A 'Modified' route to decking

Perennial Wood's distribution plan includes Lowe's in the Northeast and Snavely Forest Products in the South Atlantic.

There is no shortage of deck materials that promise a combination of "real-wood beauty" and "durability." One of the latest entrants offers a twist on the story — it really is wood, but "it's something better," said Jim Flickinger, marketing development manager for Perennial Wood. "It's modified wood."

Other than being perhaps a cool marketing ploy, Perennial Wood's "modified" wood — which debuted in 2012 as a decking product — relies on parent company Eastman Chemical's proprietary TruLast Technology to create a product that "resists the effects of nature," according to the company.

How is it different?

Eastman Chemical said the modified, or acetylated wood, is three times more resistant to shrinking and swelling caused by moisture, which leads to less bowing, twisting and rotting. "The key difference is the stability of the board, which is the hardest thing to achieve," Flickinger said. "This will impress contractors — the fact that there is no warping."

Eastman's process, it claims, permanently transforms the wood's cellular structure throughout using heat, pressure and an organic compound to replace "water-loving (hydrophilic) groups in the wood's cells with water-hating (hydrophobic) groups."

The result is real wood made to endure, the company said. Perennial Wood is available to other manufacturers for use in products, such as outdoor furniture, windows and doors. The company also introduced an exterior porch flooring in June 2012.

Year one, according to Flickinger, was about educating the market, initially consumers and then contractors.

Perennial Wood's distribution plan (59 Lowe's stores in the Northeast) will remain for the first two years as it assesses market acceptance and the potential for expansion. Snavely distributes Perennial Wood porch flooring to trade professionals and homeowners in the South Atlantic states through select professional lumberyards and building materials dealers.

The company is testing modified wood siding and trim products for 2013, with the possibility of a 2014 launch. The challenge for the company is to distinguish itself among both wood and composite competition. "We're driving home the technology message," Flickinger said.

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