A growing number of contractors are using heating blankets to form PVC and composite decking into unique designs that follow the customers' lay of their land, kidney-shaped pool or desire for something different.
It's just not luxury homeowners looking to decorate their decks with curved boards and patterned inlays, according to Patrick Barnds, general manager of decking, railing and accessories for Skokie, Ill.-based Azek Building Products.
“For mid-price point construction, it is achievable,” Barnds said in a telephone interview. “It's not a purely custom product where you're spending 100 percent more to get the look you want. These things can be done in the field with relatively available technology for most contractors. If they have the right training and a little experience, they are pretty proficient at getting these forms done on a tight budget.”
Homeowner spending on improvements and repairs might be easing up a little this year, but the outlook for the synthetic decking segment remains strong.
The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies released a report Feb. 28 that says the residential remodeling market — including both owner-occupied and rental properties — which reached an all-time high of $340 billion in 2015, will expand at a more gradual rate than recent years but still show “healthy” growth through 2025. Spending is expected to increase 2 percent annually for the next 8 years after adjusting for inflation. That's just below the pace of growth posted over the last 20 years.
“With national house prices rising sufficiently to help owners rebuild home equity lost during the downturn, and with both household incomes and existing home sales on the rise, we expect to see continued growth in the home improvement market,” Kermit Baker, director of the remodeling futures program at the Harvard center, said in a news release.
The repair-and-replace market generates most of the revenue for synthetic decking manufacturers. Only 5 to 10 percent of new-home builders install alternative-wood decking, Barnds said.
“By far, most of the sales go into remodeling and replacing,” he said. “Our best customer is the one who had a wood deck. After people live with one for five or six years they start to see it deteriorate. They say, ‘Gee, I don't want to do all this maintenance and this looks bad.'”
Even though the overall remodeling market is projected to post gradual growth, synthetic decking manufacturers expect to fare much better.
“In the big peak of 2005, 2006 and 2007, a lot of houses were built with wood decks and they're reaching 10, 11 and 12 years old and showing their age,” Barnds said. “So there's this great pent-up demand that's building for other deck materials.”