Orlando, Fla. — After 20 years as decking, composite wood boards by Fiberon are finding new uses as cladding for rain screen systems, which help walls manage moisture.
The New London, N.C.-based manufacturer's Symmetry and Horizon decking lines, which are made from recycled polyethylene and wood scraps, are both suitable for rain screen walls, Fiberon Sales Director Bill Ross said at the International Builders' Show.
“We're taking a product for decking and using it in a similar application that's vertical,” Ross said.
Decking manufacturers touted various benefits to differentiate their products as economists forecast a 10 percent increase in single-family housing starts to 855,000 units and remodeling activity to moderate in 2017 after three years of strong growth.
As they compete in a shrinking field, Tamko is out with three capped decks, MoistureShield is demonstrating its cool deck technology and Trex is offering more cabinetry for outdoor kitchens.
Last year it was cellular PVC deck maker Azek that announced it was entering the siding category with a product that has twice the impact resistance of fiber cement and 40 percent less weight.
Now it's Fiberon offering an alternative wood product for modern looking rain screen systems, which are made up of a water-resistant barrier (WRB), an air gap between the WRB and the back of the cladding, and weep holes at the bottom. Rain screen walls promote drainage and air flow, which prevents moisture build up that can be absorbed by sheathing and framing and lead to structural damage.
An air space as small as 3/8 inch enables adequate drainage and drying while equalizing air pressure inside and outside of a house during heavy rains.
“There's less pressure inside a house when there's a storm than there is outside. The water isn't pushed in. It doesn't trickle in. It's actually invited into the house,” Ross said. “Having the space cancels that. It brings an equilibrium of pressure on both sides so even with a driving rain at an angle, very little gets inside and then it drains down the back. It virtually eliminates rot, mold and mildew. And in the summer, because of convection, the house is cooler and less expensive to cool.”
In addition to performance, using a compression molded cladding that comes in eight hardwood colors with embossed grain patterns gives architects and builders a lot of design possibilities.
“This look is very contemporary and I think we'll see it grow,” Ross said. “This will be a significant growth opportunity for the industry. It's popping up in places you'd never expect it, like New England. It's big commercially with Starbucks, Marriott, Hilton and a lot of multi-family developments.”
Fiberon cladding also has eco-friendly qualities. Not only does it contain 94 percent pre- and post-consumer recycled content from items like medicine bottles and plastic sheeting, it contains no toxic chemicals or preservatives and releases no carcinogens during cutting.
In addition to cladding, Fiberon is out with a new composite decking line made from recycled carpeting called Relax that is priced to compete with wood. Relax retails for about $1.50 a lineal foot.
“If you're making a decision to put down a new 200-square-foot deck, our product costs less than the stain you'll buy for a wood deck,” Ross said. “It's virtually cost neutral.”
He isn't concerned about a dwindling carpet feedstock as the flooring material loses market share to products like luxury vinyl tile.
“We can mine it from landfills if we need to,” Ross said. “It's not an infinite amount but it's more than we'd be able to consume.”
With estimated sales of $175 million, Fiberon is No. 24 among North American pipe, profile and tubing producers according to the latest Plastics News ranking.
Azek, which started offering cladding last year, is No. 13. Owned by CPG International LCC, the Skokie, Ill.-based company had estimated sales of $310 million.
“We're down to the top three players having about 86 percent of the market,” Ross said of synthetic decking. “That's Trex, CPG and ourselves. We're about the same size as CPG if you take out the trim and other stuff.”