Composite trim is steadily gaining acceptance among pros as an attractive alternative to wood exterior trim because composites allow pros to sidestep many of the installation, callback, and maintenance issues associated with wood, according to composite manufacturers.
The category of composite trim includes several different material types, such as polystyrene, wood/plastic composite, and cellular PVC, but the products all claim similar benefits—including better weatherability and paint adhesion; resistance to moisture absorption; and crack, rot, and insect resistance—all while providing the look of painted wood. Plus, composite trims are covered by manufacturers' warranties—most with limited lifetime coverage—while most natural wood trims are not.
Several wood/plastic composites are available, such as Royal Wood's trimboards and moldings (circle 102), CertainTeed's Composite Trim (circle 103), AERT's MoistureShield (circle 104), and CMI's MiraTec (circle 105). Cellular PVC product lines include Fypon PVC Trim (circle 106), AZEK Trimboards (circle 107), Wolfpac Technologies' Versatex Trimboards (circle 108), Royal Mouldings' No Rot Exterior Moldings (circle 109), and Kleer Lumber's Kleer Trimboards (circle 110). Polystyrenes like Universal Forest Products' TechTrim (circle 111) are also included in the composites category.
With densities similar to pine, “the wood/polymer composite trims and cellular PVCs have the workability of wood,” says Walt Hoyt, director of marketing communications for CertainTeed's siding group. “Yet you don't have the maintenance issues” of wood, he says. The cellular PVC products are susceptible to some expansion and contraction, the effects of which can be lessened by spacing them as the manufacturer instructs.
Polystyrene trim is also as easily worked as wood, according to John Hess, sales manager for TechTrim.
Many composite trims come prefinished and can be left unpainted, but some are only primed and must be painted after installation. Because the most popular trim color in the country is still white, the majority of composite trim products only come in white, so if the homeowner wants a different trim color, painting will still be necessary. Dealer pre-finishing programs can overcome this slight drawback.
Despite lower maintenance, composite trims claim only a small share of the national market—around 5 percent or less, manufacturers estimate. The products have been embraced by contractors in the East and in a few pockets of the Midwest and West, but, according to Kleer Lumber's CEO and co-founder Tripp Lantz, awareness and understanding of the category is still low throughout most of the country.
Not surprisingly, dealers trying to introduce composite trim will have to educate customers about the different products available and the benefits of each. Composite trim manufacturers offer a variety of tools to help, from product samples and literature to support and kits for product demonstrations. Many distributors also will visit pro yards to demonstrate the products' properties and capabilities.
For those unwilling to invest in dozens of SKUs of an unfamiliar product, several manufacturers offer starter or variety packs of small quantities of several SKUs for the yard to stock and introduce to its customers. Distributors also may package a random selection of lengths and profiles together for the dealer to sell, both on a custom basis and for stocking. “There are a heck of a lot of dealers throughout the country who haven't gotten into this category yet,” says Rick Capers, national sales representative for Versatex. “We're trying to help mitigate some of the upfront concerns of getting into composite trim.”