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In Depth: Decks

Outdoor living drives design

In addition to its traditional line of deck boards, YellaWood has introduced high-end products that include kiln dried after treatment, YellaWood SuperSelect® and MasterDeck™ all of which according to the manufacturer ensure long-lasting quality.

If decks were once seen as mere wood replacements for concrete patios, those days are long gone. Rather than being a simple, flat plane for gathering or lounging, decks are more and more becoming true outdoor living spaces, utilizing multiple levels and integrated ancillary structures to define space and function. For example, the 2017 U.S. Houzz Landscape Trends Study highlights the popularity of such ancillary structures. In the study, 20% of homeowners report working on a deck project, while 26% of homeowners report they have completed, are currently working on, or are planning a shade structure such as an arbor, gazebo, pergola, or trellis project.

“We expect to see the number of deck projects grow this year,” says James Riley, Chief Marketing Officer for YellaWood, “but we also expect to see outdoor living expand as more and more Millennials buy homes. With this new segment of homebuyers comes a whole new set of expectations for homes. Millennials are making the most of their homes by expanding their livable space. And one of the ways to do that is by creating outdoor living. So, whether that’s adding a deck, or building a pergola, or creating a playground oasis with swing sets and sandboxes for their kids, homeowners are creating new ways to get back outside while staying within the comforts of their own home.”

Hewitt, at Humboldt Redwood, sees this redefinition of the deck as good for business. “We see deck projects that are more functional and refined regardless of size,” she says. “With real estate values at record highs in many areas of the country, and little available inventory for those looking to buy or move up, the next best thing is remodeling. With so many design and inspiration resources available, home- and business owners are largely only limited by their budget and available space.”

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“An overarching trend for both densely populated and open regions is dividing decks into functional areas,” says MoistureShield’s Gwatney. “People want their outdoor living experience to emulate the quality design of their home’s interior, so they like decks with defined spaces for cooking, eating, socializing and relaxing. Popular options for defining these areas include multi-level decks, sunken portions for sitting, dividing spaces with trellises or built-in seating, and varying the color or alignment of deck boards between areas.”

DuraLife’s Descoteaux concurs with Gwatney in that consumers are looking for decks that create more defined functional areas. “Homeowners extending their living space to the outdoors has been an ongoing trend for a number of years,” he explains. “As they do that, some consumers are creating more elaborate, high-end decks. For high-end deck projects, we see more elaborate kitchen installations, fire pits, hot tubs and more multi-level decks as consumers remodel their outdoor spaces.”

Color and patterns add personalization

Shade structures continue to be one of the most popular trends in outdoor living. This redwood pergola was added to the tasting room at Jeriko Estate Resort & Winery in Hopland, California to enhance visitor enjoyment of the property. Photo provided by Humboldt Redwood

To create the definition of space that homeowners now crave, builders are turning to creative use of color to better define that space, framing areas to section off deck sections based on how they are to be used, visually creating one section for, say, cooking, one for lounging, and another for dining. “Accent colors around the edge of a deck is not new,” says AZEK’s Barnds, “but we are seeing homeowners get very creative by alternating distinctly different colors board to board. Patterns are also becoming more popular as people seek to define different spaces within a larger deck.”

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Deckorators’ Camfferman concurs. “The number of colors available for composite decking continues to rise,” he adds, “and new options are being used to create beautiful two-tone designs. Picture-framing and breaker boards with complementary colors—for instance, dark and lighter browns—add style and dimension to deck designs.”

Color itself is being used to express individuality and create a sense of personalization. “Colors and stains continue to be a way of expressing yourself outdoors,” says Lonza’s Rumbaugh. “As design and decorating trends change, new paint or stain colors are an easy and inexpensive way to update your wood deck to match the latest trend.”

Similar to last year’s color trends, grays and rich browns dominate the color palette, with an emphasis on the gray palette dominating on the East Coast and the browns (especially tropical hues) holding sway on the West Coast. “As they’ve been for several years, earth tones and browns continue to be popular for decking,” explains MoistureShield’s Gwatney. “Such colors tend to match what people have on other parts of their home’s exterior, and tie in well with landscaping. At the same time, we’re seeing growing demand for composites that emulate exotic hardwoods, by using more sophisticated embossing and color variegation.”

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Deckorators Ciderhouse
Deckorators recently introduced Ciderhouse, a new color addition to its Heritage family of decking. Ciderhouse joins Riverhouse (dark brown) and Smokehouse (gray), all of which are designed to deliver a natural appearance and texture with the ultra-low maintenance performance of wood-plastic composite.

Camfferman adds, “Muted browns and grays will remain reliable colors for composite deck surfaces, but homeowners are interested in more color, tone and texture variations to fit their personal taste. Fortunately, they have more options than ever before.” David Elenbaum, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Green Bay Decking, agrees. “All colors seem to be hitting on all cylinders,” he says, “but darker colors in some markets are increasing more than lighter colors.”

Color, however, is not enough. In the case of manufactured decking, homeowners want textures and color variations that more closely mimic those of natural wood. “Deck boards that resemble distressed hardwood flooring continue to be on-trend as homeowners take an interior design approach to the exterior of their home,” explains Deckorators’ Camfferman. “Heavy streaking or variegation is also very prevalent. Composite deck boards with this look provide the color variation found in natural wood—such as tropical hardwoods— with the low-maintenance benefits of wood-alternative material.”

DuraLife’s Descoteaux echoes Camfferman’s insights. “More and more consumers want decking that has the appearance of wood,” he says. “As individuals seek to remodel their outdoor spaces to more closely resemble their interior living space, we anticipate this trend in decking color to continue.”

Still, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, especially if it makes the purchasing decision too confusing. “We try to keep our selection process simple,” says Steve Booz, Vice President of New Product Development and Product Management for Royal Building products. “Zuri Premium Decking is available in five colors and two spacing choices. Our dealers know that if you give homeowners too many choices, particularly color choices, the odds of closing that deal diminish significantly. Fewer choices means fewer decisions to make, which means more jobs are booked faster.”

Aethetics, value, and durability drive purchase decisions

AZEK Coastline
AZEK recently launched three new colors for its Vintage Collection®: Coastline™ (shown here), English Walnut™, and Weathered Teak™. The Vintage Collection is designed to offer a realistic, wood-like appearance that incorporates realistic grain textures. It is backed by a 30-year limited fade and stain and a limited lifetime warranty, and it meets criteria for a Class A on the flame spread index.

When manufactured decking first hit the market, low-maintenance was the key driving factor. And while lowmaintenance remains important in the decision-making process, visual aesthetics, overall value, and product durability are emerging as the key factors in product choice, especially to homeowners. “Visuals is all about the style and design options and how those can help a contractor, builder, designer or homeowner to bring his or her ideas to life or realize their vision for what they want their outdoor living space to look like once the project is complete,” explains AZEK’s Barnds. “Value is about showing the customer a true ‘cost of ownership’ comparison between products. And, finally, performance is about durability, low-maintenance and longevity. It’s about the deck looking as good in 10, 20 or 30 years as it did when it was new.”

“Homeowners want to be happy with the way their deck looks,” says Deckorators’ Camfferman, and he echoes Barnds’ comments. “Decks are something the average person does once or twice in his or her lifetime, so they want to select something that works well for their home and lifestyle. Customers also want to ensure the decking they choose has a strong track record of performance. And they’re looking for the best value, which includes appearance, performance and price. End users are making a major purchase, so they want something that is going to last and give them years of enjoyment.”

This past year, Lonza introduced new selling tools and educational pieces to assist retailers and contractors with selecting the right treated wood material for their outdoor project as well as maintenance tips for the homeowner.

All of this is not to say that low-maintenance has diminished in consumer importance; in fact, the opposite is true, as low-maintenance plays into perceived overall value. As AZEK’s Barnds explains, “In the end, when it comes to selecting between decking material categories, more and more consumers are expressing a real preference for lowmaintenance options. While we see no real reduction in homeowners’ desire to tackle home improvement projects overall, they seem to draw a clear line between doing something new to the house vs. having to maintain or re-do something over and over.”

When it comes to wood decking, aesthetics, value, and durability are just as important factors as they are to the manufactured category. “Consumers and contractors are looking for a product that is aesthetically pleasing, long-lasting and affordable,” says Lonza’s Rumbaugh. “Recent research commissioned by Lonza shows that consumers purchase treated wood over alternative materials because of its durability, lower price and because it has been pressure treated to withstand the elements.”

YellaWood’s Riley agrees that the price point of natural wood continues to make it an attractive option for homeowners. “Consumers are looking for a variety of options,” he says. “And while many [homeowners] like the idea of a composite deck, the price point for that type of material can be out of the budget. So instead, a pressure treated pine deck creates a durable and budgetfriendly option (plus it has the natural beauty of wood).”

One other factor that some manufacturers cite as an influencer on the purchase decision is that of product origin and environmental sustainability. As Humboldt Redwood’s Jessica Hewitt explains, “Redwood is a very unique product, and the fact that it is 100% American made from raw material to finished lumber is something we see as very important to customers. It’s natural wood from forestlands found right here in the U.S., supporting thousands of workers earning family wages and benefits. It features a low carbon footprint and most redwood lumber and timbers is Forest Stewardship Council certified.”

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