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More and more companies are showcasing plastics in their building products, from injection molded roofing shingles to decking, railings and fencing.

Clare Goldsberry

December 20, 2016

7 Min Read
Confidence soars in building and construction sector; plastics along for the ride

Just ahead of the International Builders Show (IBS) in Orlando, FL, on Jan. 10 to 12, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB; Washington, DC) announced that builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes jumped seven points to a level of 70 on the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), the highest reading since July 2005.

“This notable rise in builder sentiment is largely attributable to a post-election bounce, as builders are hopeful that President-elect Trump will follow through on his pledge to cut burdensome regulations that are harming small businesses and housing affordability,” said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady, a home builder and developer from Bloomington, IL. “This is particularly important, given that a recent NAHB study shows that regulatory costs for home building have increased 29% in the past five years.”

Injection molded plastic roofing shingles are beginning to catch on in some applications.

The NAHB approved of President-elect Trump’s pick of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to become the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Brady commented on the selection of Pruitt in a recent press release: “NAHB believes in environmental regulations that truly protect the environment. However, the EPA has taken on an increasingly activist agenda during the Obama administration, often issuing regulations based on political considerations and failing to go through the proper rulemaking process, as illustrated by its ‘waters of the U.S.’ rule.”

NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz commented, “Though this significant increase in builder confidence could be considered an outlier, the fact remains that the economic fundamentals continue to look good for housing. The rise in the HMI is consistent with recent gains for the stock market and consumer confidence. At the same time, builders remain sensitive to rising mortgage rates and continue to deal with shortages of lots and labor.”

Over the past two decades, the IBS event increasingly has given plastics and plastic composite materials in building and construction a stage on which to display the role they play in material durability, longevity, ease of installation and low maintenance. More and more companies are showcasing plastics in their building products, from injection molded roofing and siding shingles and interior and exterior trim to decking, railings and fencing.

According to a report from the Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry research firm, U.S. demand for fencing is expected to increase 2.6% per year through 2020, reaching 880 million linear feet, valued at $7.5 billion. Growth will be driven by rising building construction expenditures. The increased popularity of high-value fencing materials such as ornamental metal and plastic and composite lumber will further boost demand. Among all fencing materials, plastic and wood plastic composites (WPC) are expected to register the most rapid rate of growth in both value and length through 2020. Plastic and WPC demand in the fencing segment was 10.2% of demand in 2015.

While wood remains the dominant material in molding and trim, and is expected to grow 5.7% annually to $5.8 billion in 2010, it is seeing some strong competition from plastic (including extruded PVC, EPS and WPC) and engineered wood, as a growing number of builders and homeowners specify these materials, owing to their superior performance and properties and lower maintenance requirements, said Freedonia Group in its recent report, Molding & Trim in the U.S.

Through 2020, plastic molding and trim demand is forecast to outpace the overall molding and trim market, rising 6.3% per year. Gains will be bolstered by sustained growth in residential construction, both new and replacement. Homeowners and contractors are expected to increasingly install new, more durable plastic molding and trim products. According to Freedonia analyst Nick Cunningham, “Contractors and remodelers are much more likely to adopt new products—such as plastic molding and trim—than homebuilders, who are more likely to specify wood.”

DaVinci Roofscapes, a maker of injection molded roofing shingles in a wide range of styles and colors, was recently chosen to re-roof the historic Selkirk Lighthouse.

In spite of that, a new market study just released from Ceresana, a market research and consulting company for the industry headquartered in Constance, Germany, noted that plastics are replacing wood and metal at construction sites more and more often. “PVC and EPS are stable and reliable, light and cheap. Advantages of the materials that can flexibly adapt to varied requirements are increasingly discovered,” said Ceresana in its analysis of plastics in construction. Ceresana’s analysts expect demand for plastics from the construction industry to increase worldwide to a volume of about 73 million tons.

“Plastics increasingly are the first choice for thermal insulation of buildings,” said Ceresana, due to the need to reduce energy consumption and the increased need for the reduction of greenhouse gas “as a political aim.” Global demand for insulation and foam materials such as PUR and EPS, as well as the engineering plastic polycarbonate, account for high growth rates. “Polycarbonate is mainly used for transparent sheets in the construction industry, which become more and more popular for designs with a high light incidence,” noted Ceresana. “The construction industry increasingly replaces traditional materials with other plastics, such as polypropylene and HDPE.”

Injection molded roofing shingle application

While injection molded plastic roofing shingles are beginning to catch on in some applications, particularly in large projects such as historic properties that need “authentic” looking roofing shingles that promise longevity and durability. Jordan Robertson, General Manager, Business Development and Marketing, for StackTeck Ltd. (Brampton, ON, Canada), a manufacturer of injection molds for a range of industries, commented for PlasticsToday: “StackTeck has built a significant number of molds for roofing shingles as well as floor tiles, and many of them are stack molds. Both applications are good ones for stack molds because of the flat part geometry, and because of the large volume of parts needed.”

For example, DaVinci Roofscapes, a maker of injection molded roofing shingles in a wide range of styles and colors, was recently chosen to re-roof the historic Selkirk Lighthouse.

Constructed in 1838, the Salmon River Lighthouse in Pulaski, NY, survived more than 175 challenging winters in its location at the convergence of the Salmon River and Lake Ontario. In 1979, this sturdy stone structure was elected to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Mike Barnell, representing the family owners of the lighthouse and adjacent marina property, selected DaVinci Roofscapes to replace the worn out asphalt shingles on the building.

After researching roofing products, Barnell selected Multi-Width Slate roofing. “We chose this composite roofing for more than just its exceptional resilience,” said Barnell. “We feel it’s an important design element for the lighthouse and the roofing projects planned for new construction projects on the property. We’re looking forward to adding a restaurant, shore- side structures supporting the marina operations and additional cottages.”

What’s new in decking applications

With decking and railing being one of the most popular applications for homeowners seeking durable, low-maintenance materials, Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies Inc. (A.E.R.T.; Springdale, AR), a manufacturer of composite decking using recycled plastics, announced an enhanced product lineup with two new MoistureShield composite decking collections. The new lines—MoistureShield Refine and MoistureShield Infuse—balance the proven performance and durability of A.E.R.T.’s proprietary manufacturing process, with advanced technologies designed to enrich aesthetics and revolutionize composite performance standards, said the company.

“We’ve spent years gathering trade and consumer insights to design a breakthrough in product offerings,” said Brent Gwatney, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for MoistureShield. “These new decking lines will help our trade customers reach a broad audience of homeowners by offering attractive and durable decking solutions for every personal preference.”

MoistureShield is extruded using a proprietary moisture-resistant core capped with an added layer of protection, said the company. “Refine’s integrated cap not only produces beautiful boards, it also provides enhanced durability to hide wear and tear, along with fade and stain resistance,” said MoistureShield.

MoistureShield Infuse is “infused” with the company’s innovative CoolDeck technology that optimizes heat reflection. The boards absorb up to 35% less heat than conventional capped composites in similar colors, said the company.

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

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