Composites continue to grab a bigger share of the wood decking market, and now they are taking on a look inspired by high-end tastes: the multicolored, exotic pull of tropical hardwoods. Some manufacturers say this streaked style will become the norm.
Composite decking that combines wood and plastic "will provide the strongest growth opportunity" in decking materials through 2011, says a report by the Freedonia Group, an industry research firm. Wood decking will remain the most popular choice, and in that segment, tropical hardwoods will lead in gains, the report says. So it is no surprise that products flaunting both trends are becoming popular.
"We've seen some really good growth," says Craig Sherrett, marketing director of Fiber Composites, whose newest tropical line is fiberon Tropics. "We're adding more production capabilities to keep up with the popularity." Fiber Composites also offers tropical colors, teak, and cypress through its WeatherBest line.
Greg Nelson, who works in sales at John S. Wilson Lumber Co. in West Friendship, Md., says TimberTech's tropical colors are "taking off pretty well." Last year, TimberTech introduced two new Earthwood Plank color options, tropical teak and tropical rosewood.
"It's just completely different in the way that they have done the mixture of colors," says Nelson. "People want to get away from that plain, dull, single color." This year, TimberTech added three tropical colors to its Floorizon line of decking board, which has a six-inch plank surface.
Tropical hardwoods, such as teak, ipe, and tigerwood, have a variety of colors within each board. So instead of just having one color, tropics composites' lines sport different hues, often with streaked patterns. Many manufacturers try to make those patterns random or at least have a high level of variation. This is what the makers say give tropical-style composites a more realistic look than monochromatic counterparts.
Monarch says its Exotics line of composite decking looks more like tropical hardwoods because of a color process that makes each deck board unique. MoistureShield composite decking's Rainforest Collection of tropical colors also features no two boards that are alike, the maker says.
"It's the same as in nature," Sherrett says. "If you put wood down on a deck, the grain patterns are all over the place. As far as manmade stuff goes, people say it's going to be tough to get that randomness. That's what we've achieved with our tropical line."
However, this randomness means dealers that carry these decks should think about using larger displays. Smaller previews just don't show the variety, makers say.
"Because no two boards are alike, you can't just look at a foot," says Scott Fedor, senior decking product manager for Trex. "We encourage people to build a small deck, six-by-six feet."
Trex will release a new color and a grooved board with a hidden fastener for its tropical line, Brasilia, in April. The new color, espresso, will feature a mahogany base with dark streaking. The Brasilia line already includes two colors, a Designer Series railing line, and fascia board.
"We're putting a lot of energy around this segment because, one, it's growing, and, two, we want to keep adding innovation to our company," Fedor says.