Orlando, Fla. — Composite and PVC deck-makers are showing off cooling technology, new colors and expanded railing options as they appeal to homeowners and builders looking to enhance the look and feel of their outdoor living spaces.
Wooden decking continues to dominate the market because of its initial low cost, but decking made from alternative materials is gaining ground. Although it comes at a higher price point, composite decking of reclaimed wood, sawdust and polyethylene as well as PVC decking need little maintenance yet have the appearance and texture of wood. Products with polymer capstocks also are durable and resist moisture, stains and scratches.
The latest innovation in composite decking comes from Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies Inc., which put a spotlight on its proprietary CoolDeck technology at the 2018 International Builders' Show organized by the National Association of Home Builders from Jan. 9-11 at the Orange County Convention Center. AERT says CoolDeck boards absorb up to 35 percent less heat than conventional composite decking, which solves the problem of surfaces becoming too hot for bare feet in the direct sun or extended periods of hot weather.
The technology, which was unveiled a year ago, is now an option on the MoisutureShield brand of Vision decking in addition to the Infuse line of decking. CoolDeck boards are expected to become top sellers for AERT, which was acquired last March by concrete masonry manufacturer Oldcastle Architectural Inc. in a $117 million cash deal.
"We think CoolDeck technology will really give us a big advantage," AERT President Randy Gottlieb said at IBS, describing new owner Oldcastle as "in it for the long haul" with goals to be first or second in the market.
Atlanta-based Oldcastle is a U.S. subsidiary of CRH plc, which is headquartered in Dublin, and posted sales of 27.1 billion euros ($29.13 billion) in 2016.
In a few years, Gottlieb said he expects decking with the cooling technology to drive the majority of sales for the Springdale, Ark.-based business unit. AERT saw sales of $85.3 million in the most recent year and is the 46th largest pipe, profile and tubing extruder in North America, according to the latest ranking by Plastics News.
The leaders in composite decking are Trex Co. Inc. in Winchester, Va., and Azek Co. in Skokie, Ill., which manufactures the TimberTech brand as well as Azek cellular PVC decking. With yearly sales of $479.6 million, Trex ranks seventh among PPT extruders while CPG is 10th with estimated sales of $360 million, according to Plastics News' rankings.
Wood-plastic composite decking is expected to see the fastest growth of all decking materials, increasing 4.5 percent a year through 2020, according to a study by Freedonia Group market research firm based in Cleveland.
Trex officials have said that every 1 percent of market share that composites take from wood represents about $50 million.
Gottlieb sees AERT capturing some of that projected growth.
"Our CoolDeck technology has been received exceptionally well. I don't know that we're surprised," Gottlieb said. "We've seen equally great enthusiasm north, south, east and west. The guy who loves it the most is in Seattle. He and the Canadians tell us they wait a long time to be able to enjoy being outside, and once they do, they want to spend that time using their decks."
AERT also plans to pick up sales in the marine docking market with its cooling technology. There aren't many trees shading the docks of coastal dwellings on lakes and oceans, Gottlieb noted.
"They're very exposed to the sun. How many times do people jump out of the boat and burn their feet? We've got a good response to that," he said.