Home April 2019 In Depth: Decks

In Depth: Decks

In Depth: Decks

Growing projects mean opportunities for dealers.

With outdoor living projects growing in popularity and size, decking represents an attractive category for dealers. At the same time, that strength also means plenty of new products and options for dealers to choose from to meet the demands of their market.

Trex foresees continued growth in the decking segment this year, especially on the renovation and remodeling side, says Vice President of Marketing Leslie Adkins. “We think 2019 can be very, very positive going forward, particularly as we go after a newer segment that’s all about converting wood,” Adkins says. “That opportunity has a lot of legs because no matter what the economy does, if you’ve got a wood deck, I can guarantee you it’s degrading every single year and it’s not going to be timed to an economic cycle as to when you have to replace that.”

Deckorators also expects strong performance in the replacement market. “Remodeling is going to remain strong as people are staying in their homes longer,” says Chris Camfferman, managing director of marketing for Deckorators. “Also, there is pent-up demand for outdoor projects based on the volatile weather we had in 2018. We had a short spring and a very hot summer in many parts of the country, both of which are not ideal conditions for building decks.”

Homeowners want more than a simple deck, says Jase DeBoer, senior category marketing manager for Universal Forest Products/ProWood.

“They’re no longer just a simple add-on, people are truly looking at decks as another room on their home,” he says. “So they’re taking time to plan for the way they intend to use the space, whether that be to entertain, to cook, to make it their quiet escape.”

From a design standpoint, builders are becoming more creative.

Trex Enhance Naturals composite decking includes five contemporary, multi-tonal hues that feature the streaked looks of natural wood. The new shades of Foggy Wharf, Rocky Harbor, Toasted Sand, Coastal Bluff and Sunset Cove are designed to look like wood, but not rot, warp, crack or splinter.

“Rather than laying deck boards across joists and having the open ends exposed on the sides of the deck, we’re seeing a lot more builders add blocking around the perimeter of the framing so that they can picture frame the deck,” DeBoer says. “Whether the builder uses mitered corners or otherwise, adding a picture frame around deck boards is a beautiful way to add design and a finished look to the deck. On larger decks, they’re even adding the picture frame through the middle of the deck, which adds to the design aesthetic, but also can act as a seam giving a clean look by reducing butt joints.”

YellaWood CMO James Riley agreed with that sentiment.

“They want their decks to be the focal point of a larger outdoor experience,” he says. “They’re incorporating space for movie projectors and using screens to break the space into different ‘rooms’ and other unique ways to make the space uniquely theirs.”

One of the primary drivers of this trend is the growing number of millennials entering the housing market, Riley says. “With young kids at home, this generation places an emphasis on quality family time and the memories that can be made in their own backyard,” he says. “This means creating a playground oasis for the kids and expanding the square footage of their homes with outdoor dining areas and kitchens for entertaining friends and family. In addition, Boomers are choosing to age in place and are often looking to replace existing decks or are searching for new ways to invest in their homes.”

Vision Decking from MoistureShield is engineered to mimic the look and feel of hardwood floors in an outdoor environment.

MoistureShield is seeing similar desires from consumers, says Senior Brand Manager Joey Peters.

“We’ve talked to a lot of homeowners who really like that idea of being able to flow in and out and enjoy the space from the inside to the outside,” he says. “Another thing is that it increases the profitability of a home when they’re trying to resell it. Obviously, there have been studies and the Remodeling Index and things like that really indicate that outdoor living spaces and decks are very desirable. I think it just gives a unique differentiation.”

The trend of bringing the feeling and comfort of inside to the outdoor living space continues, says Juliana Rumbaugh, marketing communications manager for Lonza.

“Deck designs are more elaborate including multiple levels, kitchens, water and fire features and all the amenities you’d typically find in an indoor living room and kitchen. Decking color preferences tend to remain neutral but the accessories on the decks have bright, vibrant colors and often reminisce of days at the beach, relaxing on the deck looking over the water,” she says. “There is an ever-growing desire among men and women of all ages to maintain balance and restore inner peace. When you have a comfortable spot to enjoy fresh air and relax, you can achieve that feeling.”

There is a big movement with home-owners and designers wanting to create truly unique outdoor spaces, says Patrick Barnds, AZEK Building Products senior vice president of product management.

“They have been doing it in interior flooring now for years and those same trends continue to move outdoors,” he says. “So, we are seeing much more interest in wide-width products, mixed-widths, patterns and mixed/blended colors. These range from the more subtle (three colors of brown) to the more extreme (charcoal, light gray and white). In addition, curved decks continue to gain in popularity.”

New options, new solutions
With the segment growing, it’s no surprise that manufacturers are introducing a bevy of new products. Many are designed to address the growing demand for lower-maintenance products. “Homeowners today want balance in their life, they don’t want to come home from work and have to keep working on the home. Low maintenance products fit the new lifestyle trends, and those that blend in naturally with their surroundings allow the finished project to really raise the appeal of the outdoor space,” says Steve Booz, vice president, marketing, at Royal Building Products, which produces Zuri Premium Decking. “Low maintenance is at the heart of today’s homeowner—no one wants to put in a new outdoor living space and then have to maintain it year after year.” Zuri decking is designed to replicate the beauty of a real hardwood floor but be easy to care for.

Zuri Premium Decking from Royal Building Products is designed to replicate the look of a real hardwood floor, combining the aesthetics of wood with low maintenance.

“The authentic look of real hardwood makes Zuri different,” Booz says. “All other composite decks attempt to add a variety of ‘streaks’ or ‘swirls’ to get close to what real wood looks like. Only Zuri is a photographic print of real wood.”

That desire for decks that are easy to care for is also a significant driver of new products from AZEK and its TimberTech brand this year. Vintage Multi-Width Decking, previously available only in a 5-1/2″ width, is being expanded to narrow (3-1/2″) and wide-width (7-1/4″) options.

AZEK’s TimberTech Vintage Multi-Width Decking, the first-of-its-kind, advanced, capped polymer deck, introduces narrow (3″) and wide-width (7-1/4″) options to the Vintage Collection, which was previously only offered in the traditional 5-1/2″ width.

“In addition to a dramatic, wide-board visual, the 7-1/4″ wide version speeds-up installation for contractors by reducing the install time by up to 30%, along with reducing the number of fasteners,” Barnds says. “The 3-1/2″ narrow board brings high-performance, capped polymer decking into the traditional deck market which is virtually all wood today.”

Wider boards are also now available in the Vintage Porch Collection, launched in 2018, with 5-1/4″ boards joining the standard 3-1/8″ format.

“While narrow width porch boards remain the standard in traditional applications, as we’ve seen in interior flooring, homeowners and designers have given us feedback that wider-width formats are where the trend is headed,” Barnds says. “This product is perfect for all types of indoor/outdoor and exterior porch applications and matches the designs of these same colors in our Vintage decking line. So, homeowners can seamlessly transition from the Vintage deck boards used on the outside deck to the Vintage Porch products used on the porch.”

TimberTech EDGE offers homeowners a lower-priced product that still delivers TimberTech quality, Barnds says.

“TimberTech EDGE Decking uses the same high-performance materials as our existing TimberTech PRO products but in a three-sided capped board format,” he says. “This type of board has been the standard for lower-cost products from others in the industry for many years, and is a new option to our line-up, as our TimberTech PRO products are capped on all four sides. The elimination of the protective cap on the back of the product allows us to reduce costs without sacrificing long-term performance on the face of the boards, which is what many people care about the most. TimberTech EDGE Decking employs a new linear, quarter-sawn texture, which is not only beautiful but it also hides minor surface wear and scratches much better than many of the more heavily embossed, artificial wood-grain patterns out there today.”

DuraLife has focused its efforts on making the process easier for dealers, contractors and homeowners by simplifying its offerings.

“A troubling trend is that many decking manufacturers are now offering too many color options and that simply adds to confusion among homeowners and added stress and cost for distributors and retailers as they are now being asked to hold additional inventory SKUs and therefore incur additional inventory costs,” says Marketing Manager Mike Descoteaux. “Just how many selections of grey or brown do you need? In 2014 we chose to simplify things for homeowners, contractors and our distribution partners by offering eight standard colors across all of our profiles.”

In 2018, DuraLife introduced its Step-Clip fastening system, which it says offers up to 50% faster install times. “We expect to have substantial growth with that product innovation in 2019 as more contractors continue to adopt this groundbreaking installation method, now that those hesitant to try something new have seen and heard about the benefits that early adopters have experienced,” Descoteaux says.

This year, Deckorators is introducing a new line of decking using its patented Eovations technology, first released in 2016 in the Deckorators Vault composite decking product line.

“It’s a completely different way of making composite decking, from the actual ingredients to how it is manufactured,” Camfferman says. “It’s a polypropylene and mineral filler product that’s extruded and then stretched, almost like taffy. That brings some unique elements to the decking industry. It’s very strong, very similar to wood plastic composite, but it’s also lightweight, which is very similar to PVC. Additionally, it has very little moisture absorption, and it’s extremely stable.”

Lonza offers Wolmanized Outdoor Wood with BARamine technology, a patented innovation that provides improved penetration, broad moldicide protection, and improved resistance to certain aggressive copper-tolerant fungi.

Now, with its Deckorators Voyage composite decking, the company has a decking product that replicates the linear streaking of true tropical hardwoods. It is available in four colors: Mesa, Sierra, Tundra and Costa.

“Voyage also has textured embossing that provides 34% or greater surface traction than other leading brands of composite decking, so it’s very slip-resistant,” Camfferman says. “It’s ideal for applications around water, like lake houses, pools and spas, and any other areas where you may have needs for added traction.”

Another new product from Deckorators is its Sleeper System, made for use on floating decks, rooftop decks, ground level decks or a concrete patio. “They are two-by-two strips that can be laid out like a grid for a rooftop deck; our deck boards are placed on top of the grid and then they are fastened to the Sleeper System,” Camfferman says. “Because it doesn’t absorb a lot of moisture, the product is perfect for situations where you may have standing water issues, like on a flat roof.”

Last fall, Trex extended its Enhance decking line with two new products, Enhance Basics and Enhance Naturals. Both products are focused on attracting customers who would otherwise build with wood decking.

“Our Enhance Basics line is a monochromatic composite board, at an unprecedented price point from a branded offering from Trex,” Adkins says. “We estimate that retail price to be around $1.75 a linear foot, so that’s really intended to be sort of the catalyst for converting, because with  the  erosion of quality of wood decking overall, we think having that price point suddenly opens up the door for more homeowners to consider composites.”

Also new from Trex is the Enhance Naturals product line, introducing the lowest-price streaked product from the company. The company’s customer research shows that consumers prefer a more natural streaked appearance, but simply don’t want to spend too much time on upkeep, she says.

“And they have a real sense, I think, of what the faults of the wood decking are, and how that impacts the actual enjoyment of their spaces,” Adkins says. “With these products, I think that, coupled with the lower maintenance and then that sense of design and color options, that seems to be a really big thing.”

Armadillo’s new Walnut color offers a darker brown for homeowners looking for more vibrant choices for accent colors or even a full deck.

Armadillo is also seeing more demand for enhanced colors and increased streaking, says Armadillo Brand Manager Karen Stoos. The company first rolled it out with a few colors and has now expanded the more prominent streaking to its entire Lifestyle line.

“We were one of the first to come up with the enhanced colors,” Stoos says. “And now we’ve just brought it out even more. We’ve always had streaking in our lifestyle line. Now we just brought out more of the streaking and our lower price.”

With many homeowners opting for two-tone decking and picture framing, Armadillo has also released a new darker brown Walnut color which has prompted positive feedback from its distributors, Stoos adds.

Armadillo also offers cap stock on all four sides of its boards, something not available from other companies at their price point, Stoos says.

The latest products from MoistureShield focus on capturing the trend of bringing the indoors outdoors. The company introduced its Vision decking in 2018 and is rolling it out to its full dealer and distributor network this year. “Vision is a different board than you would see from our competitors in that it really does mimic the feel of hardwood floors and that’s conducive of a trend that we started picking up on last year, that we continually heard from the builders and from  homeowners that they really love the outdoor living space,” Peters says. With the development of Vision, MoistureShield wanted to create a product that had the color and texture of real hardwood, with the durability to handle the outdoors and keep those vibrant colors.

“We came to market with a new coating that we’re calling Diamond Defense, which is something new for 2019,” Peters says. “The Diamond Defense is really the coating and the cap that goes around the board and it’s an extremely durable product that really gives an added layer of protection and helps retain that color.”

Don’t forget about wood
Composites, PVC and other alternatives may get a lot of buzz these days, but the majority of decks are still being built out of wood. Natural wood offers many advantages that other materials can’t match, proponents say.

“We continue to see increased demand from both homeowners and contractors for top-grade products that offer a unique combination of beauty and strength,” Riley says. “Increasingly, this demand is focused on the deck where homeowners want a surface that looks like wood but with a more refined finish that doesn’t carry the hefty price tag that comes with the composite options. That’s when they turn to  us for our YellaWood Select, YellaWood SuperSelect and MasterDeck brand products all of which were created to make the deck even more beautiful  and ensure long-lasting quality.”

YellaWood has found that homeowners are increasingly looking for decks that offer a higher grade of treated lumber.

All lumber is not created equal, and consumers are becoming increasingly aware of that.

“When it comes to decks, one of the major shifts we’re seeing is in the increased demand for higher grades of treated lumber,” Riley says. “Consumers have done their homework and know that higher grade boards are available and often they’re willing to pay a premium price to get boards with fewer knots and no wane.”

Viance is constantly innovating its formulas for treatment and preservatives to be more environmentally friendly and more effective, says Director of Marketing Edie Kello.

“I think that’s where we differentiate ourselves,” Kello says. “Our EcoLife product is an above-ground product, but it doesn’t have a metal preservative in it. It’s a better formulation, you don’t have to have the ground contact retention levels in above-ground product, because it’s getting the heat from the sun and water.”

Treated wood offers the advantage of simply being real wood, Kello says.

“A lot of people just want real,” she says. “They want real stones, they want real wood, when they’re putting this on their homes. And this is what the composites try to emulate, is the beauty of wood. So we do have the real thing, and of course we have the different preservatives that we offer for exterior product, to help preserve that beauty longer.”

Another innovation is Viance’s DesignWood, which is pre-colored treated wood with the color impregnated into the wood during the pressure-treating process.

“We have long-lasting colorants that we know are the best in the industry,” Kello says. “And it provides long-lasting color and protection against fungal decay and termite attack. But it’s built-in color, so that people can have a project that’s finished from the start. And especially when it’s above-ground, it’s got our water repellent in it, that makes  it definitely long-lasting.”

ProWood is also expanding its color-infused Dura Color line to more markets in 2019. The Southern Yellow Pine that ProWood predominantly uses is the best wood for accepting both treatment and color, DeBoer says.

ProWood Dura Color is treated with Micronized Copper Azole, which protects against termite and fungal decay, while
infusing the wood with color throughout the board.

“ProWood Dura Color has color infused throughout the board,” DeBoer says. “So if you were to cut that board at any point, you’re going to see that cedar tone or redwood tone throughout the middle of the board. Even on end cuts. So that’s a huge benefit. And also, because it’s infused it really lasts quite long.”

Dura Color gives homeowners the look of natural cedar or redwood without the natural fading.

“In addition to a lifetime limited warranty on rot and decay, ProWood Dura Color offers a color assurance warranty. However, the color tends to last far beyond the warranty, and well beyond natural cedar or redwood,” he says. “We’ve noticed it actually tends to get better with the sun. So instead of fading, it actually tends to set the color in.”

Wood also offers a more attractive price point for homeowners, DeBoer says.

“It’s more approachable for them to take on that project when you have treated lumber  decking that’s  under a dollar a foot,” he says. “And despite some opening price points for composite decking coming in near the two dollar a foot mark, that can be a significant jump for homeowners considering they can get beautiful, natural, long-lasting color-treated decking at a lower price point.”

Wood offers a familiarity and simplicity that homeowners and contractors appreciate, explains Jessica Hewitt, Humboldt Redwood director of marketing.

Humboldt Redwood offers ease of installation and natural beauty for homeowners looking for simplicity, and a natural touch and tone. (Photo by Zeke Ruelas)

“One of the things that people are drawn to is the simplicity of it, the ease of installation, how it can be installed pretty easily with just regular woodworking tools,” she says. “Redwood is largely a west coast product, it’s largely a California product. There’s certainly  a labor shortage  here  as  there  really is throughout the country, so that is certainly an advantage of redwood, pretty much anybody with a hammer and some nails can put a redwood deck together or put a redwood fence together. So that’s certainly an advantage.”

Humboldt is seeing many homeowners expand their outdoor spaces with shade structures to offer more protection from the elements.

“If someone is wanting to build a deck, a fence, a shade structure, maybe even garden boxes or arbors… redwood can fit the bill for all those things,” Hewitt says. “It’s not necessarily a one-trick pony where it’s best for decking or it’s best for shade structures, it really can be used across the board. I think a lot of dealers know that, but I think it’s helping them understand that, but also to educate their customers that you really can use it for all of those different applications.”