Demand for deck materials, stalled for five years by the housing slump, will grow at 2.4% annually between now and 2016, according to “Wood & Competitive Decking,” a study available from Cleveland-based marketer The Freedonia Group. Quickening demand based on “an expected advance in housing completions” and a less restrictive credit environment will move the deck market to sales of 3.3 billion linear feet of product — valued at $5.7 billion — in 2016. So severe was the drop in demand between 2006 and 2011 that the growth predicted in the study will essentially restore demand for deck products to approximately what it was in 2006.

The surprise in Freedonia’s study may be not so much that sales of deck materials are set to grow but rather the rates of growth of different types of materials within the category. The study sees:

Composite decking, sales of which plunged from 450 million to 250 million linear feet between 2006 and 2011, growing at more than 11% to 420 million linear feet in 2016, making up much of the ground lost in the housing slump and recession.

Wood products — pine, cedar, redwood, and tropical hardwoods — continuing to be the biggest portion of the deck market, accounting for 89% of demand in 2011, compared with 8% for composites, and 2% for plastic decking (vinyl and PVC). But wood’s share will drop to 83% by 2016, with, at that time, composites accounting for 13% and plastic doubling in share to 4% of demand.

Composites and plastic decking generating most of the growth within the decking category between now and 2016, with demand for plastic decking leading growth at 15% annually. Annual demand for wood will grow at less than 1%, outstripped by demand for other deck materials.

The “Wood & Competitive Decking” study attributes the popularity of composite and plastic to “durability and low maintenance requirements.” Also driving the popularity of these materials is the ability of PVC to ever more accurately mimic natural wood finishes and composite decking’s reputation as a green product incorporating recycled materials such as wood scraps. —Jim Cory, editor, REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR.