Demand nationwide for cast polymer surfaces will rise 5.4% per year through 2014 to reach 216 million square feet, the Freedonia Group, a market research firm, forecast today. The Cleveland-based company predicted demand for engineered stone will rise 11% annually to 53 million square feet, gel-coated composites will see 3.8% annual growth to 68 million square feet, and solid surface materials will grow the least--just 3.3% annually--but remain the biggest subcategory, with demand in 2014 reaching 95 million square feet.

The 5.4% annual increase follows a period from 2004 through 2009 in which demand for all types of cast polymers declined 0.8% annual to reach 166.1 million square feet last year. Demand for engineered stone rose 9.6% per year in that period to total 53 million square feet in 2009, but that increase was more than matched by declines for the other two categories; gel-coated composites were down 1.7% annually to 53.8 million square feet, while demand for solid surface cast polymers shrank 3.1% per year to hit 80.9 million square feet in 2009.

The International Cast Polymer Alliance defines cast polymer as the umbrella term used to encompass cultured marble, cultured granite, cultured onyx, and solid surface products. It's used primarily in kitchens and baths--particularly for countertops, which Freedonia says accounts for 85% of all cast polymer demand. But it also can be used to make fireplace surrounds, window sills, wall panels, floor tiles, and molding accents. They're made from "man-made, chemically bonded, mineral-filled, polymeric materials which are molded and hardened to a solid material in a variety of shapes that meet diverse design needs," the alliance says.

"A rebound in housing completions from the depressed levels of 2009 will be an important driver of demand growth," the Freedonia Group said. "In addition, cast polymers will seize market share from more traditional decorative surfacing materials, such as laminates, especially in the residential countertop market.

"The residential improvement and repair segment will continue to account for the majority of cast polymer countertop demand," Freedonia added. "Design trends that call for larger kitchens and multiple bathrooms will also promote demand. In nonresidential countertop applications, solid surface materials will make gains in institutional settings, such as hospitals and schools, because these materials offer resistance to biological contamination."

Freedonia's complete findings takes up 317 pages and sells for $4,900.