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 just published by Cleveland-based market researcher The Freedonia Group. Quickening demand based on “an expected advance in housing completions” and a less-restrictive credit environment will propel the market to sales of 3.3 billion linear feet of decking — valued at $5.7 billion — in 2016.

The surprise in Freedonia’s study may be not so much that deck materials are set to grow but rather the rate of growth for different 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% annually to 420 million linear feet in 2016, making up much of the ground lost in the housing slump and recession.

• Demand for 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. But wood’s share of the market for decking materials will drop to 83% by 2016, with, at that time, composites accounting for 13% and plastic for 4% of demand.

Composites and plastic decking will be generating most of the growth within the decking category between now and 2016. Demand for plastic decking will lead 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.

The Freedonia study examines the entire deck category, both commercial and residential, noting that “the residential market accounted for 61% of decking demand in 2011,” a historic low brought about by the “depressed level of housing completions.” As demand picks up, “residential decking demand is forecast to rise at the fastest pace of all markets.”