Product Watch: Siding
With consumers becoming more educated, siding manufacturers can compete on more levels.
A current trend in vinyl siding is the use of mid- to upper-end products with premium thicknesses and discernable features, according to John Jurcak, director of marketing for Variform, Inc. Such features might include an enhanced nailing hem or improved locking system that increases the wind-load resistance of the siding, or a greater projection in the panel to create a more distinct shadow line and better curb appeal.
"WeÆre really seeking a shift to more feature-oriented products that allow manufacturers and remodelers to compete on benefits and not just on price," says Jurcak. Consumers are visiting manufacturer Web sites more frequently, are better informed and more receptive to such a message.
TodayÆs homeowners, says Jurcak, want to differentiate their homes. As a result, mid-range to dark siding colors have become more popular. "Clay, a dark taupe color, is now No. 2 and is rapidly approaching white," he says. "Dark grays and darker range earth tones are also very popular. And we are seeing strong accent colorsùreds, greens and bluesùused in corner post or trim applications. We now have in excess of 20 colors. Not long ago, it was half that."
Shakes and scallops are also doing extremely well for such areas as gables. The price points for these decorative accent panels are much higher than a standard square of siding so they offer great upgrade opportunities for a remodeler.
Darker colors tend to weather faster, forcing manufacturers to go with higher-end cap stocks or end coatings to meet weatherability demands. But, with todayÆs labor shortage, the biggest challenge is finding good installation mechanics, says Jurcak. Accordingly, there is an effort to design panels with more rigidity so they install easier and straighter, better mask the subsurface and look better on the wall.
Show your customers that the brand of vinyl siding you plan to use on their home is certified. You can quickly check the fully searchable Vinyl Siding Institute (VSI) Web site at www.vinylsiding.org. You can search by company, product or brand name. Or, for example, if you want to use a double 4-in. Dutch lap siding, you can find out which brands are certified.
VSIÆs Certification Program is designed to insure homeowners and remodelers of the quality of the siding they select and use. Siding is verified by an independent, third party, Architectural Testing, Inc., to meet or exceed the American Society for Testing and Materials D3679. Criteria for the standard includes: weatherability (resistance to sun, wind, rain; and ability to retain color uniformly over time), impact resistance, heat shrinkage (resistance to distortion due to extreme temperatures), and uniformity and dimensional consistency of the product meets actual, not nominal, specified thickness, length and width. Certified products carry the VSI certified logo.
The popularity of fiber cement siding is increasing, with strong growth in regional markets beyond the sunbelt. James Hardie, for example, is doubling production capacity at its new Illinois plant in response to stronger than expected demand in both the Midwest and the Northeast.
Homeowners are receptive to the high durability, wearability and non-combustible characteristics of fiber cement. Michael Spector, a remodeler for St. Charles Exteriors, Inc., St. Charles, Mo., started using fiber cement siding more than a year ago on remodels for upper-end homes.
"Consumers love it," says Spector. "It looks substantial and It gives them the look of wood they want. We can actually put up fiber cement at a price comparable to hardboard. WeÆve been pushing it."