Get a Stake in PVC Fencing

Nov 20 08:53 2008 Steven ZHAO Print This Article

PVC fence markets are posting rapid gains, prompting profile extruders to install new machines by the dozens and convert existing plants from pipe and siding production. New players are jumping in, too including makers of wood-filled composites.

As occurred in PVC siding and windows a decade ago,Guest Posting fence profiles are now seeing explosive growth and rapid plant expansions, including conversions of entire plants from pipe, siding, and other construction profiles. While demand for all types of fencing typically grows 5-7% a year, the PVC sector has been surging ahead by 20-30% annually, and this year’s growth could hit 50%, according to David Lawrence of Outdoor Advantage in Snohomish, Wash. “The only limiting factor may be the shortage of PVC,” adds the president of this two-year-old start-up, which operates PVC fence-profile plants in Florida and Texas.
Unlike windows and siding, fence makers such as temporary fence,wire mesh,fence manufacturers,steel fence post,wire fence,portable fence face few hurdles in the form of building codes or ASTM standards. There are a few notable exceptions. Acoustical fence must meet stringent performance tests. Pool fences and deck rails have to withstand specified lateral loadings. Ranch fence needs to be robust enough to keep horses in. And any fence in Dade County, Fla., must stand up to 120-mph hurricanes. But otherwise, fence requirements are mostly aesthetic, which has helped PVC profiles to become a mainstream product in just a few years. Forty-six percent of the current PVC fence market is in residential fencing, 36% in ranch (post and rail), 12% in encapsulated-metal railings, 4% in decking, and 2% in lawn and garden.
“Fences are at critical mass now, where a lot of processors are doing well and expanding rapidly,” says Harlan Doering, v.p. of Kansas American Tooling, McPherson, Kan., a maker of dies and calibrators for fence profiles. From a standing start in the early 1980s, PVC fence sales grew to about $350 million last year, industry sources say. “The larger market of wood fences is $2 billion a year, so there’s still a lot of replacement potential out there,” says the sales director of one big vinyl fence company.
In the past year alone, Krauss-Maffei Corp., Florence, Ky., says it has delivered 16 conical twin-screw extrusion lines to three PVC fence processors, all of which are running dual strands for maximum output. “Usually with that kind of growth, you’d expect the product to be cheaper than the alternative, but PVC fences are more expensive,” says Michael Riese, product manager at Lawrence McCoy in Worcester, Mass., a distributor of vinyl, wood, and aluminum fences. Even a 10-15% price increase early this year hasn’t dampened sales, he notes.
What triggered this year’s explosive growth is sudden, broad customer acceptance of PVC fences, especially among smaller contractors and buildings-supply houses. They offer PVC as a high-end choice to customers. “There is clearly a shift to maintenance-free building products. It’s not that people love a product that looks plastic,” Riese explains. “But people are not in love with scraping and painting their fences, either, and they’re willing to pay more not to have to do it.”
“Ranch,” or post and rail, is the commodity end of the PVC market, and is the most price-competitive with wood fencing. In fact, some PVC fence makers say they can undersell wood in some cases. At the high end, residential fence sells for 30% to 300% more than wood, depending on the complexity of the fence system. But even in this sector, all the new extrusion capacity flooding the market is starting to depress profit margins, notes William Zell, sales and marketing manager at Westech Fence in Mt. Vernon, Ind.
The explosive growth of PVC fences, even at a price premium to wood, isn’t lost on the makers of wood-composite decks and rails. They are eyeing fences as their next potential market. Wood-flour-filled polyolefins and PVC have already gained acceptance in non-structural profiles for decking and in metal-reinforced railings. They have the advantage of the look and feel of natural woodgrain, which plain PVC fencing can only imitate with streaks of pigment.

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Steven ZHAO
Steven ZHAO

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