Bigger homes, smaller gardens… The future of decking & flooring

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Residential buildings are getting bigger, gardens are shrinking, and apartments are burgeoning – but what do these trends mean for Australia’s decking and flooring industries?
John Power reports.

Last November AHJ ran a feature on Building Materials, which included some important observations by John Stewart, CEO, Simmonds Lumber: large-footprint homes with tiny gardens are set to have a significant impact on the nature (and quantity) of timber used for decking. Similarly, a rise in apartment construction is bad news for sellers of traditional decking and timber flooring materials!

At the time, Stewart summed up his thoughts as follows: “There’s one thing I’m keeping an eye on, which is the changing style of new housing in Australia, and [the trend] to utilise the full block. You put in a house that occupies front-to-back land and there is certainly not a lot of room to renovate – and there’s no decks because there’s no room. What are the new products for a ‘McMansion’? I haven’t figured that out – if I do I feel I’ll have cracked something…”

In this article we will delve more deeply into these questions, and suggest opportunities for improved flooring and decking sales – even in inner-city suburbs where sizeable backyards are vanishing fast.

Detached homes

If we consider large detached homes, as distinct from apartments, it is clear that Australia’s lifestyle preferences are changing. The days of building substantial flat backyard decks overlooking a spacious square lawn – complete with Hills Hoist, tool shed, and perhaps some painted cricket stumps on the rear fence – are all but gone. Instead, boundary-to-boundary ‘McMansions’ set amongst tightly spaced townhouse and apartment buildings are becoming more commonplace, both in our capital cities and in regional residential estates (with ever-smaller blocks). In this new era of big home/small garden design, pocket-handkerchief backyards serve primarily as private sanctuaries; absent are the traditional generous outdoor play areas, spacious gardens, and expansive vege patches which once characterized the typical Australian home. This means new-style dwellings are becoming ‘indoor heavy’ in terms of conventional indoor-outdoor ratios.

Four ramifications of this broad trend are:

  1. Property owners are spending more time in their actual dwelling and less time in the backyard, leading to a desire for more practical, multi-functional indoor flooring to handle the increased hustle and bustle of family life all year round.

 

The flooring/decking-related consequences of more indoor living space alongside a reduced outdoor footprint are numerous, including a push towards lighter-coloured indoor flooring that will (a) reduce the visual heaviness of larger rooms, and (b) mask scratches and wear and tear better than darker timbers.

A supplementary trend recognises the practicality and affordability of manufactured surfaces, i.e. less ornamental carpeting or hard-to-protect, expensive timbers, and more knockabout synthetic floating floors. These preferences translate into a lower consumption of specialty genuine timbers in family homes (because the destructive kids can’t be sent outside to play!). So, what does this mean in relation to sales? ‘McMansions’ certainly offer plenty of opportunities for providers of hardwearing, lightly coloured floating floors and other resilient composite or fully synthetic alternatives to conventional timbers. Having said that, suppliers of traditional timber flooring solutions can consolidate top-end market appeal by paying attention to superior protective coatings, as consumers’ cravings for super-tough practical surfaces in large homes are almost universal.

  1. Smaller backyard (or courtyard) decking is becoming more stylised, designed to incorporate landscaped, highly refined, private multi-functionality. Therefore, we see the emergence of more elaborate, often multi-level, decking to accommodate fixed seating, barbecues, potted and in-ground plantlife, outdoor heating systems, permanent shading solutions, as well as more glamorous outdoor furniture to harmonise with dominant indoor fashions.

On the face of it, a ‘smaller backyard’ might sound like a gloomy prognosis for suppliers of decking materials. However, the advent of smaller backyards has spurred a new generation of sophisticated landscapers and designers, all tasked with making small outdoor spaces look larger and more impressive. Typical secrets of the trade include the construction of fence-to-fence decking as an arterial platform for fixed seating, as well as planter boxes of the same material. Consistent decking surfaces spanning an entire yard give the illusion of spaciousness, while multiple stepped decks provide pedestrian access to specific features, accentuate height, and remove the burdens of lawn mowing and maintenance. Associated opportunities for retailers include the provision of accessories like outdoor cushions, outdoor furniture, water features, mood lighting, shade materials, privacy screening, as well as a full array of barbecue items.

  1. Outdoor decking in smaller backyards is necessarily an ‘extension’ of the main house flooring, with designers often seeking to merge indoor/outdoor areas in order to create visual coherence throughout a property.

Key to this visual coherence is a preference for sympathetic indoor/outdoor timbers and materials. Unsurprisingly, hardwoods like spotted gum have been enjoying a surge in popularity for decking, no doubt attributable to the classy, honeyed finish that blends so seamlessly with fashionable lighter indoor timbers. NB: a danger for decking suppliers is that homeowners might seek to achieve the same visual coherence with tiling or paving.

  1. Larger homes with smaller yards reduce the opportunities for long-term external renovations involving decking, but increase opportunities for suppliers of indoor flooring.

There is no denying that smaller backyards, whether attributable to ‘McMansion’ construction or shrinking block sizes, reduce the demand for conventional platform decking. Nevertheless, as noted above, small-footprint decking projects with more upmarket ‘designer’ features should continue to require renovations, not only to upgrade worn fittings but also to reflect new fashions. As outside decking areas fulfill more fashion-focused goals, there should be plenty of ongoing demand for new-season potting, plant and furniture items.

Indoor flooring for larger homes should remain a viable source of ongoing renovation business as homeowners refresh older stock. The renovation sector should only increase in direct response to slowing activity in new constructions.

Apartments

Once again, the rise in apartment construction relative
to detached housing might look like a disaster for hardware retailers of flooring and decking materials because (a) the larger the apartment building, the less likely it is to include base materials sourced from a local hardware outlet; and
(b) apartments have small indoor flooring areas with negligible decking.

Despite these observations, some companies are forging their own success in this tough market. For instance, Simmonds DNA Lumber supplies deck tiles to the apartment segment for use on hard surfaces such as concrete balconies. These interlocking tiles allow apartment owners to experience the ambience of a traditional timber deck even in a high-rise dwelling. Similarly, major retailing groups like Mitre 10, Bunnings and Home all feature online DIY guides for consumers wanting to build their own timber planter boxes. It would be interesting to discover how many of these boxes are being installed on apartment balconies for ornamental plantlife, herbs, etc, and to harness the mood of a
traditional yard.

As far as maintenance is concerned, touch-up products like Waxstix from Timbermate Group have applications in all flooring settings, including the smallest apartments, while cleaning accessories for flooring and decking are becoming better understood by consumers who seek more refined, manicured finishes to both indoor flooring and decking.

Consumers are also coming to grips with specialised floor cleaning products and applicators designed to suit specific materials, helped by improved instructional resources online.

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The full package

While some traditional decking and flooring products might be under pressure from evolving trends in dwelling design, savvy hardware retailers are finding success by looking at the ‘big picture’, i.e. flooring materials AND their related categories of maintenance, cleaning and accessorising.

Certainly, large-scale flat decks might be in decline due to smaller backyards, bigger homes, etc, but supplementary categories involving outdoor furnishings and features are surging ahead, driven by a trend to transform small backyard domains into more serviceable, primped extensions of the greater home. These retail segments are just as vibrant for small backyards as they are for larger premises, with the frequency of upgrades tightly linked to changing fashions. Similarly, homeowners wanting to keep large-area interior flooring as presentable as possible are increasingly willing to explore DIY maintenance and touch-up solutions. It pays, therefore, for hardware retailers to expand these product categories with specialised products.

Designed for Australian conditions

FloorBond XMS by H.B. Fuller is an MS timber flooring adhesive designed specifically for Australian timber and Australian conditions.

FloorBond XMS has been developed and manufactured in Australia and the colour of the product specifically matched to popular timber floors in the Australian market.

By having local manufacturing, FloorBond XMS provides a range of features that improve workflow, usability and reliability of the product. FloorBond XMS is designed specifically to retain application peaks when trowel applied, in order to ensure maximum adhesion with the timber floorboards when brought into contact with the subfloor.

Using H.B. Fuller’s hybrid polymer technology, FloorBond XMS achieves greater than one MPa shear strength when bonding timber to timber, and also bonds to a wide range of different substrates such as various different species of timber, concrete, plywood, particle board, MDF and fibre cement sheeting.

FloorBond XMS is suitable for indoor bonding of all types of timber floors to porous and non-porous substrates, such as concrete, fibre cement and timber subfloors. The acoustic properties of FloorBond XMS make it ideal for use in areas where movement and noise need to be absorbed, and is also suitable for floors with underfloor heating.

To ensure a smoother application process, FloorBond XMS features a long open time of 60 minutes, allowing longer work times before the product skins.

FloorBond XMS is isocyanate, solvent and water free and is non-hazardous according to the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and labelling of Chemicals (GHS) including Work, Health and Safety regulations, Australia.

FloorBond XMS Timber Flooring Adhesive will be receiving new look packaging in 2017 and is available in a 16 kilogram pail and a new larger size 960g (~600mL) sausage.

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Intergrain brings eye-catching cafe design to life

With a little help from Intergrain, a patisserie in downtown Adelaide is serving fine coffee and bespoke pastries in style.

Abbots and Kinney started out as a pop-up pastry shop, however in 2015, pastry chef, Jonny Pisanelli, decided to turn pop-up into permanent with a café and patisserie on Pirie Street.

The brief for Abbots and Kinney’s interior was set by Pisanelli and involved two distinct elements. Pisanelli wanted the café’s interior to celebrate his own art of pastry making and also famous developer Abbot Kinney.

Incorporating a tribute to Abbot Kinney, a Californian icon who brought the magic of the Venice Canals to Los Angeles in 1905, was of key importance to the client. Kinney had brought Italy to America in 1905 and now Pisanelli was bringing a taste of Italy to Adelaide. In addition to this, Pisanelli wanted to celebrate his own craft. As a Pastry Chef, Pisanelli brings a contemporary twist to his work, where pastries take on a personality of their own. Responding to this double brief, project architects Dave Bickmore and Graham Charbonneau (studio-gram); creative director, Alex Hall, and graphic designer, Dave Lawson (Crafty) created an interior with a seemingly split personality.

“Duality, originality and craft were the binding elements that formed our overall concept for the project,” said Dave Bickmore, Director of studio-gram.

The result is an interior that is split in half on a diagonal, reflecting the dual inspirations for the space. One side features bespoke timber framing, while the other is flushed and painted black. On the cafe’s black wall is a painted tribute to Abbot Kinney.

The one-of-a-kind timber framing has been built with blonde Tasmanian Oak. Free of any linings, the timber framing reveals the structure and construction techniques behind the patisserie’s timber design. Often overlooked once walls are flushed, the addition of unlined timber means craftsmanship and original design are on display.

deck_4A true reflection of the client’s craft, every joint was measured against tradition and expressed in a contemporary manner. All materials that feature in the project were also carefully considered by members of the design team.

“Timber was of key importance for the project, and all the timber throughout the patisserie was finished with IntergrainUltraClear. We used Intergrain UltraClear Interior due to its clarity and durability,” said Mr Bickmore.

Intergrain UltraClear is designed to be not only easy to apply, but also fast drying so several coats may be applied throughout the day.

Although timber makes up the bulk of the interior, leather, wired safety glass, black paint and polished concrete were also of key importance to form the simple, yet robust, palette.

The result is an eye-catching combination of raw materials, allowing visitors to connect with the men behind the brief, while enjoying a unique
dining experience.

Since completion in July 2015, Abbots and Kinney has won the 2015 Eat Drink Design Awards for Best Café.

The design leading patisserie also won the Silver Award for Built Environment in the 2015 Design Institute of Australia Awards and received a commendation in the 2015 Intergrain Timber Vision Awards.

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SupaBord’s breathable design

Due to the high demand to protect clients’ custom-made expensive flooring during construction, SupaBord was developed by Bord Industries, a partnership joint venture between prominent timber flooring manufacturers and one of China’s largest paper mills.

Timber floors that are unable to breathe during the curing process can result in uneven finishes, discoloration of coatings and patchiness, according to SupaBord, with reworking not only increasing labour and material costs, but reducing profits and causing delays in project delivery.

The breathable design of SupaBord also allows vapour and moisture to evaporate permitting the natural curing process of timber floors to take place whilst being protected from damage and spills. This successful balance allows floor coatings to cure and dry. SupaBord is a safe, non-slip durable working surface. It contains a unique 60-hour spill resist technology that repels liquid spillage to reduce the risk of accidents in the workplace, making it safe to walk on, even when wet.

At around one millimetre thickness, SupaBord is the toughest surface protection on the market. Flexible yet durable, SupaBord handles most construction traffic including forklifts due to its unique fibre composition.

SupaBord is made from 100 per cent recycled material, turning unwanted industrial waste into a usable product that assists in reducing the carbon footprint and ecological impact for construction and renovation projects. Environmentally friendly, SupaBord can be reused time and time again which saves money and also reduces construction waste.

Smaller unique flooring surfaces, such as stairs, can be damaged on the construction site; however SupaBord can be easily scored for folding to suit stair trends and rises.

SupaBord uses the latest technology to provide a balance of vapour permeability, durability and strength, while also having the ability to withstand the demands of construction traffic,

For more information visit: www.supabord.com

Oak engineered flooring launch

In January this year, the ASH (Australian Sustainable Hardwoods), in partnership with Oslek, invited industry professionals to come along to the launch night of its exciting new product, Australian Oak engineered flooring. This event was held at Oslek’s showroom in Mitcham and was an opportunity for the industry to see, feel and enquire about this new product.

Industry professionals who attended included: architects, builders, flooring specialists and publications. The event was held over two rooms, showcasing the flooring in its natural form, as well as stained boards to demonstrate diversity.

Fiddes Australia also displayed its latest in hard wax oil and gave several presentations on application and colour mixing.

Event goers were gifted with a sample pack, which included a 190mm x 15mm board, a coffee table book and contact information. The launch night allowed for people to get an up close and personal look of the new floor.

Boyd, from Oslek gave an informative presentation using its brush machine which allowed many to get an inside look at how Oslek can provide several colour options.

Australian Oak engineered flooring, co-produced by ASH, was launched as stunning, world class engineered flooring with an Australian twist and is also available in two appearance grades – select and feature grade.

The top we

ar layer of Australian Oak engineered flooring is developed from a trusted, regrowth hardwood species which is PEFC certified and grown in Australia. The plywood is plantation grown hardwood. This innovative new board allows users to match it with any number of the company’s stair, window, door, joinery, decking, cladding and furniture products to create a continuous flow of design from inside to out.

Australian Oak flooring is available in 190mm x 15mm and 160mm x 15mm boards.

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Dexpress…another genius in the Haymes family

Fifteen years ago David Haymes enlisted Ross Staley, an industry leader in waterborne timber coatings, to formulate a two coat, long lasting water-based finish which was easy to apply, great to look at, and long lasting. It was then that Dexpress was born and has been a Hayme’s hero wood-care favourite ever since.

Today Ross Stanley’s benchmark formula continues to perform to high standards, reiterating that Haymes has a very special timber finish, particularly when it comes to dense Australian hardwoods.

While Haymes has built its reputation on developing and making premium products and Dexpress has earned its reputation as a versatile exterior timber finish, it also remains a Haymes’ go-to product with its independent retail partners, professional applicators, as well the discerning home owner.

Dexpress is suitable for use on: decking, weatherboards, composite cladding, outdoor furniture, fences, screens, doors and window frames. Available in Natural, Merbau and tintable to Dexpress is also available in 34 modern and traditional colours from only two bases.

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Simply Woodcare RAPID PREP one-step cleaner

Today consumers are making more informed choices when choosing timber for DIY projects.

It seems Australian hardwoods are being used more often, over rain forest equivalents, and dense species like Spotted Gum and Iron Bark are very hard to penetrate causing many challenges for coatings to adhere to.

Haymes recently released a one-step cleaner formulated especially for these timbers.

Most consumers want to coat these timbers immediately and have been disappointed in the past when they realise the timber has to first weather for several months, according to Haymes. Currently there are several products on the market that will do this job; however they involve a two-step process involving two cleaners, which can be expensive and also hard to sell, Haymes recently reported.

Haymes has introduced a one-step cleaner, RAPID PREP, for new or unweathered timber to remove surface tannins, extractives and possible mill glaze which inhibit penetration and adhesion of a timber finish.

The easy to use, one-step cleaner is the answer for both retailer and consumer when they need the deck ready for that special occasion…. next week!

Simply Woodcare RAPID PREP is available in 300 grams and 900 grams at most independent hardware stores and paint specialist retailers.

For further information visit: www.haymespaint.com.au