Demand for low maintenance, easy installation drives trends.
With a wealth of alternatives beyond traditional wood options, dealers have plenty of choices these days when it comes to moulding, millwork and trim products. From PVC to polyurethane to composites, manufacturers are looking to reduce maintenance and make products easier to install in response to demands from consumers and contractors.
“Low-maintenance in any product is always a key attribute for today’s homeowner,” says Steve Booz, vice president of new product development & product management at Royal Building Products. “Homeowners want a great looking house, not a weekend project requiring yearly maintenance. This is why Royal’s Trim & Moulding products are easy to use and easy to maintain. Products need to be resilient and maintain their beauty over a lifetime.”
That trend is especially important with younger homeowners, says Matt Michalski, product manager, Boral Building Products.
“And that means builders are increasingly looking at the longevity of the products they choose,” Michalski says. “Higher-quality products generally cost more, but offer a longer life span, a better aesthetic, and higher performance; builders, remodelers, and dealers who can offer that will be at an advantage.”
At the same time, the labor shortage in the construction industry is driving development and production of new products that can be installed more quickly and easily.
“The trade must be able to move from one job to the next quickly, which is why Fypon products are ranked high within the industry because they are lightweight and in most cases can be installed by one person,” says Mary Nesper, senior product manager for Fypon. “Low-maintenance is crucial as well. Homeowners don’t want to spend time replacing or repairing issues with products on their home. They want them to last a long time and here is where Fypon excels. Fypon products are weather-and insect-resistant and look beautiful for years.”
New options, new looks
With those parallel needs of low maintenance and ease of installation—and increasing demand for more creative design—manufacturers in the segment are rolling out many new innovations.
An example from Palram is Palight, a free foam PVC trim board designed as an alternative to traditional wood products. It is available in typical wood profile sizes. It can be easily cut, shaped or painted. Another advantage of Palight is the protective EverClean film available as a standard feature on the products, says Palram business unit manager Jeff King.
“When we’re talking about warehousing a product, there’s a chance for everything to get dirty,” King says. “And in that process with the EverClean film on it, it does protect against that. Also the biggest benefit is when it’s on a jobsite, that’s when things really get dirty. And you can leave the EverClean film on until you’re done with the project. … You don’t have to worry about scrubbing it down and wiping it down, and it’s a good benefit.”
Beyond traditional white, the company also offers its trim in sand or clay colors with its proprietary Color2Core technology. Palram also recently introduced its corner accessories in sand and clay as well.
“We’re the only people out there who have a true Color2Core,” King says. “The color is all the way through.”
The demand for those earth tone trim colors is growing, King says.
“The demand for a softer look, those markets are growing especially in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic,” he says. “The Northeast is predominantly white trim board, so it’s a little tougher market to penetrate.”
AZEK is also seeing more demand for colored trim, with many homeowners opting to paint their trim—something that is not always an easy task, says Loi McLoughlin, vice president of sales–trim and siding.
“We’re starting to see the trend that when you move away from the Northeast, you move away from the coast, more and more people they want color trim,” McLoughlin says.
AZEK is addressing that with it’s new PaintPro, trim that is “engineered to be painted.”
“PaintPro will do a few things for you,” McLoughlin says. “The paint will dry within half an hour to an hour, so you can touch it. You don’t have to prep it, and then once the paint is on, the paint will stay for a very, very long time because PVC is impervious to moisture.… So, PaintPro, keeping its cost slightly less than our regular white trim, you can paint it, and the adhesion is great, and the paint would dry in an hour versus two days.”
AZEK recently introduced a built-in J-channel to its trim board, another advancement with improved aesthetics in mind.
“We’re starting to see, especially in the Midwest, that builders are starting to put real trim on vinyl homes,” McLoughlin says. “They have fiber cement in the front, and then three-sided vinyl, but then they use [wood] trim and then they use the J channel. Our product is designed that it’s got a built in J channel, three-quarter J channel, so they can tuck it in, so it looks a lot cleaner.
“We know that AZEK trim is being used on fiber cement and cedar, but now we have a solution to even address the vinyl,” he adds. “Dealers can actually make money now…in a market that they normally don’t reach.”
Beyond painted and colored trim, there is also growing demand for PVC trim with woodgrain.
“While markets in the Mid-Atlantic and westward have always embraced woodgrain textured products, the Northeast has historically been a smooth trim market,” says Jerry Blais, Ply Gem’s general manager–PVC trim & roofing. “Many East Coast builders are breaking the mold by using cellular PVC with a woodgrain finish that complements siding with a similar pattern.” Ply Gem has several other new products and features designed to address the demand for lower maintenance and ease of use.
“Our PVC trim sheets are now available with film protection in every thickness and length,” Blais says. “Sheets can sit in inventory for longer periods of time, and we feel it’s important to give the distributor a way to protect the surface from dust collection. Additionally, we’ve recently introduced Beadsheets in 8′ and 10′ lengths that install at a full 48″ width in order to address sizing needs of contractors.”
Ply Gem has also introduced Basic and Premium Décor Kits for use with its post wraps and accessories. Both kits are available to fit Ply Gem’s 4×4, 6×6 or 8×8 post wraps. The Basic kits contain four moulding sets and glue for the first level upgrade all in one kit. The Premium Kits give the installer a single package decorative solution that contains glue, five moulding sets, as well as top and bottom doubled appearance accents.
CertainTeed Restoration Millwork is a line of trim products that look and feel like lumber, but offer the performance of cellular PVC. In a response to market trends, CertainTeed recently introduced a new 3/4″ reversible panel to its Restoration Millwork cellular PVC trim line that features a WP4 V-groove on one side and a 1/4″ nickel gap on the other.
“This panel also features our TightLap nailing flange to ease installation by creating a larger nailing area between the tongue and groove connection,” says Matt Rapposelli, product manager, CertainTeed Outdoor Living and Trim. “This, along with it being a bit thicker than the standard 1/2″ panel, also helps to eliminate or reduce the number of visible fasteners.”
Another innovation that helps ease installation and offer a superior visual is CertainTeed’s InvisiPro hidden fastening system.
“This is a two-part system that utilizes grooves cut into the backside of trim boards and one-piece corners as well as starter strips and nail flanges,” Rapposelli says. “The starter and nail flanges securely lock into the grooves eliminating the need for face nailing and ensuring a clean, fastener-free surface. The product is fastened to the wall via the nail flange, which is in turn covered by the cladding/siding. Corners come with grooves already installed, so all you need is the nail flange to do the fully hidden fastener system.”
Versatex is also working to meet the demand among homeowners for more options on the exterior of the home.
“New Versatex products over the past 12 months have been focused on line expansions to provide more choice,” says marketing manager Sarah Rawlings. “For example, we have expanded our Canvas Series product line to include Stealth Beadboard and Bed Mould for those looking to create a different look than the traditional WP4 and crown moulding options previously offered. Plus, as of January 2019, the line includes a total of five finish options: Walnut, Black Cherry, Macore, Amber, and the newest addition, Weathered Grey.”
Versatex offers several benefits to both homeowners and contractors, Rawlings says.
“When comparing Versatex trim options against wood, the key advantages are surrounding longevity, especially in high moisture environments,” she says. “Against other materials in the market, such as fiber cement and fly ash, Versatex advantages include ease of handling and installation, as well as lesser environmental impact due to manufacturing and recycling methods. Finally, against other PVC options, Versatex leads the market in not only the breadth of our product line but also the quality of our formulation, with minimal ‘filler’ materials that contribute to discoloration, expansion and contraction, inconsistent cell structure, etc.”
Kleer Lumber has added several new accessories to its lineup of cellular PVC trim.
“We recently expanded our KLEERWrap column wraps with a 10″ option,” Michalski says. “This larger size addresses the trend toward larger porch columns; it delivers a more robust look that’s a true focal point. Like our smaller sizes, the 10″ column wrap encases treated posts to create a finished look without the long-term maintenance hassles of wood, and it can be installed with just one person, which is a crucial detail in today’s tight labor market.”
Also new from Kleer is its outside corner with integrated nailing flange.
“The nailing flange forms a 3/4″ pocket to conceal end cuts, so it saves installation hassles while ensuring a clean, streamlined appearance,” Michalski says. “It’s also a great option for dealers because it works well with a range of siding materials—vinyl, shake, shingle, stone, and more.”
For the TruExterior line, the company recently introduced 2x trim, providing greater options for dealers to offer their customers for creating custom exterior looks. “This look is especially popular in the South, where it’s well-suited to more robust siding profiles and bolder looks,” Michalski says. “The 2x trim is made with TruExterior’s proprietary blend of polymers and fly ash, which provides the desired aesthetic of wood but with better workability and minimal expansion and contraction due to temperature and moisture changes.”
Modern Farmhouse style is an emerging style that is becoming more popular, Fypon’s Nesper says.
“Homeowners love the relaxed and comfortable feeling of this new design,” she says “And Fypon has several new products that offer builders and remodelers the opportunity to create a stunning exterior with our new product.”
Those new products include barn-style Shaker Modern Farmhouse Shutters, Rafter Tails that can be placed over a 2×4 or 2×6 structural support for a porch or gable front overhang, protecting them from the elements, and column wraps, made from durable PVC that doesn’t require painting.
Column wraps are also one of the new products from Royal Building Products in 2018.
“Whether you are dressing up your front porch or your deck, these low maintenance column wraps provide the architectural accent to fit any home,” Booz says. “Available in craftsman, traditional, and contractor styles, Royal’s PVC wraps allow you to achieve a look that matches your home or project. This low-maintenance addition to your project is quick and easy for the contractor to install with its one-step installation and clamshell design.”
Royal also introduced nickel gap and shiplap in 2018.
“These products provide designers and homeowners with the authentic look they desire in a low maintenance material,” Booz says. “Great for outdoor accents or indoor projects, and works perfectly in a kitchen or bathroom where wood can suffer from the effects of moisture.”
All of these alternatives doesn’t mean there isn’t still a demand for real wood products, says Ken Freedman, senior category manager at BlueLinx.
“Building on the success and popularity of our original Shadow Gap products, we added Vintage Shadow Gap to the PrimeLinx family of products,” he says. “It offers customers the look of reclaimed wood in two distinct styles—1/8″ self-spacing shiplap and authentic narrow line. Vintage Shadow Gap features the character markings of distressed, reclaimed wood without the hazardous paint or insects found in other reclaimed boards.”
BlueLinx products are designed and engineered for ease in application and finishing.
“As a result, they require less labor and technical skills to install,” Freedman says. “Quality and consistency are key components of the PrimeLinx product line.”
In 2018, Woodtone introduced RealTrim Treated, its new primed wood trim product.
“RealTrim Treated has been tested using industry recognized standards and the results were truly superior in terms of resistance to mold, mildew and fungus growth,” says Mike Pidlisecky, vice president sales & marketing. “This proprietary treated sealant protects the surface of the wood without infusing the substrate with water, which could potentially compromise the substrate structure and accelerate fungi growth.”
Woodtone created RealTrim Treated in partnership with Sherwin Williams.
“To achieve the industry leading performance we demanded, Sherwin developed IsoTek, the first step in our two-step treatment process,” Pidlisecky says.
In 2019 and beyond Woodtone is seeing a refocus on wood building products for inside and outside the home.
“Wood grain is once again being directly equated with higher value products, and we anticipate we will continue to see this trend grow,” Pidlisecky says. ”We are also seeing a big focus on experimenting with multiple textures, substrates and colors on a single building in multifamily and commercial developments, giving the opportunity for manufacturers to collaborate on designs and offerings.”
MiraTEC by Jeld-Wen recently rolled out a thicker trim to meet the need in luxury applications, as well as MiraTEC Smooth Select, a smooth two sides trim with an ultra-smooth surface and nearly square edges. Most recently, MiraTEC introduced gray primer to its exterior trim boards.
“This color change both enhances the appearance of MiraTEC’s detailed woodgrain texture as well as its smooth side, and it provides increased durability on the job site because it is easier to keep clean,” says Laura Ahrens Brown, Jeld-Wen marketing manager, building products. “The quality of the primer sustains the same high-performance level by providing moisture, rot, and termite resistant product that builders rely on day after day, job after job.”
MiraTEC has a 50-year limited warranty to provide long-term coverage for homeowners.
“MiraTEC trim differs from other trim products on the market by providing ‘best’ level performance at an affordable price point—builders aren’t forced to sacrifice quality to meet project budget needs,” Brown says.
Finding the right solution
With all the options on the market, it can be difficult to sell customers on the benefits of a given product.
Palram’s King recommends explaining the long-term savings of PVC products as an important selling point.
“What they have to do is sell the benefits,” he says. “It is a much more expensive product than wood but it does last with the elements and it’s not going to rot or have those effects that wood would have.”
It’s important to know the customer and what they’re trying to achieve with the project.
“If it’s a short-term fix and they’re worried just about cost, then wood is probably the way to go,” King says. “But if they’re looking for something that has a nice finish, that’s going to last and not have to put it up again, then PVC is your way to go. So it’s about asking questions at the dealer level about what their end goal is and what they’re trying to accomplish with the trim products. And if they know that they can work it backwards from there and find the best product.”
Listen to the customers and what they need, AZEK’s McLoughlin says.
“Don’t try to be the financial adviser to your customer,” he says. Don’t “assume that people want the cheaper stuff as opposed to asking them what is it that they’re doing. I guarantee you if someone is building a $2 million home, they’re looking for the best product, not the cheapest product, and sometimes I see a lumberyard, the first thing they assume, ‘Oh, I want something cheap.’ And they leave money on the table.”
In the end, aligning your dealership with a strong company with a long history is the key to continued success.
“You can always go around the world looking for the cheap stuff, but I tell you what … the brands that endure are the ones that deliver on the brand promise,” McLoughlin says. “A good company works hard to make sure that the product endures, and makes sure that their customer service endures. That’s how you delight the customer, and that’s how you get them to come back.”
Woodtone’s Pidlisecky agreed, noting the importance of adding value for the contractor or builder.
“2019 is a great year for reviewing the product lines and programs which have typically been identified as ‘commodity’ or low margin categories,” Pidlisecky says. “Some examples of these are raw pine boards of primed exterior siding. In these scenarios the products are installed in the home and a painter is required onsite. Revenue and margin opportunities exist for the retailer when they move to pre-finished materials, offering the builder a ‘finished’ solution.”
An educated and informed dealer staff is the most important part of making the most of the category, Versatex’s Rawlings says.
“Through programs like VERSATEXPERT, dealer sales reps can really understand not only the product line, but also the manufacturing methods and unique value propositions that VERSATEX brings and better respond to the needs of their customers,” she says. “We also make sure technical bulletins and best practices information is accessible in print and online.”
Although training can take time away from the everyday operations of a dealership, it will pay off in the long run.
“When a dealer sales rep is knowledgeable on products and their value propositions, builders and contractors will be more confident in the products as well,” Rawlings says. “Plus, the more you know about the product, the easier it will be to identify additional applications and sales opportunities.”
Be sure to take advantage of all the marketing support and co-op programs available as well, Rawlings added.
Creating material displays, such as building a wall section or small house can be a good way to demonstrate the quality of the products.
“Our most successful dealers leverage Ply Gem’s extensive sample and display offering and encourage contractors and builders to sell the full product offering,” Ply Gem’s Blais says. “Dealers can be very successful with this approach, creating more satisfied homeowners and beautiful homes while increasing their profits.”
It’s also a good idea to provide outside sales staff with corresponding ride-along displays and samples, says, Quinn Wright, regional sales manager–MiraTEC.
“Continuing education is critical,” Wright says. “Providing educational lunches or dinners for contractors in coordination with vendors and manufacturers allows the opportunity for informed discussion and detailed questions to be answered.”