The housing industry is poised for a solid 2014, according to Hanley Wood Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke. (Hanley Wood owns Professional Deck Builder.) An increase in new-home sales and remodeling activity, a drop in foreclosures and distress sales, rising home prices, and a trend toward bigger houses all bode well for the recovery to continue. Principia, a market research company, predicts that the decking industry will grow at an annual rate of 4% through 2015, and that demand for decking and railing products will climb to $4.1 billion.

What does this mean for deck builders? Smoke says that new construction is moving to higher price points, bigger homes, and generally higher quality materials, which reflects the older and more-upscale buyers that represent the majority of the forecasted future demand. This trend should result in more use of premium products in decking and likely more focus on outdoor living as well, according to Smoke.

Against this backdrop of economic good cheer is the range of products that were on display at the DeckExpo in Chicago last fall, and at the International Builders' Show in Las Vegas in January. The following pages contain a preview of some of the new wood-plastic composites, new types of wood decking, and the ever-expanding list of railing choices that you can expect to see in 2014.

It's Not a Deck, It's an Outdoor Room

"There's a real trend in building an outdoor room," says George Gehringer, owner and creative director of Metaphor, a research and consulting company. "It's no longer, 'I have a deck, I have a patio.' No, it's 'I have an outdoor room.'" 

And as more and more homeowners buy into decks as outdoor spaces that should be coordinated with other building materials, suppliers will undoubtedly expand their inventories and offerings. Deck builders will need to keep pace and learn about these new products to meet the expectations of their clients.

Homeowners are also increasingly interested in unifying interior and exterior colors and design themes. "The trends on the interior are moving outside," Gehringer says. "Consumers are looking at how they get these colors, these finishes, these profiles, these forms to all come together, to express their style, so that when their friends come over they say, 'Gee, I love what you've done with your home.'"

Other trends Gehringer sees include the following:

  • More cross-pollination between furniture and decking industries, and the emergence of "hybrid showrooms" that cater to consumers who want to coordinate outdoor products, including decking and railings, with the rest of their house.
  • Continued interest in decking and railing made to look like tropical hardwoods.
  • More interest in rustic-looking materials, such as decking with a hand-scraped look.
  • Purple-influenced browns, gray-influenced colors, and beige tones will be popular.

What About Green?

Keeping polyethylene bags out of landfills has always been an important part of the Trex marketing message, and there are now a variety of decking and railing products made from waste or easily renewable components. Such ingredients include not only recycled plastics, but also powdered paper sludge, dried rice hulls, reclaimed bamboo fibers, and recycled carpeting.

These are intriguing products that make use of materials that are usually thrown out, so consumers can feel good about using them. And manufacturers can point to specific advantages of some of the materials (GeoDeck says, for instance, that rice hulls are mold resistant). But unless their advantages are easy to understand, this new wave of green products may not be in high demand. Consumers seem interested in green products, but their enthusiasm often wanes as prices go up. And deck builders are generally unwilling to test products that are new to the marketplace, not wanting to stake their reputations on a product just because someone calls it "green."

Scott Gibson is a writer in East Waterboro, Maine.