US: Demand for wood-plastic composites forecast to grow in the next years

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Woodplastic and plastic decking is forecast to have the strongest market growth over the next four years, but wood will remain the main material on US decks, according to market research company Freedonia's latest market outlook (Wood & Competitive Decking, Study).

The outlook for tropical hardwood use in decking is positive. Even when overall decking demand declined during the downturn in the housing market, demand for tropical hardwood decking grew. Homeowners look for low maintenance materials, and tropical hardwoods offer a natural, attractive appearance compared to plastic or wood plastic composite. Tropical hardwood decking is also known to perform well in the long term, while wood plastic composites had performance issues in the past.

Overall demand for decking is forecast to grow 2.4% per year between 2013 and 2018. Total demand is estimated at US$6.5 billion in 2018, equivalent to 3.5 billion linear feet of decking. The strongest demand growth will be in wood plastic composite and plastic decking.

Performance and looks of both types of decking have improved in recent years with the arrival of capstock-coated composite decking and cellular PVC decking. High-end composite and plastic decking is at a similar price level as tropical wood decking.

The majority of decking will continue to be wood due to the lower price of treated softwood decking and the large number of existing wooden decks that are often renovated with the same material. About 80% of decking by volume will be treated softwood and tropical hardwood by 2018.

Freedonia predicts an annual growth of 1.1% for wood decking. Residential decking accounts for about 60% of the market which is forecast to grow 2.7% annually driven by higher housing starts and deck renovations. The trend towards larger decks and greater outdoor living space also supports growth in decking demand

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