While sales are not booming, wood-plastic composites, cellular PVC and other non-wood deck builders are rebounding from a sluggish 2009 with sales increases for a number of companies in the double-digits.
We are having a record year in sales, and double-digit growth, said Keith Weathers, business adviser in Chattanooga, Tenn., for Renew Plastics in Luxemburg, Wis. Renew manufactures foamed decking made from 90 percent recycled high density polyethylene milk jugs mixed with fiberglass for added strength.
We have been building capacity for four months now, trying to keep up, Weathers said at the Remodeling Show and Deck Expo, held Sept. 15-17 in Baltimore. The show was sponsored by building-related publishing company Hanley Wood LLC.
Similarly, PVC and composites decking manufacturer TimberTech in Wilmington, Ohio, expects a volume increase in the double digits this year, driven by a lower-priced PVC product, ReliaBoard, which the company introduced in the spring.
Decking sales at Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies Inc. in Springdale, Ark., are growing even faster. Sales of its MoistureShield decking were up more than 22 percent through June and are expected to be 20 percent higher than in 2009.
And wood composite and cellular PVC decking manufacturer Fiberon LLC, based in New London, N.C., has increased production capacity for its wood/ composite Horizon decking line by 300 percent since January, adding lines in New London and manufacturing Horizon for the first time at its plant in Meridien, Idaho.
We had to schedule deliveries out because the demand was so high, said Edie Kello, Fiberon marketing director.
Decking has been one of the few bright spots for the building industry in a year when new-home sales plunged dramatically after the home-buying tax credit expired at the end of April, hitting a 47-year low in August.
Similarly, existing-home sales this summer were the lowest in more than a decade, and are expected to finish below last year's level, giving the industry three straight down years and the lowest existing-home sales since 1997.
That environment has enabled deck builders to capitalize on owners remodeling their existing homes.
We've shifted more of our effort to the remodeling market, said John Goshen, director of business development for cellular PVC decking, trim and molding manufacturer Gossen Corp. in Milwaukee, Wis. Who knows if the housing market will ever come back?
Acrylic-block and glass-block window manufacturer Hy-Lite Products Inc. in Pensacola, Fla., has adopted a similar approach.
We have started to go after the remodeling market and the retrofit market, said Thomas Rachfal, vice president of sales and marketing for Hy-Lite Products, which makes vinyl-clad block windows, some fixed and others that can be opened.
We have gotten replacement business this year we have never gotten before, helped by deals with several suppliers, said Rachfal. Eventually, the replacement market should get to be at least big as the new-construction market, if not bigger.
The push to target the replacement market was prompted by a realistic assessment of the new-home market, he said.
The year started well, said Rachfal. It wasn't spiking, but it was growing nicely. Then new-home business declined almost immediately when the tax credit expired, and flattened off to last year's levels.
I don't see any indicator that things [in the new-home market] will get better soon, Rachfal said.
I expect next year to be like this year unless something happens.
The spurt in remodeling activity triggered by people reluctant or unable to move to a different home also has decking manufacturers planning new innovations to capture some of the expected growth.
There is a ton of growth left as people convert from wood, said Stu Kemper, CEO of TimberTech. I think there is significantly more share for alternative categories to take. The market for alternate decking could double.
That was one of the reasons why earlier this year TimberTech added two new colors, XLM Rustic Bark and Desert Bronze both of them 40 percent lighter than wood-plastic composite decking and plans to add more. We will be adding a new color, Earthwood Evolution, in December and XLM Harbor Stone Walnut in the spring, said Kemper.
Likewise, Nyloboard LLC in Covington, Ga. which sells caramel-colored decking made from 100 percent recycled carpet fibers will be introducing gray and cocoa-colored decking at the International Builders Show, set for Jan. 12-15 in Orlando.
Kodiak Building Products will also be expanding its decking line soon, said Ed Reed, a marketing consultant for Kodiak based in Tip City, Ohio. Kodiak is part of Deceuninck North America, which is headquartered in Monroe, Ohio.
We will be introducing a new line of decking in cellular PVC in January that will have a variegated look, said Reed. The decking boards will be reversible with different colors on each side so that the distributor can operate out of one inventory.
We are currently finalizing the color palettes and will be producing the decking by the end of the year at the company's production facility in Monroe, said Reed. One of the boards will be reddish on one site, gray on the other, and the second new cellular PVC board will be a brown/walnut combination.
People are looking for colors and they are looking for something that looks like real wood, said Reed. We use a core system that is very dense, very strong. We are aiming at the professional deck builder to give him something to differentiate himself from the [do-it-yourself] or part-time weekend deck builder.
With the market for non-wood decks continuing to grow, the challenge will be to find the right niches or area to concentrate company resources, said TimberTech's Kemper.
The market has been stable, not booming, a solid, good category, said Kemper. I think we'll get back to an even better growth down the road. The challenge will be to try and figure out what the size of each segment will be as we go forward. Many of the decking categories are moving quickly, so you have to remain flexible to capitalize on the trends.
Decking manufacturers aren't just keeping an eye on changes in the decking market, however. They are also looking to see where they can grow their business by making products other than decking from composites, cellular PVC or other non-wood materials.
AERT, for example, will launch a new exterior molding line, as well as a line of outdoor furniture products, by the end of the year, said Brent Gwatney, vice president of marketing and sales for the AERT MoistureShield brand. The outdoor line will include products such as benches, tables and trash can receptacles.
Similarly, furniture manufacturer Munchener Boulevard Mobel GmbH of Niemcy, Germany, soon will introduce a line of wall cladding products made from the same materials cellulose from rice hulls, salt and mineral oils that are used to make its line of alternative decking products and outdoor furniture.
The cladding line, which is targeted for use on yachts as a replacement for teak paneling and for other marine applications, will make its debut at the International Boat Show, set for Oct. 28 to Nov. 1 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.