The lines have been drawn as PVC, polyurethane, and fly-ash composite trim makers look to cut into wood’s behemoth market share over the next four years.
If you’re a pro dealer offering trim and moulding products to builders and remodelers, there’s no doubt that wood has been good. Widespread availability of pine board in the east and Canadian spruce and western red cedar in the west, along with well-established supply chains help keep costs consistently low, while contractors love wood’s workability and homeowners continue to embrace its warmth and visual aesthetics.
At least for the next four years, demand for wood moulding and trim will continue to grow, increasing 5.7% annually to fuel $5.8 billion in category sales by 2020, according to a study from The Freedonia Group, an industry research firm. In addition to new home building, growth in the office and commercial sectors will boost demand as wood remains a top option to finish and frame both exterior and interior rough construction.
That said, wood isn’t the only trim game in town anymore. PVC, polyurethane, plastic and fly-ash composites are gaining serious market traction for their durability and lower maintenance requirements. Often designed to look, handle and install just like wood products, composite trim has seen wide adoption in the Eastern U.S. in particular as homeowners opt-in to protection against bugs and moisture, even if higher performance comes with a higher price tag.
|The 4/4 and 5/4 Allura fiber cement trim products won’t warp, rot or splinter, the maker says. The trim line is available with Allura’s ColorMax Finishing System’s line of 18 solid colors, and features a two-sided, reversible profile boasting both smooth and woodgrain finishes.|
“The opportunity for trim dealers and distributors is conversion,” says Mike Parrish, vice president of product development at AZEK. “Seventy percent of the trim market is still using wood. Moisture, air, moderate temperatures and a food source, or wood, is a combination for rot and insects. PVC eliminates the food source, and in turn, is immune to rot and insect issues. Although the upfront cost of PVC trim may be higher, the lifetime cost is substantially lower.”
While composite performance against moisture has translated to market share growth mostly east of the Mississippi River, PVC and polyurethane trim makers are beginning to see increased interest from drier climate, wood-laden markets in the western states too. With the trim market practically split between wood and plastics right down the middle of the country, the Freedonia study says composite growth is poised to outpace the category overall, rising 6.3% annually to carve into wood’s national market share.
|If it looks like wood, cuts like wood, screws like wood, it might just be (almost) all wood. MiraTEC trim is an engineered, treated wood composite trim manufactured in a sealed, steam injection press. The resulting product does need to be painted, but resists moisture, rot and termites and excels in harsh climates.|
“Western expansion of the markets is increasing steadily with consistent product marketing,” says Troy Sinks, national sales manager for KOMA Building Products. “Every manufacturer is looking for other areas of growth where they have not traditionally done business, and for PVC and composite trim, that’s the West Coast.”
Rick Kapres is the vice president and CFO for PVC trimboard manufacturer Versatex. Kapres says PVC market share has already surpassed wood in many Eastern seaboard markets. “From Maine to Florida, within a couple hundred miles of the coast, it’s like ground zero for PVC which easily has a 50% plus market share,” Kapres says. “But when you get out West, our entire category has struggled to beat the cost and the availability of wood. West Coast market acceptance has not happened yet, but we are still optimistic that it will.”
Ply Gem is starting to see some market penetration in the Pacific Northwest, and handling is one reason why. The trim maker uses an offline edge sealing process to prevent trim board from collecting any dust or dirt and offers a peel-off laminate to keep the product clean from the manufacturing facility to the wall.
Renewable vs. Recyclable
As green building practices and products continue to find favor among new homebuyers and remodeling customers alike, both wood and PVC trim categories have sustainability benefits worthy of a contractor upsell. While wood has periodically suffered from a deforestation stigma, forest product manufacturers say clear-cut perception of wood is a thing of the past as consumers have moved to embrace professionally managed, renewable resources.
“We don’t even face that issue anymore,” says Larry Broadfoot, vice president of sales and marketing for Collins, which was a founding member of the Forest Stewardship Council in 1993 and received an achievement award from the organization in 2015 for long-term commitment to sustainable forestry. “Particularly with FSC certification, customers are contacting us because we are a forest products company. And while FSC is the vehicle, the mentality around sustainability is deeply embedded in this company and we find that folks who buy from us know that.”
Mike Pidlisecky is the vice president of sales and marketing at Woodtone, a manufacturer of trim and moulding from both Western Canadian spruce and Western red cedar. Across the British Columbia plantations where Woodtone sources product, three trees are planted for every one harvested.
|KOMA is a PVC manufacturer of trim boards and sheet product used in trim, porch flooring, and moulding applications. The maker uses a Celuka manufacturing process and air cools the product to provide a harder and more durable shell.|
|Versatex makes sheet and board cellular PVC in thicknesses from a quarter inch to a full inch and a half. Products include the Versawrap stealth window and door surround systems and soffit systems available in 45 of 50 states.|
“From an environmental perspective, it doesn’t get any better,” Pidlisecky says. “Wood has a low VOC content and is engrained as part of the entire healthy home concept, powering demand from architects who are much more engaged than they were 15 or 20 years ago when it comes to the environmental benefits of using wood.”
Renewability, though, isn’t the only factor contributing to overall sustainability. Pure PVC can be mechanically recycled and formed into new products, and both PVC and polyurethane trim makers point to faster manufacturing capabilities and lighter material weight that reduce the total energy consumption of their product when compared to wood. “Our product is easier to manufacture, and from a supply chain perspective the logistics are more efficient to get it to the dealer, which makes it less expensive and more environmentally friendly,” says Mary Nesper, product and marketing manager for Fypon.
|Woodtone’s RusticSeries fiber cement trim features an applied coating system to boost curb appeal and includes a 15-year protection warranty. Available as lap siding, shakes, panels and trim.|