Annual LBM Dealer Surveys Show Sales Drops, but Optimism for 2024

LBM dealer trends point to optimism amid sales declines

Once again, leading publications within the LBM industry have crunched the data to offer a look at how leading lumber and building material suppliers are faring and what issues matter most to them today. As in years’ past, two LBM dealer surveys—LBM Journal’s LBM 100 and Webb Analytics’ Construction Supply 150—offer not only a ranking of the country’s top dealers but also a pulse on how the entire residential construction industry is trending.

Not surprisingly, this year’s numbers reflected the economic crunch many in construction are feeling. “While 2022 saw nearly all companies in the LBM 100 post sales gains, 2023 data showed the majority of companies in the LBM 100 saw gross sales drop,” LBM Journal editors reported. “While just six companies reported a year-over-year decrease in gross sales revenue in 2022, more than 70 companies reported drops in 2023.”

Craig Webb, owner of Webb Analytics, made similar observations, noting that he had to go back 15 years to find the same number of dealers reporting sales declines as did in 2023. Three-quarters of the 150 LBM dealers and home improvement stores on the Construction Supply 150 reported revenue declines.

However, LBM Journal noted that the sales drops are not necessarily indicative of total gloom and doom and that LBM dealers are on the move. One commenter noted that 2022 performance was bolstered in part by higher prices; many dealers may have sold a similar amount of product in 2023, but at lower prices. High interest rates also played a role, and those are expected to drop some in 2024. Webb also pointed to the role of volatile lumber prices, detailing a roller coaster of price changes for the commodity products over the past three years. 

“While 2023’s ride has been sobering, dealers have emerged safe—and optimistic for the future,” Webb wrote. “On average, CS150 members predicted sales would rise 4.4% this year.” About 70% of Webb’s CS150 are predicting gains in 2024, compared to about 14% expecting declines.

Indeed, dealers certainly haven’t slowed down on making big moves, LBM Journal noted. “Dozens of companies reported expanding operations, making acquisitions and mergers, and celebrating milestone anniversaries in the past year—all signaling investments in the future.”

The majority of dealers on the LBM 100 said they expect to grow in 2024, and 60% of companies said they have plans to expand in the next one to two years—more than had indicated as such in last year’s survey.

TruExterior Trim

Top Trends from the LBM Dealer Surveys

Here’s a look at other trends uncovered in the two LBM Dealer Surveys:

Hiring woes continue: Labor is still an ongoing hurdle for LBM dealers just as it is for construction companies. Seventy-two percent of LBM 100 dealers indicated that recruiting, hiring, and retaining employees remains a top challenge, roughly equal to last year. Drivers are by far the hardest positions to fill, with 86% of companies indicating such. To combat the issue, many dealers are investing more in their HR teams or outside recruiters, the magazine said, as well as in staff training and development.

Employment unchanged: Despite the decline in sales, construction suppliers’ overall employment numbers rose a smidge (0.3%, excluding Lowe’s and The Home Depot) in 2023, Webb Analytics reported.

Manufacturing and installed sales remain a key offering: Almost half of the Construction Supply 150 companies manufacture one or more categories of building materials, with trusses and doors leading the way. Half also offer installed sales.

Online sales offerings decrease: In the LBM 100, the number of dealers offering online sales dropped from 32% to 30%, though some companies acknowledged that they will need to add these options in the future.

Rise of the robots? In the LBM Journal survey, one dealer reported using inventory robots to scan for retail outages and pricing, while another is leveraging AI to sell to commodity buyers. The CS150 survey, which includes big box stores, found that nearly 20% of companies are using AI for some part of their operations.

For the company rankings and many more datapoints, view the full LBM Journal 100 here and download the Construction Supply 150 here.

Stay up on the latest industry trends by subscribing to our enewsletter here.

Celebrate National Home Remodeling Month With Resources and Tools

National Home Remodeling Month before-and-after banner

May brings sunny skies and warmer temps—and the NAHB’s National Home Remodeling Month. This annual celebration recognizes remodelers and the remodeling industry with resource, tools, spotlights, and discussions. Westlake Royal Building Products™ is proud to sponsor this important event for the third consecutive year.

Throughout the month, remodelers can access an exclusive tool kit with marketing tools and social media templates to craft top-notch local media campaigns along with the latest industry news to help you stay ahead of market trends. NAHB also will be hosting two Shop Talk discussions May 9 and May 23 and a webinar on May 18. These sessions will include conversations with industry experts aimed at assisting professionals in developing strategic marketing plans for their remodeling businesses in addition to helping them understand how leveraging social media can expand a company’s reach.

And be sure to follow along on social media, using the hashtag #NAHBRemodelers, to share your own insights and read commentary and tips from peers and other experts.

National Home Remodeling Month graphic

Westlake Royal Building Products is the title sponsor of National Home Remodeling Month.

“We’re excited to continue our support of the remodeling industry by sponsoring this initiative for the third year in a row. Remodeling is more than just a project; it’s a pathway to happiness for homeowners looking to transform their living spaces without the stress of moving. It’s about creating more room for cherished memories, enhancing energy efficiency for a greener future and ultimately, increasing the value of one’s home,” said Steve Booz, vice president, marketing & product management at Westlake Royal Building Products. “We’re thrilled to be part of this journey and to support NAHB’s members in their dedication to excellence and customer satisfaction.”

To get started and access tools and events, visit NAHB’s National Home Remodeling Month landing page.

Stay up on industry events and resources by subscribing to our enewsletter here.

What Home Buyers Want the Most

Pergola Kleer Lumber

What features are most in demand from new-home buyers? NAHB sought the answers in its latest “What Home Buyers Want” report. Among the top and/or fastest-growing in-demand features were laundry rooms, patios, and home security.

The Top Features Home Buyers Want

In the What Home Buyers Want study, buyers were given a list of more than 200 home and community features and asked to rate them as “essential,” “desirable,” “indifferent,” or “do not want.”

According to Eye on Housing, of all the features in the study, there were 13 that ranked “essential” by at least 80% of respondents:

  1. Patio (86%)
  2. Laundry room (86%)
  3. Energy Star-rated windows (83%)
  4. Exterior lighting (82%)
  5. Ceiling fan (81%)
  6. Garage storage (81%)
  7. Front porch (81%)
  8. Hardwood (81%)
  9. Full bath on main level (80%)
  10. Energy Star appliances (80%)
  11. Walk-in pantry (80%)
  12. Landscaping (80%)
  13. Table space in kitchen (80%)
Laundry rooms are a top feature in the What Home Buyers Want report.
Photo credit: Adobe Stock

In addition, there were a handful of features that made tremendous gains in popularity over the past decade. All were in the area of technology, including security cameras (climbing 36 percentage points in 12 years), wired home security systems (35 percentage points), and programmable thermostats (31 percentage points). 

What Homebuyers Want in Exteriors

When it comes to exterior design styles, Eye on Housing found no national consensus in the study. “At best, a plurality of 34% would prefer to purchase a ‘traditional’ home (rooted in historic styles), while a smaller 26% would rather buy a ‘contemporary’ home (clean lines, sloped roofs, expansive windows),” Rose Quint reported. “Far smaller shares of 17% and 12% of buyers, respectively, would choose a ‘modern’ home (bold, boxy, flat roofs) or a ‘transitional’ home (contemporary design with traditional cues).

Delving further into in-demand exterior features, consider the results of AIA’s quarterly Home Design Trends survey. In its Q4 2023 edition, examining Neighborhood and Community Design, the survey reported that “low maintenance/durability” continue to be the most popular feature, with 59% of architects reporting increasing interest. Unlike the NAHB study, the AIA survey found contemporary styling to be most common, with 51% of architects reporting increasing interest, down just 1 percentage point from 2022.

To learn more about what’s in demand, the full “What Homebuyers Want” report is available for purchase here.

Stay up on all the latest trends and industry insights by subscribing to our enewsletter.

3 Residential Product Trends—and How To Use Them

Zuri Premium Decking helps answer residential product trends

During this year’s International Builders’ Show, Westlake Royal Building Products showcased three prominent residential product trends and several sub-trends designed to educate and inspire pros and consumers alike. The compilation of trends explores how design is evolving under new and ongoing influences, how pros and homeowners are adapting to changing conditions, and how we collectively leverage design to better our lives inside and outside the home.

Here’s a look at the trends our experts are seeing, along with tips for including them on your projects.

Residential Product Trends: 1 — Design Versatility

Bringing the visions of homeowners, architects, designers, and builders to life demands the creation of unique and harmonious indoor and outdoor spaces that reflect continuously evolving tastes. This can be accomplished through siding, trim, stone, roofing, and outdoor products that deliver the highest level of design versatility.

Residential Product Trends: Multi-Textured Facades

Homeowners and homebuyers tired of ho-hum, cookie-cutter houses are seeking out aesthetics to add an eye-catching pop that increases curb appeal and helps differentiate them from others on the block. For builders, these changes can create a more appealing streetscape in communities with limited elevations.

Tips for Multi-Textured Facades:

Blend colors: Play with the different areas of the façade by incorporating different colors or profiles within the same cladding material. For example, specify gable siding in a color one or two shades removed from the rest of the façade or add a bold-yet-complementary color to a bump-out or other accent.

Play with profiles: Similarly, matching colors but different siding profiles—such as lap siding on the main façade with shingles in the gables—can create a subtle but eye-catching shift.

Create texture: Blend siding materials for a textured look. This can be made literally, such as adding from more robust materials like a stone half wall or column, or visually, from movement between materials and authentic, wood-like profiles.

Leverage accessories: Trim, shutters, and columns are an excellent way to infuse style and create variation in low-profile ways.

Foundry Split Shake in Arizona Clay helps meet residential product trends calling for multi-textured facades
Foundry Split Shake Siding, seen here in the new Arizona Clay color, can be used in gables and other accent areas to help create in-demand multi-textured facades.

Biophilic Design

Connecting people more closely with nature and natural elements, biophilic design can lead to increased well-being and productivity. Growing wellness and environmental concerns are driving demand for outdoor living space improvements and integration of nature in design, including elements like green roofs, living walls, and large windows.

Products to consider:

  • Cultured Stone’s architectural stone and brick veneer products reinforce our inherent connection to the natural world, infusing residential and commercial spaces with a sophisticated touch of texture that complements a wide variety of other natural materials.
  • Kindred Outdoors + Surrounds fuels the outdoor entertaining scene with its captivating line of elegant, sculpture-inspired fire bowls.
  • Zuri Premium Decking (pictured top of page) offers the natural beauty of exotic hardwood with minimal grain repetition, resulting in a flawless design flow from the outdoor space to the interior.      
Kindred Fire Bowls help meet residential product trends demanding outdoor living and biophilia
The Kindred Lyra Fire Bowl combines a modern linear design with an earthy, honed finish.

Solutions for Every Home Style

Flexibility and versatility are key for creating inviting facades. Westlake Royal Building Products’ extensive portfolio of exterior products makes it easy. These include:

  • Dutch Quality Stone’s growing catalog of manufactured stone veneer provides an expanding portfolio of options to create seamless transitions between interior and exterior applications and unify the textural aesthetic of any project.
  • Royal Trim and Mouldings have architecturally correct profiles that match any home style from Colonial or Craftsman to Victorian or Modern.
  • Unified Steel Stone Coated Roofing is an ultra-lightweight yet strong roofing material offered in numerous profiles, emulating the look of traditional shingle, clay tile, cedar shake or slate roofing to complement a vast array of home architectural styles. 

Residential Product Trends: 2 — High-Performance Products & Materials

As climate extremes have intensified, the demand for high-performance, weather-resistant building products has surged. Homeowners and building professionals are faced with complex product selection decisions—navigating around the areas of regional weatherability, performance, and sustainability.

Residential Product Trends: Extreme Weather Protection

Exterior products are the first line of defense for a home during a storm, fire, or other climate event. As extreme weather incidents continue to mount, it’s critical to choose resilient building materials.

For example:

  • Eldorado Stone’s premium manufactured stone veneer products have been rigorously tested to withstand years of intense freeze/thaw cycles without damage, which is particularly crucial in northern latitudes and throughout Canada.
  • Newpoint Concrete Tile Roofing is known for its superior strength, durability, and protection against ever-increasing weather events. The concrete tile helps shield the roof and home from the elements, offering a Class A Fire Rating, as well as a Class 3 or Class 4 Hail Rating (for select products).
  • TruExterior Siding & Trim is made with a proprietary blend of fly ash and polymers, combining the look of wood with versatility and toughness to stand up to extreme weather, and ground and masonry contact. TruExterior is California Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) listed.
Newpoint Steel roofing
Newpoint Concrete Tile Roofing.

Long Product Life Cycles

Materials that don’t have to be replaced as often or maintained as frequently are a fundamental part of sustainably built homes—not to mention preferable for homeowners who don’t want to invest time and money into maintenance or replacement.

Tips for longevity:

  • There isn’t a universal standard for “low maintenance,” so don’t take claims at face value without inquiring for greater detail. When trying a new material, always research a manufacturer’s maintenance claims, including reading the warranty, and compare it to other materials.
  • When investigating low-maintenance siding, consider the other products used in its installation. For example, if a cladding requires caulking, that caulk is a secondary maintenance liability, requiring regular inspection and replacement before the siding’s life span is complete. 
  • Read the fine print on painting, as some siding warranties are divided into categories, with different guarantees for product life span versus details like color and fading.

Products to consider:

  • Dutch Quality Stone requires little to no maintenance and may be cleaned with a soft bristle brush and water to remove dust and dirt—pressure washing, sandblasting, or acid washing is unnecessary and not recommended.
  • Industry-leading DaVinci Roofscapes uses virgin resins, and UV and thermal stabilizers, along with a highly specialized fire retardant to craft durable composite slate and shake tiles that are ideal for any climate and backed by a Lifetime Limited Material Warranty.
  • Kleer cellular PVC trim products offer the workability of wood without the durability issues or high maintenance. Every piece is straight and free of defects, and they won’t split, warp, crack, or check.
TruExterior poly-ash siding and trim
TruExterior Siding in Nickel Gap and TruExterior Trim on the Bella Terra wedding venue project in Texas.

Sustainability

Among the Westlake Royal’s portfolio of products are a number of options made with resource-efficient materials and using efficient manufacturing processes. This includes:

  • Cultured Stone is manufactured using a closed-loop system to recycle water and contains up to 58% recycled content; the finished product offers comparable durability to natural stone without the need to quarry material from the earth.
  • Vinyl siding, such as options from Royal Siding and Exterior Portfolio, outperforms almost all other common cladding materials in total environmental impact. Over its life cycle, vinyl siding’s impact on global warming is 1/3 that of fiber cement. 
  • US Tile Clay Roofing is naturally reflective, and many of the colors offered meet the highest cool roof rating standards (such as LEED). The roofing material is not only long-lasting, but is also 100% recyclable at the end of its life on the roof.

Residential Product Trends: 3 — Innovative Industry Solutions

Building professionals face the daunting challenges of labor shortages and product delivery issues, while trying to gain strong project margins and grow their business. To meet these varied and evolving needs, Westlake Royal Building Products is exploring every innovation, from new products to support services.

Residential Product Trends: Labor-Supporting Innovations

It’s no secret that the construction industry continues to struggle to find enough workers, especially as older contractors retire and fewer young people enter the trades. Using products that are straightforward to install and working with companies that offer extensive training options is crucial to keeping jobsites moving.

Products to consider:

  • Versetta Stone combines the beauty and texture of authentic stone masonry with the simplicity of panelized installation. With an integrated nailing fin, the lightweight, interlocking stone siding panels attach with nails or screws.
  • Brakes and saw tables from Tapco Tools offer the utmost precision for high-quality custom exterior trim, siding, and flashing. The tools and accessories are efficient, durable, portable, and easy to use, and our partnerships with industry pros and trade schools provide learning opportunities.
  • DaVinci Roofscapes Technical Trainers offer regular regionally specific training for contractors, designers, and distributors across the country. With hands-on training and continuing education courses, DaVinci provides multiple avenues for learning more about our roofing systems.
Versetta Stone fireplace surround
Versetta Stone panelized stone siding makes it simple to create fireplace surrounds and other stone accents on the interior and exterior.

Robust Contractor Resources

Product and installation knowledge are key to crew success. Take advantage of manufacturer-provided literature, courses, and training to keep your installers trained and up to date. For example:

  • In addition to channel-specific assets for architects, builders and designers, Cultured Stone has partnered with the Concrete Masonry & Hardscapes Association (CMHA) on a Certified Installer Program for masons and other installers to hone their craft.
  • The Westlake Royal PROS Perks Program rewards pro customers for purchasing products from an extensive selection of Westlake Royal Building Products brands. Merchant or VISA gift cards are easy to earn and redeem, with no complicated point systems to navigate.
  • DaVinci Roofscapes offers a Masterpiece Contractor Program with nationwide membership, online portal support, and expansive business-building marketing assistance.

For more trend and design inspiration, subscribe to our enewsletter.

What to See at the 2024 International Builders’ Show

International Builders' Show

The 2024 International Builders’ Show is just a few weeks away—is your schedule ready? The show returns to Las Vegas, Feb. 27-29, and once again will co-exhibit with the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show as part of Design & Construction Week.

With three halls of exhibits, dozens upon dozens of education sessions, and a host of demos and special events, there’s plenty to see and do throughout the week. Take a look at some of our picks and previews for IBS to help you get organized.

Education Sessions at the 2024 International Builders’ Show

This year’s show features several types of education opportunities, including Super Sessions, fast-paced Learning Labs, daily Game Changer keynotes, and 60-minute Building Knowledge Sessions.

Here are a few that caught our eye:

Navigating Generational Differences: How Today’s Leaders Can Attract Tomorrow’s Talent (Building Knowledge Session)
Tues., Feb. 27, 8:30-9:30 a.m.

Punch List: 2024 Design & Product Trends (Learning Lab)
Tues., Feb. 27, 10:15-11:15 a.m.

A Simple Project Management Formula for Better Service, Cycle Times & Profitability (Building Knowledge Session)
Tues., Feb. 27, 10:15-11:15 a.m.

The Outlook: Housing Trends, Forecasts & Insights for 2024 (Super Session)
Tues., Feb. 27, 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Avoiding Profit-Killing Callbacks & Poor Performing Homes (Building Knowledge Session)
Weds., Feb. 28, 10:15-11:15 a.m.

A New Estimating Strategy for Greater Remodeling Profit & Resilience (Building Knowledge Session)
Weds., Feb. 28, 10:15-11:15 a.m.

Emerging Trends & Forecasts for Building Materials (Building Knowledge Session)
Weds., Feb. 28, 12:15-1:15 p.m.

20 Elevation Styles to Have on Your Radar for 2024 (Building Knowledge Session)
Weds., Feb. 28, 2-3 p.m.

Outside, Inside & In-Between: 2024’s Top Trends & Design Practices (Building Knowledge Session)
Thurs., Feb. 29, 10:15-11:15 a.m.

High-performance zone at the International Builders' Show
Photo: Nick Hagen Photography

Real-Time Experiences at the 2024 International Builders’ Show

See the latest trends and products in person through these at-show opportunities:

ProTradeCraft LIVE Stage at Pro Builder Show Village

ProTradeCraft’s Jobsite Training Portal comes to life across three stages. Be sure to check out live demos of our Tapco Tools brakes hosted by siding professionals!

Pro Builder Show Village

See the latest innovations, products, and design trends across a neighborhood of demonstration homes at the Pro Builder Show Village in the Silver Lot exterior exhibits. Along with home tours, check out live demonstrations, skills challenges, block parties, and more.

Craft Techniques Zone, West Hall, W3643

A variety of 30-minute interactive demonstrations on home details, finishes, and updates, from decks to fine woodworking.

The New American Home

Each year, the New American Home showcases the latest products, design trends, and building innovations. This year’s house, located in the luxury Ascaya community in Henderson, features skyline views and a resort lifestyle. Tour busses run every 30 minutes from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Pick up tickets at booth C10 in the Central Hall. 

New Product Zone

See a handful of the 2024 International Builders’ Show product introductions at the New Product Zone on the exhibit floor.

Royal Woodtones beadboard

What’s New From Westlake Royal Building Products™ at the 2024 International Builders’ Show?

This year you’ll find Westlake Royal Building Products at one of the Central Hall’s largest exhibit booths—C3819.

Browse our entire product portfolio—Siding, Trim, Roofing, Stone, Windows, and Outdoor Living—to see the latest solutions for beautiful exteriors and interiors. We’re introducing an array of new products across our brands, including new siding profiles and colors, new column wraps, new roof colors, new stone profiles, and more.

And be sure to check out these special events at our booth:

  • Trend Walls: Browse 2024’s hottest trends in our interactive display at the center of the booth.
  • Meet the Pros From The Build Show
    Tuesday, Feb. 27:
    Steven Baczek, 9:00-10:00 a.m.

Wednesday, February 28:
Stephanie Dailey, 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Matt Risinger, 2:00-3:00 p.m.

  • RoofersCoffeeShop live podcast interviews, including the latest market insights.
    Tuesday, Feb. 27, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Need a free Expo Pass? Get yours here.

We can’t wait to see you there!

Want more insights into design trends, events, product installation, and more? Subscribe to our enewsletter.

Top photo: Nick Hagen Photography

8 Winter Workwear Options for the Yard or Jobsite

Ergodyne winter workwear jacket

Whether you’re installing siding on the jobsite, stacking material in the dealer yard, or driving a delivery truck, winter can be a challenging time to work outdoors. Having comfortable winter workwear that keeps you warm and dry from your head to your feet is essential.

Here are a few work gear options to check out.

Winter Workwear for Outdoor Jobs

Heated Jacket

The M12 Heated Axis Jacket from Milwaukee uses M12 RedLithium battery technology, carbon-fiber heating elements, an optimized liner, and Quick-Heat functionality to distribute heat quickly to the chest, back, and shoulders. It has a hidden battery pass-through for front or rear battery placement. The jacket’s re-engineered Axis Ripstop polyester fabric protects the wearer from abrasion while preventing tears from spreading.

Heated jacket from Milwaukee as winter workwear

Work Boots

Wolverine’s I-90 DuraShocks waterproof insulated steel toe 6-inch work boots feature a breathable, waterproof membrane with a Dri-lex moisture-wicking mesh lining, 200-gram Thinsulate insulation for additional warmth, and a waterproof nubuck leather upper. A DuraShocks polyurethane outsole absorbs shock and returns energy, while a removable double density footbed adds cushion and stability, and a fiberglass shank stabilizes the foot.

Wolverine work boots

Hi-Vis Winter Jacket

The GloWear 8275 Heavy-Duty High-Vis Workwear Jacket from Ergodyne has a wind- and water-resistant polyurethane coating, 280-gram sherpa lining in the body and the hood for mid-weight warmth, 40-gram quilted sleeves, and a large hood to fit over hard hats. Other details include reinforced, flexible shoulders for long-lasting wear as well as freedom of movement; adjustable cuffs, waist, and hood; and six exterior pockets and two interior pockets. The jacket has Type R, Class 2 – ANSI/ISEA 107-2020-compliant fluorescent material and 2” reflective tape for night-time conspicuity.

Ergodyne winter workwear jacket

Insulated Winter Workwear Pants

Carhartt Storm Defender lightweight relaxed-fit rain pants with Gore-Tex are designed to seal out rain and wind while letting the body breathe and regulate internal temperature. The pants feature Cordura reinforcements for added durability, waterproof seams, ankle-to-knee zippers with storm flaps, and reflective details.

Carhartt winter workwear pants

Balaclava

The Fargo 2.0 balaclava from Helly Hansen Workwear is flame-resistant, anti-static, and abrasion-resistant. It has a ribbed, expandable face opening, moisture-moving material to wick sweat away from the skin, and flatlock seams that minimize chafing.

Helly Hansen winter workwear balaclava

Cut-Resistant Winter Workwear Gloves

Coldwork Hi-Viz Fastfit E5-260 high-visibility, cut-resistant work gloves from Mechanix feature 100-gram Thinsulate insulation on the back of the hand and 40 grams of Thinsulate on the palm, a water-resistant and wind-proof SoftShell, and water-resistant, touch-screen-compatible polyurethane grip palm with added padding to reduce impacts and vibration from tools. The gloves’ high-tensile-strength liner provides 360° EN 388: 2016 level E & ANSI A5 cut resistance.

Mechanix work gloves

Beanie

Simple-yet-effective winter workwear, Caterpillar’s Logo Knit Beanie is made with 100% acrylic material and has darts on the crown for a better fit. Three colors are available.

Caterpillar beanie

Base Layer Shirt

Made with 100% Merino wool, the Blaklader Warm Base Layer Top is designed to keep the worker warm and dry in temperatures from -20 degrees to 25 degrees F. It features warming zones in the shoulders, arms, back, behind, and sides; rib-knitted collar; extended back; and wristlet at sleeve ends.

Blaklader base layer work shirt

Want more tips and insights? Subscribe to our monthly enewsletter.

How Contractors and Dealers Can Generate Local Leads With Effective Marketing

Generate local leads with Google ads

Whether you’re a homebuilder, remodeler, or LBM dealer, your customers are likely using the internet as one of their first steps in shopping for a new vendor or service provider. Unfortunately, many contractors and small dealers don’t have a well-established online presence to generate local leads like larger chain brands.

So how can you go about competing for customers in your area? Below, we’ll explore effective strategies on how to generate local leads for contractors and dealers, focusing on the importance of local marketing.

Leveraging Marketing to Generate Local Leads

Without an established online presence, it can be hard to rank organically in customer searches. Even if you develop a website and start contributing heavily to content and organic SEO, it’s a long-term investment. Investing in paid advertising like Google ads can help you get in front of an audience through strategies like geotargeting.

Optimizing your Google Business (previously “Google My Business”) is a crucial step in local marketing for contractors and dealers, ensuring that potential customers can easily find your services and learn how to generate local leads. Make sure you own your brand’s Google Business and update it with all the correct information, including your business address, phone number, and hours of operation. Customers will often ask questions here, and providing answers can act as an easy-to-find FAQ page.

Tools for Contractors to Generate Local Leads

Google offers local service ads that businesses can take advantage of. Unlike Google Ads, you don’t need a wealth of knowledge to use the service, which means even those with basic tech skills can use it. With this service, contractors can highlight their services, garner customer reviews, and receive the “Google Guaranteed” badge for further credibility. Pairing this with strategic sponsored ads (think “contractors near me” results) can create a dual approach to sustained presence in search results.

These tools play a vital role in the local marketing strategy for contractors, providing an avenue to generate local leads effectively and set up a strong online presence.

Generate local leads using Google ads
Photo: iStock.com/ThinkNeo

Tools for Dealers to Generate Local Leads

Dealers can enhance their local outreach through digital co-op programs with manufacturers. These programs offer dealers a unique opportunity to boost local marketing and generate local leads through collaborative efforts and shared resources. The manufacturer provides financial support or resources for advertising and activities while the dealers can use this support and the dealer’s name to appeal to local buyers. The shared investment between the two businesses can help ensure a robust marketing strategy.

Start by reaching out to ask about being listed on their website or sponsoring a limited sales event. Sometimes manufacturers will also grant dealers the rights to specific regions, so once a solid relationship has been established, this can be a lucrative request.

Local Digital Advertising Mistakes to Avoid

When implementing these local marketing strategies, avoid these common pitfalls:

  • Forgoing geotargeting: Targeting local buyers is of the utmost importance, so ads should be specific to the area. If a contractor is in Dallas, there is no need to spend on clicks in Chicago.
  • Not putting the phone number front and center: Having your phone number in an easy-to-locate place affects visibility.
  • Directing all ad links to your home page: Each ad should link to a specific landing page relevant to the subject matter of the ad. If there are multiple services to choose from, having a roofing ad link directly to the roofing service page or form ensures the customer journey is more direct than making the visitor navigate to the correct place from the company’s home page.

What Local Ad Success Looks Like

Success looks different for every brand and the effort it puts in. But there are a couple of ways to mark growth. First, be sure to track what matters. If the goal is to drive contact form submissions, pay attention to submissions that arrived from ad efforts, not organic reach. Or perhaps a brand is more concerned about service visits, in which case impressions aren’t as relevant. Also, pay attention to year-over-year and month-over-month growth or when traffic begins to decline.

Learn More Tips From Westlake Royal Building Products

Westlake Royal Building Products offers helpful insights into both our products and growing your construction business. Get all the latest news and tips right to your inbox: Subscribe to our monthly enewsletter.

Top image: iStock.com/ThinkNeo

2024 Colors of the Year Bring Both Calm and Energy

Sherwin Williams Upward

Toward the end of each year, paint manufacturers and other experts announce their Colors of the Year. These highly anticipated declarations offer a reflection of life and society in the moment—our collective mood, influences, and emotional drivers—and guidance for the months ahead.

Some of this year’s prominent 2024 Colors of the Year selections divide neatly into two distinct categories: softer, more relaxed tones answering our mutual desire for peace and calm in a messy world, or bolder, dramatic hues delivering much-needed energy. Though the two sides are notably different, common themes include interpretations of “warmth,” “peace,” and “well-being.” All of the options, light or dark, evoke a depth and saturated richness that draw you in and strengthen each color’s versatility throughout the interior and exterior.

Rich and Relaxing Colors of the Year

Sherwin-Williams: Upward

Described as a “breezy, blissful blue,” Sherwin-Williams’ Upward (SW 6239) is “a sunny-day shade for spaces brimming with positive energy, creative thinking, and total contentment.” Like the company’s 2023 color, Redend Point, the shade is soft but rich, soothing yet eye-catching, a way to make a statement without feeling overwhelmed. Pair it with greige neutrals, black, olive or honeydew green, or a desert brown.

Colors of the Year: Sherwin-Williams Upward
Photo courtesy of Sherwin-Williams

Valspar: Renew Blue

Similar to Sherwin-Williams, Valspar’s Color of the Year, Renew Blue, is a soft-yet-rich hue in the blue family, but with green influences that lend a peaceful vintage feel evoking a sense of calm. “Most of us are seeking an end to feeling overwhelmed—less stress, less information, less technology, fewer choices. Simplicity,” the company said. “Here, we can slow down and create the peaceful place we seek.”

Pair it with mid-toned neutrals in tan and greige.

Colors of the Year: Valspar Renew Blue
Photo courtesy of Valspar

Pantone: Peach Fuzz

Pantone’s Peach Fuzz is “a velvety gentle peach whose all-embracing spirit enriches mind, body, and soul,” the global color authority says, noting that our need for nurturing, empathy, and compassion was a driver for this year’s selection. A “warm, cozy shade” between pink and orange, Pantone says Peach Fuzz offers a fresh approach to softness, with gentle lightness and a vintage vibe for a subtle sensuality that evokes new modernity.

“Pantone 13-1023 Peach Fuzz brings belonging, inspires recalibration, and an opportunity for nurturing, conjuring up an air of calm, offering us a space to be, feel, and heal and to flourish from whether spending time with others or taking the time to enjoy a moment by ourselves,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director for the Pantone Color Institute. “Drawing comfort from Pantone 13-1023 Peach Fuzz, we can find peace from within, impacting our wellbeing. An idea as much as a feeling, Pantone 13-1023 Peach Fuzz awakens our senses to the comforting presence of tactility and cocooned warmth.”

Photo courtesy of Pantone

PPG: Limitless

Limitless, a creamy, soft yellow from PPG, “instills a warm, sunny vibe that hints at growth and blooming energy,” the manufacturer said. By offering both “the power of a primary color and the essence of a neutral,” Limitless is, as its name suggests, a versatile option for interior and exterior applications as a full-body color or as an accent. The hue’s soothing vibe is in sharp contrast to vivid Vining Ivy, a Caribbean aqua, the company’s previous-year selection.

Colors of the Year: PPG Limitless
Photo courtesy of PPG

Bold and Energetic Colors of the Year

Behr: Cracked Pepper

Confident and dramatic, Cracked Pepper from Behr is a versatile soft black that can make a statement as the primary focal point in the room or as a simple, classic accent. Lush and elegantly moody, Cracked Pepper provides a perfect contrast against creamy whites but is rich enough to stand alone without overpowering the space.

Photo courtesy of Behr

Dutch Boy: Ironside

Another color selection that is dark but lush is Ironside, a deep olive that Dutch Boy describes as a “richly dimensional hue that soothes and reassures.”

“Creating a space for wellness should be a driving factor in everyday life,” said Ashley Banbury, color marketing manager for Dutch Boy. “That’s why taking a natural approach to healthy living and safe spaces is a pivotal part of the current landscape. Dutch Boy Paints’ 2024 One-Coat Color of the Year—the stunning, strong Ironside—incorporates all the above in one bold color and can be applied in one single coat.”

The company says the color provides a sense of sophisticated comfort behind furniture, art, and accessories.

Photo courtesy of Dutch Boy

Benjamin Moore: Blue Nova

The blue-violet of Benjamin Moore’s Blue Nova offers “depth and intrigue, balanced by an undercurrent of reassurance,” the paint manufacturer says. “This alluring mid-tone features an enchanting duality, capturing the spotlight with endlessly classic appeal.”

The company’s larger trending 2024 color palette features softly saturated hues for a nuanced contrast. “On adventures near or far, we encourage collecting poignant color moments with verve and personality that are unexpected and boundlessly magical.”

Photo courtesy of Benjamin Moore

From Colors of the Year to exterior trends, get the latest insights by subscribing to our monthly enewsletter.

5 Home Exterior Trends for 2024

Siding like Celect can help meet 2024 exterior trends

A home’s exterior is often the first thing guests or potential buyers see, meaning its curb appeal can have a significant impact on making a good first impression. Whether refreshing or renovating a home, staying current on 2024 exterior trends can help make a statement, increase a home’s value, and enhance the comfort of the living space.

Here are a few home exterior trends we’re expecting in the new year.

1. A Connection with Nature

Connecting people more closely with nature and natural elements, biophilic design can lead to increased well-being and productivity. Growing wellness and environmental concerns are driving demand for outdoor living space improvements and integration of nature in design, including elements like green roofs, living walls, and large windows.

You can create dramatic outdoor spaces by contrasting light and dark colors. For example, matte black can be paired with materials like brick, stone, shingles, and wood for an eye-catching twist. Bold, earthy tones such as navy blue, forest green, dark brown, and red can also be combined with nature-inspired materials for organic texture and warmth. Other trending colors for 2024 include vivid teal and aqua blue, which can induce a sense of serenity.

2. High-Performance Siding

As climate change continues to intensify and lead to severe weather, there is a growing need for high-performance, weather-resistant building products. Homeowners continue to favor resilient materials that require less maintenance or replacement.

For example, Celect Cellular Composite Siding replicates the beauty and aesthetics of wood while remaining low maintenance and durable for a lifetime. Featuring a patented interlocking seam design, it keeps moisture out and almost completely eliminates seams. Plus, its Kynar Aquatec coating provides superior protection against ultraviolet rays, reduces energy demands and resists dirt, seasonal staining and insects.

Celect siding

3. Functional Outdoor Living Spaces

Focused on creating seamless connections between interior and exterior spaces, 2024 exterior trends include an evolution in outdoor design that includes integration of outdoor kitchens and living areas. Elements such as fire pits, pizza ovens, outdoor entertainment, and games can be incorporated to personalize the space and provide a unique entertaining hub. Using cohesive materials and textures that can withstand the elements and flow from indoors to outdoors, such as stone veneer, can help elevate the space and further tie it to the home’s interior.

4. Exterior Trends: Mixed Materials and Textures

Blending various textures, finishes, and materials on a home’s facade can create a unique, visually dynamic look. Using a combination of materials like brick and vinyl siding or stone and wood can add depth and visual interest. An option like Versetta Stone delivers the authentic look and feel of stone in a panelized format that is easy to install with screws or nails and requires no metal lath or scratch coat. The stone siding features a tongue-and-groove system for perfect spacing, has a built-in rainscreen, and can be installed almost anywhere without additional footings for support.

Versetta Stone manufactured stone siding

5. Exterior Trends: Transitional Takes on Tradition

A versatile design approach allows a home to transcend trends, ensuring its relevance and appeal over an extended period of time. In 2024, look for a rise in classic design trends featuring elements such as vertical siding, crisp white trim, and other modernized traditional styles as well as a shift away from minimalism that incorporates more nostalgic, personal touches to home exteriors, ushering in more of a transitional style.

To stay up to date on the latest trends, subscribe to our monthly enewsletter.

SEO for Building Pros: A Practical Guide to Boosting Online Visibility

Man types on computer to ensure good SEO for building pros

In the digital age, the first page of search results is the new storefront on Main Street. It’s where credibility is established and first impressions are formed. Search engine optimization (SEO), therefore, acts as the architect of this storefront, ensuring that your business is not just a hidden gem but a beacon that stands out in the crowded marketplace. SEO for building pros is your company’s ticket to the top of search results, where potential customers are searching for your services, and the good news is, you don’t need a marketing or IT department to get started.

Capitalizing on all that SEO has to offer involves tweaking your online presence to make your website more appealing to search engines. Why does it matter? Because when someone needs a contractor, they’re likely to trust the ones they find on the first page of Google.

Different Types of SEO for Building Pros and How to Maximize Their Impact

Let’s break down the essentials of SEO for contractors with a focus on simplicity and practicality.

Content Strategy:

  • Craft simple, informative web content that answers common questions your customers and prospects might have.
  • Use everyday language and prioritize words and phrases that potential customers searching for your services are likely to type into Google.

Technical SEO:

  • Don’t let the tech jargon scare you. “Technical SEO” just means ensuring your website is user-friendly and easy for search engines to understand.
  • Check if your website loads quickly and is mobile-friendly. Google likes that.

Local SEO:

  • Make your Google Business Profile (or Google My Business profile) your new best friend. Fill it out completely, and keep it updated with your latest business information and contact details.
  • Encourage your satisfied clients to leave positive reviews. It’s like a virtual word-of-mouth recommendation. The more positive reviews you have on your website, the more credible Google will assume you are.

Offsite SEO:

  • Think of “offsite SEO” as making friends on the internet. Get your business mentioned on other reputable websites, and make sure they link back to you.
  • Engage with your local community online. Join forums or social media groups where potential clients might be hanging out.
Man searches on phone to find contractors practicing good SEO for building pros

SEO Changes You Can Make Right Now

Now that we’ve established the significance of SEO for building pros in the digital landscape, let’s dive into actionable steps — changes you can implement immediately to enhance your online presence. Consider these practical tweaks and optimizations that can make a tangible impact on how your contracting business appears in search results.

Smart Keyword Use

Identify the words your clients are likely to use when looking for a contractor. For example, “siding replacement contractor.” Sprinkle these words naturally throughout your website.

Image Optimization

Compress your images before uploading them to your website. This helps your site load faster, and Google appreciates that.

Google Business Profile Tune-Up

Double-check your business information on Google My Business. Is everything accurate? Great, you’re on the right track.

Regular Content Updates

Updating your website pages regularly with relevant content signals to Google that you’re active and engaged. This is where a blog might come in handy. And you can start off small, maybe once or twice a month, turn the frequently asked questions and concerns of your customers into a thought leadership piece on your blog and share it through email, newsletters, and/or social media to drive viewers to your site.

Other Ways to Increase Google Visibility

SEO success is all about playing the long game. Unfortunately, none of these updates will change your search engine ranking overnight. If it did, everyone would be doing it! So stick with it, and keep monitoring the changes you’ve made and their impact. At the same time,look into alternative pathways that can propel your contracting business even more in the vast realm of Google visibility, such as:

Local Service Ads

Google’s Local Service Ads are like the fast pass to the top of the search results. Look into them — they’re worth it. These ads prioritize local services, ensuring that your business is prominently featured when potential clients in your area are actively seeking the services you offer.

PPC (Pay-Per-Click)

If you have a bit of budget, PPC ads can give you a boost. With PPC, you set a budget for your ads, and you only incur costs when users actively engage by clicking on your advertisement. It’s a cost-effective way to ensure you’re reaching a targeted audience, maximizing your budget by paying for actual interactions rather than just impressions.

Consider PPC as a strategic tool to amplify your business presence, especially when aiming for specific demographics or promoting time-sensitive offers.

Setting Expectations for SEO for Building Pros

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a stellar online presence. Results take time. Be patient as you build your digital strategy and ramp up your SEO efforts.

This guest post was provided by Socius. Learn more about their SEO services below.

Introducing Socius’s Fast Start Program:

If you’d rather not take on an SEO strategy alone, Socius can work as an extension of your business to expand your digital marketing efforts and help you reach ready-to-act, qualified customers.

And now, Socius has partnered with EverConnect to offer you up to $2,500 in credit toward qualified new leads for your home improvement business when you partner with Socius for digital marketing. It’s designed to generate leads and business while your long-term SEO strategy takes shape. Learn more here.

Boosting your online visibility doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With the practical steps we’ve outlined in this blog, you’re well on your way to dominating the digital arena, one search result at a time.

The Hottest Color Trends for 2024

Color Trends for 2024, mood board, earthy shades

Home decor trends forecasted for 2024 focus on unique color pairings that balance joyful, attention-getting tones with timeless hues that are more subtle. This combination of dynamic and refined shades offers plenty of interior design inspiration, from paint colors and fabrics to building materials and trims.

Earthy shades will continue to spark interior design ideas but with added warmth. For instance, instead of home interiors heavy on white and beige, imagine palettes of taupe and greige, a combination of beige and gray. These colors offer a versatile backdrop for you to experiment with bolder shades and accents, injecting more personality into spaces.

Here are some other predicted color trends for home interiors and exteriors:

  • Warmer natural tones: Earthy and natural tones are still the go-to choices for creating grounded, soothing environments. But instead of just deep or light browns, look for colors such as terracotta, olive green, sage, and nutmeg—hues reminiscent of organic, natural elements such as sand, clay, wood, and stone.
  • Moody, dramatic color palettes: Adding charcoal gray, deep navy, forest green or black to cabinetry, furniture, or accent walls creates drama with coziness, experts say.
  • Lighter shades of calm: Creating a sense of tranquility at home is still top of mind, but instead of blues and greens for calm, expect more blush pink, dusty pastels and light grays.
  • Color combos: Combining autumnal and romantic hues such as mauves, browns, and greens with brighter blues, reds, and fuchsias adds a modern twist to vintage tones.
  • Bold accents: Artwork, furniture, accessories, and upholstery are prime spots for energizing colors to pop against an overall neutral color scheme. Watch for rich jewel tones such as sapphire and emerald; vibrant citrus hues such as yellow, lime, and apricot; and electric blues.
  • Jolts of joy: Whether used in accessories, upholstery, or exterior paint colors for trims and accents, designers like fiery reds, fired brick, violet, magenta, sharp green, rich purple, tropical blue, and golden green.
  • Subtle, complementary tints and tones: Look for deep forest hues, versatile tans, ethereal grays, deep grays, and fresh off-whites.

(See Also: Color Palettes Inspired by Winter)

Color trends for 2024, mood board showing shades of calm, including blushes and grays

What Is Informing Color Trends for 2024?

The pandemic inspired a desire to create more calming, restful spaces, but other factors have been driving home renovation trends recently. For instance, an interest in sustainability has spurred a yen for nature-inspired aesthetics, along with minimalist color schemes. Rapid shifts in the economy, society, and technology also play a role, with consumers craving a subtle ease and a way to balance contemporary design and timeless elegance.

Experimenting with different color pairings, such as splashes of vibrant hues with classic tones, is a way to explore creativity and infuse energy and imagination into our space.

Color Trends of 2024, mood board showing pops of joy, including rich browns and pinks

How Can I Use Color Trends for 2024 in Home Designs?

Colors set the atmosphere and tone of a space, impacting our emotions and our well-being. Some hues can even influence a space’s functionality and productivity, such as using muted blues or greens in a home office to promote concentration and focus.

Here are a few ways to incorporate 2024’s color trends into home remodeling ideas:

  • Wall paint: Creates a backdrop for other design elements with a solid foundation for an overall color scheme.
  • Furniture and upholstery: Makes a statement, creates a focal point, or adds personality and visual interest through colors and patterns.
  • Accessories and decor: Rugs, pillows, curtains, artwork, and other smaller decorative accents easily update a room’s aesthetic on a budget.
  • Cabinetry and built-ins: The finishes on cabinets in kitchens, bathrooms, and mudrooms can add depth and texture, such as covering cabinets in beadboard.
  • Accent walls and statement pieces: An armchair with vibrant upholstery can create an impact just like an accent wall in a trending color or a different finish, such as Versetta Stone or shiplap.
  • Exterior elements: Exterior remodeling elements such as paint colors, siding, trim colors, shutters, lighting fixtures, and landscaping boost curb appeal and set a cohesive design tone.

(See also: Easy Ways to Add Color to Your Home Exterior)

Whether you’re ready to jumpstart 2024 with a fresh color palette or aren’t sure where to begin, Westlake Royal’s Visualizer Tools give you an idea of what a completed project can look like before you begin. Play with colors and experiment with textures to create the perfect combo that reflects each home’s style.

Want more insights into design trends, product installation, and more? Subscribe to our enewsletter.

Sources:
https://thefashionfrill.com/fashion/key-color-trends-of-2024/

https://www.pantone.com/articles/fashion-color-trend-report/new-york-fashion-week-autumn-winter-2023-2024

https://www.builderonline.com/design/interior-finish/move-over-neutrals-color-to-make-its-return-inside-homes-in-2024_o

4 More Ways AI Can Help the Construction Industry

AI for construction and design

By now you’ve likely heard about artificial intelligence (AI)—and if you’ve ever “conversed” with a company’s website chatbot, you’ve used it too. AI is the buzzword of the moment, for sure. As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, it’s not likely going to replace construction workers. But artificial intelligence is definitely showing potential to enhance what we do and create efficiencies in how we do it.

Previous AI opportunities we explored include pre-design support, design development, permit documentation automation, site safety, and materials management.

AI also has the potential to help your homeowner customers, as well, by streamlining processes and providing a better experience. Paul Burleson, Westlake Royal Building Products™ National Remodeling Accounts Manager, outlines some of the additional ways AI can be used in this industry:

1. Personalized recommendations: AI-powered tools can help homeowners get personalized recommendations on which products and materials to use, based on their preferences, budget, and specific needs.

2. Smart assistants: AI-powered smart assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant can help homeowners with a range of tasks, from turning their lights on and off to adjusting the temperature in their home. Homeowners can use these assistants to control various smart home devices, which can help to improve their overall living experience.

3. Virtual home improvement tools: AI-powered virtual tools can help homeowners visualize changes before they make them. This technology can be used to create 3D models of a home’s interior and exterior, allowing homeowners to see how different paint colors, furniture, and décor will look in their home before making a final decision.

4. Predictive maintenance: AI can be used to predict when maintenance needs to be performed on home appliances, systems, and other components. This can help homeowners to avoid costly repairs and replacements, as well as ensure that their home is always functioning at its best.

Overall, AI has the potential to revolutionize the home improvement industry, making it easier and more convenient for homeowners to improve their living spaces. For more ideas, be sure to read our previous coverage here.

Image credit: iStock.com/metamorworks

Survey: What Are Homeowners Planning for Home Remodeling?

interior trim in home foyer

What are Westlake Royal Building Products’ homeowner customers and potential customers thinking about for their upcoming home remodeling projects? We recently surveyed 114 subscribers to the Live Abode consumer blog about their design plans and preferences. Here are a few insights:

Home Remodeling Styles Remain Classic

When it comes to their “dream” architectural styles, Traditional continues to reign, with 34.3% of respondents selecting the style. Coastal (18.9%), Farmhouse (15.3%), and Mid-Century Modern (10.3%) styles followed.

Interior Remodeling Is in the Plans…

Of homeowners who are planning to remodel, 22% said they plan to prioritize interior projects, while 14% are planning an exterior renovation.

Homeowners who are planning to upgrade their exterior space are targeting regular refreshes and updates over a full deck project.

But what if money were no obstacle? When asked what changes they would make to their homes if they had an unlimited budget, 21.6% would tackle an interior remodel and 17.7% would renovate the exterior. A deck or porch expansion was a close third, with 13.8% of respondents selecting the option.

…but Exterior Remodeling Is on the Brain

While responding homeowners indicated they are planning interior remodels more than exterior, they’re seeking knowledge mostly on exterior projects, which could indicate that such projects are next up on their lists or are forming in their minds. We asked what they’d like to hear more about, and their most-wanted topics were exterior home ideas, siding and trim, and outdoor living spaces, followed by paint color trends.

For your homeowner customers working through the decision and design process, Westlake Royal Building Products™ offers a number of tools to assist both you and them. These include:

Online design tools: The Virtual Remodeler, the Dream Designer, and HomePlay Prime each allow buyers to mix and match products on an image of their own home or a similar home.

Live Abode: Our design blog written especially for homeowners is delivered directly to their inbox. Access and subscribe here.

Color Explorer: Choose color families and find products that match and coordinate. Click here to access.

Color Combinations: Start with a base color and mix-and-match coordinating accent colors. Click to access Royal Color Combinations, Exterior Portfolio Color Combinations, and Celect Color Combinations

Browse all of our exterior and interior products, access samples and resources, and find inspiration at www.westlakeroyalbuildingproducts.com.

8 Recruiting Tips to Ease Labor Woes

labor and recruiting tips

It’s no secret that one of the biggest challenges that continues to plague the construction and construction supply industries is labor. Whether you’re seeking trained carpenters or an entry-level stocker, the market for reliable employees ready to commit to the industry is tight.

As a company, you’re not just competing for labor with other builders or dealers for staff, but with similar businesses and trades in your area. And that means even small missteps can make all the difference in losing a potentially great candidate.  

We checked in with Rikka Brandon, a nationally recognized building industry recruiting and hiring expert and best-selling author, to gather a few easy-to-follow tips that can have an immediate impact on your labor and hiring game.

Embrace and nurture your brand: Job seekers have an advantage, and that means they get to be picky and choose companies that create a good working environment and culture. Your company’s “talent brand”— the reputation it has in the market—has an impact on whether potential candidates apply for jobs or accept them. Not only do you have to tell the world who you are as a company, you have to show it in how you operate. Spell out your values and live them.

Write a strong job ad: Your job ad should never be a reiteration or shorter version of a job description. A job ad should be a marketing tool to sell your brand to potential candidates. It should not only include what the job entails, but the “what’s in it for me” factor about why they should want to work for your company.

Use multiple forms of advertising: You can’t post an ad on Craigslist and call it done. Go where the applicants are: Embrace, and invest in, tools like Indeed and LinkedIn, and boost posts on your company’s social media. And don’t ignore the power of networking—connect with people at local association events, let all of your contacts know about openings, and reach out to talent you’ve met in the past.

Don’t drag out the hiring process: With tight competition, job candidates aren’t going to wait around for an offer because they likely are getting several. If your hiring process is four weeks long and involves six interviews, your candidate is going to lose interest and look elsewhere. And keep in mind that many candidates are having to take time off from their current job for interviews, so be respectful of their time and even consider video interviews or off-hour meetings when appropriate.

Ensure your salary and benefits are up to par: With rising inflation, minimum wage salaries are not allowing young workers to keep up. To find loyal, committed employees, you need to pay them accordingly—let’s be honest, most people don’t work simply for pride or love of a company, they need to make money. Do your research on salaries in the area, both within the industry and outside of it, and make sure yours are keeping up.

Stay flexible: Times have changed, and workers of all ages are seeking a work/life balance—and they’ll move to another company to get it. While many positions in construction and construction supply simply cannot have flexibility beyond a normal in-person 9-5, others can. Allowing workers to go to their children’s soccer games, removing guilt from calling in sick, providing extra PTO, and permitting remote work when it makes sense can go a long way to attracting and keeping staff members.

Keep tabs on existing staff: Retention is as important as, or more important than, recruiting. Don’t neglect your current team. Conduct surveys and talk to workers about what they like and don’t like about working for your company, hear them out, and make adjustments accordingly. It’s a lot more expensive to find and train a new team member than to make small investments to keep great workers.

Don’t keep bad managers: The saying goes, people don’t leave jobs, they leave bad managers. As part of surveying your employees, understand the relationships between staff and their supervisors. Are one team’s members leaving in droves? Are you hearing rumors? It may be worth investigating the management style of your supervisors. Include leadership training for your managers just as you provide installation training or sales training.

For more labor and hiring tips, check out Brandon’s blog and follow her on LinkedIn. And be sure to follow Westlake Royal Building Products on LinkedIn for product news and industry and business insights.

Want more industry insights? Subscribe to our enewsletter!

Dealers Ramp Up Adoption of Ecommerce, Other Technologies

ecommerce activity at home improvement store

The construction and LBM industries are notorious for their slow adoption of technology. This includes ecommerce, which has lagged behind the pace of other industries. But the pace of adoption is increasing, driven by several factors, most notably the pandemic, wider acceptance, and demand from the next generation of customers and workers. And, perhaps surprising to some, AI is also playing a role.

Dealer Surveys Show Ecommerce on the Rise

According to LBM Journal’s 2023 LBM 100 survey, 40% of dealers offered online sales in 2022, a 9.5% increase over the previous year. Of those, 27.4% of orders were for curbside pickup.

“We’re hearing from almost every dealer we talk to that there is a real awareness that ecommerce is a needed element,” said Mike Berger, managing editor for LBM Journal. “The buying habits not just of consumers but also pros have changed so much since the pandemic started.”

Consumers have gotten used to logging onto not only Amazon but also home improvement retailers like The Home Depot and Lowe’s to compare prices and make purchases; LBM dealers are realizing that they need to ramp up their own ecommerce to keep up.

“Ecommerce is here, it’s only going to increase, and dealers are going to need to make every effort they can to accommodate it,” Berger said. “Younger folks coming into the LBM industry are bringing with them patterns of commerce they’ve already developed. To them, it’s second nature to be able to go to their phone, go to an app, place their order, and be done.”

While ecommerce has lagged, LBM dealers have made strides in other areas of technology. In its 2023 Construction Supply 150 report, Webb Analytics noted that while construction suppliers continue to devote a low percentage of revenue to technology, they’ve made remarkable gains. “Online bill presentation now is common, with online payment capabilities close behind,” the report explained. “The next big trends will involve notification of delivery status and online information about whether a product is in inventory. Both are likely to be features of customer-facing apps for smartphones—another growing trend.”

Dealers have responded to customer demand for easier access to accounts and pricing by making it easier to pay bills or check inventory online, a must-have for building pros who do office work after regular business hours because they’re on the jobsite all day. Online access may also be beneficial for customers for whom English is not their first language.

“Despite spending an average of less than 1% of revenue on technology—far below most other industries—leading dealers have gotten dramatically more techie over the years, especially this decade,” the Construction Supply 150 said. “We’re at the point where more than two-thirds of responding CS150 dealers make it possible for their customers to see purchasing history and bills online, and another quarter of the dealers plan to add that capability. Over half permit online bill payment, and another 30% plan to roll out the feature.”

One reason ecommerce might be slower to adopt is because pricing and supply in the building sector isn’t always black and white. Supply chain challenges, particularly over the past few years, have made it harder to predict what is available, and pricing can be impacted by a number of factors that vary customer by customer.

But, ironically, technology is helping to address those challenges, as well. “The stock issue is gradually improving as dealers get better warehouse systems,” Webb Analytics President Craig Webb said. “The pricing is getting better in part because dealers are getting more sophisticated at being able to categorize customers.”

Webb’s Construction Supply 150 found that 35% of dealers have a warehouse management system, but another 26% want to add it. Delivery notification systems are also on the rise, the study found, with 40% of dealers offering it now; 79% of dealers have dispatch/delivery software, which means notification offerings could rise soon.

For now, Berger said, many customers are using ecommerce for smaller items or one-off items, such as a few extra 2x4s or other missing materials needed to quickly complete a job. Consumers are using it as part of their pricing research, which positions dealers to potentially earn new business if they have an item at an equal or better price as a nearby big box store.

How Artificial Intelligence Can Help Dealers With Ecommerce

Webb and Berger both point to artificial intelligence (AI) as an important factor for dealers going forward.

“It looks like artificial intelligence’s ability to slice and price could be one of the very first ways AI makes an impact on dealers,” Webb said. “It’s possible to collect tons of information about customer history and purchasing patterns, to scrape the internet for what everyone else is selling for, and to look at commentaries on what’s happening with pricing trends, strikes, forest fires, etc., and make pricing recommendations in the moment for customers. [As a simple example,] it’s an automated way of seeing a winter storm coming and analyzing how many shovels you have.”

Berger said one of the biggest fears he hears from dealers is that adding ecommerce means increasing the amount of staff needed to handle it. But dealers who have found success are reporting the opposite, thanks in part to AI tools that can assist with filling out product descriptions, answering common questions, and more. “With the tools that are available, dealers aren’t having to radically ramp up their hiring.”

Ecommerce Solutions With Software

Existing and trusted software solutions also are playing a key role in getting dealers up to speed. The industry’s leading software providers offer systems that allow companies to run programs for what they want and need while adding or removing capabilities in the future.

Epicor’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, for example, has an option for an integrated ecommerce platform.

ECI announced in July a new ecommerce solution for its Spruce ERP platform. The tools allow dealers to build a professional storefront website and customer portal without the need for coding or web development expertise. “For consumers and tradespeople, this means unlocking the ability to shop online for delivery or in-store pickup, browse products, create accounts, build self-service quotes, pay invoices, and more,” John Maiuri, division president LBMH at ECI, said in an announcement of the launch. “For LBM and hardlines businesses, this means help in avoiding over-stocking since inventory counts, transactions, pricing, invoices, and other information are directly connected between systems.”

It’s clear that more and more LBM dealers are embracing the efficiencies that technology can bring—while recognizing that customers will only continue to expect such conveniences in the future. As technology solutions become more advanced and more user-friendly, there perhaps may be no better time to take the leap.

Gain more insights and stay connected with Westlake Royal Building Products® on LinkedIn.

Related content:

Image: iStock.com/gorodenkoff

3 Ways Leadership Is Evolving to Ensure Happier Employees and Customers

Leadership team on construction site

Anyone who has ever had a bad boss knows there’s at least some truth to the oft-quoted phrase “Employees don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses.” Along with employee turnover, poor leadership on the part of managers and supervisors can impact employee morale and overall operations to a point of causing inefficiencies, costly mistakes, and, ultimately, unhappy customers.

According to Paul Burleson, Senior Account Executive of National Remodeling Accounts for Westlake Royal Building Products™, we need to see a paradigm shift in our approach to leadership—a significant change in the way leadership is viewed, practiced, and executed.

“Historically, leadership was often associated with a top-down approach where leaders made decisions and gave instructions to their subordinates,” Burleson says. “However, recently, there has been a significant swing toward a more collaborative, inclusive, and participatory style of leadership.”

Burleson describes three ways the old methods are changing:

  • A move toward servant leadership: This approach emphasizes that leaders should be servant to their subordinates and prioritize the needs of their team members above their own interests. This style involves focusing on developing and empowering team members, providing support and guidance, and creating a positive and inclusive work culture.
  • An emphasis on emotional intelligence: Leaders are expected to be empathetic and in tune with the emotions and needs of their team members. This involves actively listening, understanding individual strengths and weaknesses, and adapting one’s leadership style to meet the needs of their team.
  • A shift toward more collaborative leadership: With this approach, team members share decision-making. This method recognizes the value of diverse and multiple perspectives and involves engaging team members to ensure that all voices are heard.

Overall, these paradigm shifts are a response to the changing nature of work and the evolving needs and expectations of today’s workforce, Burleson says. By adopting more inclusive, emotionally intelligent, and collaborative leadership styles, leaders can create a more engaged and empowered team that is better equipped to navigate the complexities of the modern workplace.

Stay connected with Westlake Royal Building Products on LinkedIn.

How to Leverage AI in the Construction Industry

In a rapidly evolving world where technological advancements are reshaping industries, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a game-changer. People are already using it to create more efficient schedules, develop recipes for their leftovers, and even create code to build websites when they have no web development experience.

But what about industries that are hands-on like construction? AI can’t build a home, right? It can’t put on a roof or replace old plumbing pipes, can it?

No, but it can help make many of the processes faster and safer.

AI Will Not Replace Construction Jobs

Before delving into the details of AI in construction, it’s crucial to address a common concern: the fear of AI replacing human workers.

Rest assured, AI is not here to replace construction jobs; rather, it is here to enhance existing roles. AI technology can be a powerful tool to aid construction workers, boost their productivity, and streamline processes, leading to more efficient project execution.

AI and the Future of the Construction Industry

The future of the construction industry lies in embracing advancing technologies to unlock its full potential. By integrating AI and construction, we may see remarkable improvements in each stage of the building process, especially during planning. It can streamline processes, reduce costs, minimize errors, and optimize overall efficiency in construction projects.

Here are some of the ways AI might be used (or is already being used) in the construction industry:

AI and pre-construction

  • Pre-design – With AI tools, professionals can generate design options, analyze site conditions, and optimize building layouts. This can help to speed up the decision-making process and empower the creation of more innovative and workable designs.
  • Design development – AI can analyze large quantities of data and generate solutions based on specified parameters. Construction professionals can use AI to accelerate the design process, find potential issues, and improve the overall quality of designs.
  • Construction documents – Generating construction documents, drawings, specifications, and schedules can all be enhanced through AI automation. With these integrations, professionals can not only reduce errors but also improve document accuracy and enhance collaboration among different project participants.
  • Bidding and negotiations – AI can assist during bids and negotiations by analyzing historical data, current trends, and your project requirements. Because it can optimize cost estimates and evaluate subcontractor proposals, the decision-making steps in the process become more informed and efficient.
  • Permits and approvals – Documentation automation through AI could mean a faster process of getting permits and ensuring compliance. There are now AI-powered tools that can aid in the analysis of building codes, zoning regulations, and environmental requirements, which means fewer project delays to meet compliance.
  • Finalizing pre-construction documents – Leveraging AI when reviewing and finalizing pre-construction documents, contracts, and agreements can aid in minimizing potential risks and discrepancies.

Performance and safety during the construction process

  • Site-safety – AI-powered cameras and video analytics can detect potential hazards, monitor on-site behavior, and provide the supervisor and general contractor with real-time alerts. Surveillance at this level means improved safety for all and fewer accidents on construction sites.
  • Labor and materials management – Optimizing the allocation of labor and materials by analyzing project schedules, resource availability, and productivity data ensures that projects are executed with efficiency. That results in maximum productivity with minimal material waste.
  • Building performance analysis – AI-powered systems can help find opportunities for energy savings, predict maintenance needs, and contribute to overall sustainability and cost savings for building owners.

The Future of AI in the Construction Industry Is Bright

If we want to fully harness the power of AI in the construction industry, it’s imperative to continue collaboration between technology providers and construction professionals.

The potential benefits are emerging: streamlined processes, lower costs, improved accuracy, enhanced safety, and optimized project management, just to name a few. But the journey doesn’t stop here — continued research, development, and adoption of AI technology may be crucial to move the industry forward.

One way Westlake Royal Build Products is embracing technology is through our available Home Design Tools. Create your own home masterpiece by interacting with our design tools.

Better Sales Starts With the Introduction

Technology is great. But in the midst of it taking over our lives and jobs, something has gone missing from the sales process—the power of human touch. “We’ve lost the art of connection,” says sales expert Charlie Cina. “Everyone wants to be high tech, no one wants to be high touch.”

Specializing in sales and online training, Cina is a consultant, writer, and speaker with clients around the world. He has developed a unique prospecting tool called OneTapConnect, which allows you to have immediate impact and influence by sharing your custom-branded mobile site that shares your social profiles, website, and other custom links.

Cina isn’t saying technology doesn’t have a place in sales, but the ability to build instant rapport and credibility with a potential customer that also allows you to create trust by showing your truth, authenticity and proof is paramount in any sales process.

“I believe you have to be both high tech and high touch,” Cina says.

The Power of Introduction for Sales

Cina notes that there are organic opportunities around us each and every day, and he suggests introducing yourself to five new people on a daily basis—at your child’s baseball game, in line at the dry cleaner’s, etc. “Your job as a sales professional or business owner is to introduce yourself to as many people as you can and shout from the rooftops who you are, what you do, and how you can help.”

Is every person you meet in need of your subcontracting skills or the products you sell? Not likely. But everyone knows someone who knows someone, and by introducing yourself and making an impression, you become memorable when such a need arises among the people they know.

“The whole concept is the people out in the world have two things you need: They have your money or they have your potential contact/connection with people who do want your products and services.”

Overcoming Fear of Introducing Yourself


Making an introduction can be an intimidating experience, but it’s pretty simple.

First, it helps to reframe your thinking: It’s not a “cold call,” it’s a “new call.” Follow the simple formula: Introduction, build rapport, gain credibility.

Learn how to say hello, your name, who you are, and what you do. Present yourself in a way that’s unforgettable at the first point of contact. “Stick your hand out and introduce yourself. ‘Hi, my name’s Charlie, what’s your name?’” Cina says. “As soon as they tell you their name, you’re no longer strangers.”

Just be sure to come from a place of good intention, Cina explains. “You’re out there to have a conversation. Everyone is not a prospect for what you do. But master the art of human interaction and connection, and you can sort a prospect from a suspect. It’s not always a financial transaction; it might be a friendship or a referral. The whole key is when you’re out in the world, it’s your intention to get attention. You are a brand called you.”

The more you do it, the easier it becomes, Cina promises. Rather than practicing on family and friends, who can be your harshest critics, he recommends that you practice by doing.

Much like dating, if you’re not out there, you won’t meet someone. “Activity breeds activity,” he encourages. “The more you introduce, the more you produce.”

Want to learn more skills from Charlie Cina? Check out his book Expose and Close and his website https://charliecina.com, which includes a blog and online academy. Learn more about his OneTapConnect prospecting system here.

How to Be a Master at Canvassing

canvassing at a home

Canvassing is an essential strategy for introducing potential customers to new products, services, and ideas. As a canvasser, you get to interact with people face to face, listen to their feedback, and help them find solutions that fit their unique needs. Being a master at canvassing requires you to have the right skills and mindset to connect with people on a personal level and close deals effectively.

Here are some tips from Paul Burleson, Senior Account Executive of National Remodeling Accounts for Westlake Royal Building Products™, to help you become a master canvasser:

1. Be confident: Confidence is key when it comes to canvassing. You need to believe in the product or service you are offering and be sure of the value that it adds to the potential customer’s life. Confidently express the benefits of your product or service, and be ready to answer any questions regarding it.

2. Know your product: To be an effective canvasser, you need to have a deep understanding of your product or service. Know its features, benefits, and limitations. Highlight the essential points and how they benefit the customer.

3. Listen actively: Listening actively is an essential skill for any salesperson. Listen carefully to your potential customer’s needs and pain points. Once you identify those, show them how your product or service will address them. People appreciate it when someone listens and offers a solution that meets their needs.

4. Use persuasive language: Master canvassers know how to use persuasive language that creates an emotional connection with customers. Use descriptive language and meaningful expressions that make your value proposition compelling. Use persuasive techniques like storytelling and use of emotions relevant to the product/service you’re selling.

5. Be personable: One of the most crucial aspects of canvassing connecting with the customer on a personal level and making them feel comfortable talking to you. Use open-ended questions to keep the conversation flowing and get to know them. Show that your concern is not only to sell but also to help them solve real problems for them.

6. Build rapport: Building rapport is crucial, especially when canvassing door-to-door. Strike a conversation with customers about their hobbies, interests, or environment. This will help to build rapport and make the customer feel more comfortable talking to you. Smiling, making eye contact, and using the customers’ names are excellent tools to create strong rapport.

7. Follow up: Follow-ups are critical to closing the deal. Whether the response you get from the customer is positive or not, be sure to thank them for their time and give them a business card or brochure. If you follow through on your commitments and regularly touch base to maintain the connection, your efforts will yield returns in the long run.

In summary, becoming a master canvasser takes practice, patience, and commitment. Confidence, product knowledge, and preparation are key.

Stay connected with Westlake Royal Building Products on LinkedIn.

Related content:
Resources for Selling and Installing Siding & Trim
Stop Selling. Start Solving Homeowners’ Pain Points.

Featured image: iStock.com/grandriver

How to Use Inspiration Boards for Siding Selection

Westlake Royal Building Products inspiration boards

With the sheer number of siding options on the market, siding selection can sometimes be difficult for homebuyers as they navigate which materials, styles, profiles, and colors are right for them. Being able to see—and feel—the choices and understand how they work together can be powerful. Physical inspiration boards at the dealer or in a builder’s showroom or model home can help customers begin to envision how products look in real-world applications, visualize how they come together in popular multi-textured facades, and determine what they like and don’t like.

An inspiration board is a three-dimensional element that serves as a miniature wall section, combining several types of cladding, trim, and accessories into a diorama of sorts. Unlike a display board showing a small sample or even a larger product section, an inspiration board gives buyers an idea of how the finished exterior will look when fully outfitted with other claddings and accessories.

Here’s are examples of some of the inspiration boards Westlake Royal Building Products™ curated for this year’s International Builders’ Show:

Westlake Royal Building Products inspiration boards

Vignettes can combine several types of cladding to show common ways of achieving the multi-textured look, such as Versetta Stone with Cedar Renditions in the center vignette above or Exterior Portfolio Market Square siding with Foundry 7” Split Shake in the right-hand vignette. Each includes coordinating accessories to complete the look, including Atlantic Premium Shutters, Royal Trim & Mouldings column wraps, and a color-matched Mid-America mounting block.

“It brings it all together, catches people’s eye, and helps them visualize how they can outfit their exterior with Westlake Royal Building Products,” said Kriss Swint, Director of Marketing Communications. “Those applications help create more of a feeling and a mood. It helps us tell our story.”

If space is a concern, inspiration boards can take the form of smaller shadow boxes, such as these boards displayed at the 2020 Builders’ Show:

Though slightly smaller, these displays still make it easy for customers to see how various products come together to make a cohesive, eye-catching look.

Here are some tips for creating inspiration boards to ease siding selection:

Seek out ideas: To put together Westlake’s inspiration boards, the team consults with product managers about the latest trends and draws on what customers are doing with the products. They also study magazines and Pinterest to keep up on new combinations and find fresh ideas.

Include signage: Be sure to identify the products in the display so that buyers know what they are looking at, that everything is available from you, and how they can replicate the exact look if they so choose.

Include images: Accompanying images showing a rendering of the look on a full home or of the home that inspired the vignette can help further increase and ease visualization.

Add decorative touches: Don’t forget the other elements one would find on the exterior, such as plants, a light fixture (with mounting block), window box, or address block.

Add QR codes: Including a QR code with a link to the products’ web pages or online brochures can make it easy for visitors to get more information on the products they’re seeing as they make their decisions, freeing up your staff in the process.

Leverage your manufacturer: Don’t be afraid to reach out to your manufacturer rep for help curating your inspirational displays. They can offer advice on what products work best together and assist with finding the right information to link to, along with providing take-home samples, fan decks, and literature.

To make inspiration boards more powerful, you can pair them with Westlake’s online design tools, including the Virtual Remodeler, the Dream Designer, and HomePlay Prime, which allow buyers to mix and match products on an image of their own home or a similar home.

Related articles:
Resources for Selling and Installing Siding & Trim
Best Practices for Multi-Textured Facades
• Why and How LBM Dealers Should Sell Exterior Packages

LBM Dealer Surveys Show Continued Strength Amid Economic Concerns

Each year, the LBM 100 from LBM Journal and the Construction Supply 150 from Webb Analytics dealer surveys provide a snapshot of the state of the lumber and building materials industry and, by default, a temperature reading on the rest of the residential construction industry. And this year’s lists, both released this month, are no exception.

“The year began with dealers enjoying the last giant swells in lumber prices that had led to unprecedented reve­nue increases in 2021,” reported Craig Webb of Webb Analytics. “By the end of 2022, those prices were down more than 60% from where they were at the start. Meanwhile, consumers’ pain over price increases and a Federal Reserve clampdown helped force a slowdown in the economy. Nevertheless, demand from builders and remodelers remained robust and product shortages still were rampant, particularly early in the year. The result was unsettled conditions.”

Webb’s Construction Supply 150 found the result to be a 9.5% increase in revenue for the list overall, as well as growth in the total number of locations and number of employees. However, the revenue increase was only 3.3% when adjusted for inflation.

“Now in its third year, the LBM 100 continues to demonstrate the strength of the lumber and building materials industry while fighting new challenges such as skyrocketing interest rates, rising inflation and fuel costs, labor shortages, and foreboding talk of recession,” LBM Journal’s James Anderson said of his publication’s rankings. “If that list of challenges faced any other industry, it is unlikely that we could see 94 of this year’s top 100 dealers reporting increases in sales in 2022.”

In fact, LBM Journal reports that nearly all of the dealers with higher sales last year saw increases in the double digits. Nine companies had sales over a billion dollars, including one that reached the threshold for the first time. (The Webb Analytics Construction Supply 150 tracks both traditional LBM dealers as well as big box stores and specialty distributors, so its ranking includes 25 members with more than a billion in sales.)

As in previous years dealer surveys, some of that growth came from continued acquisitions.

Lumber prices continued to play a role, but to the opposite effect as last year: “The impact of lumber price changes shows up most prominently when you look at one of the CS150’s five subcategories, lumberyards with manufacturing capabilities,” Webb said. “In 2021, this group’s revenues shot up 58.6%. In 2022, the gain was only 18.1%. And a good share of that increase came not from same-store sales growth, but rather from many of the 481 construction supply operations acquired and 253 locations opened by the CS150 in 2022.”

Even with the challenges, nearly half of the LBM 100 plan to expand over the next one to two years. In addition, LBM Journal said, “Many dealers have indicated that 2023 will be a year of growth, despite higher interest rates and lingering supply chain challenges.”

Other trends of note:

• The pandemic’s influence on e-commerce continued, as LBM Journal found that 40% of dealers are now offering online sales, up from 30.5% in 2021.

• Hiring is still dealers’ No. 1 challenge, LBM Journal said, though there was a notable drop from the previous year, from 84% of respondents to 68%. As with last year, drivers continue to be the hardest role to fill, followed by yard workers. Still, the threat of recession has actually helped some dealers with this issue, opting to reduce staff by eliminating open positions or hiring good employees who are leaving less-stable companies.

• Credit card fees are another growing challenge for dealers. With fees upwards of $180 million among the companies he surveyed, Webb found that dealers are pushing to limit the use of credit cards for bill paying.

View the full dealer surveys, view the LBM Journal 100 here and download the Construction Supply 150 here.

Find Helpful Tools and Resources During National Home Remodeling Month

National Home Remodeling Month

May marks National Home Remodeling Month, the NAHB’s annual celebration of the remodeling industry and remodeling professionals. Westlake Royal Building Products™ has signed on as the title sponsor of the event for the second consecutive year. 

During National Home Remodeling Month, remodelers are encouraged to leverage customizable marketing tools, content, and tips to help promote the industry and local expertise. Available materials include sample social media posts, web banner graphics, press releases, fact sheets, and more. For local councils and members, NAHB offers government proclamations, articles and op-eds, fact sheets, and a how-to kit.

To get started, access a start-up guide, tips and strategies, and the array of downloadable content on NAHB’s National Remodeling Month landing page.

“Westlake Royal is thrilled to sponsor this initiative again this year. Remodeling offers numerous benefits to homeowners who want to change their living environment without uprooting their family and moving. Home improvements can add more space for a growing family or older parent, improve energy efficiency and increase the resale value of your home,” said Steve Booz, vice president, marketing & product management at Westlake Royal Building Products. “We are excited to join in supporting NAHB’s members, who are committed to quality construction and integrity, professionalism, and their customers.” 

As part of the sponsorship, Westlake Royal Building Products will host several events for NAHB members during the month of May, including a Shop Talk on May 11 featuring Chuck Chura, senior product manager for Westlake Royal Building Products, who will discuss using panelized stone to drive building efficiencies. 

To learn more about NAHB Remodeling Month and register for upcoming events, visit nahb.org/remodelingmonth.

Cost vs. Value Report: Manufactured Stone Veneer, Vinyl Siding Among Projects Delivering Most Remodeling ROI

Remodeling ROI, Versetta Stone

If you’re looking for remodeling projects that will deliver the most bang for the buck, exterior projects are some of the best bets. According to the Remodeling 2023 Cost vs. Value Report, exterior projects such as garage door replacement, manufactured stone veneer, and vinyl window replacement were among the top projects delivering the best remodeling ROI.

The 36th annual study by Remodeling magazine and Zonda Media compares the average costs of 23 remodeling projects with the value those investments will retain at resale based on surveys of more than 6,000 Realtors. “True to form, this year’s report confirms a consistent truth that has been revealed on every report for the last 30 years: Exterior replacement projects typically provide a higher return on investment than interior discretionary remodels at the time of house sale,” the magazine said.

Leading the way among exterior projects were garage door replacements, recouping 102.7% of costs. It was topped only by HVAC electrification conversion, a new category for 2023, which recoups 103.5% of costs.

Manufactured stone veneer (such as Westlake Royal Building Products’ Versetta Stone panelized stone siding) once again placed high on the list, offering the third-best ROI at 102.3%, up more than 10 percentage points over last year. The study looked at the cost versus return from replacing a 300-square-foot band of vinyl siding from the bottom third of a home’s front façade with manufactured stone veneer, along with sills, corners, and address block.

The other exterior projects in the top 10 were steel entry door replacement (100.9% cost recouped), vinyl siding replacement (94.7%), fiber cement siding replacement (88.5%), vinyl window replacement (68.5%), and wood window replacement (61.2%). Minor kitchen remodel and a midrange bath remodel joined HVAC conversion as the other non-exterior projects in the top 10.

“The reason for high returns on exterior projects stems from what real-estate professionals regularly witness from buyers: If their first impression is a run-down exterior, they tend to enter the property wary and reluctant to spend large on the property,” Remodeling editors said. “If, on the other hand, the home looks well taken care of, they enter with a more positive view from the outset.

Manufactured Stone Delivers Most Remodeling ROI in Two Regions

When the Remodeling 2023 Cost vs. Value report is broken down geographically, manufactured stone delivered the most return on investment among all projects in two areas: the South Atlantic (Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida), with a dramatic 109% ROI, and the East North Central (Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio), with 103% ROI.

With a panelized format the installs with nails or screws and requires no mortar, Versetta Stone offers remodelers an easy way to embrace the high-ROI benefits of manufactured stone. Each lightweight panel covers 2 square feet and features a built-in rainscreen. Browse profiles and colors here.

See the full Remodeling 2023 Cost vs. Value Report study and associated trends at www.costvsvalue.com.

(Remodeling 2023 Cost vs. Value Report: © 2023 Zonda. Complete data from the Remodeling 2023 Cost vs. Value Report can be downloaded free at www.costvsvalue.com.)

3 Cyber Security Tips for Contractors

For contractors, cybersecurity might not be high on the priority list. Between balancing projects, sourcing building materials, and interacting with clients, it’s easy to let the security of your computer systems fall to the back burner. However, contractors and the construction industry overall are at risk now more than ever due to the adoption of smartphones, laptops, and other tools.

The good news is that there are a few easy tips that help protect your business.

The Risk of Cyber Threats to Contractors

Contractors and others in the construction industry are at risk for security breaches every day. If you keep customer information on a computer, use a smartphone to schedule projects, or take advantage of accounting software, among many other tasks, there are risks for a breach. Some of the most common cybersecurity breaches that happen with contractors include:

  • Phishing scams: These are most commonly emails sent by scammers who are trying to get you or your employees to click a link to gain access to your company’s system.
  • Tech support scams: A scammer sends a message to a construction/contractor business pretending to be tech support and saying your computer system needs to be fixed to gain access to sensitive information.
  • Ransomware attacks: A scammer infects your system with malware and threatens to release sensitive information unless a ransom is paid.

3 Cybersecurity Tips for Contractors

1. Hold “Fire Drills” to Help Prevent Cybersecurity Attacks: One of the best things you can do to help prevent a cybersecurity attack is to hold training sessions. Gather all your employees and walk through what one of these attacks could look like. A great place to start is going online and looking up some classic phishing scam emails.

Go through the main “red flags” to look out for, which may include:

  • The email being sent from an unknown or unofficial address.
  • The email having misspellings and grammar issues while trying to get the recipient to click on a link.
  • The content of the email stressing a sense of urgency with language like “you need to act now.”

Trainings like this for employees can help develop their muscle memory on best practices in case one of these events happens. To help, YouTuber ThioJoe has a great in-depth video on how to spot scam emails.

2. Keep Your Technology Current, and Update Passwords: Many manufacturers of technology like smartphones and computers regularly update their software, making it more challenging for cybersecurity threats to break through. When you’re using an old or outdated system, those protections aren’t there to help prevent the latest cyber-attacks, putting your system at higher risk.

That’s why it’s important to keep any technology that holds customer or business information current. While the cost of replacing an old phone or computer might seem high at first, it’s less than the financial and legal damage a cyber-attack or scam could cause your business.

Part of keeping your technology current also involves using best practices for your passwords. For starters, if any of the software used for your contracting business offers two-factor authentication, be sure to turn it on. Also make sure that no one in your business is using one universal password. You can also take the hassle out of juggling multiple passwords by using a free password manager such as that offered by Norton.

3. Know Where Your Data Live: A key step in helping your contracting business stay safe from cyber security threats is knowing where your sensitive data is kept. Create a list of any software or hardware that has customer and/or business data on it. This list should be where the bulk of your cyber security efforts go toward. Since most small contractors don’t have unlimited resources, this tip can help ensure you get the most bang for your buck.

You’ll also want to look for any vulnerabilities in the software or hardware where the data is held. An easy place to start is backing up this information regularly to an external hard drive. This routine process can keep your business running if the company’s main computer(s) are compromised or need to be repaired.  

These are just a few of the ways you can protect your business. Be sure to consult with an IT specialist to ensure your specific systems are operating securely. For more cybersecurity tips, the Federal Communications Commission (FFC) also has a great collection of resources specifically for small businesses.

Exterior Remodeling Projects Deliver Greatest Return on Investment, Study Says

Royal Siding, vinyl siding remodeling ROI

Before embarking on a remodeling project, whether large or small, most homeowners ponder not just their design preferences and lifestyle needs, but whether the renovation will add value to their home. Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford sought to bring clarity to the question with a recent study that looked into the return on investment of common remodeling projects. The data show that, resoundingly, exterior remodeling and renovation projects deliver the largest return, with garage doors leading the way.

Industry experts continue to tout the strength of the remodeling market, as homeowners elect to renovate their existing houses rather than navigate high interest rates and low inventory for new homes. “With Americans spending more time at home than ever, the total amount spent on renovations and upgrades soared by nearly 27% between 2020 and 2022,” Today’s Homeowner said.

But with material and labor costs also high, understanding which projects provide the most value is more important than ever.

The study examined data from 70,000 homes in more than 1,200 markets, analyzing the cost versus value recouped for 34 different project types. Today’s Homeowner found that the average return for all projects is 69%. But the average cost recovered for exterior remodeling projects is 23% higher than interior projects; in fact, the top 10 projects reaping the best ROI were on the exterior.

“Curb appeal really matters when selling your home,” Realtor Suzanne Coddington, of Dickens Mitchener, told Today’s Homeowner. “It’s difficult to get buyers to see a home that has little or no curb appeal.” 

Garage door replacement was the only project category to reap a full 100% return on investment, followed by wood window replacement (95.5% cost recovery), screened-in porch addition (92.9%), fiber cement replacement (92.7%), and vinyl siding replacement (91.0%) and vinyl window replacement (91.0%).

“When considering new siding, look for high-quality, low-maintenance materials,” Steve Booz, Vice President of Marketing & Product Management for Westlake Royal Building Products, advised the Today’s Homeowner audience. “Some products offer insulation or locking seams for increased energy efficiency. And don’t be afraid to play with color, texture, different profiles, and contrasting trim — siding can be beautiful as well as functional.”

The remaining projects in the top 10 comprised an in-ground pool (90.1%), composite deck addition (86.9%), concrete backyard patio (86.4%), and wood deck addition (80.1%).

To view the full study results and expert commentary, click here.

Looking to elevate your exteriors with high-ROI materials? Browse Westlake Royal Building Products’ extensive selection of vinyl siding and accessories.

What to See at the 2023 International Builders’ Show

2023 International Builders' Show

Another year has come and gone, and that can only mean one thing: The 2023 International Builders’ Show and Design & Construction Week are right around the corner. The show returns to Las Vegas this year and is more jam-packed than ever—along with co-exhibiting with the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, the NAHB announced that the National Hardware Show, the Las Vegas Winter Market, and The International Surface Event (consisting of Surfaces, StonExpo, and TileExpo) will all co-date with IBS.

With so much to see, here’s a look at some of our picks and previews for IBS to help you get organized.

Education Sessions

The 2023 International Builders’ Show features more than 100 education sessions and more than 225 speakers, so whether you’re looking for business strategies, installation know-how, or the latest trends, there’s something for everyone. Here are a few that caught our eye:

• What’s Next for Exteriors
Tues., Jan. 31, 2-3 p.m.

Super Session: A Complete Guide to Housing Trends, Forecasts & Insights for 2023
Tues., Jan. 31, 1:30-4 p.m.

8 Strategies for Leading Your Custom Building or Remodeling Company Through Challenging Times
Weds., Feb. 1, 8:30-9:30 a.m.

Learning Lab: 23 Digital Marketing Tools & Trends for 2023
Weds., Feb. 1, 8:30-9:30 a.m.

Shifting Demographic Trends: What’s Next for the U.S. Housing Market
Weds., Feb. 1, 1-2 p.m.

Trends, Forecasts & Key Indicators: What Custom Builders & Remodelers Need to Know in 2023
Weds., Feb. 1, 3-4 p.m.

Beer & Banter: Designing Homes to Optimize Health & Happiness (sponsored by Westlake Royal Building Products)
Weds., February 1 at 4:15-5 p.m.

From Outside to In: A Walk Through of the Latest Design Trends
Thurs., Feb. 2, 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Real-Time Experiences

See the latest trends and products in person through these at-show opportunities:

• Immersive Experience
Westlake Royal Building Products is excited to have our products featured in Pro Builder’s Immersive Experience. At our booth (C3819) or on your laptop or phone, virtually explore three unique home exteriors in this fun tool. Tour the homes and experiment with styles and colors while learning about product details.

• Pro Builder Show Village
See the latest innovations, products, and design trends across five site-built homes at the Pro Builder Show Village at the exterior exhibits. Westlake Royal’s products will be featured on the Impresa Home: Unified Steel Stone Coated Metal Roofing, Celect Cellular Composite Siding and Trim, Royal® Trim Post Wraps, and Eldorado Stone & Kindred Outdoors + Surrounds.

• ProTradeCraft LIVE Stage
ProTradeCraft’s Jobsite Training Portal comes to life across three stages. Be sure to check out live demos of our Tapco Tools brakes!

• The New American Home
Celebrating its 40 anniversary, The New American Home showcases the newest products and design trends, as well as the cutting-edge innovation and energy efficiency. This year’s project, located in Henderson, is a 7,575-square-foot, two-story contemporary house designed to be an entry-level home for the luxury market. Features include a spa, game room, outdoor fire features, and roof deck with Vegas and mountain views.

New Product Zone
See a handful of the show’s product introductions at the New Product Zone on the exhibit floor.

What’s New From Westlake Royal Building Products?

In addition to Show Village, the ProTradeCraft Live stage, and the Immersive Experience, you’ll find Westlake Royal Building Products at one of the Central Hall’s largest exhibit booths—C3819. Our entire exterior portfolio—Siding, Trim, Roofing, Stone, Windows, and Outdoor Living—resides under one space this year, so there’s much to see.

We’re introducing an array of new products across our brands, including new vinyl colors, new column wraps, Cedar Renditions™ Board & Batten siding, new profiles from Eldorado Stone, and many more!

In addition, Westlake Royal is proud to be a supporting sponsor of the NAHB Remodelers & Remodeling Central and the NAHB Professional Women in Building & PWB Headquarters, both at IBS.

We can’t wait to see you there!

Image credit: Oscar Einzig Photography

10 Home Exterior Trends for 2023

CraneBoard siding

As we move from 2022 into 2023, home exterior trends aren’t so much about what’s in and what’s out, but rather what continues to be in demand and what’s fading slowly from the spotlight. Not surprisingly, pandemic-fueled projects like outdoor living are still going strong, as are styles that differentiate like multi-textured facades and board-and-batten looks. Also continuing to be top of mind: resiliency, durability, and low maintenance. Even so, there’s room for a few new surprises, as well.

Here are 10 home exterior trends we’re seeing as the new year begins:

Varied facades: Using multiple textures across the façade remains popular, whether by blending materials (such as stone and vinyl), profiles (such as lap siding with shake gables), or geometries (traditional forms with modern bumpouts and roofing components).

Cedar Renditions, mixed facades
Cedar Renditions Design Series 6″ Siding in Cedar Bark

An evolution of outdoor living: The dramatic increase in demand for outdoor living spaces during the pandemic hasn’t slowed, as homeowners not only seek to create a sanctuary space, but an expanded footprint for entertaining. Decks are no longer just a place to hang out during the summer, they have become an extension of the home. Homeowners want to walk seamlessly from interior to the exterior deck and not sacrifice any elements of comfort.

As such, we’re seeing requests for things like outdoor heaters, fire pits, storage, interior-like furniture, retractable windows, screening systems—anything to make the deck more comfortable all year long. Extending its longevity is also imperative as people are staying in their homes longer and integrating the deck as a commonly occupied space. Using composite materials, like Zuri® Premium Decking, ensures a longer life and weather resistance for this bonus living room.

Zuri premium decking, composite decking
Zuri Premium Decking in Weathered Gray

In addition, requests for pergolas are on the rise. Pergolas work well next to pools or as shade for an outdoor kitchen. With a pergola, you can install heating elements or a ceiling fan for comfort through all seasons. Pergolas are a good alternative to a gazebo in regions where you can’t get the roof zoned as well.

Copper: Homeowners who love the look of composite roofing are increasingly personalizing their home with copper accents, including gutters, caps, finials, and snow guards.

copper accents, DaVinci roofing, home exterior trends
DaVinci Multi-Width Slate roofing and copper accents on an estate in Naperville, Ill.

Black window frames: The Modern Farmhouse craze drove interest in black and dark window frames, and even as this home style begins to fade from favor (depending on whom you ask), the sleek, sophisticated look of black windows is sticking around.

Board-and-batten: With or without the Modern Farmhouse style, vertical and board-and-batten siding remains one of the popular home exterior trends for the full façade or as an accent.

TruExterior poly-ash trim board and batten
TruExterior poly-ash trim in a board-and-batten style.

Wildfire resistance: The rate of wildfires in the United States is growing rapidly (NOAA expects up to a six-fold increase in risk in some parts of the country by the middle of the century), so exterior roofing and cladding products that are more fire resistant are growing in importance. For example Class A fire-resistant DaVinci composite roofing, especially shakes, is continuing to see growth of sales in different areas. Westlake Royal Roofing Solution’s Unified Steel® stone-coated roofing, Newpoint® concrete roof tile, and US Tile® clay roofing also carry a Class A fire-resistance rating and many are WUI certified.

For cladding, Cedar Renditions siding is non-combustible. TruExterior® Siding & Trim is certified by the California Building Commission for inclusion on the Wildland-Urban Interface Zone (WUI) Products Listing. Versetta Stone® panelized stone siding has a flame spread index of zero. And all Westlake Royal Building Products’ vinyl siding products are Class A fire rated.

Darker colors: Dark colors have been trending for a few years, both alone and in contrast with whites creams. According to color expert Renee Labbe, some of the black is giving way to dark greens that evoke a rustic natural feel.

United Steel Stone-Coated Steel Roofing, 2023 home exterior trends
United Steel Stone-Coated Steel Roofing in the Barrel-Vault style in Charcoal

Brick Is Back: In truth, there are a number of regions where brick never fell out of favor within the design/build community. Over the past several years, however, even areas throughout the Southeast—where brick has been a dominant selection for both residential and commercial construction—have seen a marked increase in the demand for contemporary and unique brick options. This includes a surge in interest for monochromatic light and dark colorways with varying degrees of color saturation, as well as more balanced and nuanced neutrals that incorporate subtle undertones and overtones of other hues.

For a darker option that can create contrast with lighter elements on the exterior, consider Ironside TundraBrick from Eldorado Stone or Carbon Handmade Brick from Cultured Stone. Both brands also offer bright colorways that have become quite prevalent among builders looking to achieve a modern farmhouse aesthetic. Those include Canvas Handmade Brick from Cultured Stone and Chalk Dust TundraBrick from Eldorado Stone. Finally, for anyone looking to engage a distinctive neutral palette for an upcoming project, Latigo TundraBrick from Eldorado Stone provides a stunningly unique colorway with cool undertones and warm overtones, while Titanium Handmade Brick from Cultured Stone offers a lustrous gray.

Eldorado Stone Tundra Brick, stone veneer
Eldorado Stone’s Chalk Dust Tundra Brick

In addition, brick also provides options for connecting the exterior with various interior spaces as well. From fireplace accent walls to kitchen backsplashes, there are a number of ways to establish continuity between a home’s indoor and outdoor living areas.

Low-maintenance materials: The desire for low-maintenance materials continues as homeowners grow older or too busy to bother with painting and staining their siding and decks. In fact, “low-maintenance/durable exteriors” was the most in-demand home exterior feature in AIA’s latest Home Design Trends Survey, with 62% of architects reporting increasing interest. Westlake Royal Building Products makes it easy to get authentic wood looks without the associated maintenance: look to clean-and-bright Kleer® and Royal® PVC trim, innovative and authentic TruExterior poly-ash siding and trim, high-performance Celect® Cellular Composite Siding, or any number of vinyl siding options including Exterior Portfolio®, Royal® Vinyl, and Foundry® Specialty Siding, among others.

Contemporary stone looks: Modern styles or contemporary twists on traditional styles remain popular, even away from the coasts. Clean lines, single-sloped roofs, and little ornamentation abound. 

How Are Color Trends Shifting Into 2023?

Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions

Color permeates every aspect of our lives, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently, and often plays a critical role in our emotional, mental, and even physical state. Few places is that more evident than in our homes: inside, color sets a mood and makes a personal statement; outside, it sets the tone and nurtures a lasting impression.

Perhaps that’s why we as a society are so invested in color trends. Each year, paint manufacturers and color specialists release their “Colors of the Year,” a bit of a pulse on the consumer psyche (see our coverage of this year’s announcements here).

Color trends for homes don’t move as fast as industries like fashion and automotive. But they still ebb and flow, delivering a look into the tastes and preferences of new-home buyers and DIYers alike.

We checked in with two color experts—Renee Labbe, director of design strategy at Los Angeles-based Broadside Studios, and Kate Smith, color expert and president of Sensational Color—to see what’s on the mind of American consumers as we head into 2023.

Ongoing Macro Trends

Labbe notes that we’re under the umbrella of three ongoing macro trends, with each evolving in its own right. (These trends are based on research conducted by Labbe and Broadside focusing on roofing as a core element as part of an extensive Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions research initiative to understand what is influencing home design and roofing preferences today, so as to refine roofing offerings and respond directly to customer wants/needs.)

Naturalism: Naturalism represents how we connect to the environment and comes through in natural colors and palettes you might expect. But within that, Labbe is seeing a trend toward more nourishing colors that are rural-inspired and create a contemporary escape. The simplicity and elegance of trendy blacks isn’t going away, for example, but is making room for dark greens, weathered looks, and rustic reds.

Ease: Emerging around 2015-2016, Ease represents a move toward simplicity as a real-life antidote to our hectic online lives and frenzied social media airs. “If you’re getting constantly hit with images and details and you look up from your phone and see a space that’s clean and simple … the palette is one to two colors as opposed to five to six,” Labbe says. “This trend is a way for your eye to take in the totality of a look without having the take in all the bits and pieces of a design because it was so simplified. … And your brain relaxes.”

Glamour of Opposites: Around 2016, we started to see a simultaneous trend that was a bit more in your face, a mish-mash of traditional and modern, with blocky and curvy existing side by side. This aligns with a time when consumers began making their voices heard as well as business disrupters like Uber and Door Dash. “We’re seeing this ability to change the old guard, change the system and reinvent it in a way that works for the people,” Labbe explains. “Design became this place where we could express an explosion of creativity.” On the exterior, this trend is coming through in the form of what Labbe describes as disruption and merged aesthetics. For instance, in a “clean traditional” or “quiet modern” style, the elevation remains traditional, but in a way that’s ornamented and with a palette of color choices that’s more modern or contemporary. There’s also more neutrality in color, with a two-color palette versus a traditional Craftsman home that may have three to five saturated tones. Today’s neutrals are high contrast, such as white with a strong black, brown, or gray.

Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions
The pandemic has dramatically shifted home architecture preferences as consumers needed to use their homes in more ways than ever before. Photo courtesy of Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions.

This also shows in a blending of styles, such as a traditional façade with modern elements built in, a home with gabled roofs but a box-shaped entry, or a remodeled home with a traditional style original paired with a modern shape with similar colors to ensure cohesiveness.

Tips For Using Color Trends

When considering color trends, Smith explains that it’s important to approach reports like a menu—browse, pick a color as shown, or customize it to suit your tastes. “Use the color as your inspiration point,” she says. “If you want to use it exactly, that’s fine, but there may be similar tones that fit your home better.”

As Labbe mentioned, color trends last longer than we often think, especially in the home space. Gray, Smith points out as an example, isn’t as “hot” as it was a few years ago, but remains popular. Blue-green continues to attract the eye (and can be found in PPG’s Color of the Year Vining Ivy) and goes great with neutrals as an accent on the exterior or front door.

In fact, Smith says consumers don’t need to be overly concerned about using a trending color for fear it will become quickly dated. What puts a timestamp on it, she explains, is the combinations of colors. Think chocolate brown and aqua from a few years ago—it was the way that everyone was using them. “When looking at how to use these trends, use them in a way that no one else is using them, and then you won’t have to worry about looking dated,” she advises.

Trends are fun, Smith adds, but consumers are much more willing to go their own direction today. “In the end, trust your gut.”

What Awaits the Remodeling Market Into 2023?

The current state of the new-home economy tends to lean toward the bleak, with falling housing starts and declining builder confidence. But the remodeling market may be feeling the challenges a bit less. Though spending slowdowns are happening or anticipated, various indicators point to homeowners investing in their current houses and continuing with project lists begun during the pandemic.

The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS) is predicting a steady downturn in home improvement spending throughout the next year, Pro Remodeler reports, with year-over-year spending expected to grow just 6.5% in Q4 2023 versus an anticipated 16.1% growth in Q4 2022. Factors driving these expectations include a drop from unsustainable growth during the pandemic, higher interest rates, and higher prices for materials and labor.

Despite these contractions, reports from the field paint a picture of continued, if more measured, investment in the remodeling market, both DIY and professional.    

The U.S. Remodeler Index by John Burns Real Estate Consulting dropped from 65.7 in Q2 2022 to 62 in Q3, but remains above the index’s growth indicator line of 50. Among the report’s key takeaways, Qualified Remodeler said, is a 4.9-month average backlog among remodelers, with 56% of survey respondents having at least four months of in-progress or planned projects. Supply chain issues are improving, remodelers said, but most also said that customers are downgrading to stay on budget amid pricing concerns.

Lowe’s also conducted a survey of home improvement professionals. The Pro Pulse Survey found that pros remain optimistic despite challenges, and 73% of respondents expect to have more work next year than this year.

Homeowners Invest in Existing Houses

In a recent study of 4,000 homeowners by Houzz, only 1% of homeowners have canceled remodeling projects so far in 2022 and 23% plan to start a project in the next 12 months. “For many, conditions like limited choices of available homes and rising interest rates are driving them toward renovations and improving their current home, since the cost of moving into a house that fits their current needs has become so expensive,” said Marine Sargsyan, Houzz staff economist. “Moreover, more than half of the homeowners we surveyed have no intention of selling or moving out of their current residences in the next 20 years — or ever.”

Exterior updates and “bringing the outdoors in” were among the projects taking priority.

The Houzz study also found that 91% of homeowners planning remodels plan to hire a professional. Though the report didn’t indicate, this could be due to some DIYers reaching the end of their pandemic to-do list of items they can perform themselves.

With some positive indicators, it’s perhaps no surprise that both Lowe’s and The Home Depot are “faring better than expected,” according to CNBC. “Home Depot financial chief Richard McPhail pointed to an ‘improve in place’ mentality among current homeowners, who might have wanted to sell but changed their minds because they could no longer command top dollar,” the website reported.

That’s reflected in the NAHB’s recent forecasts, as well. “The growth rate for improvement spending will slow due to declines for existing home sales,” Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist, told CNBC. “However, an aging housing stock, work-from-home trends, and a decline for household mobility all favor remodeling spending.”

Stop Selling. Start Solving Homeowners’ Pain Points.

CraneBoard board and batten siding

For many of us, we’ve been programmed to sell a certain way: Hard selling, non-stop calls, high pressure. But the old methods are problematic. For one thing, you wind up playing a pricing game, with little else to finish the deal. And, perhaps most importantly, homeowners no longer want to be sold to, and they are armed with information they didn’t have before.

What’s a better way? Become a problem solver for your remodeling clients. Take the time to understand their home, identify its pain points, and sell products that solve these issues. Paul Burleson, Westlake Royal Building Products’ National Remodeling Accounts Manager, calls this a “sick home selling system.”

Burleson travels the country training contractors and remodelers on a prescription method of selling. The remodeler serves the role of a doctor, diagnosing a home’s problems and then writing a prescription for how to fix it.

He recommends the following tactics for more effective selling:

Change your thinking: Instead of the mindset that you’re selling something, reframe your approach as helping customers buy a solution to fix a problem. One of the things that COVID and natural disasters have taught us in recent years is that we could be shut into our houses at any time. This created a sense of urgency to understand the problems in our homes that make them less safe and comfortable. Rather than selling on pressure and price, you can bring value to your customers by addressing their challenges and making their homes more livable.

Ramp up your education: Solving problems requires an intimate understanding of the products used to fix them. Knowledge of basic features and benefits is the first step, followed by deeper learning of installation best practices. Leverage your LBM dealer and manufacturers for product knowledge sessions and other education.

Understand the effects of trapped moisture and other issues: Trapped moisture is a top enemy of the home because it can create toxic mold. By knowing how exterior products work together to drain away moisture, you can help homeowners make the most appropriate decisions. For example, Westlake Royal Building Products’ CraneBoard® SolidCore® insulated siding has moisture management tracks in the foam and Versetta Stone panelized stone siding has a built-in rainscreen.

Arm yourself with the right tools: When touring the home, use moisture meters, thermal cameras, a Go Pro, and other devices to collect necessary data. Learn how to use that technology to build the case for the homeowner and help them understand the problems or potential problems. For example, a common find is a gutter pulled off the wall, which likely means water running behind the fascia and windows and into the foundation. A $600 fix now can help avoid a $10,000+ overhaul down the road. It’s not smoke and mirrors—they can see and understand your findings.

Another thing Burleson does is give the homeowner a notepad; each of them circles the house and writes down issues that need fixing. Engaging the customer in the process can help build trust and understanding.

Consider a hybrid approach: While nothing can replace the in-person tour, a virtual meeting might make sense for the follow-up discussion. Utilize virtual sessions for busy clients or your own tight schedule.

One thing to keep in in mind is that homeowners know more now than ever. With the Internet, social media sites like Pinterest, and peer reviews on everything from products to your own remodeling services, your clients are coming into the process armed with information about what they want and don’t want. To truly be a valuable resource, you need to stay ahead of them; ensure you have up-to-date knowledge on products, trends, and the latest design and installation techniques.

2023 Color of the Year Selections Reflect Life After the Pandemic

Each year in late summer and fall, major paint companies release their “Colors of the Year” for the following year. These hues represent how each company’s in-house experts interpret the consumer pulse—our emotions, design motivations, influences, and more—and how color selection influences our lives and lifestyles.

While the color reveals are interesting in and of themselves, they provide our industry with a view into the hearts of our customers and a look at how their color choices may shift, or need to be shifted, in the process of navigating the latest trends and tastes.

Not surprisingly, the pandemic has had a tremendous influence on the color trends of the past few years, with many choices seeming to focus on relaxation and tranquility, or perhaps a little brighter for a feeling of positivity and optimism. This year’s selections continued to feel that global impact, but with varied interpretations of how consumers will feel going forward. Of the four colors shown below, two are bold and two are soothing. And perhaps both approaches are appropriate today, as Americans continue to navigate a post-pandemic norm in very different ways.

Here’s a look at a few of the Colors of the Year for 2023.

Benjamin Moore: Raspberry Blush

Benjamin Moore made a big move this year, shifting from 2022’s subtle October Mist, a silver green, to 2023’s vibrant Raspberry Blush. “A vivacious shade of coral tinged with pink, Raspberry Blush enlivens the senses with an electric optimism,” the manufacturer says. The “charismatic,” “unapologetic” shade is saturated and impactful, designed to be bold and make a statement.  

Benjamin Moore 2023 Color of the Year
Photo courtesy Benjamin Moore

The remainder of Benjamin Moore’s Color Trends 2023 palette, including Conch Shell (a dusty but rich pink), Savannah Green (a rich ochre with balanced green and yellow undertones), and North Sea Green (a deep teal with gray undertones) “was chosen for its distinct presence and personality,” the company says.  “Each of these eight confident hues offer inspiration and creativity, while encouraging a push beyond the traditional to experience truly exceptional color.”

Sherwin-Williams: Redend Point

In contrast to Benjamin Moore’s bold color, Sherwin-Williams’ 2023 Color of the Year leads with “warmth and intrigue.” Redend Point, an earthy brownish-pink reminiscent of clay earth and walls of the desert west, is described as “soulful yet subtle.” And while a more calming hue, the company says it represents moving forward and looking ahead, connection and care.

Sherwin Williams 2023 Color of the Year
Photo courtesy Sherwin-Williams

Behr: Blank Canvas

Behr’s 2023 Color of the Year is Blank Canvas, a “hopeful, warm, and welcoming white” the company says will answer homeowners’ need to create retreat-like spaces that feel restorative. At the same time, the company says the color is designed to be versatile. “The color works in both private and shared spaces and can work as a focal color or a foundation to build on for more layered spaces,” Behr says.

Behr 2023 Color of the Year
Photo courtesy Behr

Research showed that the hue would be in demand in 2023: “According to a survey of more than 1,000 U.S. homeowners, 63% of people agree that the color white is mood-boosting, and 77% say it makes them feel positive,” Behr reports. “Homeowners also say they want their home to be a space where they can unwind and destress, according to the survey, needs warm whites like Blank Canvas can help fulfill.” 

PPG: Vining Ivy

PPG joined Benjamin Moore with a saturated statement hue, Vining Ivy, a deep Caribbean aqua, as its 2023 Color of the Year. The manufacturer says the color is classic and elegant, and it works with a variety of styles.

PPG 2023 Color of the Year
Photo courtesy PPG

“Resilience, the need for connection, and inspiration from nature were recurring themes at the Global Color Workshop,” PPG says. “This annual event brings together more than 30 global color stylists from the automotive, consumer electronics, aerospace, and home paint and stain industries. Over the course of several days, the stylists analyze the runway, lifestyles, demographics, geographies, global events, and cross-cultural societal inspirations to determine what colors will resonate and represent that year, including the 2023 Color of the Year.”

Along with predictions from paint manufacturers, the design community highly anticipates the annual announcement of Pantone’s Color of the Year, which is due out in early December. What will follow the color expert’s hopeful yellow-gray duo in 2021 and this year’s creativity-inducing Veri Peri (a dark lavender)? Stay tuned.

Westlake Royal Building Products Celebrates 300th Home with Habitat for Humanity 

Together with Habitat for Humanity – MidOhio, Westlake Royal Building Products recently celebrated a historic milestone with the dedication of the 300th home to feature the company’s donated siding and trim materials in the Ohio region. On Thursday, Sept. 15, the three-bedroom, two-bath single family home was dedicated and keys were turned over to the partner family in the South Linden neighborhood of Columbus.

Habitat for Humanity MidOhio home dedication

The dedication of this house marks the 300th siding donation that Westlake Royal has made to Habitat for Humanity – MidOhio over the last 20 years. For this home, Westlake Royal donated 20 squares of siding, including Exterior Portfolio® Vinyl Siding and Portsmouth™ Shake & Shingles Siding, as well as Royal® Shutters, Mounts and Vents accessories. Westlake Royal’s Columbus-based employees also donated their time and skills to help with installing the building products during the construction of the home this summer. 

Installing siding on a Habitat for Humanity MidOhio home.

“Amid inflation and rising costs, the need for affordable housing today is greater than it’s ever been. Westlake Royal is proud to be part of the solution in donating building products for good quality, single-family homes,” said Steve Booz, VP of Marketing & Product Management, Westlake Royal Building Products. “Our partnership with Habitat MidOhio dates back through several company name changes and decades, but our commitment to this organization and the community of Columbus remains unchanged.” 

“When we invest in housing, we invest in the future of the entire community. Thanks to the contributions of Westlake Royal, Habitat MidOhio has brought the dream of homeownership to 300 families,” said E.J. Thomas, President and CEO, Habitat MidOhio. “We are grateful for the generous support of our donors and volunteers, and look forward to continuing our work of providing quality, affordable housing to our family partners.” 

In January 2021, Habitat MidOhio celebrated the dedication of its 1,000th home. The organization works to bring people together to inspire hope, build homes, empower families, and develop communities. For the past 35 years, Habitat MidOhio has served families through new home builds/rehabs (437), owner-occupied home repairs (350), and tithe support to its sister affiliates in Africa (331). 

What Pros Should Know About Siding and Housewrap

The wall system is one of the most critical areas for preserving the home’s durability and longevity. And it’s just that—a system. Each part of the wall, from the cladding to the housewrap to the flashing, plays a role in keeping the wall system protected and dry. As such, it’s important to note that different types of siding may require different drainage systems behind them and, therefore, work best with specific types of weather resistant barriers (WRBs).

Cladding Material Influences Housewrap Selection

At minimum, one of the first steps in ensuring your wall works as a system is to follow local code requirements as well as instructions from your housewrap manufacturer and guidelines from your siding manufacturer for the specific cladding or claddings. The siding’s material and how it installs on the wall both factor into the decision of what WRB to choose.

For example, a wood or wood-based siding is much more prone to moisture absorption and will require a robust rainscreen system to ensure bulk water drains away quickly instead of absorbing into the siding, which can lead to premature failure. TruExterior® poly-ash siding, which is resistant to moisture but installs flat against the wall, is recommended to be paired with at minimum a drainable housewrap, which provides more drainage than a flat housewrap but less than a full rainscreen.

The Vinyl Siding Institute requires installing vinyl siding, such as that from Royal® Siding or Exterior Portfolio® with a weather resistive barrier. Because vinyl and polypropylene sidings are designed to allow the material underneath to breathe, they can be installed over a flat housewrap unless local codes require otherwise.

Housewrap, siding
This home features Royal® Vinyl’s Woodland siding in Heritage Blue and Portsmouth® Shake & Shingle accents.

Some cladding types feature a rainscreen already built in, as is the case with Versetta Stone® panelized stone siding. Because of this, the minimum recommendation is one layer of #15 felt.

Pay Attention to Transitions

With the growing trend of multi-textured facades, you’ll need to accommodate each type of cladding. When installing two products together that have different recommendations for housewraps and rainscreens, you’ll need to either wrap the entire façade in the more robust system or plan the wall system accordingly so that the corresponding weather barrier is positioned under each cladding and properly transitions from material to material per guidelines from the WRB and cladding manufacturers.

housewrap at transitions between vinyl siding and stone veneer
Versetta Stone’s wainscot cap/sill creates an ideal transition between the Versetta Stone panelized stone half wall and the Foundry Grayne siding above. Install flashing over the wainscot cap’s nailing fin and then shingle the other cladding over top to ensure water sheds off of the sill. Leave a small gap between the cladding and the stone, per each cladding’s installation instructions.

Flash Well

Follow all recommendations for flashing, as well, as some materials may require or recommend more robust flashing at the seams to prevent bulk water intrusion. Your installation instructions may also provide guidelines for step flashing along roof and wall lines to ensure water drains away rather than becoming trapped in the wall system.

Consult With Experts

Siding materials will shed the bulk of the water before it can reach the underlying wall assembly, but their main job is to make the house look good. Work closely with your housewrap and flashing manufacturer to ensure the wall system can properly manage any liquid water that may end up behind the siding so that the wall structure stays dry. Designing and installing a proper wall system can help protect the structure and its occupants while safeguarding the longevity of the home. 

Have questions about your siding installation and exterior wall system? Connect with us here.

5 Basic Steps Contractors Can Take to Jump-Start Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Even if you’re preferred workspace is on the jobsite rather than behind the desk, it’s crucial as a building or remodeling pro to take the time to keep your website it proper working order, especially when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is how you ensure your company website will appear in Google search results (and ideally at or near the top of those results) when potential customers are looking for contractors to build their home, remodel their kitchen, or replace their siding. Appearing in search results can help increase traffic to your website, build brand recognition, and ultimately grow your leads.

While SEO is complicated enough that there are folks whose jobs are solely dedicated to the practice,  there are a few basic steps you can take right now to ensure your company’s website is checking off the basic must-have features.

1. Ensure your contact info is up to date: Make sure your website has your current company name, address, and phone number, both on the contact page and in the static footer.

2. Update your Google Business Profile: If you haven’t claimed and updated your Google Business Profile, it’s critical that you do so right away. When potential customers search for your type of business, such as “siding contractors in Fairfax, Virginia,” having an up-to-date Google Business Profile will help ensure you appear in the results and are shown in the Google Map Pack (see image below)—which also means you’ll show up before all paid and organic listings.

SEO Google Map Pack

Keep your Google Business Profile updated with as much current information as you can, including contact information, hours of operation, photos of your location, and before/after project photos. Encourage your customers to write a Google review of your company so those results show up, as well. (Click here to learn more about Google Business Profile and what it does, and check out this article for step-by-step setup instructions.)

3. Use regional language: Make sure your website banner and content include your location and region. Consider what people search for (perhaps “siding contractor in Fairfax, Virginia”) and make sure you’re specifying those keywords.

4. Create original content: Google prefers websites with organic content, so create and maintain a blog if you can (see an example from Westlake Royal Building Products customer Boston Exterior Remodeling). Even a weekly post featuring design tips, reflections on the latest industry trends and topics, descriptions and images of recently completed projects, and other educational articles can give you a boost. Weave keywords related to your business, including regional references, into the content when practical. (For instance, an article on design trends may include “While dark exterior siding colors are trending nationwide, we find that our Fairfax, Virginia-area homeowners are still preferring classic white siding with dark trim.”)

If you want to dig further into the most popular keywords for your work areas, a tool like SEMrush provides research tools along with website and SEO analysis.

5. Ask for help: If you want to get beyond the basics, it can be helpful to hire an expert. A digital marketing agency or an independent consultant can evaluate your current website and fix any key problems without requiring a huge investment, freeing up your time to do what you do best—build.

If you want to dive deeper into these tips, check out Backlinko’s Definitive Guide to local SEO here.