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Trends in the US decking market: A national survey of deck and home builders


Abstract and Figures

The deck-building industry is going through a period of rapid growth and dramatic change with respect to the types of materials available to build decks. Naturally durable timber species (i.e., redwood, western redcedar, Alaska yellow-cedar and tropical hardwoods) are facing acute competition from engineered decking products, primarily plastic lumber and composite wood products. The results of a 2004 national survey of 156 deck builders and 212 home builders indicate that wood-plastic composites are quickly gaining popularity among deck-building professionals as they increase their market share. This paper investigates deck-building professionals' use and perceptions of the different decking materials. The study also reveals the usage patterns of the various decking materials in the primary end-use applications (substructure, deck surface and deck accessories). Finally, a comparative assessment of the different decking materials relative to a common set of material attributes is presented.
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Trends in the US decking market:
Anational survey of deck and home builders
by Indroneil Ganguly1and Ivan L. Eastin2
The deck-building industry is going through a period of rapid growth and dramatic change with respect to the types of
materials available to build decks. Naturally durable timber species (i.e., redwood, western redcedar, Alaska yellow-cedar
and tropical hardwoods) are facing acute competition from engineered decking products, primarily plastic lumber and
composite wood products. The results of a 2004 national survey of 156 deck builders and 212 home builders indicate that
wood–plastic composites are quickly gaining popularity among deck-building professionals as they increase their market
share. This paper investigates deck-building professionals’ use and perceptions of the different decking materials. The
study also reveals the usage patterns of the various decking materials in the primary end-use applications (substructure,
deck surface and deck accessories). Finally, a comparative assessment of the different decking materials relative to a com-
mon set of material attributes is presented.
Key words: decking market, deck-building practices, decking material, residential housing, deck builders, homebuilders
Le secteur de construction de terrasse et de balcon connaît une période de croissance rapide et de changements drama-
tiques au niveau des types de matériaux disponibles pour ce type de construction. Les espèces de bois à durabilité naturelle
élevée (par ex., séquoia, cèdre de l’Ouest, cyprès jaune et bois tropicaux) font face à une vive compétition de la part des bois
d’ingénierie conçus pour les terrasses, principalement le bois plastifié et les produits de composites de bois. Les résultats
d’une enquête nationale réalisée en 2004 auprès de 156 constructeurs de terrasse et de 212 constructeurs de maison révè-
lent que le bois plastifié et les composites de bois sont rapidement de plus en plus populaires auprès des professionnels
de la construction de terrasse et de balcon, à mesure qu’ils accroissent leur part de marché. Cet article analyse l’utilisation
et les perceptions des professionnels en construction de terrasse et balcon relativement aux différents matériaux pour
les terrasses. Le sondage indique également les tendances d’utilisation des différents matériaux pour terrasse (charpente,
surface de la terrasse et accessoires). Finalement, nous présentons une évaluation comparative des différents matériaux
pour terrasse par rapport aux qualités habituelles d’un ensemble de matériaux.
Mots clés : secteur des terrasses et balcon, pratiques de construction de terrasse, matériaux pour terrasse, construction
résidentielle, constructeurs de terrasse, constructeurs de maison
1Doctoral Candidate and Research Associate, Center for International Trade in Forest Products, (CINTRAFOR), College of Forest
Resources, Box 352100, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. E-mail:
2Professor and Director, Center for International Trade in Forest Products (CINTRAFOR), College of Forest Resources, Box 352100, Uni-
versity of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA. E-mail:
Indroneil Ganguly Ivan L. Eastin
The market for residential decking products in North Amer-
ica has become increasingly competitive over the past decade.
Moreover, the regulatory constraints on timber harvests from
public forests and competition from substitute materials have
significantly altered the competitive environment within the
deck-building industry (Eastin et al.2005). Wood–plastic
composites (WPC) and plastic lumber are increasingly
replacing softwood lumber in deck-building applications
largely because these products are perceived to have better
durability than softwood lumber (Carroll et al. 2001).
Demand for WPC and plastic lumber in the United States is
forecast to expand nearly 12% each year between 2000 and
2010 to reach $3.9 billion. These substitute decking materials
will continue to penetrate deck-building markets which are
expected to total $1.2 billion by 2008 (Bowne 2002). Given
the increasing assortment of treated lumber, WPC and plastic
decking products available in the market, coupled with the
aggressive promotional and product-service campaigns of
WPC and plastic lumber manufacturers, the market share for
naturally durable lumber is expected to continue to decline.
Decking market in the US
The demand for decking materials in the US is driven by sev-
eral factors, including the macroeconomic environment,
demographics, residential construction starts and repair and
remodel (R&R) expenditures. It is estimated that there are
approximately 30 million residential decks in the United
States (Truini 1996). Of the many factors influencing the
demand for decking materials, new residential housing starts
and R&R activities are the primary drivers of demand.
Approximately 82% of the homes in the US have an outdoor
living area which encompasses decks, patios, porches and bal-
conies (US Census 2005). Moreover, of the 6.8 million homes
built in the US between 1999 and 2003, 5.9 million were esti-
mated to have an outdoor living area (US Census 2005). Sim-
ilarly, of the 1.65 million single family houses built in 2006,
421 000 (25%) houses were built with a deck (US Census
2006). Homeowner expenditures in the home improvement
market also significantly impact the demand for residential
decking materials. Repair and remodel projects constitute
approximately 23% of the total revenues of deck builders
(George Carter & Affiliates 1989). Moreover, surveys con-
ducted in the past reveal that about 4.2% of all households in
the United States add a deck to their existing home each year
(George Carter & Affiliates 1989), which results in over 3 mil-
lion additional new decks per year (Shook and Eastin 2001).
The importance of the repair and remodel sector is such that
even with a decline in housing starts in 2006 and an increase
in mortgage interest rates, the demand for new and replace-
ment decks will likely increase (West 2004). Increasing expen-
dituresin the repair and remodel sector have led industry
experts to predict that the deck-building industry will con-
tinue to experience growth through 2010 (West 2004) despite
the fact that the outlook for housing starts remains uncertain
(Seiders 2007).
In addition to macroeconomic factors, demographic trends
also influence the demand for residential decks, with a grow-
ing population contributing to an increase in housing starts
and existing home sales which in turn translates into increased
investment in new and replacement decks (Eastin et al.2005).
Moreover, the distribution of population cohorts is perhaps
more important when considering the impact of demographic
trends on the demand for decks and decking materials. In par-
ticular, over the next decade the age cohorts comprising peo-
plefrom 45 to 54 years of age and from 55 to 64 years of age
will experience growth that is substantially higher than that of
mostother age cohorts in the US. This older, more affluent
segment of the population is not only willing to spend more
money on outdoor living amenities (including decks) but they
also place a higher value on material attributes such as reduced
maintenance, ease of maintenance and material longevity
(West 2004, Eastin et al.2005). Year-round outdoor living is no
longer a lifestyle that is unique to warmer parts of the country
but is an emerging trend in the northern parts of the US (Kirk-
land 2007). The new emerging trend is to use outdoor living
spaces as an extension of the main house throughout the year
by installing fireplaces, covered cooking areas, audio video
home entertainment systems and by providing easy access to
the main living area of the house. The combination of these
factors suggests that the market for decking materials can be
expected to increase over the next decade and more (West
2004, Eastin et al.2005).
Residential decking materials in the US
Several factors influence the competitive environment within
the residential deck market. The major decking materials
used in the US include naturally durable timber species (e.g.,
western redcedar (WRC), redwood and Alaska yellow-cedar),
tropical hardwoods (THW), pressure-treated softwood lum-
ber (PT), wood–plastic composite (WPC) lumber, plastic
lumber (PL) as well as untreated lumber (Damery and Fisette
2001, Eastin et al.2005). Material attributes, such as ease of
installation and ease of maintenance, provide the main basis
for differentiating between the various product offerings in
the marketplace. In addition, product attributes such as
longevity, durability and beauty are also important consider-
ations for differentiating among deck materials.
Pressure-treated lumber has historically dominated the
residential decking market (Damery and Fisette 2001, Shook
andEastin 2001, Eastin et al.2005). However, recent research
clearly shows that the rising demand for wood–plastic com-
posite decking materials is supported by growing consumer
and builder acceptance of these products, a broadening distri-
bution network and appearance-enhancing product improve-
ments (Bowne 2002). Several factors influence the competi-
tive relationship between the competing materials used in
residential decking. Among the decking materials used in the
US, pressure-treated lumber dominates to such an extent that
an estimated 9 out of every 10 existing residential decks in the
northeastern US (Damery and Fisette 2001) and 8 of every 10
existing residential decks in the whole country are made from
pressure-treated lumber (George Carter & Affiliates 1989). In
2004, the treated lumber industry voluntarily discontinued
the use of chromated copper arsenate (CCA) as a lumber pre-
servative because of health concerns related to the toxicity of
the product (Romano 2004). The transition from CCA to
alkaline copper quarternary (ACQ) and copper azole (CA-B)
preservatives for most residential decking lumber has not
resulted in a substantial decline in sales as was initially pre-
dicted by industry experts (West 2004). However, pressure-
treated lumber has been subject to high price volatility which
has caused some builders to consider more price-stable mate-
rials (Shook and Eastin 2001).
Among thenaturally durable species, western redcedar is
reported to have lower maintenance costs, better dimensional
stability and to be more aesthetically pleasing than treated
lumber. However, the demand for western redcedar lumber
has remained relatively constant over the past 20 years,
despite its increased availability in the national market (Eastin
et al.1996, Shook and Eastin 2001). Heightened competition
from substitute materials and lower-cost pressure-treated
lumber have both helped to dampen demand. While western
redcedar and redwood are close competitors in the decking
market, demand for redwood is constrained by its availability
in the eastern and the southern regions of the US. Despite its
lack of availability, it is reported that 12% of all residential
decks built in 1987 utilized redwood and similar results were
obtained by a more recent study that found that 11.1% of all
decking materials used during 1997–1998 was redwood
(Shook and Eastin 2001). The National Association of Home
Builders (NAHB) builder practices survey found that in 2005
redwood registered a market share of just 4.6% (NAHB
Research Center 2006). In response to the lack of availability
of domestic naturally durable lumber, the usage of tropical
hardwoods (THW) as a decking material has gained popular-
ity in the US over last 15 years. Most of the THW lumber
imported into the US comes from Brazil, Peru and Malaysia
(Duery and Vlosky 2006). With the increased supply of THW
lumber and a favourable market perception, THW lumber
has been steadily gaining market share in the US decking
market. Finally, the use of untreated lumber as a decking
material (excluding naturally durable species) is very small.
The market share of untreated lumber was estimated to be
just 2.6% in 1998 (Shook and Eastin 2001).
Recent studies have shown that WPC lumber is rapidly
gaining market acceptance (Palmer 2004) to the extent that
the WPC industry in North America experienced a 4-fold
growth in demand between 1997 and 2000 (Li and Wolcott
2005). WPC meets consumer desire for a low-maintenance,
durable product that avoids the use of wood preservatives
(Palmer 2004). WPCs tend to be more resistant to moisture
absorbtion and are thus more dimensionally stable than solid
wood lumber (Wang and Morrell 2005). WPCs are competi-
tively priced with upscale decking material choices such as
WRC and redwood while offering the promise of low main-
tenance and increased durability. WPCs are primarily used
for deck surfaces while deck substructures predominantly uti-
lize pressure-treated lumber for columns and joists (Carey
and Carey 2005). Plastic decking lumber, including vinyl and
polyethylene (both high and low density), is also steadily
gaining acceptance among professional deck builders. Vinyl is
the more popular variety of plastic decking material, followed
by polyethylene and other plastic-based products (e.g., plastic
membrane and polypropylene). NAHB’s recent builder sur-
vey foundthat the market share of plastic lumber for decking
applications increased from 1.3% in 2000 to 3.7% in 2005
(NAHB Research Center 2006) and is forecast to grow at a
steady rate through 2010.
Study Objectives
The deck-building industry is experiencing a period of rapid
growth and dramatic change with respect to the types of
materials available to build decks. With the dynamic nature of
theindustry and the technological improvements in the deck-
ing products available in the market, it is important for soft-
woodlumber manufacturers to understand material usage
patterns and the factors that influence material specification
within the deck-building industry. In this research, we con-
sider the residential construction application of 8 nationally
available deck-building materials: (i) Alaska yellow-cedar, (ii)
western redcedar, (iii) redwood, (iv) treated lumber, (v)
untreated lumber, (vi) wood–plastic composites, (vii) tropical
hardwoods and (viii) plastic lumber. In this paper we analyze
and discuss the following aspects of material use within the
US decking industry:
The current usage of decking materials by homebuilders in
new residential construction,
The current usage of decking materials by deck builders in
new, repair and replacement decks,
Trends in the usage of decking materials during
Current material use in different decking end-use applica-
tions: substructures, deck surfaces and accessories,
The importance of various decking material attributes in
the purchase decision made by deck builders, and
A comparative assessment of the different decking materi-
als relative to a common set of material attributes.
Survey Methodology
Asurvey was used to supplement the secondary data
obtained through the literature review and to provide pri-
mary data on the decking markets. Two distinct populations
were surveyed: residential home builders and deck builders.
Based on the time constraints for the project and ensuring the
adherence to developing a proper sampling frame, 2 different
sample frames and survey methods were adopted for gather-
ing information from these 2 distinct populations.
For the home builders, a telephone survey was determined
tobe the most efficient way to collect data. The geographic
focus of the survey was the US, with an equal number of
respondents from both the eastern and western US (as
divided by the Mississippi river). A systematic random sam-
pling was undertaken in order to ensure a proper representa-
tion of respondents from all the states. The sample frame for
the target population was obtained from InfoUSA through a
systematic random sampling based on the home builder Stan-
dard Industrial Classification (SIC) code. The sampling was
done by making the sample size for each state proportional to
the ratio of housing starts for that particular state relative to
totalUS housing starts. The total survey sample size was
established at 205 respondents. Telephone surveys were con-
ducted and responses were marked on the survey sheet by the
interviewer along with relevant comments made by the
Adifferent survey methodology was adopted for collect-
ing information from the deck builders. Survey question-
naires were distributed as an insert in the May–June 2004
issue of Professional Deck Builder magazine. The objective of
the research project was introduced on the cover page of the
survey along with a request from the Editor of the magazine
(in the editorial section) to complete and return the survey.
The information requested in the survey was similar to that
for the home builder survey, although the structure of the
questions was modified slightly to suit the different survey
instrument. The sampling frame was decided by the circula-
tion of the magazine. The magazine has 15 000 subscribers
who are evenly distributed across the US and the target audi-
enceof the magazine is professional deck builders. Surveys
were included in half of the magazines mailed out due to
budgetary constraints. An e-mail reminder was sent by the
Editor of the magazine reminding subscribers to complete
and returnthe survey approximately one month following the
publication of the magazine.
Both survey instruments were pre-tested to ensure the
comprehensiveness, clarity and ease of use of the survey
instruments. The pre-test group consisted of a mix of individ-
uals with varied knowledge of the decking industry. Partici-
pants in the pre-test group consisted of industry experts in the
forest products and residential construction industries as well
as individuals who were unfamiliar with both the residential
construction market and substitute decking materials. The
survey instruments were revised based on comments and
suggestions received from the pre-test participants to improve
the clarity and comprehensives of the surveys.
The surveys collected basic demographic information
regarding the respondent’s location, geographical area of
operation, yearly sales and nature of operations. The survey
also inquired about decking material usage (and change) and
practices in great detail. All respondents were asked to indi-
cate the percentage of material use in deck substructures, sur-
faces and accessories in the past year. A section of the survey
covered the attitudinal aspects and the perceived importance
of the specific product attributes that influence the usage and
adoption of various decking materials.
Survey Results and Discussion
Atotal of 156 professional deck builders and 212 home
builders participated in the survey, resulting in a total sample
size of 368 respondents, representing all 50 states. In order to
capture the national variability in decking practices, the sur-
vey included respondents from the eastern states (east of the
Mississippi River) and the western states (west of the Missis-
sippi River) equitably. The number of respondents from the
eastern states was 188 (100 home builders and 88 deck
builders) and from the western states was 180 (112 home
builders and 68 deck builders). In order to address the varied
deck-building practices of the western states, respondents
from the western states were further segmented into 2 geo-
graphical regions, “west coast states” consisting of Washing-
ton, Oregon and California and “interior west states” com-
prised of the remaining western states.
Demographic information
The 2003 annual sales revenue reported by the home builders
and deck builders are significantly different, primarily as a
result of their different scale of operations. The median sales
revenue for the home builders was $1.9 million, whereas the
median sales revenue of the deck builders was $475 000.
Moreover, 18.5% of the homebuilders reported annual sales
revenuein excess of $5 million, whereas only 11.7% of the
deck builders reported their income to be over $5 million.
Demographic information for the deck builders and home
builders, segmented by region, is presented in Tables 1 and 2.
The summary information for the home builder and deck
builders correspond to the specific nature of activities each of
these groups undertakes. Moreover, the deck builders were
asked specific decking-related questions (e.g. the cost distri-
bution across the deck structure, surface and accessories) as
they were more conversant with decking applications than
were home builders.
The results from the home builder survey reveal some dif-
ferences and similarities based on geographic location (Table
1). The results reveal that a significantly higher number of
spec homes were built by homebuilders on the west coast as
compared to the rest of the country. However, the number of
custom homes built by homebuilders on the west coast was
just half of the national average. The percentage of spec
homes built with decks by homebuilders in the eastern US
was much higher (63%) compared to the west coast (52%)
and interior west (40%). The percentage of custom homes
built with decks, however, was similar across all regions of the
US, averaging over 70%. While the size of the decks built for
spec homes was about the same across all 3 regions, decks
built for custom homes on the west coast were almost twice
the size of those built in the eastern US.
The total overall cost of decks built on the west coast (both
spec and custom) was significantly higher than for decks that
were built in the interior west and the eastern US. The aver-
age construction cost of spec and custom decks was substan-
tially higher on the west coast as compared to the rest of the
country, although the average unit cost for spec decks and
custom decks was not found to be significantly different
across the 3 regions. Finally, the survey results revealed that,
on average, 46% of the decks built on new homes were sub-
contracted out by home builders. This trend was higher in the
eastern US, where more than 50% of new decks were subcon-
tracted out. This suggests that the role of professional deck
builders in the total decking market (both the new and R&R
sectors) is more prominent than previously thought.
Results obtained from the deck builders’ survey clearly
showsubstantial differences in deck characteristics based on
geographic location (Table 2). For example, deck builders in
the eastern US built more than twice as many decks as deck
buildersin the interior west and 3 times as many as on the
west coast. In addition, the average deck size was significantly
higher in the west, although the average construction cost in
the interior west was substantially lower compared to the
eastern US or the west coast. As a result, there was significant
variation in unit construction costs in each region. Unit con-
Table 1. Home builder demographics, by region
EastInterior West West Coast Overall US
Average Number of Spec Homes Built 18.7 40.5 63.5 35.5
Average Number of Custom Homes Built 12.9 16.8 5.3 12.2
Spec Homew/Deck 63.0% 39.6% 51.7% 54.5%
Custom Home w/Deck 75.9% 71.0% 71.8% 73.5%
Sizeof Spec Deck 345.9 ft2383.2 ft2362 ft2361.2 ft2
Size of Custom Deck 375.1 ft2486.3 ft2743 ft2490.8 ft2
Average Cost of Spec Deck $3,267 $3,288 $6,582 $3900.2
Average Cost of Custom Deck $4,737 $6,166 $8,675 $5984.0
Averageconstruction cost/sq. ft.( Spec Deck) $13.8 $16.8 $19.8 $15.8
Average construction cost/sq. ft. (Custom Deck) $14.9 $15.6 $18.2 $15.8
Percent Decks Subbed Out 51.2% 42.4% 39.0% 45.8%
struction costs in the eastern US were $14.81 per square foot
versus $8.18 in the interior west and $15.63 on the west coast.
The survey data further reveals that approximately 45% of the
total deck-building costs (all inclusive) were for deck surfaces,
34% for the deck sub-structure and 21% for the deck acces-
sories (e.g., stairs, railings, seating amenities and storage/
planting boxes). Finally, deck builders on the west coast pri-
marily target new deck construction on both new and exist-
ing homes with relatively little focus on the repair/replace-
ment sector. In contrast, deck builders in the east and interior
west have a more balanced mix of deck-building projects
comprising of decks built on existing homes, decks built on
new homes and repair and replacement of decks.
Not surprisingly, the survey data also shows that deck
builders, on average, build more decks than do home
builders. On average, home builders reported that they actu-
ally built approximately 17 decks annually (after subtracting
out those decks that they subcontracted to deck builders).
Deck builders, in contrast, reported that they built more than
90 decks annually. In addition, the per unit cost of decks built
by home builders was significantly higher in the western US
compared to the decks built by deck builders. The average
unit cost ofdecks built by deck builders in the interior west
($8.20/sq.ft.) is almost half of the unit cost of decks built by
home builders in the same region. It should also be noted that
more than 70% of the revenue generated by deck builders was
from building new decks on existing houses as well as repair
and remodelling of decks, indicating that deck builders are
much less vulnerable to downturns in the housing market,
which have a much greater impact on home builders.
Material use changes
One objective of this research was to assess how the use of
decking materials is changing over time. To evaluate this,
respondents were asked to indicate how their use of 8 decking
materials has changed over the last 2 years (Table 3). The
overall survey results indicate that the use of western red-
cedar, redwood and treated lumber has declined substantially
while WPC, tropical hardwood and plastic lumber use has
increased, although it is useful to note that more than 2/3of
the respondents reported that they have never used THW or
plastic lumber. Treated lumber is the most commonly used
decking material, with more than 93% of the respondents
reporting that they have used treated lumber. Interestingly,
the percentage of respondents who reported that their usage
of treated lumber has declined was matched by the percent-
age ofrespondents who reported an increase in their usage of
treated lumber, suggesting that treated lumber maintained its
market share over the period 2003–2004.
Among home builders, both treated lumber and
wood–plastic composite lumber recorded large increases in
usage. In contrast, WRC and RW recorded large declines in
usage. More than 2/3of home builders indicated that they have
never used AYC, untreated lumber, THW or plastic lumber
Table 2. Deck builder demographics, by region
East Interior West West Coast Overall US
Ave. deck size 395 ft2553 ft2513 ft2455.8 ft2
Ave. Number of decks built 126 65 42 93
Ave. construction cost $5851 $4524 $8019 $6160
Ave. construction cost/sq. ft. $14.8 $8.2 $15.6 $13.5
Deck structure 34.2% ($2,001) 35.0% ($1,583) 31.7% ($2,542) 34.2% ($2,094)
Deck surface 43.9% ($2,569) 47.4% ($2,144) 46.6% ($3,737) 45.1% ($2,772)
Deck accessories 21.9% ($1,281) 17.6% ($796) 21.7% ($ 1,740) 21.2% ($1,294)
Decks on existing home 41.6% 43.7% 42.4% 42.2%
Decks built on new home 30.5% 25.5% 11.9% 25.2%
Repair/replacement decks 27.9% 27.0% 45.7% 31.9%
Table 3. Changing material use in the deck-building market
Remained Never
Increased the same Decreased Used
Total Sample (N = 368)
Alaska Yellow-cedar 0.8 3.1 4.8 91.2
Western Redcedar 8.1 28.2 25.4 38.3
Redwood 4.6 20.3 22.0 53.1
Treated Lumber 22.1 50.8 20.4 6.7
Untreated Lumber 3.6 16.2 9.6 70.7
Wood-Plastic Composite 57.9 15.2 2.8 24.2
Tropical Hardwood 11.7 13.4 5.2 69.7
Plastic 15.7 7.1 3.3 74.0
Home Builders (N = 212)
Alaska Yellow-cedar 0.0 1.4 3.3 93.4
Western Redcedar 5.2 28.3 17.5 46.2
Redwood 3.8 22.2 16.0 55.7
Treated Lumber 23.1 59.4 9.0 7.1
Untreated Lumber 2.8 12.3 7.1 67.5
Wood-Plastic Composite 40.1 20.3 2.8 33.0
Tropical Hardwood 1.9 7.1 2.4 81.1
Plastic 6.6 3.8 0.5 80.7
Deck Builders (N = 156)
Alaska Yellow-cedar 2.1 5.5 6.9 85.5
WesternRedcedar 11.8 27.0 35.5 25.7
Redwood 5.6 16.8 30.1 47.6
Treated Lumber 20.1 37.6 36.2 6.0
Untreated Lumber 4.2 19.4 11.8 64.6
Wood-Plastic Composite 79.6 7.2 2.6 10.5
Tropical Hardwood 24.5 21.1 8.8 45.6
Plastic 27.1 11.1 6.9 54.9
while almost half reported that they have never used WRC or
RW. The data suggest that home builders have been reducing
their use of naturally durable wood species in favour of
treated lumber and WPC. While only 20% of home builders
reported using plastic lumber, almost 95% of those who had
used it reported that their use was either increasing or
remaining the same, suggesting that they were satisfied with
the performance of plastic lumber. While home builders
appear to favour a limited selection of decking products (pri-
marily treated lumber and WPC), the survey data suggest that
deck builders use a much broader array of decking products.
For example, the percentage of deck builders who reported to
have never used each of the decking materials included in the
survey was substantially lower than that observed within the
home builder sector. Deck builders registered their largest
increases in material use for WPC, plastic lumber and THW.
Interestingly, while 20% of deck builders reported increasing
their use of treated lumber, almost twice as many (36.2%)
indicated that their use had declined. The data suggest that
many deck builders are reducing their use of WRC, RW and
treated lumber in favour of WPC, tropical hardwoods and
plastic lumber.
Material use in decking end-use applications
Understanding the differences in material usage within the 3
primary decking end-use applications was another objective of
this study. The survey data shows that treated lumber is the
dominant material used in deck substructures with an overall
market share of 81.2% (Table 4). Approximately 3/4of the
decks built by home builders used treated lumber for the sub-
structure while the remaining materials used were distributed
fairly evenly between RW, untreated lumber and WPC. Mate-
rial use by deck builders for deck substructures was dominated
by treated lumber with a market share of over 90%. Treated
lumber and WPC each represented about 1/3ofthe deck sur-
facemarket while WRC and RW together comprised another
22%. Treated lumber had a 34% share of the accessories mar-
ket whileWRC and RW together represented another 30% fol-
lowed byWPC with 22% of the overall market.
Ananalysis of the material usage data indicates some
important differences between home builders and deck
builders in their use of different decking materials within the
different end-use applications (Table 4). The data shows that
whereas deck builders almost exclusively used treated lumber
for deck substructures, home builders were more likely to use
naturally durable wood species as well as WPC lumber in this
application. Given the fact that few WPC products are manu-
factured in cross-sectional sizes that would be appropriate for
supportbeams or primary posts (and few WPC manufactur-
ers recommend the use of their products in these applica-
tions), it is likely that home builders are beginning to use
WPC lumber as joists and perhaps intermediate support
posts. Interestingly, deck builders, who might be assumed to
be more knowledgeable of deck construction details and
material specification, used virtually no WPC lumber in
building deck substructures. This difference suggests that
either home builders are ahead of the curve in terms of using
WPC asastructural material in deck substructures or else
they may be incorrectly specifying WPC for an application
where its use is not intended. The survey data further reveal
that deck builders used a substantially higher proportion of
WPC for both deck surfaces and accessories than did home
builders. In contrast, home builders tended to specify treated
lumber, western redcedar and redwood more often than deck
builders in these applications. Deck builders also appear to
have specified plastic decking and THW more often than
home builders.
Attribute importance in material specification
The importance ratings reported by deck builders and home
builders for different material attributes is useful in under-
standingthe relationship between material attributes and
their influence on the material specification process. They
also provide insight for understanding how specific material
attributes might be effective in differentiating between com-
peting products. Survey respondents were asked to rate the
importance of a set of material attributes on their specifica-
tion of decking materials using a Likert-like scale ranging
from1to 7 (where an importance rating of 1 meant that the
material attribute was not important at all and an importance
rating of7meant that the attribute was very important). The
attributes rated as most important in the specification of
decking materials were long life (durability), material quality,
beauty and availability (Table 5). Among the remaining
attributes, natural decay resistance, ease of maintenance and
price stability were also rated to be moderately important. It
Table 4. Material use in different end-use applications in deck-
building in 2003
Substructure Surface Accessories
Total Sample (%) (%) (%)
Alaska Yellow-cedar 0.4 0.5 0.4
Western Redcedar 2.3 12.2 17.4
Redwood 3.1 9.6 11.5
Treated Lumber 81.2 34.3 34.0
Untreated Lumber 5.9 0.8 2.3
Wood-Plastic Composite 4.5 32.7 21.6
Tropical Hardwood 0.3 3.2 2.4
Plastic 0.1 2.1 2.8
Other 2.2 4.3 7.2
Home Builders
Alaska Yellow-cedar 0.7 0.2 0.1
Western Redcedar 3.4 13.1 17.4
Redwood 5.3 12.5 14.3
Treated Lumber 74.3 38.4 37.5
Untreated Lumber 5.8 0.2 2.6
Wood-Plastic Composite 7.1 27.9 17.2
Tropical Hardwood 0.0 1.4 1.2
Plastic 0.2 0.6 1.6
Other 3.2 4.9 8.1
Deck Builders
AlaskaYellow-cedar 0.0 0.9 0.9
Western Redcedar 0.7 10.8 17.5
Redwood 0.0 5.3 6.6
Treated Lumber 91.2 28.3 27.8
Untreated Lumber 6.0 1.5 1.8
Wood-Plastic Composite 0.6 39.6 29.5
Tropical Hardwood 0.7 5.8 4.4
Plastic 0.0 4.2 4.8
Other 0.8 3.5 5.6
should be noted that while price stability was rated to be
moderately important, the actual price of the decking mate-
rial was rated to be substantially less important. The 4 highest
material attributes for both home builders and deck builders
were the same with one big difference: the most important
attribute (and rated significantly higher) for home builders
was product availability whereas this attribute was only the
fourth most important product attribute for deck builders.
Another important difference between these groups was that
low material cost was given the lowest importance by deck
builders while it was rated as being significantly more impor-
tant by home builders. These results show that deck builders
view price and availability to be significantly less important in
the specification of decking materials than homebuilders.
Further, this suggests that the customers of deck builders are
less price-sensitive, preferring high quality, durability and
ease of maintenance over low price.
The 3 most import decking material attributes—long life,
consistent material quality and aesthetic appeal—were con-
sistent across both deck builders and home builders. How-
ever, product availability, price stability, low material cost and
minimal product waste were all rated as playing a signifi-
cantly more important role in the material specification deci-
sion for home builders than for deck builders. This suggests
that homebuilders, all things being equal, tend to give prefer-
ence to decking materials that are readily available with low
cost and stable pricing as compared to deck builders.
Perceptions of relative material attributes
Respondents were also asked to indicate the degree to which
they perceived that the different decking materials possessed
each of the material attributes, using a Likert-like scale where
arating of 1 meant that they perceived that the material did
not possess the attribute at all and a rating of 7 meant that
they perceived that the material possessed the attribute to a
high degree. In discussing the results presented in Table 6, we
will first compare the mean score that each of the decking
materials received for each attribute (e.g., the mean score for
WRC on the long life attribute was 4.46) and compare them
to the scores received by the other decking materials as well as
to the mean score calculated for each attribute (e.g., the mean
score for the long life attribute was 5.02). In addition, we will
compare the aggregate attribute score for each decking mate-
rial, which was calculated by summing up the average score
that each decking material received for each attribute (e.g., the
aggregate attribute score for WRC was 28.96).
With respect to the individual attributes, WPC lumber
received a substantially higher score on the long life attribute
than any other product. Other decking materials that received
scores above the mean score (5.02) included (in decreasing
order): THW, treated lumber, plastic lumber, redwood and
WRC. Only 2 products (AYC and untreated lumber) scored
below the average attribute score. In terms of beauty, redwood
wasthe highest-rated product with a rating of 6.10, which was
substantially higher than the scores received by the other
decking materials. Other decking materials that scored above
the meanincluded: THW, WRC, WPC and AYC. The only
products to score below the mean were plastic lumber, treated
lumber and untreated lumber. WPC was widely perceived to
be the easiest decking material to maintain, receiving a sub-
stantially higher rating than all of the other decking materials.
Plastic lumber, THW and redwood were the only other mate-
rials to score above the mean while treated lumber, WRC,
AYC and untreated lumber all scored below the mean.
Treated lumber, WPC and untreated lumber were all consid-
Table 5. Importance ratings for material attributes of decking
Composite Scoresa
tance Material Total Home Deck
Rank Attribute Sample Builders Builders
1st Long Life 6.28 6.23 6.35
2nd Consistent Material Quality 6.23 6.28 6.17
3rd Beautiful and Aesthetically 6.14 6.02 6.29
4th Availability 6.07 6.29b5.76b
5thNaturally Decay Resistant 5.87 5.99 5.71
6thEase of Maintenance 5.69 5.69 5.68
7thPrice Stability 5.67 5.91b5.34b
8th High Workability/Ease of Use 5.41 5.49 5.30
9th High Strength Properties 5.27 5.41 5.08
10th Resistance to Splintering 5.16 4.81b5.63b
11th Low Material Cost 5.09 5.53b4.49b
12th Little Product Waste 5.06 5.25b4.80b
13th Low Heat Retention in Service 4.01 3.66b4.50b
aComposite scores are calculated by using the attribute importance ratings from a
7-point Likert-type scale
bStatistically significant differences (95%)in the ratings between the homebuilders
and deckbuilders
Table 6. Composite scoresaof decking materials with respect to specific material attributes
Treated Untreated Mean
Material Attribute AYC WRC RW Lumber Lumber WPC THW PL Score
LongLife 4.46 5.17 5.44 5.53 2.30 6.19 5.55 5.52 5.02
Beauty 5.06 5.85 6.10 4.05 3.01 5.33 5.88 4.34 4.95
Ease of Maintenance 4.08 4.50 4.72 4.58 2.37 6.24 4.90 5.72 4.64
Availability 2.67 5.30 4.84 6.56 6.24 6.37 4.70 5.30 5.25
High Strength 4.45 5.00 5.15 5.97 4.88 4.87 5.93 4.35 5.08
Low Cost 3.45 4.12 3.69 5.32 5.07 3.94 3.55 3.93 4.13
Natural Decay Resistance 4.79 5.17 5.42 5.62 1.93 6.42 5.60 6.34 5.16
Aggregate Attribute Score 28.96 35.11 35.36 37.63 25.80 39.36 36.11 35.5 34.23
aComposite scores are calculated by using the attribute importance ratings from a 7-point Likert-type scale
ered to be widely available while WRC and plastic lumber
also scored above the mean. The materials considered to have
the highest mechanical strength were treated lumber, THW
and redwood. All other materials scored below the mean in
terms of strength. Respondents indicated that the lowest-cost
decking materials were treated and untreated lumber while
WRC received the mean score. All other decking materials
received scores below the mean. The materials perceived to
have the highest level of natural decay resistance were WPC
and plastic lumber, which received scores that were substan-
tially higher than the other decking materials. Other materi-
als whose scores were above the mean included treated lum-
ber, THW, redwood and WRC.
To consider the extent to which each of the decking materi-
als incorporate the various material attributes, we can total the
individual attribute scores received by each decking material to
obtain an aggregate attribute score (bottom row of Table 6).
Based on the composite attribute score, the highest-rated deck-
ing material was WPC with an aggregate attribute score of
39.36. WPC received the highest attribute ratings for long life,
ease of maintenance and natural decay resistance. In addition,
WPC received the second-highest rating for availability and the
fourth-highest score for beauty and low cost. The second rated
decking material was treated lumber with an aggregate attrib-
utescore of 37.63. Treated lumber received the highest attribute
score for availability, high strength and low cost. In addition, it
received the third-highest score in long life and natural decay
resistance and the fourth-highest score for ease of maintenance.
The decking material with the third-highest aggregate attribute
score (36.11) was THW which received the second-highest
scores in long life, beauty and high strength, the third-highest
score in ease of maintenance and the fourth-highest score in
natural decay resistance.
This research indicates that home builders play a relatively
lessimportant role in the US decking market relative to pro-
fessional deck builders. Almost half of the decks built on new
homes are subcontracted out to deck builders. However, only
aquarter of the revenue earned by deck builders is derived
from decks built on new homes, whereas their remaining rev-
enues are derived from new decks built on existing homes as
well as from repair and remodelling of decks on existing homes.
Among all the decking materials used, WPC seems to be
favoured by both deck builders and home builders. About
80% of the surveyed deck builders and 40% of the surveyed
home builders reported that they have increased their usage
ofWPC. The results also reveal that both deck builders and
home builders have reported an increase in the usage of plas-
tic lumber. However, while deck builders reported a net
increase in the usage of THW lumber, few home builders
reported having any experience in using THW. Treated lum-
ber,which is clearly the current leader in the decking market,
seems to have been able to maintain its market share. The
domestic naturally durable species, AYC, WRC and RW, reg-
istered a net decrease in usage both by deck builders and
Significant differences exist in the usage of the various
decking materials between homebuilders and deck builders.
Home builders tend to favour using a limited number of
decking materials, with treated lumber and WPC being their
decking materials of choice. In contrast, deck builders are
more diversified in their choice of decking materials. How-
ever, the overall trend among deck builders and home
builders appears to be reducing their use of naturally durable
species (i.e., WRC, AYC and redwood) in favour of WPC and
plastic lumber. The survey data on material usage in specific
decking end-use applications found that both home builders
and deck builders primarily use treated lumber for building
decking substructures. Treated lumber represents about 40%
of the deck surface market with WPC having a 28% market
share and WRC and redwood each having a 13% market
share. Treated lumber also has the dominant market share in
deck accessories with a 38% market share followed by WRC,
redwood and WPC, each with a market share ranging
between 14% and 17%.
While identifying the importance of various materials
attributes in specifying the decking materials, some similari-
ties were observed between the responses of deck builders
and homebuilders. Longevity, beauty, consistent material
quality and availability of decking materials were rated as
being the most important product attributes by both deck
builders and homebuilders. The major dissimilarity between
homebuilders and deck builders was the importance of low
price. Low price was found to be of least importance to deck
builders, whereas homebuilders rated low material price to be
of much higher importance.
Finally, the study provides clear indication that innovative
and engineered decking materials (such as WPC and plastic
lumber) are steadily gaining acceptance with home builders
and deck builders and that they are gaining market share pri-
marily at the expense of WRC and redwood lumber. While
these naturally durable species still retain a niche market, par-
ticularly in the decking surface and accessory segments of the
market, it is clear that the manufacturers of these products
must do a better job of communicating their competitive
advantage in terms of natural decay resistance, longevity and
availability within regional markets. This will be particularly
important as the baby boomers continue to emphasize low-
maintenance products that combine long life and beauty for
their decking and outdoor lifestyle projects.
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... The sustainability of composite materials in varying environmental and biological conditions is one of the main reasons for their growth in global markets [11,27]. The production and market demand for WPCs in Europe increased from 150,000 tons in 2010 to 350,000 tons in 2018 and the annual growth in their market penetration is likely to have expanded by nearly 11% each year since then [1,14,27]. WPCs can be produced from injection molding, extrusion or in a compression molding machine [10,28]. Many thermoplastic and WPC products are produced from either injection molding or compression molding processes [5,26,29]. ...
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... Before the beginning of each experiment, a predetermined amount of oven-dried cylindrical dowels was measured and placed into a wire mesh basket, the material substrate (Kaowool PM or WRC) was mounted within the test section, and the air flow velocity in the tunnel was verified. The cylindrical dowel pile was exposed to a propane burner flame (at a flowrate of 1.83 SLPM) [14] and at the same time the gas analyser data logging system was initiated. After 40 s, the propane flow was terminated and the dowels were left to transition to glowing firebrands (the absence of a flame on the pile). ...
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Composites of rubberwood flour (RWF) and recycled polypropylene (rPP) were produced into panel samples by using a twin-screw extruder. The effects on creep behavior of mixture fractions of rPP, RWF, maleic anhydride-grafted polypropylene (MAPP), and ultraviolet (UV) stabilizer were studied in a D-optimal mixture design. Creep was significantly affected by the composition. Increasing the fraction of RWF decreased creep, while MAPP and UV stabilizer increased it. The models fitted were used to optimize a desirability score that balanced multiple creep characteristics. The model-based optimal formulation 50.5 wt% rPP, 44.9 wt% RWF, 3.5 wt% MAPP, 0.1 wt% UV stabilizer, and 1.0 wt% lubricant was experimentally validated to have low creep closely matching the model predictions.
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Architects, builders, and homeowners in 12 northeastern U.S. states were surveyed to learn how siding products were selected in new residential construction projects. This study revealed that several issues control the selection and purchase of specific materials and products. Responses in this study defined existing market shares of wood and non-wood products in the Northeast region. The rel- ative importance of performance, cost, appearance, and other factors in the product selection process were discussed. Logistic regres- sion analysis tested the significance and correlation of the demographic data with the decision-making variables. A very small number of homeowners indicated they chose the siding for their home. However, architects and contractors indicated that homeowner opinion is important when selecting siding. Appearance and performance were more important influences on the selection of siding compared to cost and personal recommendations. Significant attributes indicated that siding is expected to fit the style of house and hold up over time. Respondents were less concerned with the environmental record and service life of the preferred siding; they were, however, concerned that siding may be easily damaged. Among cost factors, installation cost and having a good warranty ranked highest. Other important factors were product reputation and the respondentsífirst-hand knowledge of the product. Architects, contractors, and mar- keting managers for siding producers can use these results to: 1) focus on important siding product attributes that match their target customer perceptions; and 2) identify siding product concerns, features, and benefits for more effective promotion to customers and the ultimate homeowner.
Material substitution in the residential construction industry is driven by a variety of factors including product availability, product performance, price, price stability, and in-place costs. As competition between softwood lumber and substitute products increases, managers need to understand end-users' changing perceptions of softwood lumber and the competitive position of softwood lumber vis a vis substitute products. This exploratory study was developed to assess the competitive relationship between softwood lumber and substitute products in structural end-use applications in the U.S. residential construction industry. In particular, the study was designed to identify those product attributes that are perceived by residential contractors to be important in influencing the substitution process. Over 90 percent of the respondents indicated that they had used at least one substitute product for softwood lumber in a structural end-use application. Despite this, respondents indicated that their use of structural softwood lumber is changing only moderately. The analysis of the data indicates that product strength and straightness were rated the most important factors, while price and price stability were also rated highly. A principal components factor analysis of the 12 product attributes identified 3 underlying factors that influence the material substitution process: the physical characteristics of the product, the technical characteristics of the product, and economic/supply characteristics of the product. Interested persons may contact the authors for a copy of the survey questionnaire.
Current estimates indicate that over 6.5 million decks are constructed on U.S. residential structures on an annual basis at a cost of $1.9 to $3 billion. Over the past decade, the residential deck material market experienced robust expansion, growing at an annualized rate of 8.1 percent between 1991 and 1999. Despite its large size and healthy growth, very little empirical research has been conducted exploring the residential deck material market in the United States. The objective of this study was to characterize the use of seven different deck materials within the U.S. residential construction industry utilizing a mail survey of residential construction firms. A separate survey of the largest 100 residential construction firms in the United States was also conducted to determine if their deck material use differed substantially from smaller firms. Survey results indicated that nearly 60 percent of new spec homes and 68 percent of new custom homes were built with decks between November 1996 and October 1998. Custom home decks were found to be 64 percent larger than spec home decks, although the difference in cost per square foot between custom and spec decks was found to be insignificant. Slightly over 47.4 percent of the new home decks were constructed with pressure-treated lumber, followed by western red cedar, concrete, and redwood, representing 18.5, 14.1, and 11.1 percent of the market, respectively. Several differences were detected in deck material usage based on firm size and firms' region of operation. Eleven deck material attributes were also assessed in the survey and the attributes of long life, beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, and durability were rated as the most important by survey participants when making their deck material purchase decision. Collectively, this research provides benchmark information that can be used to develop more efficient and effective marketing management strategies for residential deck material manufacturers.
Wood/plastic composites tend to be more resistant to moisture uptake and are promoted as being immune to moisture. Laboratory studies, however, have shown that small samples experience substantial losses in bending strength after wetting and drying. The potential for this same effect to occur in larger samples was investigated by subjecting a commercial wood/plastic composite to repeating moisture and freeze/thaw cycling. The materials were then tested to failure in third-point loading. Moisture sorption was generally low in all samples, but tended to increase with the number of wet/dry cycles. None of the cycles, however, were associated with significant reduction in either modulus of elasticity or modulus of rupture. The lack of effect probably reflects the limited ability of moisture to penetrate for substantial distances into the wood to disrupt the wood/plastic interface and thereby reduce properties.
The role of the forest products marketer is to examine consumers' needs and then develop products, distribution methods, and promotion strategies to meet those needs.
Shear and extensional flow properties of the melts of high-density polyethylene (HDPE)-maple composites were studied with capillary rheometry to understand the effects of the wood content, particle size, and maleated polyethylene (MAPE). The viscosity data were compared with the values for neat matrix resin for reference. The effects of commercial wood particle size grades were examined at 60% by weight of wood loading. It was found that both shear and extensional viscosities increase with wood content but the filler content dependence is not as significant as for suspensions of inorganic fillers at similar filler loadings. Commercial wood particle size grades were found to result in less change in viscosity than wood content. The Mooney analyses conducted on the lower branch of the capillary shear flow data revealed a significant contribution of wall slip and confirmed the presence of a yield stress at higher filler contents. The internal lubrication role of MAPE was also illustrated in detail through the changes in both shear and extensional flow. POLYM. ENG. SCI., 45:549–559, 2005. © 2005 Society of Plastics Engineers
Plastic lumber is being used to replace wooden lumber in some construction applications, especially in outdoor applications where the plastic lumber is presumed to weather better than the wood. However, the structural properties of the plastic lumber are not well understood, and the use of plastic lumber in structural applications is not authorized in the common building codes. In this research effort, standard 2×6 plastic lumber planks were tested for many different structural properties. The plastic lumber tested was a blend of recycled plastic and sawdust. The tests were conducted at −23.3°C to simulate winter conditions, and at 40.6°C to simulate summer conditions. In all cases the high temperature strength and stiffness was lower than at low temperature, so the high temperature values would determine the allowable strength and stiffness for design. The high temperature modulus of the plastic lumber was 5.79, 1.03, and 1.12 GPa in compression, flexure and tension respectively. High temperature strength values were 16.8, 12.0, and 1.45 MPa in compression, flexure and tension respectively. The high temperature shear strength of the plastic lumber was 5.31 MPa. Strength tests were also performed for nail and screw connections typically used with lumber, and the pull-out and lateral load were comparable to wooden lumber. The plastic lumber performed well under sustained load tests at high temperature. Slip resistance tests were performed, and it was found that the plastic lumber is more slippery than wooden lumber, but probably does not represent a safety hazard. The conclusion was that the plastic lumber is a good structural material, but it is not appropriate to simply substitute plastic lumber for wooden lumber pieces of the same dimension in structural applications. Plastic lumber structures must be designed using the structural properties of the plastic lumber.