Despite supply-chain disruptions, decorative trim is poised for another strong year.
In 1849, British writer and philosopher John Ruskin published “The Seven Lamps of Architecture,” an extended essay on the value of building ornamentation. In it, he famously penned the line, “Ornamentation is the principal part of architecture, considered as a subject of fine art.”
His ideas regarding the value and importance of trim are as valid today as they were over 170 years ago. Moulding and trim serve as ornamentation and help define a structure’s nature and aesthetic. And the desire to utilize trim as a defining element is one that’s on the upswing, due in part to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year and a half.
As homeowners spend more and more time at home, they’ve grown ever more aware of their home’s appearance. They’re wanting to make a personal statement while not breaking the bank with a complete remodel, and manufacturers say moulding and trim is uniquely poised to deliver on those desires. “Just adding or changing trim can be a less expensive alternative to a full exterior remodel while providing significant curb appeal,” says Trinh Le, head of marketing for LP Building Solutions’ business unit.
But while moulding and trim stands ready to deliver significant wins for LBM dealers, other factors outside of their control threaten to cause headaches, and it’s only by operating smartly that dealers can best ensure their success.
Growth through pain
Looking back to this time last year, it seems hard to imagine conditions for the trim and moulding industry would be even more challenging now than they were then. Industry experts and manufacturers alike envisioned a return to normal by this time. Disruptions in labor availability, transportation, and even raw material availability, however, have put new wrinkles in the recovery picture.
“The challenges of 2020 proved to be much easier than the challenges of 2021,” says Steve Booz, vice president of marketing for Westlake Royal Building Products. “It seemed like every time one raw material shortage resolved itself, another one popped up, hampering the supply chain and production across the industry. Combine that with a nationwide shortage of labor and the results are strong demand and continued growth, but the supply was not able to meet the demand.”
Peter Cobucci, business unit manager for Palram Construction Products, sees similar challenges resulting from rising prices of resins and additives, labor shortages and logistics issues. “Even with prices rising dramatically this year, I don’t see the resin and additives market settling for at least the first six months into 2022,” he explains. “Knowing that resin and additive manufacturers are currently backlogged with orders, it is unlikely that PVC prices will drop in the near future.”
Brett Collins, business manager for Universal Forest Products’ Edge premium primed trim agrees. “Labor is the big impact at this point. Finding skilled labor is still difficult and non-existent.”
Despite these challenges, manufacturers are still feeling cautiously optimistic in regard to future growth potential for the moulding and trim segment, with repair and remodel leading the way. “As with everything in building products since the COVID building boom, trim has been growing rapidly in demand in both remodeling and new construction,” says Rick Kapres, vice president of sales and marketing for Versatex. “Not only are there simply more projects due to the demand for single family housing and folks doing additions or remodels, but there is more trim being used due to desires for more curb appeal and differentiation. Mixed materials/colors/styles are very popular in cladding and trim goes hand in hand with that.”
“At this time, the market for 2022 looks fairly robust and Palram is forecasting for another strong year,” adds Cobucci. “Remodel and repair continue to look strong, and even though new residential construction activity has declined three out of the last four months, most builders remain optimistic about growth for 2022, despite the rising cost of construction materials, affordability of housing and difficulties in finding labor.”
Ian Daniels, director of technical support for Tamlyn, shares this sense of optimism, but also sees similar potential problems noted by Cobucci. “From the demand side, it looks like it will continue to be strong for the next 12 months,” he says. “Permits are still strong, which is a positive indicator, but the wild card/ unknown will be material availability, particularly when it comes to metal.”
Because of these unknowns, moulding and trim manufacturers are doing everything they can to not simply meet demand but find innovative ways to nullify these challenges. “While raw materials and labor have driven up pricing dramatically over the past 12 months, we have not had any issues keeping up with demand that is exceeding 30% growth,” explains Kapres. “We took steps when the pandemic began to ensure safety within our facility and built inventories in anticipation of the demand. We also have been able to source more PVC scrap from more sources without sacrificing quality and that has aided us in meeting demands of our customers and maintaining our 2-3 week lead-times.”
High contrast, clean lines
Over the past few years, high-contrast color options have been leading trends in moulding and trim, and that aesthetic sensibility still holds sway in today’s market. Bold architectural statements created through the use of dark colors remain in play, and their demand shows no signs of slowing down. “
We are continuing to see an interest in white and black exteriors, as well as darker colors of siding such as navy and dark blue-gray,” points out Booz. “Bold, colored trim to accentuate these siding colors continues to be on-trend and pairs very well with darker siding colors. We’re also seeing demand for colored trim at opposite ends of the spectrum—alabaster and milky white trim colors as well as dark, nearly black trim. Pops of color and complementary neutrals on home exteriors work wonders to improve a home’s curb appeal.”
“Traditional style homes, such as Colonial and Victorian, can also integrate colored trim into their exterior,” he adds. “Using contrasting colored trim can give any style home a Modern Farmhouse look; both light and dark trim options make trim a focal point on the façade.”
This isn’t to say, however, that there aren’t other trim and moulding color trends on the horizon. Neutrals ranging from dark browns to tans to shades of off-white are making a return. “Warm neutrals may be poised to surpass cooler tones of gray as the in-demand exterior color of the ‘20s as we crave warmth and places that feel inviting,” Booz explains. “White trim is a classic pairing with a warm neutral; whereas, a colored trim can create a monochromatic look or a modern contrast.”
And just as last year’s color trends remain popular, so too do trim styles. The clean lines of the Modern Farmhouse style, along with the classic appeal of Craftsman design, continue to remain popular choices among homeowners and builders. “Board and batten style siding and trim, sleek accessories like one-piece corners, contrasting trim colors to siding to make colors stand out in a bold, eye-catching way are popular choices,” points out LP’s Trinh Le.
“Craftsman and Modern Farmhouse are the biggest trends in millwork, both interior and exterior, explains Booz. “Our trim options with clean, bold lines make this a stunning interior feature for any room and a welcome transition from Colonial style trim that has been popular for decades earlier. We’re also seeing bolder, blockier trim, such as wider window trim or raised panels. Colored trim can also soften a modern home design by bringing in a traditional element. For example, Modern Farmhouse is a very popular design trend that takes the classical elements of the original Farmhouse style and gives it a contemporary flair.”
The contemporary flair that Booz points out may prove to be key in forecasting growing trim trends. “There has been an increase in modern details down building/housing scale,” points out Tamlyn’s Ian Daniels. “The panelized façades that are commonplace in multifamily have started to be adopted at smaller scales such as light commercial and single-family.”
LP’s Trinh Le also sees builders and homeowners looking for modern, clean, and polished aesthetics with exterior trim. “We are seeing building professionals seeking more variety in trim products, whether that means new colors, textures, or trim accessory offerings (like one-piece outside corners) that help them be more efficient at the time of install.”
And not surprisingly, low mainte-nance trim and moulding options that have traditionally been in high demand remain sought after by both homeowner and builder, and manufacturers predict this product trend to only grow. “The demand for low maintenance trims that are readily available domestically has exploded,” says Versatex’s Kapres. “Supply shortages and logistical issues are continuing to be an issue and dealers are looking to align themselves with companies that can meet the demand. Versatex has maintained 2-3 week lead-times through the pandemic by taking extra safety measures within the facility and continuing to source raw materials from a wide variety of sources for our cellular PVC trim products.”
Says Booz, “From a material perspective, demand for low-maintenance materials continues unabated. Whether they’re a first-time buyer or a retiring couple, few homeowners want to spend their weekends painting or staining their warped, cracked wood trim. Products like Celect PVC trim and Spec Series trim, TruExterior poly-ash trim and Kleer PVC trim offer the authentic look of wood without the upkeep concerns.”
All the aforementioned challenges of material and manpower shortages combined with shipping and delivery delays are creating a daunting retail landscape. To succeed in the face of these challenges, LBM dealers need to stay flexible, say moulding and trim manufacturers, both in how they stock their inventory and how to be the best possible resource for their customers. “Communication with building professionals and manufacturers alike to understand industry supply challenges, needs and forecasts, planning and even trends that are picking up is a huge opportunity for growth for dealers,” points out LP’s Trinh Le.
“Do your homework and look at what a company’s lead times have been over several years during peak and non-peak times,” suggests Versatex’s Kapres. “Find the companies that are consistently on time with deliveries. Certainly stay domestic right now to reduce potential delays as much as possible. Work with those manufacturers that continue to invest in their facilities to add capacity.”
These current supply conditions require dealers to have heightened attention to detail, says Booz. “Thoughtful ordering and customer communication are key to making sure orders are being placed for the right products in the correct sizes and in the correct amounts—and as early as possible. Ordering the wrong sizes or incorrect quantities can result in greater delays than usual.”
Effective and careful planning and forecasting can make all the difference for LBM dealers, manufacturers point out. “Order well in advance and research alternative products that are equal or better in performance and know their availability in the market in order to meet your project timelines,” says UFP’s Collins.
Planning ahead can even result in the LBM dealer being able to take advantage of better pricing and priority product delivery points out Palram’s Cobucci. “If you are an existing Palram customer or desire to be, take full advantage of our Palight Trimboard Winter Buy program. You’ll receive top quality product, competitive pricing and timely delivery of product that’s made in the USA. Taking advantage of this program will enable the dealer to balance their inventory and be ready for the 2022 building season.”
As well, LBM dealers need to stay as informed as possible about the moulding and trim lines they carry so that they can provide solutions to their customers in the event a specifically requested product isn’t available. “This is also where remaining knowledgeable about the products you sell, in stock or special order, can really help,” says Westlake Royal Building Products’ Booz. “By understanding your customers’ projects and challenges, you may be able to find product substitutions to fill in for materials that are in short supply. Working with a manufacturer that sells several different trim lines also helps dealers remain more flexible to accommodate such substitutions.
While it can be easy to feel a bit panicked by the current market challenges, there’s much to be hopeful for over the next year in regard to moulding and trim. As manufacturers ramp up production by finding smart workarounds to manufacturing and shipping short-falls, LBM dealers can expect improvements in product availability. And by staying flexible, they’ll be able to continue offering solutions to their customers. Most importantly, LBM dealers should remember they’re not alone. Manufacturers stand ready to assist wherever they can, and suggest leveraging their experience, especially when there are particularly tricky orders or deliverability problems. As Tamlyn’s Ian Daniels puts it, “If you have a product availability issue, reach out to our team as we have a vast collection of profiles that might be suitable to be a replacement, and we can help with the needed background information to get that done for you.”
Michael Berger is the former managing editor for HANDY Magazine and has been writing about home improvement and construction for the past 20 years.