The popularity of wood-plastic composite (WPC) and other types of plastic decking, railing and fencing continues to grow, as evidenced by the Q4 and 2019 earnings report from Trex Co. and interest at the recent International Builders Show. Further proof is contained in the Freedonia Group’s latest study on WPC and plastic decking.
The choice of composite decking is largely based on the inherent properties of the plastic, as well as the availability of plastic raw materials, which include polyethylene as well as PVC and polypropylene, said the report. Through 2023, demand for WPC decking is expected to grow 2.3% per year to 533 million linear feet, as consumers increasingly request it when constructing or repairing decks because of its attractive appearance and performance properties. While initially more expensive, a deck made from WPC lumber can provide long-term savings because of its durability.
Demand for other WPCs, primarily PVC, in decking is expected to grow at a below average pace through 2023 to 35 million linear feet. The use of these plastic types in WPC decking will remain limited because of consumer preferences for the aesthetic and performance advantages of capstock-coated polyethylene products. Demand is mostly supported by their lower cost compared with wood-polyethylene (WPC) decking.
Demand for plastic decking is forecast to rise 2% per year through 2023 to 97 million linear feet. Vinyl decking, which accounted for the majority of plastic decking demand in 2018, will increase its share of this segment through 2023 due to rising interest in cellular PVC decking. This material offers consumers the surface texture and hue of natural wood decking, but is much less affected by degradation caused by exposure to the elements, mold growth and wear.
Standard PVC decking demand also will rise as consumers use vinyl materials for railings and other components for which composite lumber is insufficiently durable, according to the Freedonia Group study.
Among other plastic lumber types, polyethylene decking has the largest market share of alternative decking materials, with other plastic types, such as polystyrene and polypropylene, accounting for smaller shares. Demand for plastic lumber made from non-vinyl materials is forecast to rise at a slower rate than vinyl through 2023, as cellular PVC products will continue to take market share from these materials.
Advances for other plastic materials will be supported by consumers seeking an environmentally friendly material. Lumber made from non-vinyl plastics often feature high recycled content, which will promote its use in public projects, as many state and local governments mandate the use of green materials in construction projects.