As the housing market recovers, consumers’ penchant for an attractive exterior on a recessionary budget is being met by products made of materials that seek to achieve the traditional, higher-priced look often associated with real wood but without the maintenance hassles.

The Freedonia Group expects that demand for siding and trim will grow through 2014. After a period in which growth in residential construction was stunted, Freedonia predicts residential siding will see substantial gains through 2014, when demand is projected to hit $11.1 billion, up 42% from 2009. Meanwhile, demand for trim is expected to grow by more than two thirds from its 2009 levels to reach $2.84 billion in 2014.

Within those general numbers, trim and siding materials made from cellular PVC, aluminum, fiber cement, and stucco are gaining market share and encroaching on wood’s and vinyl’s comfortable lead in their respective markets. Still, industry pros seem to agree that wood remains the look to emulate and, for trim, the material to beat.

No Wood, No Problems?

Royal Building Products has focused on making a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) form of trim that, as chief marketing officer John Dybsky puts it, “handles like wood, feels like wood, has the strength like wood without the maintenance issues.” Royal’s Envelop cellular PVC systemwas designed with architect Marianne Cusato and offers four pre-selected trim profiles that include a header, crown, sill nose, and trim board for window and door surrounds.

Jack Delaney, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Kleer, says consumer efforts to boost their homes’ curb appeal prompted the company to bring its molding profiles in-house to ensure better color matches to its PVC sheets and boards. “A lot of people that are using PVC trim products want white trim and therefore they don’t paint it,” he says.

AZEK’s new line of architectural moldingsjoins a recently introduced 4-inch profile in its Finish Grade Trim, each an effort to capitalize on consumers swapping out wood on exterior crowns, moldings and gingerbreading, according to Michael Gori, the company’s director of product management.

Versatex expanded its one-piece PVC Versawrap column surround for treated posts to include a 4-inch by 6-inch profile and added a vented soffit in cellular PVC with fascia and frieze boards, developed in consultation with contractors.

Competition has turned former product differentiators like sealed edges into industry standards. CertainTeed’s Restoration Millwork, and cellular PVC trimboard from Versatex and Kleer use proprietary technology that the makers say make their boards less susceptible to dirt and dust when cut.

CertainTeed added a J-Pocket trimboard to its Restoration Millwork line. “Typically, an installer would need to add the notch on the job site in order for the trimboard to lie flat on the window flange. The cut-out helps prevent the board from rocking and improves miter cut for perfect corners,” says Patti Pellock, senior marketing manager for CertainTeed Restoration Millwork.

To date, PVC’s price point has relegated much of its sales to high-end construction. Manufacturers are pushing to bring to market new, less expensive materials that still boast weatherproofing and aesthetics.

Boral’s TruExterior Trim features a poly ash composite that does not require sealing or gluing the ends of the boards. Jeld-Wen’s AuraLastprimed pine trim boards prove that wood-product manufacturers are keeping pace. The boards are vacuum pressured to stay resistant to water, mold and insects, and do not require wood preservative resealing of saw cuts and nail holes.

Xtreme Trim by Tamlyn switched from a PVC product to an extruded aluminum profile with a PVC powder coating back in 2002, according to Miguel Gonzales, senior vice president of sales and operations. “The [builders or remodelers] that had shifted from the wood to the PVC or the aluminum are more your high-end builders and they aren’t going back to the wood,” he says.

The Race for Second

Vinyl remains the leader in the siding market, accounting for more than one-third of the 58 million squares in demand and one quarter of the total siding demand during 2011, research group Principia Partners reports. Racing for second are a variety of durable, aesthetically pleasing, easily maintained, energy efficiency products. Fiber cement, stucco and brick all are vying for the No. 2 spot.

Exterior insulated siding remains a small but growing market, Principia reports, as rulemaking groups like the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) Council call in their 2012 update for reduction of thermal bridging.

Mastic Home Exteriors by Ply Gem Structure Home Insulation System now features 50% post-consumer recycled and post-industrial recycled materials to reduce thermal bridging and help earn LEED credits. Variform by Ply Gem Vortex Extreme vinyl siding was also expanded with darker colors. To aid the design process, the company introduced its Designed Exterior modeling software, which enables remodelers and homeowners to design, or re-design, the exterior of their current or future home.

Royal’s vinyl Haven Insulated Siding offers a double 6-inch profile that looks like cedar but hides 1 1/8 inches of impact-resistant and noise-reducing insulation.

CertainTeed’s Restoration Millwork line features a new cellular PVC skirtboard with a beveled lap for fiber cement siding applications, and it is dual-sided to offer both wood-grain and smooth finishes.

Wood still has its fans, but it tends to be seen more commonly on larger-budget projects. “If people could have wood, they’d prefer wood,” says Scott Babbitt, marketing manager for Boston Cedar, noting that coastal custom homes in his New England market generally use wood siding. However, this trend recedes as one moves inland.

“It depends on the house, it depends on the budget, it depends on what the building or homeowner wants,” Babbitt says, “because there are very few speculative homes going up.”

Editor's Note:

  • The print version of this story incorrectly reported AZEK's line of Finish Grade Trim as newly available in a 6-inch profile. The new size is 4 inches, not 6 inches.