Technological watch

Deck makers meet record growth with capacity expansions

Orlando, Fla. — Deck makers continue to add capacity, launch new products and take leading roles in the circular economy as PVC and composite products carve out bigger shares of the wood-dominated market.

The strength of the repair-and-remodel market, the popularity of outdoor living spaces and increasing demand for low-maintenance alternatives to wood decking are driving record growth.

Chicago-based Azek Co. has made significant capital investments and expects to have doubled decking capacity by the end of 2022, compared with 2019 levels.

"We're in a great position," Azek CEO Jesse Singh said at the International Builders' Show, held Feb. 8-10 in Orlando. "We have seen strong demand and, as of the last several months, we have capacity to service more growth. There was an 18-month period where we couldn't, but now we can continue to expand our markets and provide best-in-class service to our customers."

Azek has three primary decking product lines: TimberTech Azek, which includes capped PVC collections; and TimberTech Pro and TimberTech Edge, which include polyethylene and wood composite decking lines.

Singh said about 22 percent of the decking market has switched to wood-alternative products so there are still a lot of consumers to convert.

"Approximately 77 percent of the market is still wood. There's enormous opportunity, and we're really well set up," Singh said.

Azek plans to form more partnerships with companies that have excess PVC for the extruder to recycle into new decking. Last year, the company released a new TimberTech Azek-brand capped PVC decking line called the Landmark Collection that contains about 50 percent recycled material and is recyclable at the end of its useful life — up to 50 years after installation.

This year, Azek added the color "French white oak" to the Landmark lineup, which is inspired by rustic, reclaimed wood and contains scrap from construction sites and remodeling projects that would have been discarded.

"Nothing PVC should be landfilled. Not with us here," Singh said. "We view this as a chance to be part of the circular economy. We can use all kinds of PVC in varying degrees. We can be the solution for taking the scraps and the dust while also helping other companies meet sustainability initiatives."

In addition to PVC and PE wood composite decking, Azek manufactures railing, lighting, cladding, trim, shingle siding, column wraps and more. The company's sales increased 31 percent to $1.2 billion for its fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2021.

Winchester, Va.-based Trex Co. Inc. also reached $1.2 billion in annual sales for the 2021 calendar year, which set a company record. Trex produces a PE wood composite decking with recycled content in addition to railing, lighting, cladding, fencing, outdoor furniture and outdoor kitchens.

To support growth, Trex built a new decking facility at its Virginia site and installed more production lines at its Nevada facility, increasing total capacity 85 percent above 2019 volume levels.

With $881 million in profile sales, Trex ranks sixth among North American pipe, profile and tubing extruders, according to Plastics News' latest ranking.

Azek ranks eighth with an estimated $530 million in profile sales, according to PN's ranking.

Retail, wholesale and export sales are up for Fiberon decking, too, as the brand also experiences record growth.

"We're making constant investments in our manufacturing to improve capacity and line speed to keep up with demand because it's very intense," Fiberon Senior Product Manager Jim Stange said in a Microsoft Teams interview.

"Even though there have been troughs with COVID, homeowners are still homebound, and decking is one of the top items that consumers are looking to replace and invest in," Stange added.

With an estimated $235 million in annual sales, Fiberon ranks 21st among North American pipe, profile and tubing producers, according to the PN ranking.

During the last two years, homeowners have reevaluated how they use everyday spaces, and outdoor living has never had a brighter moment in the spotlight, according to Leslie Adkins, vice president of marketing for Trex Co. Inc.

"While much of what a post-pandemic world will look like long term remains to be seen, one thing is clear: Outdoor living space is more essential than ever," Adkins said. "No matter where or how we live, there is continued demand for flexible outdoor areas where people can safely gather, appreciate nature or simply enjoy a change of scenery. As we continue to navigate and adjust to new ways of living in the coming year, outdoor spaces will play a key role and will become even more important and meaningful."

Publication date: 22/03/2022

Plastics News

This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2022-01-31