Just days after top competitor TimberTech Ltd. made a similar announcement, Trex Co. Inc. is adding cellular PVC deck board to its product portfolio.
Trex Escapes, a foamed vinyl reinforced with inorganic filler, is being manufactured by Fombell, Pa.-based Veka Innovations, a subsidiary of Veka Inc.
Veka is one of a handful of companies to have a cellular PVC decking product on the market, called Veka Deck. The Trex product, both in surface appearance and profile shape, is different from Veka Deck, said Scott Fedor, Winchester, Va.-based Trex's senior product manager for decking, in a Sept. 26 telephone interview.
``The two products are distinctly different,'' Fedor said. ``It's a segment we've been looking at for over a year. We feel very confident in the product.''
Trex is a leader in wood-plastic composite decking. While the segment is popular and growing, wood composite decks have been prone to performance problems like color fade, staining, and mold and mildew from moisture retention.
Cellular PVC deck boards seem to resist scratches, staining, color fade and moisture better than their wood composite counterparts.
Makers are calling it the ``ultral-low-maintenance'' category.
Fedor said the Escapes launch is about rounding out the company's product portfolio. Trex officials don't want to be defined by a particular material or product, he said.
``Everything about this board is Trex,'' he said. ``We don't define ourselves by material. We define ourselves by our brand, by our ability to bring innovative products to market.
``This is just another product in our lineup to lead the outdoor leading category.''
Trex officials say Escapes may lure consumers, who have been resistant to invest in another low-maintenance material, like a composite or all-plastic, to purchase alternative decking.
``We hope to draw more people into the market that may not have been there before because they couldn't find the performance or aesthetic look that they wanted,'' Fedor said.
This quickly could become a theme of wood composite deck makers - to add cellular PVC to their product portfolio.
The material was made popular by Procell Decking Systems, which was acquired by Moosic, Pa.-based Azek Building Products Inc. in 2006. Azek officials have since changed the name to Azek Deck.
Trex, a public company, is the market leader in wood composite decking. Companies like TimberTech and New London, N.C.-based Fiber Composites LLC are upper-tier players and Trex's stiffest competition in wood composites.
TimberTech announced last week plans for its new cellular PVC decking, XLM, which joins Azek Deck and Veka Deck in the category.
Steve Van Kouteren, a principal with Exton, Pa.-based Principia Partners, said it is natural for producers in the wood composites industry ``to evolve to another level and expand their product line, pushing it to be better and better.''
In a Sept. 26 telephone interview, he said Trex always will have the advantage of brand-name recognition to help propel new product sales.
``It's huge,'' he said. ``Trex has become the Xerox or the Kleenex of this industry. Trex, now, with all that power behind the brand, is introducing cellular PVC.''