From affordable luxury to concern for the environment, many of this past year's notable new products reflect manufacturers' responses to shifting consumer demands.
It's not enough anymore for products to simply function and perform as expected. They have to look good and match the homeowner's aesthetic sensibility, too.
That's the leading conclusion ProSales' editors reached in compiling this year's review of building products and materials. Many of the trends we saw over the past 12 months were influenced more by the desires of homeowners than by home builders and contractors. Others, such as new designs and training to curb moisture intrusion, help installers today while keeping homeowners from getting angry–and litigious–in the future. And then there were a few pure product developments, such as an increase in hoseless framing nailers.
Here are some of the most significant developments.
Appearance Counts: The Target effect is hitting the world of building products in a big way with the superstore's "Design-For-Everyone" mentality. Products purchased as much for their appearance as for their function–such as cabinetry and door and cabinet hardware–are being upgraded at the entry point and mid-range with higher-end options, such as trendy metal finishes, "designer" color palettes or custom-matching options, and more contemporary, fashion-forward designs.
In fact, many building products now are as fashion-driven as furniture, electronics, and clothing. Interior and exterior doors, vinyl siding, and windows all have been influenced by consumer demand for customization and a high-end look.
Cabinetry saw a clear trend toward transitional styles, which are winning favor with many designers and homeowners because they bridge the gap between ornamented traditional and slick contemporary styles as well as offer decorating flexibility. Entry-point and mid-range cabinetry manufacturers continued to add designer options to their lines, as well.
Affordable luxury also is evident in the continuing expansion of entry-point and mid-range hardware finishes that approximate or duplicate the high-fashion finishes offered by premium hardware manufacturers. As expected, polished brass has fallen by the wayside as homeowners have increasingly opted for oil-rubbed bronze and satin nickel finishes. Many people now also want to match their home's hardware finishes from the entry door onward, and even choose to coordinate with bath and kitchen fixtures. Product suites–all in the same finishes and complementary designs–that encompass entry, passage, cabinet, and bath hardware and accessories, and even faucets and lighting are a ready-made solution.
Waves of Green: Get ready, because it's coming. The green home building industry is on the verge of hitting the mainstream. More home buyers are demanding energy-efficient, healthy homes, and an ever-increasing number of builders are recognizing the opportunity to give them what they want and make a profit in the process. Those builders will need your help to determine which conventional building materials will support their green building goals and to sift through all the new green-marketed products. The practice of claiming green attributes for products has increased dramatically among manufacturers, though for some it's just a marketing tool. It can be difficult to determine whose claims are legitimate and whose are just "greenwashing." That's where your expertise could come in handy.
Damage Control: Managing moisture around windows and doors has continued to be a major focus for builders because water infiltration around fenestration causes costly callbacks and can spark litigation. Many window manufacturers are focusing on improving their installation instructions and educating installers. Most are emphasizing proper use of flashings and sill pans as a critical step in preventing water infiltration. Several flexible flashing products, designed for easier workability and application, were introduced in the past year, as well as prefabricated sill pans that can be adjusted or customized on the jobsite. If you offer window or door installation services, ongoing training in the latest methods and familiarity with the newest moisture management products is going to be essential to your success.
Hose-Free: For about 20 years Paslode was the only tool company with a viable gas-powered, hoseless framing nailer, and many contractors have come to appreciate the value of freedom from compressors and hoses. In the past year-plus, three more power tool manufacturers debuted their own hoseless framing nailers: Hitachi, Max USA, and Powers Fasteners. Competition among manufacturers will likely increase in the next few years as they attempt to win market share based on price, performance, features, and fastener type. Hoseless framing nailers are a good complement to pneumatic tools, because they can make certain applications much safer–there's nothing to trip over. And though high-capacity production framers are unlikely to give up their pneumatic tools for most of their work, hoseless framing nailers are ideal for remodeling applications and punch-out work.