In Depth: Siding
In a changing market dominated by technology and instant customer gratification, diverse product offerings and a true understanding of builder and homeowner needs are the formula for success.
Back in 1972, a line of children’s clothing called “Garanimals” was launched with the intention of making the mixand- match nature of kids garb so simple that even the children themselves could do it. Simplicity aside, it was a wildly successful concept: mix and match components to create unique looks.
Today’s exterior siding market may be taking a page from the Garanimals playbook, as combining textures and bold, rich colors to create individualized looks for houses is the hot trend for 2018. Gone are the days when houses tended to be rather homogeneous in terms of colors and textures, when siding may have served a purpose but offered precious little in personality. That was then—this is now. In today’s siding market, it’s all about mixing and matching of textures and products.
“People are playing with texture and mixing styles within the same home to create dialogue within the siding,” says Kate Wyeth, Market Development Manager of LP Building Products. “We’re seeing increased interest in modern exteriors through blending different siding textures, styles and materials.”
“Homeowners are opting for more accent pieces for a one-of-a-kind design,” explains Matt Gibson, Director of Vinyl and Marketing Communications for CertainTeed Siding. “They’re mixing textures on front facades with different materials, such as lap siding, shingles, board and batten, and stone veneer, and trim lines are being expanded for architectural detailing.”
Daniel Franklin, Product Manager of Boral’s Grayne engineered composite shingle, agrees with Gibson. “Homeowners continue to gravitate toward the use of multiple textures and color palettes across the facade, such as blending stone veneer, lap siding, accent cladding, and brick.”
“Architects, designers and home owners are looking to add a reclaimedlook siding or a rustic interior accent wall to their contemporary design,” adds Eric Pommerening, Director of Sales for Coeur d’Alene Wood. “Demand for the reclaimed/barnwood siding continues to grow in the traditional markets; however, where we are also seeing growth is into the contemporary style building market.”
Hand-in-hand with this shift towards mixed textures is a significant shift towards darker colors, with a growing interest in dark tones and deep, rich hues combined with white or light colors to create more visual interest. “We are seeing more and more requests for dark red and deep blue siding in particular,” says Delaina Lee, Director of Customer Engagement for Ply Gem’s Siding Group. This isn’t to say that it’s all about dark siding; oftentimes, the color palette is reversed and white siding is paired with bold trim to create visual drama. “In terms of paint colors,” says LP Building Products’ Wyeth, “we’re seeing an increase in sharper contrasts to achieve that modern aesthetic, like pure white siding paired with darker browns or woodstained siding and trim.”
Changes in technology and development of new materials are allowing manufacturers to now offer these bold colors that were never before available. As Kevin Mickle, Product Manager of Siding for ProVia, explains, “While the actual process of extruding a vinyl panel hasn’t changed, the collection, mixing and delivery of materials has been automated to increase the consistency and quality. In the past, deeper colors were limited to thinner profiles to avoid heat deformation. With new additives, modifiers and films, manufacturers can extend their full palette of colors to wider panels.”
It’s all about authenticity. Buyers are craving authentic looks while also wanting to avoid having to do too much work on the exterior. Aaron Sims, Product Manager of Boral’s TruExterior Siding and Trim and Versetta Stone, explains, “There’s an authenticity people want with products today. They want it to look like wood. They want it to feel real. They want the details to be right. They want it to look very authentic to replicate a traditional Craftsman-style or Farmhouse-style home.”
Still, distributors need to stock product lineups that work together as an integrated whole. “First and foremost, the exterior cladding needs to match the architecture of the house,” says Steve Booz, Vice President of New Product Development and Product Management for Royal Building Products. “With so many builders today mixing materials such as siding and stone, you want to make sure you have the right look. While you want your house to be unique to your neighborhood, you should also make sure you match with your surroundings and fit the local architecture.”
Storms, fire, and labor, oh my!
There’s no arguing that 2017 was a beast in regards to storms and other natural disasters. Last year alone there were 17 named hurricanes—six of which were major—and according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, Tropical Scientist at Colorado State University, that level of storm activity placed 2017 among the top 10 most active Atlantic storm seasons on record. And when it comes to wildfires, California experienced historic levels of destruction last year. Nearly 9,000 wildfires ripped through the state, burning 1.2 million acres of land and destroying more than 10,800 structures. As a result of these events, codes are changing to make structures more storm- and fire-resistant, and manufacturers are taking note.
“From increasing wildfires in the West to intensifying hurricanes in the East, homes must withstand the forces of nature more than ever before,” says Grayne’s Franklin. “That’s driving safeguards like California’s Wildland-Urban Interface code (WUI) and changes to the Florida Building Code and the Texas Department of Insurance regulations. If you want to get your products on those jobs, the architects are asking if you meet these certifications.”
To meet these needs, manufacturers are developing products to withstand the rigors of storm and fire. For example, Grayne reports that its engineered siding has been designed and tested to meet or exceed those certifications, and Boral’s TruExterior siding is approved for use under California’s WUI code and the Florida Building Code.
The evolving product lineups are being hampered, however, by a nationwide shortage of labor to install the products. NAHB recently found that 82% of its members believe the cost and availability of labor are their biggest issues. When looked at historically, only 13% of builders rated labor issues an important concern back in 2011, followed by 30% in 2012, 53% in 2013, 61% in 2014 and 71% in 2015. To combat this increasingly concerning situation, manufacturers are designing products that are easier and quicker to install.
“Across the industry, we are seeing how the skilled labor shortage is affecting housing supply, affordability and workmanship,” says LP Building Products’ Wyeth. “Building solutions should be easy to learn and easy to implement.” CertainTeed Siding’s Gibson concurs. “Labor shortages are a challenge in our industry, so there’s a greater emphasis on developing products that are easy to install.”
The dilemma of distribution
In today’s world of instant gratification and fast access to information, manufacturers agree that it’s vital for distributors to be able to quickly meet the needs of an ever-more-educated customer. It’s no longer good enough to simply have product available for order; rather, distributors need to understand their customers’ needs, then deliver an effective solution. “Dealers and their builder customers are being forced to learn more about products because consumers are more educated,” says Boral’s Aaron Sims. “So it’s important to have the right training and ensure dealers know the product well so they can be effective in selling. And if customers are asking about competitive products, how can the dealer answer questions properly to keep the business?”
“More dealers and distributors are embracing digital marketing efforts and getting more savvy with the tools and platforms available,” says Certain- Teed’s Gibson. “They are using social media more, and providing digital marketing support to help their customers with marketing their businesses and communicating with prospects. Education is a key element—by gaining more knowledge about tools and products, they are able to better serve their customers.”
So how, exactly, are manufacturers getting knowledge to the distributors? Every manufacturer who participated in this story conducts dealer training and provides product samples, and many are offering innovative new approaches for both product knowledge and presentation. For example, in the case of Tando, it recently launched its “Tando Atlas,” a high definition collection of its complete product line that walks the purchaser through the texture and color selection process. This oversize catalog is available to all Tando dealers (and online as well). The contractor or consumer can then order an 11×17 high definition product photo in the actual size, texture and color so that both contractor and homeowner have confirmation of what the installed product will look like.
To help distributors, CertainTeed conducts nationwide tours to demonstrate installation techniques as well as sales tips, and it provides different levels of training for credentialed installers and hosts business-building workshops in various regions as a resource to help its distributors grow their businesses.
In the case of ProVia, its design team assists dealers by providing marketing collateral such as displays, literature, product samples, branded apparel and merchandise. And for unique opportunities, it will help develop customized graphics and messaging to support a dealer’s individual requirements ranging from a targeted marketing campaign to a complete showroom redesign. “We work with internal and external partners to create a comprehensive marketing plan,” says ProVia’s Kevin Mickle. “Based on the dealer’s needs, this can involve brand strategy, website audits, advertising and marketing campaigns.”
“Helping to design a siding job is one of the best benefits available,” says Royal’s Booz. “Using on-line design tools such as Royal’s HomePlay allows users to mix and match products and colors on a home. It’s the ultimate ‘try it before you buy it.’ Homeowners want design options and to see what their home will look like when it is finished. This helps the dealers bring the vision to life and give the homeowners what they need.”
Education, however, is only half of the equation; being able to put the correct product solution into the buyer’s hands is just as important. As LP Building Products’ Kate Wyeth explains, “We’re seeing dealers increase their efficiency as they’re starting to have tremendous levels of products stacked in their yards, resulting in quicker product delivery and project turnaround. We’re also starting to experience a more collaborative market where communication between manufacturer, builder, and dealer is improving. With the increased demand, we’re all needing to work together to be more efficient and finish projects faster.”