One of the hottest trends in exteriors right now is mixed-texture façades, in which stone, varying colors and textures of siding, and trim combine to create unique looks that set homes apart, highlight key features, and vary the streetscape.
With multiple brands under one portfolio, Boral Building Products makes it easy to mix and match cladding and trim to create one-of-a-kind exteriors that stand out while also standing the test of time. Even better, you can see what the home will look like before making a commitment with our new Virtual Remodeler tool. Simply upload a photo of the house, or use a similar home from our image gallery, select products and colors from Boral’s collection of brands, and get a real-time view of how the home will look. Give it a try here.
Looking for inspiration? Here are a few ways builders, remodelers, and designers are blending textures to create one-of-a-kind exterior facades:
Colors don’t have to be boldly different to make an impact. The brown-gray tones of the Foundry Split Shake siding, stone, and garage doors create layers of visual texture that unfold slowly on this home.
A small section of light-gray stone, along with the juxtaposition of horizontal and vertical TruExterior siding, give this L-shaped home a unique pop for a modern take on the popular Farmhouse look.
Combining Versetta Stone and Grayne engineered siding with a unique porch roof adds visual interest to this seemingly simple, smaller home.
Bumpout accents with TruExterior siding and stone block set this home apart from the plain stucco next door.
Foundry siding combines with rich stone and gable accents to evoke a cozy vibe.
Vertical and horizontal TruExterior siding, along with cedar-like shakes, create a visual feast across this all-white exterior.
Versetta Stone in the Ledgestone profile plays both a primary and secondary role in this exterior by Canadian Stone Interiors.
Shutters were originally used to protect homes from harsh elements or provide shade. Today, they are more commonly installed as an accent, to add color to exteriors and increase curb appeal. This shift from functional to decorative use has diminished the authenticity of many home designs, leaving many to wonder: Which shutters capture the authentic look of popular home styles?
Here are a few guidelines to consider:
Craftsman The appeal of Craftsman-style homes is that they can be customized to create truly one-of-a-kind designs. These homes take pride in their high quality and craftsmanship, but also have a humble simplicity with clean lines and timeless architectural details. Craftsman-style homes have experienced a resurgence because of their versatility and emphasis on quality.
Although Shaker shutters are one of the most frequently used styles for Craftsman homes, this type of home works with virtually any shutter style. Board-and-batten shutter designs are popular for exteriors that have more rustic details, while flat and raised panel options offer a clean look similar to the Shaker style.
Urban Farmhouse With its down-to-earth comfort, the Farmhouse style is regaining popularity among homeowners who seek the charm of country style with modern touches. These homes often feature wraparound porches, vertical siding similar to barn house siding, and minimalist design features. Shutters add an interesting architectural detail on an otherwise simple exterior.
Board-and-batten shutters capture an authentic Farmhouse style and create an inviting country exterior. They have a range of style options, including spaced or joined boards, and two or three cross battens. For a less rustic take on the Farmhouse style, louvered shutters are another popular option due to their versatile, traditional design.
Colonial A true American classic, Colonial homes reflect the earliest home styles of the first European settlers. These homes feature square, symmetrical designs with refined, formal details like dentil moulding.
Traditional Colonial shutter styles vary across regions due to differences
in climate. Colonial homes in the north are often equipped with paneled
shutters, which were originally used as a defense against harsh elements like
wind and snow in the New England region.
Southern Colonial homes, on the other hand, typically feature louvered shutters. The angled slats of louvered shutters helped keep the interior of the home cool by blocking sunlight while allowing airflow. Many Southern regions, such as Charleston, S.C., honor the traditional design and feature classic louvered shutters, both in paneled louvered and full-length styles.
Cape Cod Inspired by New England Colonial style designs, Cape Cod homes feature clean, symmetrical designs and dormers. However, these home styles are less formal and have cozier, more cottage-like floor plans and exteriors.
Homeowners can achieve an authentic Cape Cod design with any
shutter style. These homes often feature raised panel, louvered, and board-and-batten
shutters. Still, many homeowners are shifting toward paneled shutters because
they do not collect dirt as easily as other styles and are less susceptible to
nuisances like insect nests.
Atlantic and Mid-America shutters are designed with authenticity in mind, with architecturally accurate designs and more depth and dimension. View the full line of Mid-America shutters and Atlantic shutters to capture the right look.
When used well, bold colors can add a tasteful pop of life to a home’s exterior. When used poorly, you can end up attracting negative attention.
Here are five tips from Trisha Wagner, senior product manager and an authority on color at Boral Building Products, to ensure your use of bold is gorgeous, not gaudy.
1. The best place for bold color is in a home’s decorative details
While it always depends on the house, bold colors are generally best used in a home’s accents, such as the shutters and front door. It’s one of the fastest ways to have a large impact and can completely transform a home’s look and feel. Even better, these details are often the easiest—and most affordable—to change later with either a fresh coat of paint or replacement.
2. Remember to coordinate One of the first things to consider when picking bold accents is the home’s siding color. You want to select accent colors, such as on the trim, shutters, and front door, that work well with the siding, so consult the color wheel for reference. As explained on Color Matters, “color harmony” can be achieved by choosing analogous colors (three colors side by side on the wheel) or complementary colors (directly opposite each other on the wheel). This can be especially helpful in moving beyond traditional colors. For example, instead of the typical pale yellow, try a deep maize yellow paired with red, coral, or cobalt accents.
3. Pay attention to the entire home exterior The front of the home isn’t the only area people see. Don’t forget to decorate the back and sides of a house, particularly since outdoor living is more important to buyers than ever before. A bare side or rear home exterior looks and feels unfinished; shutters and accents on these walls will add dimension and complete the look.
4. Find what works for you If clients are uncertain about incorporating bolder colors, encourage them to experiment with different tones before making their final selection. If a home’s style doesn’t support shutters, consider using just a bold trim color. You can also soften a home’s look by pairing white or cream trim with one or two bold accents. For a less-permanent option, incorporate bold colors into the landscape design, such as bright-red or -purple flowers and plants, a jewel-toned bird bath, or even a painted fence.
5. Don’t discount the power of white In the sea of tans and beiges that dominate today’s exteriors, white becomes a stark contrast that is a bold choice in and of itself. A crisp white trim against a richer-toned cladding is eye-catching and stands out from homes with cream accents.
The numbers are in: The 75th annual International Builders’ Show marked its largest draw in a decade, with more than 67,000 attendees. Combined with the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, collectively referred to as Design & Construction Week, more than 100,000 people flocked to Las Vegas Feb. 19-21. We felt the enthusiasm at the Boral booth, where a steady flow of builders, remodelers, and designers were eager to get inspired, learn about products and trends, and gather new strategies to positively impact their business.
Couldn’t make it to the show? Here is just a handful of the noteworthy trends and products.
Dark colors: The preference for dark colors has been building for the last few years, and that was clear at nearly every exterior product manufacturer’s booth, from black window frames to rich brown trim to deep blue siding panels. If you’re loving this trend, too, check out TruExterior® Siding & Trim, whose superior dimensional stability makes it an ideal choice for darker hues.
Smooth siding: Even with the push for authenticity, smooth siding was prominent in many displays. In fact, we saw many instances of contemporary panels and traditional wood grain siding used in combination.
Industry Experts Weigh In
As usual, journalists from around the industry were out in force at the Builders’ Show reporting on the latest trends and new products. A few of the highlights:
Professional Builder: The New American Home
Always a show-stopper, this year’s demonstration home boasts jaw-dropping views and an outdoor living area that rivals Sin City’s hottest rooftop bars.
New From Boral
Boral Building Products showcased our breadth of exterior products at the Builders’ Show, including several new options to spruce up your facades:
Virtual Remodeler: This online home design tool makes it easy for contractors and homeowners alike to create eye-catching exteriors. Users simply upload a photo of their home (or choose one from an online gallery) and then select from Boral’s siding, trim, and shutter lines to update the image in real time. Color Harmony palettes are available to further simplify the process. Learn more about the Virtual Remodeler here.
Versetta Stone Carved Block: We’re giving our popular stone siding a contemporary edge with this new larger-format profile that’s reminiscent of split-face stone. Carved Block features the same easy-to-install format pros love: simply nail or screw the panels to the wall—no mortar required. Choose from dark gray Midnight or creamy Sea Salt. Click here to learn more.
Kleer Lumber 10” Post Wraps: Our KLEERWrap cellular PVC post wraps, which conceal treated posts for a beautiful, finished look, are now available in a 10” version. Even with their robust size, these wraps install with just one person—simply apply adhesive to the three-sided piece, secure around the post, snap the fourth side into place, and fasten. Complete the look with accompanying cap and base moldings. See the wraps here.
The Virtual Remodeler is an online home design tool providing contractors and homeowners with a simple way visualize how their facade will look with different profiles, textures, and colors from the company’s comprehensive lineup of siding and trim products.
With Virtual Remodeler, launched during the 2019 International Builders’ Show, users upload a photo of an existing home or select a similar house from an online gallery. Using the program’s product interface, the user then selects from Boral’s siding, trim, and shutter lines, including Versetta Stone®, Kleer® Lumber, TruExterior® Siding & Trim, and Mid-America Siding Components®; the image updates in real time, revealing how the exterior will appear with each product and color selection. To further ease the process, the home design tool includes Color Harmony coordinating color families, each of which can be further changed and updated to suit the homeowner’s tastes and needs.
“Designing a home with fantastic curb appeal requires navigating an endless array of options, from the shape of the siding to the color of the trim to the size of the shutters. Boral’s new Virtual Remodeler tool eases the process for homeowners—and their remodelers—by helping them visualize how products will look on their house, much more than a small sample ever could,” says Becky Duffy, Director of Marketing for Boral Building Products. “Remodelers can ensure customers are happy with their home exterior before products are ordered and installed, leading to fewer surprises and greater satisfaction when the project is complete.”
Virtual Remodeler users can save multiple projects to work on later and compare. For a small fee, pros can have their image professionally mapped by Boral, which will increase the accuracy of the rendering’s appearance. And once a finished look is chosen, Virtual Remodeler will generate a product list for easy ordering through Boral dealers and distributors.
Remodelers and homeowners can once again count on exterior stone and siding to provide a solid return on investment, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value report.
An annual survey released in January, the Cost vs. Value report provides insights into which remodeling projects deliver the highest perceived return in resale value. Manufactured stone veneer, such as Boral Versetta Stone® stone siding, continues to be a safe bet, with a 94.9% recoup of investment at the national level. Though this is a small drop from last year, manufactured stone veneer ranks second-highest in ROI, after garage doors.
The 94.9% ROI for manufactured stone veneer is based on replacing a 300-square-foot continuous band of existing vinyl siding from the bottom third of the home’s front façade and replacing it with adhered manufactured stone veneer, sills, corners, and an address block, along with an entry archway with keystone and soldier course of flats on each side.
As in 2018, manufactured stone veneer offered the highest returns in the Pacific region (Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Hawaii), at 110.4%. Returns were also particularly high in the East South Central region (Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky), at 107.7%.
Manufactured stone veneer offered the highest ROI out of all categories in the East South Central, South Atlantic (91.4%), West North Central (93.5%), and West South Central (98.3%) regions.
Exterior Investments Deliver Biggest Paybacks
Siding overall finished strongly, as well, with a fifth-best return on investment at 75.6%, just shy of the 76.7% recoup in 2018. In fact, out of the 10 projects with the highest returns, nine were exterior categories, including a wood deck addition, steel entry door replacement, vinyl window replacement, a fiberglass grand entrance, wood window replacement, and a composite deck addition.
“The reason for high returns on exterior projects, and especially façade facelifts, stems from the valuations set by the real-estate community. … ‘Curb appeal’ and ‘first impressions’ are central to a real-estate professional’s estimation of resale value,” Remodeling says. “The impact these impressions make is critical in setting the stage for what a buyer is willing to pay for a home.”
What’s more, projects like kitchen and bathroom renovations tend to be more individualized, which can mean some buyers may not like the look.
The overall percentage of investment recouped across all categories on average decreased slightly year over year. The magazine attributes the decline to the sharp increase in material costs over the summer, including those driven by tariffs.
When it comes to the outside of the home, what does this year hold? A few familiar looks as well as some emerging exterior trends. Here’s what to expect:
• Outdoor living: Demand for outdoor living spaces isn’t abating. In AIA’s annual Home Design Trends survey, architects named the outdoors as the No. 1 specialty room increasing in popularity.
• Low maintenance: This one will also sound familiar—home buyers, particularly younger buyers, simply don’t want to deal with painting, staining, and cleaning their façades and decks. In fact, the AIA survey lists low maintenance as the top product feature increasing in popularity. Expect composites and other low-maintenance materials for decks to continue to grow alongside demand for easy-to-maintain siding materials like TruExterior Siding & Trim, Kleer Lumber, and Grayne engineered siding.
• Darks and lights: Move over, earth tones. Consumers are increasingly drawn to the contrast of dark-colored siding against bright white trim. Trying to achieve this look? TruExterior Siding’s dimensional stability makes it an ideal fit for the darkest of paints, while Kleer trimboard’s TruEDGE technology and UV inhibitors ensure the trim stays brilliant white for years to come.
• Black trim: When trim isn’t white, look to black and dark browns. (Try TruExterior Trim, which can be painted dark hues, including black, without concerns about expansion or warping.) Also increasingly popular—the streamlined, sophisticated look of black window frames.
• Grays (for now): Gray is still a go-to hue, but its popularity could finally be waning. Boral Senior Product Manager Trisha Wagner reports seeing more reds creeping in and believes it may be one of the colors to affect gray’s go-to status.
• Match game: The coordinated look of a matching entry door, garage door, and window trim is in.
• Blending textures: The varied streetscapes created by blending stone and siding textures across the façade continue to dominate. As in 2018, the transitions between textures are a bit more seamless than in years’ past. Versetta Stone siding makes this trend easy, with a panelized format that installs with screws or nails.
• Authenticity: Also returning for 2019 is demand for historic looks brought by siding profiles such as nickel gap, shiplap, and board and batten.
• Modern farmhouse: Like it or not, the modern farmhouse style is sticking around for at least a little longer. Some designers are tiring of the look, but it’s still going to be popular among homeowners both inside and outside the house. “White [board-and-batten] siding delivers a ‘homey look’ and can provide texture and interest to an otherwise flat façade,” the Washington Post reports.
Shutters seem pretty straightforward. But do you know the lingo well enough to sell them confidently to your customers? Here are a few common terms you should know.
Open Louver The angled slats of open louver offer a timeless design.
Raised Panel Raised panel units feature a traditional design with one or more raised center panels with chamfered edges.
Board and Batten Board and batten shutters are vertically oriented boards typically featuring a minimum of two wide strips, called battens, horizontally fixed with narrow trim in between.
Bahama Rather than swinging in from two sides, Bahama shutters install singly and swing upward. As their name implies, this style is used frequently in the Caribbean because it blocks UV rays while allowing in ambient light and breezes. A sophisticated privacy solution for coastal locations or homes with a coastal-style exterior.
Storm Shutters These specialty units are made specifically to withstand the impact of wind-driven debris. Open, they look no different. During a storm, they close and lock into place with storm bars to protect the shutter leaf, the window, and the home’s interior. Before buying, verify that your storm shutters meet the Large Missile Impact Test requirement as specified in the IRC and IBC 2006.
Operable vs. Decorative Historically, shutters were more than just a decoration. They were used to block out sun, control temperature, and provide privacy. But, as Fine Homebuilding explains, those uses were less needed when drapes and blinds became the norm. Today, most shutters are purely decorative, or inoperable. Operable shutters, like those from Atlantic, still offer those same benefits as well as an extra dose of authenticity.
Holdbacks Holdback hardware does just what it says: holds operable units in place but is easily turned to release the panel for closure. Common styles include the elegant S holdback, a simple dog post holdback, or a scrolling rat-tail holdback. They’re not just for operable units: Use holdbacks for decorative shutters to ensure an authentic look.
A beautiful photo of a beautiful home can attract customers more than nearly anything else. And if you’re like most building and design pros, you have had many of your projects professionally photographed (and if not, it’s time to start). But are you just using those images in brochures, on your website, and on the walls of your conference room?
Here are a few more low-cost ways to use your projects and photos to market your company.
Write a case study: What makes your home stand out in addition to looking pretty? What challenges did you have to overcome? How did you meet the needs of the client? Write a short story about your stand-out projects that explains what makes that home—and your company—special. Here’s an example. Once it’s written, you can:
–Post the case study with images to your website and/or blog; link to it from your e-newsletter
–Send the case study to your local news media (regional lifestyle magazines, the home section of your newspaper, etc.) as well as to the national trade magazines (Remodeling, Professional Builder, Qualified Remodeler, etc.) for their consideration for coverage.
–Turn it into a video walk-through to share on your web site and social media.
Showcase your skills: When photographing your projects, don’t just take pictures of the overall home and rooms. Zero-in on the details that make it special—whether it’s a unique gable end detail, a hidden storage compartment in the kitchen, or an advanced-framed wall that will save energy costs.
–Share individual photos of those elements on social media calling attention to what’s unique.
–Share those photos/details with local and national media. Many publications not only cover full projects, but also like to highlight simple details or installation techniques. For example, NKBA magazine has a “Details” page for this exact purpose.
Share everywhere: Take advantage of every free platform at your disposal—Houzz, Instagram (posts and stories), Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest. And use each platform’s unique written space wisely: Instagram is photo-heavy, so make captions catchy and to the point. LinkedIn is geared toward for pros, so think about what that audience cares about. Pinterest is a mecca for search, so be sure to use keywords when tagging those items. Facebook’s slide shows offer a chance to show a handful of pictures with meaty captions. Adjust accordingly!
Offer advice: Installing a unique detail or using a method that consumers can learn from? Take a video as you do so to educate viewers. This showcases your work while also positioning you as a leader.
Create an infographic: Does the exterior of the home or one of its rooms have a lot of unique elements or features that set your company apart? Create an infographic pointing out those elements and how they contribute to your and your client’s vision.
Generate engagement: Got an in-progress project? Why not have your fans weigh in with their thoughts? On Facebook or through an Instagram story, post the exterior before the paint is chosen and offer a poll with two options for the paint color. Offer up two faucet choices to vote on. The more your fans interact with your social posts, the more they’ll get seen by non-followers, and polls are a great way to do that.
Assemble trends: If you have a blog or newsletter, use your own projects (or combine your projects with some you find on Houzz) to assemble trend stories for your readers. For example, “6 Ways to Incorporate Red into Your Exterior” or “Tesla’s Solar Roof Tiles: We Tried Them.”
Enter contests: All of the national trade magazines have design contests that, if you win, provide lots of great, free publicity in addition to prestige and bragging rights. Professional Builder’s Design Awards are just one example.
Create a look book: Follow the lead of fashion designers and create a look book that shows off your best work in an elegant, sophisticated way. Tie the theme of the look book back into your company’s mission statement and keywords.
Partner with your favorite manufacturer: Project photos are also one of the best ways for manufacturers to market their products and, trust us, they’re always looking for good images to use in their own publicity. Reach out to your rep about sharing your project stories and photos with their marketing department; they could be perfect for the manufacturer’s own case studies, advertising, editorial, and social media—which means free publicity and recognition for you.
Want to share your Boral projects with us for consideration in our marketing efforts? Email Becky Duffy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first thing you see when you enter the Boral Discovery Center in San Antonio, Texas, is what you can’t see—no clutter, no chaos, no extraneous noise. Because while nearly 30 people, including scientists, engineers, and support staff, work throughout the facility’s labs with numerous machines, hundreds of materials, and thousands of samples, a concentrated focus on safety and efficiency guides each step.
Assisting in those efforts is a facility-wide adherence to LEAN principles, much like you would find at some manufacturing plants.
“We are a lab with many, many projects and many samples,” notes Sarah Fortenberry, a Discovery Center research technician who also leads the facility’s LEAN programs. “So you have to manage not only the individual projects as well as the amount of materials coming in and going out. LEAN principles help us do that.”
Fortenberry notes that following LEAN guidelines also is key to maintaining a safe, healthy environment.
Here are a few of the LEAN tools the Discovery Center has implemented:
• Shadow Board: In areas with tools and equipment, storage areas are outlined and labeled, as shown in this photo. This includes everything from duct tape rolls to a hammer to extension cords. “There’s no wasted time trying to find an item,” Fortenberry notes. “It’s labeled, it’s where it should be.”•The 5 S’s:
Sort: Frequently determine what you actually use and get rid of the rest. This helps keep work areas clutter-free and safe.
Set in order: Label everything and where it goes. The most important items should be the closest.
Shine: Keep work areas clean.
Standardize: Have a standard method for tools and equipment. Everything is labeled—every tool, every shelf, every drawer. This also pertains to samples, which ensures every test is tracked and identifiable. The process of managing samples is the primary reason that LEAN is essential at the Discovery Center.
Sustain: Establish how you keep the workplace clean and a cleaning schedule.
• 3C Board: The three Cs stand for Concern, Cause, Countermeasure. In each work area, the team has a 3C board. If something is wrong in the area, it goes up on the board, what’s causing the problem, and, eventually, what is being done to fix the problem.
• Total Productive Maintenance: Broken machines lead to costly downtime, so each machine has a list of maintenance steps needed to keep it running properly.
• 5S Fridays: At the end of every Friday, the team convenes to address problems on 3C boards. “We work as a team to get to and maintain a sustaining level of production,” Fortenberry notes.
• Kaizen: Kaizen is Japanese for “continual improvement.” The team hosts kaizen events in which they visit areas of the lab and track team members’ steps to see where there is wasted movement and how those steps can be consolidated. Bringing in team members who don’t work in that area provides a fresh perspective and out-of-the-box thinking.
“It’s made us more of a team, working as a group to improve our areas,” Fortenberry says. “Through the kaizen events and 5S Fridays, we can do something in a short period of time that would take someone weeks to do alone.”
A growing diversity of innovative products is helping to fuel the latest exterior trends, according to LBM Journal’s annual In Depth feature on siding. Homeowners are clamoring for color and variety in their façades, while builders are not only trying to meet those aesthetic needs but also are seeking out easy-to-install solutions and product knowledge support.
Here’s an overview of trends and industry observations from LBM Journal’s report:
Mix and Match: A diversity of materials is contributing directly to one of today’s hottest façade trends: mixing materials. “Gone are the days when houses tended to be rather homogenous in terms of colors and textures,” magazine contributor Mike Berger writes. “In today’s siding market, it’s all about mixing and matching textures and products.”
Darker Colors: The magazine notes that darker colors are in growing demand, a trend that aligns well with TruExterior Siding, which can be painted any color, even black, thanks to its high levels of dimensional stability.
Authenticity: Buyers are craving products that offer the look of wood without the maintenance. “There’s an authenticity people want with products today,” TruExterior Siding & Trim Product Manager Aaron Sims tells the magazine. “They want it to look like wood. They want it to feel real. They want the details to be right. They want it to look very authentic to replicate a traditional Craftsman-style or Farmhouse-style home.”
Resilience: The increasing rate of natural disasters, from hurricanes to wildfires, is driving code changes in certain areas of the country. “To meet these needs, manufacturers are developing products to withstand the rigors of storm and fire,” Berger explains. The writer pointed to products like Grayne engineered siding and TruExterior Siding, which both meet California’s Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) code for fire and the Florida Building Code for wind.
Labor: The ongoing labor shortage continues to be top of mind and, according to the NAHB, is currently builders’ No. 1 concern. This is driving demand for products that are easy and straightforward to install. Versetta Stone mortarless stone veneer, the magazine notes, offers the stone look without requiring the skill of a stone mason.
Training: Dealers and distributors can no longer just stock products, the magazine says, they have to be knowledgeable about those products, how they work, and how they compare to competitors’ offerings.
To read more trends and insights into today’s siding market, view the LBM Journal article in its entirety here.
It takes less than 10 seconds for someone to form an impression about a house. One of the most important factors in that impression? Color.
And with a lifespan of 10 to 15 years or more, siding and accent color choice is important.
“When selecting colors, follow the 60-30-10 rule of decorating,” advises color expert Trisha Wagner, senior product manager at Boral Building Products. “Sixty percent of your color will be siding; then your accent, which may be the trim, will be near 30%; and, finally, 10% will go into shutters or another element such as a stone façade.”
When looking at a home, think about what you want to see first and where you want to have the biggest impression.
Here are general rules and factors to consider when choosing and combining colors:
Work With Home Style and Period
To achieve the right look and feel, it’s important to understand the limitations of a home’s style and choose colors that align with the architecture and time period.
For a home with natural-finish cedar siding, for example, a more neutral trim and shutters will help maintain a traditional Colonial style, while bolder accent colors such as green or brown will give it a Craftsman-like look.
Take Cues From Existing Design Elements
For homes with existing stone or brick or those looking to add this element, Wagner offers this tip: To highlight or make the stone stand out, pair with a paint color that incorporates minor undertones from the stone. This will help draw it out and give a more dynamic appearance. Conversely, to make the stone or brick blend in, find a siding color that is more similar in tone.
Further tie these elements into a home’s look by matching the trim to the grout color of the stone or brick.
Consider the Role of Nature and Lighting Consider how landscaping will contrast and complement the look of a home. Houses with mature landscapes and shrubs with vibrant greens and other colors will draw the eye down. Be aware of what colors you or the homeowner will plant and how that relates to the colors you’re selecting for the home.
For homes that don’t have a lot of landscaping, consider brighter siding. For those with a denser landscape, you may want to consider darker colors for more contrast.
Landscaping can also influence lighting if a home is heavily shaded by trees or natural topography. Wagner advises to look at the direction the home faces and where the sun hits at various times of day to understand how the color may change.
Consider What’s Trending
For the last five years, shades of gray have been the most popular choices for a home’s exterior. Homeowners inspired by the versatile neutral are frequently selecting varieties and combinations like green-gray, greige, and blue-gray.
Dark, rich jewel tones, such as sapphire blue, are another common selection for home exteriors. Colors in this family are typically paired with white trim, particularly on the ever-popular Craftsman-style homes.
For the indecisive homeowner or buyer, Wagner says neutral bases and black and white accents are a safe option that will stand the test of time.
Another growing trend on new construction home exteriors has been mixing textures, such as combining shake and traditional siding with brick and stone for a variegated look.
Avoid Common Mistakes The easiest way to avoid color mistakes is to consult the color wheel.
“It’s the same color wheel you played with in kindergarten,” Wagner says. “There are still complementary and contrasting colors, and that should be your ultimate guide.”
But you have a lot of flexibility, she adds, with the variety of tones available.
Before committing, get sample pieces of the siding colors being considered. Have your buyers put them up for a few days—perhaps on the weekend when they can see in the light at multiple points across the day—to see how they look.
In the end, “personal preference is the ultimate guide,” Wagner says. “A home’s color is highly personable and a definition of the homeowner’s style, so give it the time and attention it needs.”
To fully grasp how unique Boral’s customer service department is, one need only look at two numbers: a 95% call-answer rate and a 0% turnover rate.
“We take a proactive approach in our call center, and that has afforded us a very high service level,” notes Tim Barber, Boral’s director of customer service. Most call centers average around 80% of calls answered in 20 seconds or less; Boral’s average at that rate is 95%. “If you call, we pretty much answer immediately. We know that busy contractors need answers fast and that jobs can be held up if we don’t meet that need.”
But while phone calls are the primary form of communications, the omnichannel department responds just as efficiently to requests made via email, fax, EDI, and pretty much any other form of communication with a hands-on strategy Barber calls a “concierge approach.”
“We really hope to cultivate an experience that keeps customers coming back to our family of brands,” Barber says. “We want to make sure we’re ending the call having solved the customer’s problem and having used their time effectively.”
The employees’ dedication shows in the department’s high tenure rate, including 0% negative attrition (firings or voluntary company departures) for the past two years, a significant feat considering the typical rate for call centers is 30% to 40%.
The department fields as many as 800 to 1,000 calls a day, taking orders, addressing warranty concerns, providing tech support, and responding to any number of other topics. Staff numbers ramp up during busier months from April to October, and the full team is engaged with onboarding new employees.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a fabulous staff that comes to work every day with their A game,” Barber says. “We’re building our culture around customer service. Our culture is important—you can’t have success without good culture and good leadership, with people feeling like they can contribute. They come in and do the best they can for customers. We empower them and provide an atmosphere that’s supportive.”
As the housing industry continues its steady climb, the shortage of skilled labor is only intensifying. In fact, builders have indicated that cost and availability of labor is currently the No. 1 problem facing their business, according to a December NAHB/Wells Fargo survey. A Home Improvement Research Institute study found that 60% of skilled trade professionals believe there is a shortage of labor.
In January, the construction industry’s unfilled jobs reached 250,000, up from 159,000 in January 2017 and just shy of the post-recession high of 255,000 last July, according to NAHB analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The challenges can lead to scheduling problems, budget woes, and quality concerns, among other issues.
Several industry organizations are attempting to tackle the issue through new initiatives that encourage young people to consider the trades, provide scholarships for training, provide direct training, or simply promote the benefits of a career in the industry. These include:
Skilled Labor Fund. Created by Professional Builder publisher Scranton Gillette and with an operating committee that includes leaders from the NAHB and the National Kitchen & Bath Association, the non-profit is raising money to “build a foundation for a stronger workforce” via student scholarships, accredited trade schools, and training facilities.
Home Depot Skilled Trades Initiative. In early March, The Home Depot Foundation announced a $50 million grant aimed at training 20,000 people in the trades to help fill the labor gap, particularly in areas of the country devastated by natural disasters. According to USA Today, the Home Builders Institute will use the funds from Home Depot to train veterans and U.S. Army soldiers readying for civilian life.
Lowe’s Track to the Trades. In February, Lowe’s announced a workforce development initiative to support its employees wishing to pursue a skilled trade. Employees will be eligible to receive tuition funding for certification in a skilled trade, academic coaching and support, and apprenticeship placement opportunities within Lowe’s or among its contractor network.
Why I Build. Hosted by Fine Homebuilding, Why I Build showcases the voices of craftsmanship and shares stories about why those in the trades love what they do. The resulting videos are inspiring and demonstrate the pride and integrity associated with careers in construction.
#KeepCraftAlive. Another program from Fine Homebuilding, this movement is designed to spark conversation and spotlight craftspeople. The magazine encourages pros to tag their social media posts with the hashtag #KeepCraftAlive to share their passion with the world (see Instagram posts here). Sales from T-shirts will fund a sponsorship alongside SkillsUSA.
TruExterior remains committed to assisting our customers with training, as well. Our sales reps are available for a range of hands-on education opportunities, including dealer product knowledge sessions and one-on-one jobsite installation instruction. In addition, TruExterior has a fleet of mobile training units that travel the country, setting up shop at dealer yards to provide installers with hands-on experience with our products.
For many contractors, the safety of employees and site visitors takes top priority over nearly everything else. For firms looking for new ways to ensure and promote a safe work environment, one proactive process to consider is “Take 5,” a method for re-familiarizing oneself with a task.
When facing a task they haven’t performed in awhile, such as operating a piece of machinery, staff at Boral facilities are encouraged to pause to identify and control hazards before they start work:
Stop, look, walk around the task
Think about the task, have a clear plan
Identify and assess hazards that exist or may be created by the task and rate their risk levels
Control the risks and communicate
Do the task if low risk, and keep a lookout for changes
As part of this process, staff members carry or have easy access to a Take 5 notepad that takes them through a series of quick steps: a pre-task checklist that confirms they are authorized to do the task and that they fully understand the task; a hazard-identification checklist; and a review of the personal protective equipment.
On the back, the employee identifies each potential risk to the task and its controls. Using this list, they can identify whether the task requires sign off by a supervisor or a written safe operating procedure.
By compelling employees to stop and consider each task, its potential hazards, and its safe operation, the Take 5 process helps further ensure the safety of themselves and those around them. For builders and contractors looking to elevate their safety efforts, it’s one additional way to keep safety top of mind each day and ensure employees and visitors are actively engaged in ensuring the well-being of themselves and others.
As outdoor building season continues, expect to hear some familiar requests—as well as some new demands. Homeowners are increasingly discerning when it comes to their exterior facades as they seek to ramp up curb appeal while still making their home reflect their personality and lifestyle.
Here’s a look at what’s trending this year:
Design With Intention: Aaron Sims, Product Manager for Boral’s Light Building Products Division, is seeing a resurgence of architects looking at the whole picture rather than the individual home, designing a structure to fit the environment around it. The results are more timeless looks that don’t feel dated in a few years, and homes that feel well-suited to their towns and cities. “Everything seems more intentional,” Sims says. “You have to nurture that. It’s not something you can create, but you can nurture it.”
Past Is Present: Historical favorites never go out of style for a reason. Buyers are turning toward familiar, timeless profiles such as nickel gap and shiplap. Some of their popularity stems from TV shows such as Fixer Upper, but also a desire for creating a sense of place. At the same time, buyers aren’t afraid to update those looks, as seen in the subtle modernization of older restored buildings or farmhouse designs that blend industrial metallics.
Mixed Textures—With a Twist: Like last year, designers are still mixing materials, such as siding, stone, and metal. But they’re doing so in a cleaner way, Sims says. Color combinations are more monochrome, lines are straighter, texture planes are seamlessly blending together.
Clean & Crisp: From those seamless transitions to the sleek forms of shiplap, the transitional and modern trend is creeping into exterior home styles, with more rectilinear lines and forms.
Natural Versions of Popular Colors: Grays, blues, and neutrals are still common, but they’re moving to the more organic versions of themselves rather than feeling manufactured. Grays are veering toward a more beige-like warmth, blues are earthier and darker. Buyers will see this trend reflected in Versetta Stone’s new Carved Block mortarless stone veneer panels; the line’s Midnight color is warmed by dark gray and almond tones, while the Sea Salt hue features neutral, soft khakis and beiges.
Outdoor Living: Tour any model home or pick up any trade magazine and it’s clear that homeowner demand for decked-out exterior spaces is not going away. Many are clamoring for decks and patios with the same amenities they enjoy indoors, including dedicated sitting and eating areas, seamless transitions and views, and even technology. They also need to look the part, so don’t forget accessories such pergolas made with Kleer cellular PVC trim and KLEERWrap post wraps, and be sure to finish off the underside with trim and post wraps.
Low Maintenance: No surprise here: Homeowners still don’t want to spend time painting and staining their facades and decks. Foundry and Grayne siding both offer a long-lasting, low-maintenance alternative that still features the authentic look buyers crave.
Labor Crunch: The challenge of finding qualified labor continues, so products that offer easier installation can make a difference in time and cost. Foundry and Grayne offer a straightforward installation process familiar to any siding installer. Versetta Stone provides the look of stone in an easy-to-use panel profile that siding contractors can install. TruExterior Siding & Trim cuts and routs just like wood, using traditional woodworking tools, while eliminating steps such as edge sealing.