In Depth Extra: Deck Rail Lighting & Accessories
UltraLox’s under-rail lighting provides a unique appearance by positioning the lighting where it’s needed most—down onto the deck surface. As an added bonus, the lights accent the spindles of the railing system.
As outdoor living explodes, contractors and consumers alike turn to deck accessories to create unique outdoor environments.
As the trend of creating functional outdoor living space continues to surge, so too does consumer demand for signature looks for those spaces—looks that are achieved with decking accessories. With an upswing in transitional and modern design that emphasizes clear sight lines, deck accessories continue to be a vital player in meeting that consumer demand for usability coupled with uniqueness. Homeowners strive to create outdoor spaces that are as polished as their living rooms, and today’s options in railings, lighting, and surface cladding make that possible.
As Greg Burkholder, president and CEO of Fairway Architectural Railing Solutions, explains, “Outdoor living is no longer just a backyard for kids to play. Homeowners are using their outdoor space as a natural extension of their home. Whether it’s creating multi-level decks, complete with outdoor kitchens and comfortable lounge furniture for watching television or investing in new design elements to enhance the exterior of their home, homeowners aren’t afraid to invest dollars outdoors.”
Remodeling and New Construction Spur Growth in Accessories
New construction continues to be a strong trend driving sales of deck accessories. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, an estimated 563,000 new homes were sold in 2016, a figure that’s 12.2% (±3.5%) above the 2015 figure of 501,000. As well, the remodeling market index as reported by the National Association of Home Builders continues to be strong, with all quarters of 2016 above 50. (A score of 50 indicates equal numbers of remodelers report activity ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ than the previous quarter.)
Manufacturers agree with these numbers and see a positive market for deck accessories in 2017. Fairway’s Burkholder says, “The two areas where we see the most potential for growth are in new home construction and remodeling. According to newly released data by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, sales of new home builds in 2016 rose to their highest annual rate since 2007. We anticipate that momentum to continue in 2017, and with it allow more homeowners to concentrate on their outside living spaces.”
Edward Peterson, vice president of sales and marketing for UltraLox, also sees a strong market for deck accessories. “We are seeing significant uptick in activity in both the residential and new construction of the multi-family buildings,” he says. “However, the largest opportunity is in the renovation of the older multi-family units. Property management companies are becoming much more diligent when it comes to the safety of deck and railings. Additionally, insurance companies are enforcing new building codes on properties that are not up to date. There are far more older units out there which need refurbishment, than there are new units being built each year.”
Yet despite the strong new construction and remodeling indicators, some manufacturers see sales in accessories as potentially flat when compared to last year. Lou Marino, president of The Cable Connection, says, “Accessory trends are unfortunately flat. More emphasis needs to be placed on messaging the value that various accessories bring to the equation.” Still, with a strong building and remodeling market, combined with the explosion of outdoor living and a growing demand for low-maintenance products, sales of decking accessories should continue to grow. As Brent Gwatney, senior vice president of sales and marketing for MoistureShield points out, “The rise of deck accessories like railing and lighting have opened the door even wider to creative outdoor spaces. Dealers who offer complementary railing systems, outdoor lighting and fastening options can consolidate installation steps, saving their customers time and money, and upsell the project to maximize their and contractors’ profits.”
Outdoor Living a Key Style Factor
Fairway Architectural Railing Solutions (FARS) offers exclusive steel cable rail structural post mounts that are pre-threaded to accept its cable rail fittings. According to the manufacturer, it easily attaches to any mounting surface—including concrete—and is available in vinyl, composite and aluminum rails.
When it comes to outdoor living, homeowners are taking cues from the interior features and amenities of their homes and are creating comfortable and functional spaces outside, and retailers can profit by focusing on accessories that help consumers create an outdoor living space that fits their lifestyles. As Paul Recko, director of products and programs for Fiberon says, “We think the concept of ‘outdoor living’ is fully ingrained in most people’s minds; it’s no longer just a trend. People really do view their decks as extensions of their homes, whether that means a simple space or elaborate one.”
Andrew Pantelides, marketing and business development director for Regal Ideas Inc., agrees with Recko. “Thanks to the Internet and deck shows like Decked Out,” he says, “homeowners and contractors are pushing the envelope in their designs and projects. The deck project has moved from just the deck to the entire back yard.”
“Homeowners continue to seek ways to personalize their outdoor living space with the addition of color, lighting or other design elements like glass, cable or stone,” says Chris Camfferman, category marketing director for Deckorators. “Decks can be easily personalized with unique post caps, balusters, stone postcovers and lighting options.”
Fortress Railing’s variegated railing system gives contractors the ability to create a high-end railing with an appearance that the company says was not previously available.
Phillip Levine, National Account Manager for Dolle USA, agrees. “What we most often hear is customers wanting to upgrade or modernize their existing deck to gain improved sightlines. Less obtrusive railing options—we want to see our lake or backyard. We want a more modern look to our deck. I want a product that I can easily install on my own and is affordable.” He goes on to say, “The backyard becomes a living environment and each can be as unique as the homeowner—there needs to be a variety of products to help each homeowner express their own taste.”
It’s about connecting the interior of the house with the exterior, a function that deck accessories are particularly well suited to serve. Amos Kauffman, director of marketing for Key Link Cable Rail Systems, sees more decks being connected or designed with outdoor living spaces, such as hardscape areas around pools, outdoor kitchens, and Pergolas.