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Exterior projects still popular in downturn

Homeowners are continuing to invest in the exteriors of their homes and many remodelers are doing pricier exterior projects than they were a year ago, according to the latest Professional Remodeler research.

February 28, 2010
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exterior projects research
For most remodelers, the price tag for the average exterior remodel falls between $5,000 and $15,000, although 10 percent average more than $25,000.

Homeowners are continuing to invest in the exteriors of their homes and many remodelers are doing pricier exterior projects than they were a year ago, according to the latest Professional Remodeler research.

More than 90 percent of remodelers undertook at least some projects in 2009 that included siding replacement and other exterior remodeling. Nineteen percent of respondents performed exterior remodels on more than half of their projects — and this was from a group where only 3 percent self-identified as an “exterior remodeler.”

For most remodelers, exterior work has stayed a steady part of their business; 55 percent said there was no change over the last year. At the same time, 30 percent said it was a growing portion of their business. Only 15 percent said it was making up a smaller part of their job mix.

Despite the downturn in the overall remodeling market, job prices for exterior projects are remaining strong. In our survey of remodelers last year on overall market conditions, 77 percent said their average job size had decreased and only 11 percent reported an increase in average price tag.

When it comes to exteriors, though, those numbers are starkly different: 47 percent of remodelers said the price for their average exterior job increased last year. A third of remodelers saw no change and 20 percent saw a decrease. Clearly, exterior jobs are weathering the storm better as homeowners opt for more need-based projects. The only part of the country significantly different from the national picture is the West, where “only” 30 percent of remodelers reported an increase in job price — still much better than the overall market.

That average price tag does vary by region, though. Nationally, most jobs (58 percent) fall between $5,000 and $15,000 (see graph p. 40). The Midwest had the least expensive jobs, with half of projects under $10,000. Remodelers in the Northeast reported the priciest projects, with 40 percent averaging more than $15,000. Projects in the South and West lined-up almost perfectly with national trends.

When homeowners choose to replace their siding, fiber cement and vinyl are the clear product leaders. Sixty-eight percent of remodelers install fiber cement and 51 percent are seeing at least some clients opt for vinyl (remodelers could choose more than one option). Stone (35 percent), stucco (32 percent), wood (31 percent) and brick (28 percent) remain popular as well.


exterior projects research
More than half of remodelers are replacing wood more than any other product. Vinyl is the only other material cited by more than 10 percent of remodelers.
exterior projects research
More than 40 percent of remodelers cite replacing a failing product as the top reason their clients undertake an exterior remodel, but more than a quarter say their clients are looking

to improve the curb appeal of the home.

There were clear differences by region, reflecting each area’s unique construction styles. In the Northeast, 79 percent of remodelers are working with vinyl — the highest percentage of any region — compared to 63 percent who install fiber cement. The Northeast is also the top region for wood siding, used by 45 percent of remodelers there.

Vinyl is also the top choice in the Midwest, but only narrowly over fiber cement: 69 to 66 percent. Midwestern remodelers are the most likely to use stone (40 percent) or metal siding products on the home’s exterior.

The South is the top region in the country for both fiber cement and brick, although fiber cement is the clear market leader in the South, where 80 percent of remodelers work with it. That’s twice as many as the 40 percent whose clients are choosing brick finishes. Only 39 percent are using vinyl, barely above the level of stucco and stone installations.

Stucco is the No. 1 choice in the West, with 74 percent of remodelers working with it. Fiber cement (54 percent) and wood (42 percent) also have good market penetration in the West. Vinyl, on the other hand, is hardly a factor, with only 8 percent of Western remodelers ever installing it.

Not surprisingly, wood is the most common material being replaced, according to 53 percent of remodelers nationally. That number was consistent across all regions. The only other product being replaced at a significant level is vinyl at 20 percent — except in the West, where 18 percent of remodelers are replacing stucco more than any other product.

Replacing a failing product, such as rotting siding, is the top reason remodelers are hired for an exterior project — 44 percent cited it as the No. 1 cause. But many homeowners are also choosing to remodel simply to improve the home’s curb appeal, according to the 29 percent of remodelers who chose that as their top reason. Reducing maintenance (13 percent), improving energy efficiency (7 percent) and upgrading materials (5 percent) were less popular choices.

Siding replacement jobs are also almost always a part of a larger remodeling project. Only 8 percent of remodelers said their typical siding replacement job involves replacing siding only. The most common work is replacing windows, chosen by 68 percent of remodelers. More than half of companies said their typical siding job is part of a larger whole-house remodel or addition and 49 percent said they are replacing doors as part of the average project. Thirty-one percent said they are repairing or replacing the roof at the same time they remodel the exterior of the home.


Remodeling clients' wants drive remodeling choices

Economy, lack of confidence drive project choices


We also asked you which exterior products you recommend most often and why. Here’s some of what you had to say:

“These products hold up the best in my climate conditions (East coast Florida).”

“Cost, appearance and durability”

“Long-term investment is worth the immediate cost.”

“Stability and looks”

“Fire retardant and low-maintenance”

“Not a fad like some others.”

“Quality and consistency of product”

“It stands up and performs well, good paintability, a solid feel and able to caulk and seal the exterior envelope of the building well.”

“Readily available”

“Low maintenance and longevity”

“Efficient, lasting and maintenance free”

“For the price-conscious and cement board for the green conscious.”

“It has the most choices, the installers like working with the product; most siding distributors stock more vinyl colors and styles than steel or fiber cement.”

“Cost effective”

“In South Florida, it holds up the best.”

“Lower maintenance costs.”

“Predominantly the exterior finish on homes in Southern California”

464 remodelers completed the survey via e-mail from Feb. 10-22, 2010. Participants were chosen from a random sample of subscribers to Professional Remodeler magazine and Professional Remodeler e-newsletters.

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