New London, N.C.-based Fiberon LLC was among the decking manufacturers that had cut production costs and retail prices to compete better against the wood products that dominate the market.
Then, in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic put new dynamics in their favor. Homeowners went on shopping sprees for decking and a lumber shortage led to higher prices for wood materials.
The fast-spreading respiratory illness that brought social distancing rules, indoor capacity restrictions, quarantines and lockdowns elevated the desire for backyard entertaining, working and learning.
At the same time, rising prices for wood closed the price gap between composite and cellular PVC decking and its competition.
Fiberon is poised to deliver, according to Jim Stange Sr., product manager for the company that offers polyethylene composite boards (Concordia Horizon, Concordia Symmetry, Sanctuary, Good Life, ArmorGuard) and PVC boards (Promenade and Paramount).
"At Fiberon, we are experiencing a banner year for decking and outdoor living products," Stange said in an email, pointing to new decking colors and improved fastening systems. "We're making it even easier for customers to create and install beautiful outdoor living spaces."
With estimated annual extrusion sales of $235 million, Fiberon ranks 21st among North American pipe, profile and tubing extruders, according to Plastics News' latest ranking.
One of the new Fiberon colors, Cabana, was added to the Good Life Escapes product line, which features a three-sided cap to protect against moisture, staining and fading and has a scalloped bottom for a lighter deck board with a quicker install time.
The Good Life Weekender line also has the scalloped underside, which lowers raw material costs in addition to lightweighting. Fiberon prices it to tempt wood decking shoppers to pay a little more for a product that won't splinter, warp or fade and only needs a soap-and-water cleaning to look like new.
"Homeowners are replacing their weather-beaten wood decking with high-performance, low-maintenance Fiberon composite decking and railing," Strange said. "We are seeing strong demand from both trade professionals and DIYers."
To keep up, Fiberon is increasing capacity ahead of schedule and investing to get more efficiency out of the assets it has, company officials have said in quarterly conference calls.
Trex also recently completed an expansion to increase capacity by 70 percent compared with 2019 volume levels.
With $880 million in sales, Trex ranks sixth among North American pipe, profile and tubing extruders, according to Plastics News data.
In addition, Azek has undertaken a three-phase plan to increase capacity by 70 percent. The final phase is scheduled to ramp up in the first two fiscal quarters of 2022.
Azek is the eighth-largest North American extruder with estimated sales of $580 million.
Manufacturers of most decking products have initiated or scheduled capacity increases, according to Nancy Musselwhite, an industry analyst at the Malvern, Pa.-based Principia Consulting LLC.
"There's a lot of confidence in the strength and health of the decking industry," Musselwhite said in a phone interview.