The optimistic prognosticators were wrong last year, but that did not discourage them from again predicting an end to the downward trend in new-home construction in 2008.
This year will be rock bottom, they say, and the uptick will commence.
Total construction was down about 3 percent in 2007 - the first time since 1991 there has been an overall downturn in construction spending, said Daryl Delano, chief economist with Plymouth, Mass.-based analyst group Delano Data Insights in a December conference call.
``It's not a bright picture to start 2008 with,'' he said. ``But in total, the construction market is going to have a better 2008 than 2007.''
There could be a long waiting period, though. Economists and other industry watchers said the turnaround may not happen until the latter part of the year. Plastic building products are suffering along with the rest of construction-related business, but do benefit from being a replacement material in many cases for wood and metal.
The window industry will begin to look and feel better by year's end, said Michael Collins, senior associate at Chicago investment banking firm Jordan, Knauff & Co.
Fiberglass window and door products are growing at about 30 percent, but have been relatively slow to catch on, Collins said. Vinyl profile extruders will feel more heat from Chinese profile makers in 2008, but the overall market looks good, he said.
``Several companies are looking to purchase companies with excess capacity,'' Collins said. ``They believe the market will recover. They not only believe they need their own excess capacity, but also the excess capacities of companies they're looking to buy.''
Further consolidation is expected in the window industry, as well as in vinyl siding, and composite decking - all industries with overcapacity.
Fencing has taken a hit as consumers have reigned in their spending.
When presented with a choice, consumers are typically going to spend money ``closer to their houses,'' said Stu Kemper, president of Crane Building Solutions in Columbus, Ohio. Because of that, decking sales have been fairly strong. High-end consumers are still upgrading their homes, and that has translated to strong decking sales for Crane subsidiary TimberTech Ltd. in Wilmington, Ohio, Kemper said in a telephone interview.
``There is more innovation and robustness in the decking category. There's a lot of new stuff. It makes it fun to be in and ... challenging for others to get into,'' he said.
On the municipal and infrastructure-development side, pipe has suffered with the rest of construction, but has been buoyed somewhat by material conversion.
Communities and decision makers are starting to take the problems of their aging, damaged underground infrastructures more seriously, said Tony Radoszewski, executive director of the Irving, Texas-based Plastics Pipe Institute, which focuses primarily on high density polyethylene pipe for the water and gas markets.
That trend bodes well for plastic pipe.
``The momentum is building,'' Radoszewski said by telephone. ``You now have people on municipal staffs with the title of buried asset manager. I see that as an indicator that people are taking this seriously.''
Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America in Arlington, Va., said in a year-end address that he was concerned about a spike in construction material costs in 2007 that never actually happened. The producer price index for plastics actually dropped 0.6 percent last year. Price increases could still be in the cards for 2008, he said.