Demand in the United States for wood-plastic composite and plastic lumber is expected to go up 9.8% per year, reaching $5.5 billion by 2018 and creating a market for 2.6 billion pounds of plastic, according to The Freedonia Group.
A rebound in new home completions from 2013's low level as well as gains in residential improvement and repair spending will help drive stronger demand. Analyst Paul Goehrke also sees growth coming from increased market penetration in decking applications. The market research firm expects decking to account for more than two-fifths of composite and plastic lumber demand—and 19% of all decking demand—by 2018.
Plastic lumber's improving aesthetics are helping drive growth. New manufacturing techniques make for better color-fade resistance and helping to give plastic lumber a closer resemblance to natural woods, particularly expensive hardwoods like redwood and ipe.
Increasing overall construction activity will support demand gains for both alternative lumber types, but wood-plastic composite demand is expected to rise quicker than demand for plastic lumber, albeit from a smaller base. Wood-plastic composite is increasingly preferred over plastic lumber in large, high-growth residential applications such as decking.
Almost two-thirds of composite and plastic lumber demand is generated by the residential market.
Molding and trim applications are also poised for growth. Alternative lumbers offer benefits in ease of shaping and are more resistant to moisture when compared to lumber and engineered wood.
U.S. Composite & Plastic Lumber Demand (million dollars)
|% Annual Growth|
|Composite & Plastic Lumber||3,265||3,447||5,500||1.1||9.8|
|Molding & Trim||942||1,005||1,525||1.3||8.7|
|Landscaping & Outdoor Products||218||212||300||-0.6||7.2|
source: The Freedonia Group