Home April 2017 In Depth: Decks

In Depth: Decks

In Depth: Decks

Low Maintenance and Price Point are Driving Factors

MoistureShield Refine DeckingAccording to its research, MoistureShield reports that more than 40% of homeowners want composites that hide wear and tear. To meet that demand, it designed its new Refine decking for high performance and offers an additional 25-year fade and stain warranty (also available on its Infuse decking).

While wood still holds the majority share when it comes to the decking market, consumers’ interest in maintenance- free composite products continues to grow, thanks in part to the products’ ability to resist splintering, rot, and termite damage and the fact that they never need staining.

According to MarketsandMarkets, composite decking and railing (both capped and uncapped) is projected to grow globally from USD 1.70 billion in 2015 to USD 3.09 billion by 2020, and Principia Consulting predicts a 5% growth rate for composite materials through 2017 (compared to an industry average of 3%). And while Principia states that 15% of currently installed decks are engineered composite products, it predicts that composites will continue to gain market share from wood decking, reaching 40% of total value of decking sold within the next few years.

Wolf-Almond-TerraceThe Wolf Terrace Collection (pictured in Almond) offers a natural fiber-polymer composite made with stranded core technology. The manufacturer claims that its decking is stain and fade resistant and will not warp, crack, or swell like wood.

According to Paul Recko, director of products and programs for Fiberon, “One key driver in selecting deck products is low maintenance. Homeowners investing in their outdoor spaces view these areas as places to relax and de-stress. Increasingly, homeowners are realizing how much of their scarce free time (not to mention effort) is required to maintain a wood deck. They value a product that offers low maintenance and lower long-term costs of ownership.”

The value of a low-maintenance product is not limited to the residential market. MoistureShield’s Gwatney comments, “We’re also having good success in the commercial market, especially in public parks where facility pros appreciate the long-term durability and good looks of moisture-resistant composites for boardwalks, decks and docks.”

Despite the obvious maintenance benefits of composite decking, priceconscious consumers over the years have been somewhat reluctant to embrace composite decking as much as natural wood, partly due to composite’s premium price point. Rumbaugh points out, “Wood typically costs about a third less than alternative decking material and delivers excellent value through its exceptional durability, ease of use, and the environmental benefits of being a sustainable natural resource.” Wood is also positioned to continue to dominate in substructures. Rumbaugh continues, “Preserved wood remains the fundamental substructure material. Because it can easily be modified on site, is readily available and affordable, and performs exceptionally, we do not see any measurable shift in materials used for substructure.”

Texture and Color Drive Aesthetics

In today’s market, aesthetics is as much of a concern for homeowners as is low maintenance. Consumers do not want a product that they cannot see for themselves before the purchase or one that appears to be plastic when the overall goal is to mimic the natural appearance of a high-end wood product. Recko explains, “We hear all the time about how contractors will show decking samples to a homeowner and the person will point at a particular board and say, ‘That’s it; that’s the one I want’.”

Mirrite BowmanWhen Palram set out to develop its Mirrite line of PVC decking, it wanted to address two main areas of consumer concern: appearance and improved performance. According to the manufacturer, Mirrite duplicates the look of actual wood both in color and in grain, and its stain resistance allows it to withstand exposure to a variety of chemicals such as sunscreen, bug spray, Citronella, lighter fluid and lamp oil.

According to Palram’s Morris, “The more ‘real’ a product looks, the more desired it is by a consumer. Combining the realistic look of a product that a consumer would use inside their home, with the resistance to wear and tear of the outdoors, is the most popular choice.” Morris goes on to explain, “The real question is, why is the consumer forced to select a decking product based on a color or texture of plastic, when deck boards are supposed to look like wood? A consumer should be able select a species of wood that they prefer, like ipe or walnut or teak.”

Clubhouse WhaleDeckThe claimed superior bendability of Clubhouse Decking is ideal for the growing demand for curved decks and bent boards. The Tapco Group claims that, because of the advanced chemistry used to create Clubhouse Decking, it outperforms other brands when heat bending is required.

Once the decision to purchase a composite product has been made, the final purchase decision comes down to aesthetics. According to Fitzgerald, “Contractors confirm that aesthetics is the key driver for homeowners once they have identified that they want engineered decking. We see strong preference for our stylized boards that reflect the design trends of indoor flooring.” More sophisticated embossing and color variegation to emulate exotic hardwoods are attracting attention from homeowners and builders. For some product lines, the introduction of wire brushed, hand scraped or weathered textures is driving growth, while others are taking the opposite approach and releasing boards with no discernable grain pattern or ticking.

Complementing the trends in texture is a more sophisticated design aesthetic and color palette, one that reflects unique lines and richer tones. According to Paul Young, national sales manager at Clubhouse Decking (part of The Tapco Group), “We are seeing an increase in curved and rounded decks, indicating that heat bending is becoming a popular trend amongst deck builders as a way to truly customize a deck and get creative with their designs.”

Fitzgerald explains, “While decks used to be multi shades of brown, we now see gray tones gaining in popularity. We also see the trend of adding contrasting colors for borders on a deck—so the living space is framed out almost like an area rug. We clearly see that consumers want their premium decking to look not only realistic, but also stylized.”

Fiberon’s Recko also sees an expanding color palette as a growing trend in the decision-making process for a decking product, with darker colors such as grey and graphite leading the way. In fact, Pantone, an authority on color and a provider of color systems, consistently lists tones of grey as popular over the past few years and went so far as to describe grey as being “glamorous and practical at the same time.”

And the color trends aren’t limited to the composite decking products. Factory- applied color has been popular in pressure-treated wood in the Western U.S. and Canada for a while now, and similar interest is growing in the East and Midwest, with greys and rich browns leading in popularity. Still, some manufacturers embrace a more traditional color palette. “We have continued to focus on consistency in our company rather than changing to fads,” says David Elenbaum, vice president of sales and marketing for Green Bay Decking. “We have manufactured the same colors for over 16 years as a result.”

Accessories Provide Additional Revenue Channels

Being able to offer accessories such as railing systems and integrated lighting opens revenue paths that promise to bring continued growth opportunities. MoistureShield’s Gwatney explains, “The rise of deck accessories like railing and lighting have opened the door even wider to creative outdoor spaces. Dealers who offer complementary railing systems, outdoor lighting and fastening options can consolidate installation steps, saving their customers time and money, and upsell the project to maximize their and contractors’ profits.”

Fiberon SymmetryFiberon sees grey as the on-trend color—especially in coastal areas—and introduced a new Graphite option for its premium Symmetry Decking line at January’s International Builders Show.

“Lighting is another great way to put your personal stamp on your space,” says Fiberon’s Recko. “Primarily for safety, of course, lighting is an effective way to differentiate one decking area from another (the seating area versus dining area, for example) as well as to create a more custom look. Accent lights, for example, are great for illuminating the deck’s edges or as a smaller version of the traditional riser light on stairs.”

TruGrain WalnutDecking can effectively optimize its surroundings. Here, a TruGrain deck in Walnut accentuates the expansive glass wall and highlights the brightness of the water view.

AZEK’s Fitzgerald agrees. “We have seen a boom in lighting sales,” she explains. “Where it used to be a feature we would see occasionally, we now see the majority of the decks include lighting. As homeowners upgrade their outdoor space for entertaining, lighting becomes a key element for both safety and ambiance. A very clever trend with our best contractors is to offer to wire a deck for lighting even if the homeowner may have budget restraints at the time of installation. They tell us they almost always get a call back the next season to upgrade the deck with lighting, and since it is pre-wired, it is much less time and effort to complete the job.” See the InDepth Extra, for more on deck accessories including railings and lighting.

NewTechWoodUltraShield® decking from NewTechWood is available in both solid and hollow profiles for both commercial and residential applications, can be installed using either common screws or hidden fasteners, and is wrapped 360 degrees—including the grooves—for what the company claims is superior protection from the elements.

Humbolt RedwoodAccording to Humbolt Redwood, its product line is unique in the fact that it is 100% American made from raw material to finished lumber, something that is increasingly uncommon when it comes to building materials. Other key features include fire performance (Class B fire rating) and natural durability against insects and decay.

AZEK Arbor MoradoFrom modern to traditional, AZEK® premium decking comes in a variety of colors and designs to suit any style. The striking and vivid Arbor Collection®, shown here in Morado® with Acacia® accents, is just one of three AZEK collections, all of which are engineered to last beautifully.