WPC flooring is currently a trending product among importers. As in the case of other building materials, there are strict regulations in place – regulations which far from all Chinese manufacturers are compliant with. Besides, there is a wide product quality disparity between different suppliers. In this article we explain which product specifications you need to keep track of, why you shouldn’t rely on “warranties” and which product certification standards your WPC decking must be in compliance with.
WPC stands for Wood-plastic composite. Basically, the material is made up of wood flour and plastic, such as PVC (Polyvinyl chloride), HDPE (High-density polyethylene) and PP (Polypropylene). Wood flour and HDPE is the most common material composition among Chinese manufacturers.
There’s no universal definition of ”good quality”. Basically, Chinese manufacturers are “tool boxes”. They provide machinery, labor and manufacture products according to the buyer’s product specifications. A WPC decking product specification shall at a minimum contain the following:
Size (e. g. 150*25 mm)
Length (e.g. 2.2 m or 2.9 m)
Color (e.g. Black, Gray, Olive Green, Red Wood, Coffee, Wood)
Material components (e.g. 55% wood power + 35% HDPE +10% chemical additives)
Surface (e.g. Smooth, Brushed, Scratched, Grain or Sanded)
Lifetime (e.g. 25 years)
Usage (e.g. Outdoor or Indoor)
Anti-slip (Yes / No)
Anti-UV (Yes / No)
Waterproof (Yes / No)
Weather resistance (e.g. suitable from –40°C to 60 °C.)
Flame Retardance (e.g. German B1 Standard)
The quality of a WPC decking is largely defined by the material components. A higher wood flour content tends to increase the durability – and the price. Keep in mind that it’s up to you to tell the supplier which product specifications your WPC flooring shall be manufactured according to.
Be aware that manufacturing has a number of technical limitations. This means that there are certain limitations to the dimensions a product can be manufactured in. What’s more, certain WPC suppliers are also lacking the capability to manufacture WPC flooring that is compliant with US, EU and Australian product certification requirements. I’ll get back to that in a bit.
WPC decking manufacturers in China
China is the worlds leading manufacturer of WPC decking. More than 450 WPC decking suppliers from China are listed on Alibaba.com. Among these, more than 70% are located in the provinces of Guangdong, Zhejiang and Jiangsu. However, this figure is not including Chinese suppliers that are exclusively manufacturing for the domestic market.
Most Chinese WPC flooring manufacturers list a warranty time in the product description. Keep in mind that a “warranty” can basically mean anything in this context. There’s no international framework in place that regulates the term “warranty”. In the world of international trade, you are essentially on your own – unless you and the supplier sign a contract that clearly defines the warranty terms (among other things). This definition shall answer the following questions:
1. What shall happen in case a defective product is discovered after the products arrival in the Port of Destination? (It’s not realistic to inspect the quality of every single unit before the shipment)
2. For how many months or years is the buyer allowed to claim compensation for defective products?
3. Shall the buyer return the defective units to the manufacturer in China? (If yes, who shall pay for the return freight?)
4. In case replacement units shall be delivered to the buyer, who shall pay for freight cost?
5. What shall happen in case the product fails to comply with the relevant product safety standards in the buyer’s country?
6. What is the definition of a defective product? (e.g. products that are non-compliant with the agreed upon product specifications and product certification standards)
7. For which types of product defects is the warranty valid? (e.g. scratches and color variations)
8. How shall a defective products be compensated? (Remake, repair or refund)
Even if your supplier is accommodating and provides you with very warranty terms, never rely on this as a guarantee for stress free replacements. The best way to minimize your risks is always to verify that the WPC flooring is compliant with your product specifications and relevant certification standards BEFORE it’s shipped from China.
This can only be done through a Quality Inspection, combined with a batch sample lab test.
It’s a lot easier to negotiate with a Chinese supplier while the cargo is still not paid in full and still in the country.
Product Certification – National requirements and compliance testing
Most products are regulated by at least one product certification standard (also called product safety standard). These standards vary by country / market and are put in place to protect the consumers and maintain a minimum quality standard on the market. Keep in mind that these standards may have changed since the date of publication.
Wood Polymer Composites are required to be compliant with EN 15534. This standard is also a part of the CE marking directive. Since WPC decking also contains a number of chemical additives, we also recommend importers to test the product for REACH compliance.
WPC decking sold in the United States is required to be compliant with ASTM D7032.
Australia & New Zealand
All types of flooring sold in Australia must be compliant with the AS/NZS 4586:2004 Standard Slip Resistance Classification. Due to a high risk of forest fires, WPC decking sold in Australia must also be compliant with local fire retardancy standards, such as BAL 29 (bushfire resistance). Click here to read more about AS/NZ product safety standards.
Due to the plastic and chemical content, WPC decking is a potential fire hazard. There is a wide range of various fire retardant standards (most are local) such as B1, B2 and M1. Ensuring that the WPC decking is fire retardant is critical when importing from China.
Most Chinese manufacturers are NOT compliant with western standards!
Keep in mind that many suppliers listed on sites such as Alibaba.com are mainly selling their products on the domestic Chinese market. These suppliers are in general not manufacturing products that are in compliance with EU, US and Australian product certification standards.
Yet, most of them don’t hesitate to sell their products to buyers in these countries. Keep in mind that the importer is always responsible for ensuring compliance with the relevant product standards. This responsibility cannot be shifted to the Chinese manufacturer.
Importing non compliant WPC flooring is illegal, and may result in a forced recall, or even fines. Thus, it’s critical that compliance is verified before you place your order. There’s help to get. We can help you source reliable WPC manufacturers, that can show previous compliance with regulations in your country. Click here to find out more.
I strongly recommend that a sample of each product batch is lab tested for compliance with the relevant standards (including general quality standards, chemical standards and fire retardancy standards). Keep in mind that the tested sample must come from the batch that has been specifically manufactured for you. Testing a sample from a previous batch is useless since it doesn’t verify the compliance of the actual products you’re about to import.
WPC decking prices
WPC flooring can be manufactured according to a wide range of standards and specifications. Product certification compliance, dimensions, lifetime and surface treatments all have a major impact on the product price. However, the most important factor is the material composition. As I stated earlier in this article, a higher wood flour content increase the WPC decking durability and therefore results in a price increase.
A common mistake is to select a supplier solely based on the product price. In November 2013, we made a price research among 24 leading WPC decking manufacturers in China. What we found was that the price difference among these suppliers were huge – the lowest quoted price per square meter being US$4.4, and the highest US$33.
There’s a logical explanation to this. Some of these suppliers are primarily selling their products on the domestic Chinese market. That certainly is not implying that those suppliers are “bad”. However, a product that is manufactured for the Chinese market is certainly not made in compliance with EU, US and Australian product certification or fire retardant standards. Apart from the issue of legal compliance, a product that is considered to be of “good quality” in a Chinese construction materials wholesale market might be considered junk in Sydney or San Diego.
What I’m trying to say here is that you can’t compare prices between different suppliers unless you know which specifications the pricing is based on. Only compare the pricing of products that are of an equal quality standard.
Visiting a Trade Fair is often an efficient way to meet a large number of WPC decking manufacturers, and get a feeling for their products. Below we list a number of upcoming Trade Fairs:
Co-founder of Asiaimportal (HK) Limited and based in Hong Kong. He has been quoted in and contributed to Bloomberg, SCMP, Alibaba Insights, Globalsources.com, China Chief Executive, Quartz Magazine and more.
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