industry, appears to be the next big thing. Azek is not known for conservative marketing. The company will continue to grow and to try and capture market share.
``I'm not surprised by their expansion or diversifying into another processing segment,'' Steve Van Kouteran, a principal with Exton, Pa.-based Principia Partners, said of the TimberTech announcement. ``Processing vinyl is Crane's core competency. And it's natural for the producers in the industry to evolve to another level and expand their product line, pushing it to be better and better.''
It is a sign that the alternative decking market has matured, Van Kouteran said.