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Five Questions with Ken O’Neill

Atlanta, GA08/21/2019

Five Questions with Ken O’Neill

1. Oldcastle APG, a CRH Company, announced that the company’s composite decking business (formerly Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies (AERT))will now operate as MoistureShield. What is behind the name change?

For more than five decades, Oldcastle APG has been well-known for brands that service the outdoor living category. With the acquisition of AERT in 2017, we set out on a new endeavor to bring that successful blueprint to the composite decking marketplace. It’s more than a new name and logo—it’s a commitment to our customer base.

2.   Oldcastle APG has grown into an industry leader for outdoor living—particularly in the hardscapes business. Why composite decking?

Similar to our hardscape products, composite decking is about color, texture, and scale, so it was a natural fit as we continue to build out products that create beautiful outdoor living experiences—in this case, backyards. AERT was selected based on a rich history as one of the first composites on the market. Their products had zero field failures in over 30 years, and they had product innovation success with Vision capped composites and CoolDeck technology, which lowers deck surface temperatures. We plan to bring Oldcastle APG quality manufacturing, sales, marketing, and R&D expertise to MoistureShield to take composite decking to the next level.

3.   Tell us about your plans for MoistureShield and where the company is today? How will dealers play an integral role in growth? Do you plan on using existing Oldcastle APG dealers or recruiting new ones?

We plan to base our new and innovative products and services on customer and consumer feedback. The company is completely different than it was a year ago, and these changes will continue. We feel that dealers are critical for our success, as they serve as our local resource to service both the contractor and the end user.  We will support them with customer service, lead generation, strong marketing, and advertising. While there are opportunities to work with existing dealers, we think the bigger opportunity is taking what we have learned from Belgard’s closer relationships with the landscape market and applying these best practices to the LBM trade.

4.   Being a newcomer into the category, what has surprised you the most about the composite decking industry?

It is surprising when we see cost-cutting shortcuts in manufacturing that could ultimately impact product performance. MoistureShield will continue to develop affordable products without compromising product quality, integrity, and long-term performance. There also appears to be a lack of brand differentiation in the market and a lack of innovative focus on product improvements and installation. There is room to improve partnerships from the manufacturer to the distributor and dealer, and so much potential to connect the deck to other parts of the backyard through the use of textures and colors. Many manufacturers have expanded SKUs and color beyond the channel’s ability to always be in stock. Affordability is another surprising issue. MoistureShield has a profile, color, and technology innovation for any consumer, as well as price points that do not prohibit anyone from enjoying an upscale outdoor lifestyle.

5.   Where do you see the outdoor living market going this year and into the future?

Homeowners have high expectations. They want composite decking to look natural but perform better than wood—that is, no splinters or cupping, moisture-resistance, and reduced upkeep. We need to help customers cut through the clutter in the marketplace and find what meets their needs. For example, MoistureShield offers rich on-trend colors, textures, and advancements such as our Solid Core Difference on all products to add strength and workability; DiamondDefense for a more durable surface on our capped boards; and CoolDeck technology to reduce deck surface temperatures.  We are also striving to make a workable composite board that’s more affordable for the everyday homeowner.

As for the future, Oldcastle APG is always looking for solid growth platforms in which to invest wisely. We will continue to look at acquisitions in decking, accessories, and other building materials. Other strategies will include greenfield and CapEx (facility improvement) investments, as well as technology innovation to ensure our vast number of locations within North America continually improve service and accessibility to markets.

Ken O’Neill, executive vice president, leads Oldcastle APG’s National Group, covering MoistureShield composite decking, and Techniseal, which manufacturers polymeric sands and chemicals, used to enhance hardscape projects. He also oversees APG’s Marketing and Product Development groups in the U.S. and Canada that manage and market the Belgard, Echelon, Sakrete, and Amerimix brands.