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Alternative Decking Materials Continue to Lead Through 2007

  • Friday, 12th December 2003
  • Reading time: about 2 minutes

As recently as 1992, wood decking represented nearly 98 percent of total decking demand, with only minimal use of alternative decking materials such as wood-plastic composites, vinyl and polyethylene.

Over the course of the next ten years, however, the replacement of natural wood materials with alternative materials accelerated significantly, and by 2002 alternative decking materials had captured nine percent of the 4.9 billion board foot US decking market. These and other trends are presented in Wood & Competitive Decking, a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industrial market research firm.

Alternative materials will continue to lead gains in decking demand through 2007, further eroding the share of the market held by wood. Composite decking will exhibit the most robust growth, rising over 17 percent per year to 748 million board feet, or about 14 percent of aggregate decking demand. Consumption of these decking materials will be driven by such favorable performance characteristics as high durability and low maintenance requirements. Advances in composite decking demand will also be fueled by increasing consumer and contractor acceptance, a widening distribution network, and product improvements that enhance appearance.

Other alternative decking materials such as vinyl and polyethylene will also exhibit strong gains, rising over ten percent annually through 2007. Demand for these materials will be bolstered by many of the same variables that support demand for composite decking, including low maintenance requirements and a very long life. However, the overall market penetration of these specialty decking materials will be moderated by their relatively high initial purchase price and often less favorable aesthetics, which will limit use in the large residential building market.

The rapid growth of the alternative decking material segments will have a moderating effect on demand for wood decking through 2007, with sales of wood decks projected to rise less than one percent per year. In addition to competition with alternative materials, the wood decking segment stands to be affected by the withdrawal of chromated copper arsenate (CCA) preservatives from the residential pressure-treated wood market. Formerly the most commonly used wood preservative in decking, CCA may no longer be used for consumer applications beginning in January 2004.

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