From genteel porches in the East to sleek, seaside balconies in the West, the popularity of outdoor living spaces is poised for significant growth from coast to coast with industry analysts predicting it will be a $5.7 billion market by 2016. Reinforcing these projections, 63 percent of architects cite an outdoor living space as the most popular “special function room” in housing construction, according to the American Institute of Architects. What’s more, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association reports that homebuilders list decks among the top three features most requested with new home buys.
“Decks and porches are now considered true extensions of a home’s living space,” says Adam Zambanini, vice president of marketing for Trex Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of high-performance wood-alternative decking and railing. “People are showing increased interest in maximizing the function, comfort and personalization of their outdoor spaces and are realizing that it’s far more economical to expand their living space outside than to enlarge or renovate their home’s interior.”
As planning and preparation for the 2014 outdoor living season begins, the experts at Trex offer a glimpse into the national trends that will be emerging outside homes across America in 2014.
The biggest trend in decks right now is the increase in square footage. Gone are the days of the 20-by-10-foot rectangle with just enough room for a grill and some patio furniture. Today’s decks are expanding both horizontally and vertically. Demand for decks with multiple tiers is increasing, as are requests to finish the space below an elevated deck.
Thinking outside the box
When it comes to deck designs, today’s homeowners also are thinking way outside the box and customizing nearly every aspect of their outdoor living spaces. Remodelers and architects report increased interest in pergolas and walls to define different functional areas and create privacy, as well as integrated features like built-in benches, planter boxes and storage. Similarly, consumer interest in accessories such as deck lighting, ornamental post caps and decorative balusters also is on the rise.
“We are seeing a lot more mixing of materials,” reports Zambanini. “Contractors and consumers alike are creating highly customized deck designs combining two or more decking shades and also mixing materials such as composite railings in white with contrasting black aluminum balusters. Our product offering allows for more than 1,200 different design combinations so there truly is something for every taste and lifestyle.”
High-performance, low maintenance
In addition to design aesthetics, homeowners across the country are increasingly concerned with performance. Specifically, they want materials that allow them to spend more time enjoying their outdoor living space rather than maintaining it. This motivation has contributed to the continued innovation and popularity of composite decking and railing. Unlike wood or even traditional composites, high-performance wood alternatives like Trex Transcend resist fading, staining, scratching and mold - and won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter. Upkeep is hassle-free and requires no sanding, staining or painting. Food and drink spills wash off easily with just soap and water.
Composite decking also responds to another growing trend among U.S. homeowners - interest in sustainable, eco-friendly building materials.
“High-performance decking provides the look and feel of real wood, but without the environmental impact, making it an ideal choice for today’s eco-conscious consumers,” notes Zambanini.
The entire high-performance Trex decking portfolio is manufactured from more than 95 percent recycled content, including reclaimed wood and sawdust, as well as plastic from many common household items. The company salvages and keeps more than 400 million pounds of plastic and wood scrap out of landfills each year.