Capped composite decks are hot, gaining about 70 percent of the synthetic market segment while chipping away at sales of wooden decks, which dominate the overall market with an 84 percent share.
Usually made of polyethylene and wood filler with a protective shell, composite decks never need sanding, staining or painting, don't rot or splinter, are termite-proof, and come with warranties for fade resistance and performance.
However, composite decks can be literally hot, too, in the summer months, absorbing heat from their surroundings. That's spurring a new innovation by one of the industry veterans. Founded in 1989 in Springdale, Ark., Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies Inc. is getting ready to launch a new product with what it calls “cool deck technology.”
“That's the ability for it to absorb up to 35 percent less heat than traditional capstocks,” AERT President Randy Gottlieb said in a telephone interview about MoistureShield Infuse, which will be released in the fourth quarter.
“That gives our customers the ability to use their deck more often and walk on it in bare feet. It's mostly a comfort thing. As we did our market research, we learned that the surface temperature of composite decking is a drawback in the industry and we wanted to solve that problem.”
AERT developed a proprietary way to optimize heat reflection while mimicking the beauty of wood with a co-extrusion manufacturing process, Gottlieb said.
“With the help of a few third parties and lots of good partnerships we were able to come up with something that takes the heat away,” he added.
Infuse will debut on the heels of another AERT capped composite decking line called Refine, which hit the market in July. Refine has a deeper embossed pattern for more texture and a capstock to protect against fading and staining.
Capping it off
With $76 million in sales in 2015, AERT is the No. 48 pipe, profile and tubing extruder in North America, according to Plastics News' rankings. The expansion of its capped composite offerings follows the No. 1 trend in residential decking and railing, according to Principia.
“With the rapid adoption of capped composites that has occurred over the last several years, the industry has transitioned from lower priced uncapped composites to higher-end capped composites,” a Principia trends study shows.
How rapid is this transition? Capped composite decking sales, which made up 18 percent of the synthetic market in 2010, grew to 45 percent in 2012 and 68 percent in 2014, Principia says.
AERT officials expect their “cool deck technology” to stand out among buyers.
“We're the first to address this, and our research says it is more than a great tiebreaker with all things being equal with pricing, aesthetics and performance,” Gottlieb said.
In the overall decking market, alternative-wood products have 16 percent of the 2.4 billion lineal-feet share, according to Principia. Before the recession, composites had about a 20 percent market share but are poised to make up more ground as technology improves both performance and color options, and as busy or aging homeowners seek low-maintenance products. Principia projects the market for composite decks will grow at 5 percent annual rate through 2017 compared to 3 percent for decking in general.
The overall decking market is valued at $4.1 billion, which is up from $3.6 billion in 2012, according to the LBM Journal for lumber building material distributors.
Every 1 percent of market share that the alternative products gain from wood represents $50 million of revenue, according to a May 2016 investor presentation for Trex Co., which is the top-selling composite deck manufacturer.
With sales of $440.8 million in 2015, the Winchester, Va.-based business is the No. 8 pipe, profile and tubing producer, according to Plastics News' latest rankings.
Trex has seen its share of the composite market grow from 36 percent in 2012 to 41 percent in 2014, according to 2013 and 2015 Principia market reports. The company has about 7 percent of the total decking market.