Composite Decking Provides Strongest Growth Opportunity

08 July 2007

US demand for decking is projected to grow about two percent per year through to 2011, to 3.5 billion lineal feet, valued at more than $4 billion.

Growth will be similar to the 2001-2006 period, despite a weaker new housing outlook. The decking market is relatively stable because more than 85 percent of demand is generated through repair and improvement activity, which is inherently less cyclical than the new construction market. New markets will offer more mixed prospects. Gains in new nonresidential construction activity will accelerate, while new residential and nonbuilding construction spending is expected to cool, limiting decking gains.

The US decking market has seen a shift in product mix in recent years. In 1996, wood decking materials accounted for 96 percent of volume demand, with only minimal use of alternative decking materials such as wood-plastic composites, vinyl and polyethylene. However, from 1996 to 2006, alternative materials replaced natural wood materials at an accelerated rate. Alternative decking materials in the aggregate accounted for more than ten percent of the 3.2 billion lineal foot market in 2006, posting double-digit gains annually in most markets from 1996 to 2006.

Alternative decking materials will continue to lead the decking market in terms of annual gains through 2011, further eroding the market share of wood materials. Composite decking will provide the strongest growth opportunity, fuelled by its high durability and low maintenance requirements, as well as by product advances that provide more realistic wood appearance. Additionally, the environmental profile of composites (e.g., some wood-plastic blends use recycled materials), as well as their increasing acceptance and availability, will drive gains. Other alternative decking materials such as plastic and aluminium will also show strong growth through 2011. Demand for these materials will benefit from many of these same performance characteristics as composite materials such as lower maintenance requirements and long life. However, these decking materials often provide less favorable aesthetics and a much higher price than composites or wood, which often limits use in the large residential market.

Despite significant competition from alternative decking materials, wood will remain the dominant material used to produce decks in the US going forward. Wood decking demand will continue to reap the rewards of its good reputation and its aesthetic appeal. Pressure-treated wood in particular will continue to benefit from its lower price compared to other woods and alternative decking materials. Tropical hardwoods will lead gains in the wood segment. However, demand for wood decking overall is forecast to grow minimally through 2011, limited by ongoing concern over the safety of the preservatives used to treat lumber and the higher maintenance requirements over the life cycle.

These figures come from a new Freedonia industry study, Wood & Competitive Decking, available on request through NetComposites. It presents historical demand data for 1996, 2001 and 2006 plus forecasts for 2011 and 2016 by product, market and US region. The study also considers market environment factors, evaluates market share and profiles 37 competitors.

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