Royal Building Product Decks

After the housing bubble burst in 2007, many people had no choice but to remain in their homes amid the financial fallout and plummeting real estate values. Rising house prices and historically low inventory 10 years later have only encouraged homeowners to leverage their growing equity and embark on remodeling projects that improve quality of life as well as the ability to entertain.

The expansion of outdoor living space presents a cost-effective avenue because jobs typically do not call for much new structure (as opposed to an addition, for example). But homeowners today demand more than just a rectangular patio or wood deck attached to the back of the house—they want to take the style and décor from inside their homes and bring those design elements outside.

In response decking manufacturers have offered additional colors and options for their composite products, which continue to gain market share because they require less maintenance than natural wood. Although homeowners appreciate the durability of composite decking, they also desire the “real wood” look flooring can achieve indoors as building materials and technology evolve.

real wood look flooring

Fiberon

Priority shift

When composite decking first hit the market in the 1990s, homeowners adopted the boards based primarily on their resilience and longevity. Design components such as color, pattern and texture have become increasingly important as consumers enjoy fewer opportunities to vacation in the wake of the Great Recession and must find alternative ways to “get away” without leaving their house.

“As composites have developed, demands have changed,” says Paul Recko, director of products and programs for Fiberon, which introduced the first multitonal and embossed decking boards to emulate hardwood flooring. “People are no longer just concerned with functionality—aesthetics now play a huge part in the remodeling process.”

Last year Fiberon launched Symmetry Decking, a board formulated with lower gloss and micro-texturing that produces a matte finish. Fluid wood grain patterns and subtle multitonal streaking add further depth and dimension to the product line, and an earthy color palette takes inspiration from natural elements and pigments to generate an appearance reminiscent of exotic hardwoods.

Palram Mirrite Outdoor Flooring

Palram Mirrite Outdoor Flooring

Some composite decking products, however, incorporate features of wood without looking like the real thing. Palram sources full-length boards from global lumber importers for its Mirrite Outdoor Flooring and duplicates a specific wood grain image onto each composite board to help capture the understated variations and “flaws” that give natural wood decking its distinct quality.

“Consumers should be able to select [the] species of wood they prefer, [such as] ipe or walnut or teak,” says Mike Morris, business unit manager of the building products division for Palram. “Mirrite offers [homeowners] the ability to choose their ultra-low maintenance decking product by species of wood.”

TAMKO: deep wood grain impression

TAMKO

While most decking manufacturers extrude their boards, TAMKO molds its composite products to create a deep wood grain impression. The company revealed Inspiration, the third offering in its Envision Collection, to the public in January; the boards have softer highlights than the bold look of Distinction but a two-tone shade that sets them apart from the solid colors in Expression.

“Over the last five or 10 years, people just have [gotten] a lot more opportunities to really build something different and unique,” says Brian Lowry, the senior director of decking for TAMKO. “Customization starts with the homeowner [or] consumer and what they want, as far as what fits with their theme, motif or house color—whatever’s driving that decision. But it’s their decision.”

Color switch

As more homeowners seek composite boards that mirror wood species, the decking industry has advanced to fabricate products with better color variegation. Now, when consumers want a board that makes use of multiple hues to resemble natural wood, they can choose from superior options and select the appropriate shade with dark streaking to mimic species such as ipe, walnut or teak.

“At one time, if you tried to do a board like that, it would be a brown board and [it would] look like somebody took a black marker and put black streaks in it,” explains Brent Gwatney, senior vice president of sales and marketing for MoistureShield, which enhanced its product lineup last year with the introduction of two new, innovative composite decking collections: Refine and Infuse.

MoistureShield: decking

MoistureShield

Refine supplements the company’s moisture-resistant core with an additional layer of protection to hide wear and tear and guard against fading as well as staining. Infuse boards absorb up to 35 percent less heat than conventional capped composites in similar colors because of CoolDeck, a proprietary technology from MoistureShield that optimizes heat reflection and increases comfort.

The company also will roll out Visions, a composite decking board coated with liquid plastic to permit design flexibility. “We’re going to start with a wood look, but we [should] be able to hit more of a marble look or slate,” Gwatney says. “If somebody has that type of indoor [flooring] and they want to match their outdoor [space], we think we can achieve it with this new product.”

The AZEK Deck Vintage Collection employs a wire-brushed look to imitate tropical hardwoods and comes in Mahogany, Cypress and Dark Hickory colors. The TimberTech Legacy line rivals hand-scraped wood flooring with unique variations and an authentic texture, available in colors including Ashwood, Mocha, Pecan and Tigerwood, which can be mixed and matched for effect.

William Short Photography: Deck Vintage Collection

AZEK Building Products (Photo: William Short Photography)

“People are opting for complementary colors. They’re choosing one primary color for the deck, and then they’re bordering the deck in a complementary color,” says Julia Fitzgerald, chief marketing officer for AZEK Building Products, which also owns TimberTech. “It has the effect of an area rug when you look out at your deck. So many of the shipments going out now have two tones of colors.”

Lighter hues such as Island Mist (gray) and Havana Gold (brown) have become more popular at Trex as homeowners experiment. “They don’t stick with a monochromatic color; they’ll put two or three colors on one deck and focus on the design,” says Adam Zambanini, vice president of marketing. “While colors are very important, design is just as—or more—important than color.”

Design transfer

Trex deck

Trex

Although homeowners have many different color options, the design of their decking allows for the most personalization. Some people decide to combine various levels of decking to create the feel of separate spaces outdoors, and accessories like the recently released Trex Signature railing collection give homeowners further recourse when fashioning their ideal outdoor living environs.

“Consumers are taking more ownership into that space and want to make it feel more like a part of their home, so they’re very focused on every aspect of the design,” Zambanini says. “People are curving their decks, and they’re adding lighting. It’s like deck envy—where you can see how your deck looks, your neighbor looks at your deck and they’re jealous of what you’ve created.”

Clubhouse Decking not only provides bendability to meet the growing demand for curved decks, but the boards also test 22 percent better than other decking brands for stiffness amid complaints about composite products giving too much as people walk on them, says Jack Delaney, Northeast regional business manager for Clubhouse Decking and Kleer—both brands of The Tapco Group.

“Because today’s synthetic [and] composite decks are engineered to last such a long time, people want to make sure they will enjoy their decisions over a long period,” Delaney says. “[Our] dual color deck boards allow contractors to be very creative [without] having to worry about ordering exactly the right quantities of each color required for feature strips and picture frame [designs].”

Royal Building Products manufactures its Zuri Premium Decking in just five colors—Chestnut, Walnut, Pecan, Brazilia and Weathered Gray—to simplify the buying process for homeowners. “You give them five colors … it really narrows down [choices] and they can move through that quickly,” says Steve Booz, vice president of new product development and product management.

Tapco Group deck

The Tapco Group Clubhouse Decking

“You give them 15 colors, and it can really stall the sales process. We’ve done a lot of research upfront and decided to offer only five,” he adds. “It allows our remodeling contractors to close those sales and move on quickly [and] keeps it simple in the channel, which helps the service to the remodeling contractor, which helps the remodeling contractor service [his or her] customer.”

Wolf Home Products last year established a new capped composite collection, Terrace, that also presents homeowners with just five colors—Almond, Mocha, Cashmere, Cinnamon and Pumice.

“Our customers [dealers and their contractors] told us that narrowing our focus to popular colors, styles and price points allows them to narrow their own focus and improve their ability to market and sell products,” says Dom Pileggi, vice president of product and market development for Wolf.

Ambient change

Outdoor living has become a major remodeling category, and decks continue to be one of the top home improvement projects. People wish to construct a getaway outdoors where they can escape and relax, which will keep bringing elements from inside the house—fireplaces, kitchens, dining areas and flooring, of course—outside as homeowners make their newfound living spaces useful.

Deckorators decks

Deckorators

“Smart homeowners are adding a flash of color from potted plants, umbrellas, pillows [and] outdoor rugs, and that way they can create a deck that’s modern yet can be updated easily as trends come and go,” says Chris Camfferman, category marketing director for Deckorators.

This year the brand introduced Deckorators Dexerdry, a weatherproofing system that enables builders to create dry zones underneath raised decks and eliminate water issues from ground-level decks. “Better utilization of space is a trend we’re seeing with decks and outdoor living, so our product is a weather-proofing strip that goes between deck boards,” Camfferman says. “It’s an excellent option for homeowners who want to add storage or living space beneath their deck.” | QR

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