Deck Design and Market Trends for the Southeast
October 5th, 2011 by Marc Brookshire
With increased deck requests compared to previous years, homeowners demand multifunctional outdoor living spaces in many southeastern markets. Market dynamics have changed over the past three years to include the residential building force in varying degrees across different sectors. Former residential and commercial contractors entered into deck building and remodeling in an effort to survive–making it more challenging for deck contractors. It has also suppressed profit margins in many areas, creating an ideal scenario for homeowners who take advantage of this buying opportunity.
A positive result is that established deck builders in the Southeast are offering projects with features beyond what decks have offered in the past. Also, a growing number of contractors are delivering customers high-quality alternatives. The incorporation of “creating an extension of the home” is becoming a standard for many seasoned and established deck builders, especially in the mid to high-end niche of the market. These expanded offerings help many with the previously mentioned challenges.
Trends and Styles
Deck design trends and styles vary within this geographical region and are largely dependent on specific neighborhoods and architecture. Natural wood tones mixed with alternative railing systems are common and in high demand. In general, alternative factory rail systems, such as Fiberon’s Horizon Plus and Inspirations, are on the rise, while metal rail systems and aluminum baluster options continue to be popular.
The demand for covered porches, both screened in and “open air,” is also high as this type of project provides better summer and wet weather usage–not to mention protection from insects.
Challenges in the Southeast
The more significant changes occurring in the Southeast and nationally are in product offerings. Improved railing and decking options, specifically cap stock decking products such as Fiberon’s Horizon with PermaTech, has an impact on both customer and contractor acceptance and usage. With improved performance and warranties, these products account for a higher percentage of decking usage, and impact other products such as Brazilian hardwoods and past alternative decking options. The real percentage changed involving hardwoods may take time to determine, but for Peachtree Decks and Porches LLC, it’s been a complete replacement with cap stocks.
Mixed niches still exist in which low to high-end deck builders operate. In the South, markets such as Atlanta, Charlotte and other larger cities offer contractors and manufacturers great opportunities to deliver projects using mid to high-end products. Smaller regions have “island” areas of higher niche market opportunities with a diverse demand.
Project sizes are mixed. Some contractors indicate their projects are smaller, while other contractors haven’t experienced any significant changes. Many contractors take on projects they may have previously passed on in better economic years in order to keep their job schedules booked.
For over a decade many custom deck builders have taken the standard approach when designing usable activity zones with varying extents of design. On the other hand, a high percentage of homebuilders and lower niche operators have stayed with the typical rectangular or square deck approach.
Realization of potential business opportunities, assistance in educating deck contractors in methods that help their businesses, and an awareness created through varying publications and trade shows have impacted the industry in a positive and productive manner. More and more deck contractors in today’s market understand the importance of offering higher level of service when it comes to design, professionalism, customer service and product options.
“For me personally, this new line of cap stock decking is just the type of option I’ve waited for: A durable colorfast real wood look without the maintenance that hardwoods or previous alternative products required. I believe we are in a transitional period in which customer awareness is being created. These new options allow decks to look like a true extension of the home with minimal maintenance efforts. It’s reasonable to think this trend will continue and that these product improvements are changing the landscape in terms of the old, “traditional” high maintenance decks that never looked like an integral part of the home.” – Bobby Parks, Peachtree Deck and Porches LLC
Photos Copyright of Peachtree Deck and Porches LLC