Canadian Plastics

CCMC accreditation a slow, expensive process

By Tom Venetis, editor   

Manufacturers looking to get wood-plastic composite (WPC) decking and railing products into the Canadian market are facing a protracted and often expensive road to getting proper cert...

Manufacturers looking to get wood-plastic composite (WPC) decking and railing products into the Canadian market are facing a protracted and often expensive road to getting proper certification.

The Canadian Construction Materials Centre (CCMC) in Ottawa is part of the Canadian Commission on Construction Materials Evaluation (CCCME).

The CCMC’s job is to evaluate new products to ensure they meet applicable codes and standards for use in Canadian construction projects.

However, the process for getting certification is too long and too expensive, according to some Canadian manufacturers of WPC decking and railing, making it difficult to get innovative products into the Canadian market.


Jim Pratt, product development engineer for the Composatron Composite Technology (Toronto, ON), a producer of railing and decking products, said it can take up to six months or more, for a company to get an evaluation plan from the CCMC. The plan outlines the kinds of tests and evaluations needed for certification.

“At that point, (the CCMC) will assess you to see if you are even capable of being reviewed, and then they will send you a quote to tell you how much it may cost,” Pratt added. “You have to spend a lot of money and a lot of time just for (the CCMC) to tell you what to do.”

Pratt’s biggest frustration is that the evaluation guidelines are not accessible to the public, meaning manufacturers aren’t able to see what tests and evaluations the CCMC requires. In the U.S., however, the criteria for getting International Code Council (ICC) certification — the AC174 — for wood products and innovative products like WPCs is publicly available.

“In the American process, there are a set of acceptance criteria and (those criteria) tell you specifically [which] tests you have to do,” explained Andrew Rush, chairman of the Toronto, ON-based Canadian Natural Composites Council (CNCC), and vice-president of Brite Manufacturing Inc. (Bolton, ON). “It is a bureaucratic process, but at least you know what you have to do.”

What is most frustrating for many Canadian manufacturers is that the CCMC will only accept about 10% of the testing the ICC requires for certification in the U.S., Rush said.

As a result, a Canadian company could conceivably spend tens of thousands of dollars to get its WPC decking board tested and ICC-certified for sale in the U.S. However, that investment will not help them get certified because it’s not known which tests the CCMC will accept.

Another significant frustration, according to Rush, is the amount of time it takes to get CCMC approval. Getting ICC approval can take about two years, but it takes significantly longer with the CCMC, Rush said. For example, one manufacturer got CCMC approval only after four years, he said.

As well, it’s risky selling WPC products in Canada without a CCMC certification. Municipal building inspectors can refuse a builder permission to use uncertified products and even ask them to take down a project that used such materials.

That’s because without CCMC certification, an inspector has no way of knowing if the product meets the structural, safety and durability specifications. From the inspector’s perspective, it’s safer to refuse approval of materials like WPCs, rather than risk problems later on.

The CNCC bears no ill will to the building inspectors, Rush said, because the organization recognizes they are simply doing their job. The problem is that the inspectors are only giving them one option, and it’s a slow and expensive one.

Carney Timber (Barrie, ON) is already participating in the process to get CCMC certification for its Extendex wood-plastics decking and railing products. Carney has just received the technical guide, which outlines the types of testing needed to be done for the products to be evaluated for certification, said Peter Simko, Carney’s engineering manager.

“So you have these tests [conducted] and then [you] submit the results to the CCMC that will then evaluate the results and produce a report,” Simko explained.

Some tests will examine the physical and mechanical properties of the wood-plastic products to see they perform similarly to comparable items made of wood, he said.

The tests can only be conducted at CCMC-approved laboratories, and the CCMC will often recommend the best laboratory for the type of testing.

“Some (of the laboratories) are very expensive because they are very specialized,” Simko added. “But that evaluation allows the products to be used in building projects and not get into trouble with building inspectors. We just wish things were easier.”


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