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This study examines the US market for two types of materials serving as alternatives to wood in construction: composites of cellulose fiber and plastic – referred to in the study as “wood-plastic composite (WPC) lumber” – and plastic resins – referred to as “plastic lumber”. Both materials are manufactured using techniques – primarily extrusion but also injection moulding – common to the plastics industry.
Scope and Summary
Historical data are provided for 2009, 2014, and 2019 with forecasts for 2024 and 2029. Data are provided in dollar value, linear feet, and pounds, and are segmented by material (cellulose, PVC, polyethylene, polyurethane, and other resins), region (Northeast, Midwest, South, West), market (new and improvement and repair residential, commercial, and nonbuilding construction, and agriculture), and application. Applications encompass:
moulding and trim
landscaping and outdoor products
windows and doors
other applications such as railroad ties; seawalls, pilings, and other marine uses; hot tubs and spa cabinets; backings for luxury vinyl tile (LVT) flooring; and miscellaneous uses such as roofing and structural lumber
This study does not address applications for plastic lumber in which plastics (primarily vinyl) are not in competition with wood or in which they have already attained substantial market share. Applications falling under these categories include plastic siding, extruded plastic windows and doors, plastic playground equipment not competing with traditional lumber, vinyl patio furniture, and vinyl flooring. Cellulose-resin products, such as plywood, strawboard, and oriented strand board, are also excluded from demand considerations for WPC lumber.
Demand for WPC and plastic lumber is also segmented by the following US geographic regions:
US demand for wood-plastic composite (WPC) and plastic lumber is forecast to rise 3.7% per year to $4.9 billion in 2024. Despite the economic weakness caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a subsequent longer term slowdown in construction activity, demand is expected be sustained in 2020 and will see healthy advances through the forecast.
Gains will be driven by rising interest in the performance advantages of WPC and plastic lumber products, as they are more durable and require less maintenance than natural wood. Additionally, product enhancements have improved the ability of WPC and plastic lumber products to resemble natural wood, which supports their use as a natural wood substitute in applications where that aesthetic is desired.
Fencing to See Fastest Growth Through 2024, While Decking to Remain Top Application
Fencing, the third leading application for WPC and plastic lumber, is expected to register the fastest growth through 2024 as installers increasingly choose plastic over wood lumber for its durability, product warranties, and minimal maintenance requirements.
Nevertheless, decking will remain the leading application for WPC and plastic lumber products through 2024. Gains will be supported by the increasing penetration of higher value plastic, though WPC will continue to account for the larger share of demand. Decking demand has held up well in 2020 as homeowners have directed their disposable income toward building or expanding outdoor living spaces.
Plastic Lumber Demand to Outpace WPC Based on Performance & Improving Aesthetics
Plastic lumber sales are forecast to outpace those of WPC lumber based on the superior performance of plastic lumber compared to WPC – including greater durability and resistance to moisture – and advances in cellular PVC technology that have improved the ability of plastic lumber to resemble natural wood, a key factor in the leading residential market. Through 2024, plastic lumber sales are expected to be bolstered by the product’s:
leading market position in moulding and trim, where plastic lumber is preferred because it is easy to install
dominant share of fencing demand
growing penetration of the important decking market
Sustainability Trends Continue to Support Use of Recycled Content
An important factor affecting demand for WPC and to a lesser extent plastic lumber is their use of recycled materials. Building products based on recycled content can help structures earn LEED credits and, in some cases, fulfill government mandates requiring use of green building materials. As a result, suppliers emphasize use of recycled materials, and some are investing in the establishment of their own recycling capacity to ensure consistent supply. For example, in February 2020, AZEK Company acquired Return Polymers, a leader in PVC recycling and compounding technology.