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.

Introducing Knock Down Column Wraps With Easy, Affordable Curb Appeal 

Royal Trim Knock Down Column Wraps

During the 2024 International Builders’ Show, Westlake Royal Building Products™ launched its new Royal™ Knock Down Column Wraps, an easy-to-install and cost-effective way to transform ho-hum posts with a classic update and add instant curb appeal to the home. The column wraps feature best-in-class lock miter joints for easy assembly, so they can seamlessly slip over existing, outdated columns to give a porch or exterior a cleaner and more modern look.

Made of durable cellular PVC, Royal Knock Down Column Wraps are resistant to moisture and avoid issues found in traditional wood columns, such as warping, rotting, and insect damage. In addition to low-maintenance qualities and long-lasting performance, the column wraps are beautifully versatile: They come in a bright white color and smooth texture, which can be left as is or painted to complement a home’s exterior color palette.

“At Westlake Royal, we are committed to understanding and addressing customer needs, leveraging those insights to bring forth innovative solutions,” says Steve Booz, vice president of marketing at Westlake Royal Building Products. “Recognizing the increased importance of curb appeal, we’re excited to introduce a knocked down version of our popular Royal PVC Column Wraps. These new wraps require minimal maintenance and can be effortlessly installed over existing porch columns, offering a simple and accessible way for both professionals and DIY enthusiasts to achieve porch transformations.”

Royal Knock Down Column Wraps are available in 4×4, 6×6, and 8×8 sizes, and in two standard lengths—8’6” & 10’. Each piece is also delivered flat in heavy-duty corrugated boxes for added protection and features a protective film on the outer surface to help keep the product clean and ensure a flawless installation.

To stay up to date on new product introductions, project case studies, design trends, business strategies, and industry insights, subscribe to our enewsletter.

New Royal WoodTone Styles Blend Rich Looks With Warmth of Beadboard

WoodTone Styles on porch ceiling

Classic beadboard is making a comeback, adding a timeless design and charming finish to a range of exterior home styles. And there’s no easier way to capture the look than with Royal™ WoodTone Styles, introduced by Westlake Royal Building Products™ at the 2024 International Builders’ Show. WoodTone Styles blend the rich look of stained wood with the rustic warmth of beadboard trim to dress up porch ceilings and soffits

Made of cellular PVC, Royal WoodTone Styles are low-maintenance, long-lasting, and moisture and insect resistant. The beadboards feature hidden nailing hems for easy installation.

“The Royal WoodTone Styles line seamlessly combines enduring beauty with unmatched performance,” says Steve Booz, vice president of marketing for Westlake Royal Building Products. “Individuals who value the cozy characteristics of beadboard can now experience it with a level of low maintenance and durability that surpasses traditional wood options.”

Royal WoodTone Styles offer the elegant look of stained wood in six on-trend colors: American Walnut, Oak Ridge, Natural Cedar, Smoke Grey, Weathered Oak, and Charred Timber. The line features a 6″ V-grooved plank, beadboard, and crown and bed mould.

Woodtone Styles in Natural Cedar

Applications for WoodTone Styles

Beadboard paneling is an easy way to provide a more classic aesthetic in overlooked areas of the exterior, as well as add a premium look that can elevate the perceived value of a home. On the exterior beadboard is most often found on porch ceilings to create a finished aesthetic as well as to hide leveling irregularities and in soffits with exposed rafters or enclosed built-up soffits.

Choosing a beadboard made with cellular PVC, particularly the stained-wood looks of this latest offering, can provide the authentic look of wood without the typical repainting and maintenance needs.

To stay up to date on new product introductions, project case studies, design trends, and industry insights, subscribe to our enewsletter.

Energy Efficiency Takes Center Stage for Texas Off-Grid House

Jon Dawson's off-grid house includes Cedar Renditions in the porch ceilings and soffits.

On a sprawling piece of land outside Fort Worth, Texas, builder Jon Dawson is putting his experience and ingenuity—and dreams—to work, building an off-grid house with energy efficiency and performance top of mind.

When completed, the 1,280-square-foot, three-bed/two-bath house with cedar looks will serve as a temporary home for Dawson and his wife while they build the main house on the property, and then will stand as a guest house. “The goal of this home is to remove myself from the rat race and have my own little piece of paradise,” Dawson says.

Cedar Looks Lend Beauty to Off-Grid House

Taking advantage of the ranch’s 360-degree views, the home is positioned on a hill facing the sunset. An expansive, 1,000-square-foot porch wraps around two sides, with overhangs blocking radiant heat from the large sliding doors in the afternoons.

After considering several options, including vinyl and wood, Dawson chose Cedar Renditions® for the soffit and overhangs for the rear of the home and for the ceiling of the vaulted front porch. “It was the most realistic looking and appealing product I could see,” he says. “When I saw it had a rich cedar color, it was a no brainer. There’s no maintenance needed, no waste, it’s easy to install, and lasts a long time.”

Dawson admits he was nervous to install aluminum siding for the first time, but found Cedar Renditions to be straightforward. “Install the J channel and slide the panels in—it was foolproof. Cutting was easy with a miter saw, and using snips for the can lights,” he recalls. “I finished my covered porch, a 20×10 vaulted ceiling, in a day by myself.”

The Cedar Bark color of the Cedar Renditions matches the color of the deck boards for a cohesive look.

Energy Efficiency Starts With Robust Envelope

Beyond looks, Dawson sought to infuse energy efficiency at every turn while staying within his budget. After a lot of research he ended up with Passive House-inspired perfect-framed walls, which eliminates exposed eaves. He used mineral wool cavity insulation, then added 1-1/2” of rigid foam to the exterior walls to eliminate thermal breaks.

The roof system also has 3” of the polyiso foam board plus a 1” gap underneath the metal panels to provide circulation and cooling, helping to keep the framing from transferring heat into the attic.

“All insulation meets at every point, so when the sun hits, it doesn’t transfer to the framing,” Dawson says.

Inside, Dawson installed DIY-friendly mini-split systems. A Span Panel smart electrical panel provides usage data for each breaker. “I know exactly how much energy I’m using at any given time,” Dawson explained. “It gives me an understanding on how to use the home in efficient ways.”

Prior to completion, Dawson will add solar panels, keeping the house off the electrical grid. The property has a well along with a 1,000-gallon cistern for storing rainwater, which will be used for chickens and horses.

Throughout the build, Dawson has turned to other industry experts for guidance, and has chronicled the journey on his Instagram channel. Follow along here.

For more projects and inspiration, subscribe to our enewsletter.

How to Use Board-and-Batten Vinyl Siding

When it comes to siding trends, one of the biggest ongoing trends is vertical installations—and board-and-batten in particular. Whether a full façade for a Modern Farmhouse exterior or used in a gable accent, board-and-batten styles can add a traditional or contemporary touch and are an easy, eye-catching way to create popular multi-textured facades. And for ease and affordability, board-and-batten vinyl siding options are readily available.

In fact, board-and-batten vinyl siding offers some installation advantages over fiber cement board-and-batten: Namely, with full profiles and an integrated nailing hem, there’s no need to cut battens, no extra prep work to hide nails behind battens, and no worries about water getting behind the battens. Plus, you’ll have fewer penetrations into the wall envelope.

Board-and-Batten Vinyl Options

Westlake Royal Building Products™ offers board-and-batten vinyl siding options in two design options: a 7” o.c. batten and a 10” o.c. batten.

Exterior Portfolio® Board-and-Batten siding features a traditional 7” on-center vertical batten profile, with a low-gloss finish that replicates the look of cedar. It has a seamless appearance suitable for the full façade or an accent, and it is designed to withstand winds of up to 170 mph.

Exterior Portfolio Board-and-Batten vinyl siding
The gable of this home features Exterior Portfolio Board-and-Batten vinyl siding in Espresso

CraneBoard® Solid Core Siding® comes in a board-and-batten profile with a 10” on-center batten for a more robust look, and its Double 10” design means fewer panels to install. The wider batten is made possible by CraneBoard’s insulated backing, which adds greater rigidity, more thermal resistance, and a more robust appearance.

Both board-and-batten siding options feature Chromatix™ technology that helps keep colors from fading.

Accents include CraneBoard board-and-batten vinyl siding in Cypress.
Accents on this home include CraneBoard board-and-batten in Cypress.

Best Practices for Installing Board-and-Batten Vinyl Siding

Like any board-and-batten application, pre-planning your board-and-batten vinyl siding is critical to ensure an aesthetically pleasing result. Start by finding the center of your wall and planning outward in both horizontal directions to ensure your panels are even on either end and the overall look of the wall is balanced. Otherwise, you may end up with an asymmetrical appearance.

Unlike traditional vinyl siding installation, board-and-batten vinyl siding profiles install vertically. Requirements may vary from product to product, so be sure to follow all manufacturer instructions, including requirements or recommendations for water-resistant barriers.

CraneBoard board-and-batten vinyl siding in Lighthouse Red.
CraneBoard board-and-batten insulated siding in Lighthouse Red.

Vertical installation means you won’t nail into the studs, with nails 16” o.c., like horizontal applications. Because of this, be sure to use a sheathing rated as a nailable substrate. More nails also will be required—Westlake Royal, for example, recommends nails every 12” for board-and-batten vinyl siding instead of the typical 16”.

Like any vinyl siding application, the same principles apply to accommodate normal expansion and contraction: Nail loosely, not completely flush, and follow instructions for proper gaps at top and bottom (particularly at the bottom as vertically hung siding is likely to expand downward). Hang the siding from top to bottom, with the top nail in the top of the slot and the rest in the middle.

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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

What Does Low-Maintenance Siding Truly Mean?

Premium Pointe low-maintenance siding

These days, low-maintenance siding is one of the most popular trends in home exteriors. And nearly every siding manufacturer is touting the low-maintenance aspects of their cladding materials. Unfortunately, there are no industry standards around low-maintenance claims, and therefore no way for buyers to fully understand what “low maintenance” truly means when it comes to individual products.

The Challenge of “Low Maintenance” Siding

Without a universal approach or definition of low maintenance, it’s important for pros and DIYers to ask questions and understand how each manufacturer defines low-maintenance for their siding products.

Here are some areas to watch out for.

Low-maintenance siding means different things to different manufacturers

When trying a new material, always research a manufacturer’s maintenance claims, including reading the warranty, and compare it to other materials. Don’t take claims at face value without inquiring for greater detail.

This graphic from the Vinyl Siding Institute provides an example of how maintenance needs vary from material to material.

Vinyl Siding Institute graphic shows what defines low-maintenance siding across categories

Moisture resistance and its impact on low maintenance siding

Often seen in concert with low maintenance, moisture resistance is another term often used but not always defined clearly. For example, some fiber cement products claim to be “moisture resistant,” but also cannot be installed against moisture-prone areas like the masonry or the ground. Compare that to vinyl siding or TruExterior poly-ash siding, both of which can be installed directly against those elements.

Moisture is one of the biggest challenges homeowners face when it comes to siding performance and longevity, so understand how each siding material handles moisture and be sure to adjust installation practices and maintenance expectations accordingly.

Maintenance doesn’t just impact the material itself

When investigating low-maintenance siding, consider the other products used in its installation. For example, if a cladding requires caulking to prevent moisture from infiltrating the cladding layer, 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

Some siding warranties are divided into categories, with different guarantees for product life span versus details like color and fading. For example, if you compare Royal’s and Exterior Portfolio’s surface finish coverage versus a fiber cement manufacturer’s prefinished offering, Royal and Exterior Portfolio both offer a Double Lifetime Warranty with fade coverage of 3 or 4 Hunter units, depending on the color, while the fiber cement product carries just a 15-year warranty for chipping and flaking, but only covers fade of up to 4 Delta E for only three years. This means homeowners may need to repaint their fiber cement in a few years if they wish to maintain a color close to what they purchased.

The Importance of Low-Maintenance Siding

Homeowners are increasingly seeking exterior cladding materials that don’t require frequent painting, caulking, and other maintenance. And for many, it’s worth additional upfront investment to avoid those hassles. That’s why it’s important to do your due diligence when considering new materials and truly understand what the manufacturer is claiming when they describe their product as low maintenance. Doing so can not only ensure that the siding meets customers’ expectations, but that they know what to expect for future maintenance expenses. This is particularly important for multifamily properties, where building management and HOAs need to prepare for future assessments for large-scale painting and exterior maintenance.

Have questions about the maintenance needs for Westlake Royal Building Products’ portfolio of siding materials? Contact us today.

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

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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

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Top image: iStock.com/ThinkNeo

Videos: Tapco Tools Accessories That Boost Efficiencies When Working With Trim Coil

Desmond Tse demonstrates Tapco Tools accessories

If you’ve invested in a brake from Tapco Tools, you already know it helps deliver precise, high-quality custom exterior trim. But did you know that there are several Tapco Tools accessories that can make the process even more efficient?

In these videos, follow along as Desmond Tse (aka “The Siding Guy”) walks through how to use several Tapco Tools accessories for siding and trim coil, including the Port-o-Slitter and Brake Buddy.

Introduction to the Port-o-Slitter Tapco Tools Accessory

The Port-o-Slitter offers precise, high-quality slitting and rib forming in a portable, efficient package. Watch as Tse explores what it is and how to use it.

How to Set Up the Port-O-Slitter Stand and Mount Assembly

Follow along with Tse as he sets up and adjusts the stand and mount assembly for the Port-O-Slitter. 

How to Add a Handle to the Tapco Tools Pro Brake

Adding a second handle to your Tapco Tools brake is easy. Learn how to ensure precise placement and attachment in Tse’s video.

Introduction to the Brake Buddy

The Brake Buddy Tapco Tools accessory allows you to increase the style and originality of your trim, producing brick mold trim and decorative ribs from trim coil in just seconds. A measurement guide and quick-twist handle provide for quick adjustments and simple, efficient operation.

In this video, see how the Brake Buddy works and what it can do to increase the style and originality of your trim work.

How To Change Brake Buddy Rollers from Tapco Tools

Ready to try the Brake Buddy? Watch as Tse demonstrates how to change out the rollers.

Eager to learn more about using Tapco Tools brakes, saws, and accessories? View more how-to videos on our YouTube channel and click here to find the right brake or saw for your operation.

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.

Siding Warranties: Always Understand the Fine Print

Royal Residential siding offers robust siding warranties

Among the many considerations when specifying building products is the robustness of warranties. After all, what better indicator of product quality and lifespan? Unfortunately, the language of siding warranties—and nearly every building product, for that matter—can vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. If you don’t read the fine print, you and your customers may be left helpless in the face of fading and decaying products.

Here’s what to look out for.

Get to Know Your Siding Warranties

Warranties are notoriously hard to decipher—there’s a lot of jargon, legal speak, and fine print. But making sure you understand the meaning behind the warranty and what it actually covers can be key for your customers as well as your business.

When in doubt, ask your salesperson for a layman’s explanation for what the warranty covers and when. For siding, this not only means manufacturer defects and other obvious flaws, but also color and fading. For what length of time is fading covered? And how much is considered fading? 

Vinyl siding is one product category in which you might find some big differences if you dig into the fine print.

Exterior Portfolio carries Double Lifetime siding warranties

For example, our Royal® and Exterior Portfolio® siding lines with Chromatix Color Technology carry an industry-leading Double Lifetime Warranty. While most other vinyl companies prorate the coverage for the second owner of the house, Royal and Exterior Portfolio provide full coverage to the second owner. This additional coverage not only instills peace of mind, it can help increase resale value.

In addition to Double Lifetime coverage, the use of Chromatix technology enables us to warrant fade to as low as 3 Hunter Units (a common measure of color difference), while most other vinyl manufacturers only warrant a higher fade amount of 4 Hunter Units. The following image shows the approximate magnitude of 3 Hunter Units of fade with a typical gray color.

comparing Hunter Units for siding warranties

This also can be the case in considering vinyl siding to other materials. In comparing Royal’s and Exterior Portfolio’s surface finish coverage versus a fiber cement manufacturer’s prefinished offering, Royal and Exterior Portfolio both offer a Double Lifetime Warranty with fade coverage of 3 or 4 Hunter units, depending on the color, while the fiber cement product carries just a 15-year warranty for chipping and flaking, but only covers fade of up to 4 Delta E for only three years.

These are just two examples of why it’s incredibly important to read the fine print—not just the warranty claims in bold on manufacturers’ marketing materials. For further guidance, reach out to our customer service representatives to get more details and help break through the legalese.

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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.

8 Siding Tips and Tricks From Solo Installer Desmond Tse

Solo siding installer Desmond Tse, shown here with a Tapco Tools brake, loves giving siding tips on Instagram and YouTube

Whether he’s on a roof or on his siding brake, siding installer Desmond Tse has mastered the art of working smarter, not harder. And he’s built a popular Instagram platform while doing so. Tse, aka @thesidingguy, shares siding tips and tricks to nearly 200,000 followers, teaching other craftspeople how to install vinyl siding (he’s been using Royal® siding throughout his career) and create custom trim more efficiently.

A Long Career Leads to Endless Siding Tips

Tse is a solo siding installer, but it wasn’t always that way. “I had 10 of my own crews working 10 projects at any given time,” he explains. “But I realized I really like installing as opposed to managing people and paperwork.”

Once he decided to make the move to being an independent contractor, Tse took a gradual approach, whittling down as his crews only as they voluntarily moved on to other jobs. Today, after several years on his own, he’s further transitioning in size to smaller projects than he used to.

Along the way, he’s picked up—and continues to learn—quite a few best practices and hacks to make his siding projects more effective and efficient. This includes on his Tapco Tools siding brake, where he has perfected bending techniques to the point of presenting workshops to others. 

Solo siding installer Desmond Tse gives siding tips from the roof

Siding Tips to Improve Your Efficiency

Here are a few best practice, tips and hacks for improving your siding skills, as well as your business approach.

Repetition is the key to improving your skills

Using a brake can feel intimidating. The best way to tackle it is repetition, Tse says. “Gather up scraps and practice. Work on a certain profile. That’s how it becomes muscle memory,” he notes.

The same goes for other aspects of the job: “Even when training crews, I encourage repetition. They’d ask to do siding, but first they need to learn J-channel, so I’d make them go do that over and over.”

Sometimes anything can be used as a jig on your brake

@thesidingguy_

Sometimes anything can be used as a jig. In this case I used the 2’ square and a scrap piece of aluminum as a jig. I do have the material stopper for my brake, but since the aluminum was fed with the material arcing down, it was too floppy to use without getting frustrated. I’ve kept most of my scrap pieces of metal with measurements over the years so I can pretty much just grab the appropriate one for that job and bend away. This way my brain doesn’t have to interpret markings on a tape and it keeps it super simple (not that reading a tape is difficult but I have screwed up before thinking I marked 7” when in fact I went an inch to big accidentally). There are many ways to gain efficiencies in every job. Sometimes different methods work equally as well, it’s up to you to decide which way you like doing it while minimizing the chance of possible errors. I’ve tried many ways and this simple jig is one of my go to methods for bending. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #aluminum #aluminumbrake #tapcobrake #aluminumcapping #exteriortrim #edmonton

♬ original sound – @thesidingguy

You can use a brake to make finish trim that provides a hidden fastener system

@thesidingguy_

Here’s a video showing the bends to make finish trim or sill trim. It’s a great way to do a hidden fastener system. It’s basically a double hem. The unfinished edges of the aluminum slips into this trim. The black you see in the video is where it gets fastened. I choose to do 3/4” so that I don’t have to pull out a tape measure or gauge, rather just use the lip of the brake. I hope this video is useful. As always, I’m happy to answer any questions, and sometimes I won’t know the answer but I’ll always try my best. . . . . . . . . . . . . #aluminumbrake #finishtrim #aluminumcapping

♬ original sound – @thesidingguy

A good go-bag can save your time and effort

“One of the items that has helped increase efficiency for me over the years is my ‘go bag,’” Tse says. “This bag stays close to where I’m working at all times and holds all of my ‘just in case’ items. I keep spare fasteners of all kinds, tape, pencil lead refills, nail slot punch, spare tape measure, aviation snips, duckbill pliers, a crescent wrench, a folding tool, chalk line, and a pry bar. … By keeping my tool belt light I have more energy through the day and I don’t have to waste time going to the trailer to grab any items.” (See his go bag in action here.)

Sometimes you can leave your tape measure in your belt

@thesidingguy_

I’ve often suggested to people to only pull out your tape measure if you have to. I sided this entire wall without pulling out the tape until the top row where I pulled it out once to double check if that last row was a consistent height. Holding siding upside down determines all of the length and then cut right in the spot instead of measuring, remembering said measurement then measuring the piece to cut saves a lot of time. Seconds here and there add up to many minutes of time saving. Maybe even an hour throughout the day. That will add up to days in saved time over the year. I didn’t have to move quickly at all to get this wall siding quickly. I had the materials sitting just off screen to the right. I did initially have the box of siding propped up in front of the wall, but it stuck up way too high and I would’ve had to pull up the siding past the eaves just to take a piece out so I opted to have it off to the right. Preplanning makes a big difference in efficiency and ease of a job. Preplanning can be done while driving, or as you initially pull nip to the site and finish your coffee or set up a ladder. Think through things in your mind quickly so that the project goes smoothly every day. Happy Friday all . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #fastsidinginstallation #vinylsidinginstaller #remodel #skilledtradesmatter

♬ original sound – @thesidingguy

Wear your fall protection harness properly

@thesidingguy_

I was in a fall protection certification course today. This video shows my instructor properly performing a partner check. If you’re working solo, check it in your vehicle mirror. It’s always good to have refresher courses. It’s not a legal requirement here, but many builders require you to have the certification to work on their homes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . #fallprotection #safetyharness #workingatheights

♬ original sound – @thesidingguy

Ensure your social media posts add value

If you’re putting your projects and practices on Instagram, Facebook, X, or TikTok, consider what will benefit your audience in terms of both content and delivery. “I’m pretty easygoing, but I’m pretty particular. I try to keep my posts semi-serious but add humor once in a while,” Tse says. “My mentality for anything I post is ‘Is it going to add value?’ And if it’s not, I won’t post it.” (And, yes, sometimes something for just a laugh has value in its own way.)

Siding tips from solo siding installer Desmond Tse: Sometimes it's good to have fun

Not everyone is wired to be a business owner

Owning your own business provides a lot of freedom, but it also requires a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to paperwork, dealing with numbers, and getting and retaining customers. Tse encourages new business owners to be true to their word and to always under-promise and over-deliver.

To learn more siding tips, follow Tse on Instagram at @thesidingguy.

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Skytrim PVC Trim: Looks Meet Longevity

Skytrim PVC trim on a home exterior

The ideal trim for a home’s exterior delivers an authentic look without worry about excess maintenance, a short life span, or unsightly deterioration. Skytrim PVC trim offers a solution, delivering the optimal combination of beauty, performance, and durability.

Why Choose Skytrim PVC Trim Over Wood?

Like wood trim products, Skytrim PVC trim provides an eye-catching finish that completes a home’s exterior, it can be milled and routed, and it comes in a wide selection of available dimensions. But that’s where the similarities end. Skytrim offers a range of benefits that go above and beyond what wood can do, including:

  • Rot, mold, and insect resistance
  • Virtually waterproof
  • Can be installed in direct contact with masonry
  • Resistance to splitting, cupping, and warping
  • Self-extinguishing
  • Doesn’t require paint, stain, or varnish for weather protection
  • Built-in weatherability and UV protection
  • Smooth sealed edges, easy to wipe clean

What Profiles and Sizes Does Skytrim PVC Trim Include?

Skytrim has a range of widths, lengths, and thicknesses to match and elevate the architecture of any home style. (See everything Skytrim has to offer here.)

Trimboards and sheets

Trimboards and sheets come in smooth or reversible smooth/woodgrain texture. Sealed edges and a factory-applied protective film (pictured below) keep them clean until the day they’re installed.

Skytrim PVC trim products come in white, sand, and clay. This range of neutral trimboard and sheet shades complement any siding color, from lighter to bold.

Dimensional boards and sheets are available in a range of sizes.

Skytrim PVC trim beaded profiles

Skytrim beaded profiles bring warmth of any home style, ideal for everything from dining room wainscoting and entryway accent walls to porch ceilings. The reversible beadboard has a Nantucket style on one side and classic V-groove on the opposite, and it has a hidden nailing hem, full PVC skin, and lower sheen celuka extrusion. Beaded sheets also are available for fast installation.

Skytrim PVC trim soffit

Skytrim post wrap

To dress up porch posts with ease, Skytrim low-maintenance PVC post wraps feature three pre-assembled sides that surround an existing post for a seamless appearance; the fourth side is then applied to enclose the entire post. Post wrap comes in white with a smooth finish and the same protective film as Skytrim trimboard and sheets. Decorative trim kits in three sizes provide added design flexibility.

Skytrim PVC trim column wraps

Skytrim mouldings

Choose from dozens of decorative accents that are lightweight, strong, and built to last. Moulding profiles include crown, casing, base cap, brick mould, historic sill, quarter round, Scotia cove, shingle mould, and many more.

Skytrim PVC Trim millwork

Save time and money on the jobsite with millwork profiles including skirt board, J-channel, and trim with flange. They are available in white with a smooth or woodgrain finish.

Skytrim corners

Corner profiles to create a truly finished look.

No matter the style or application, there’s a Skytrim option to meet your trim needs.

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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

Tapco Tools Solves Roofing Trim Headaches

The Tapco Tools Max-I-Mum brake system for crafting roofing trim

Tapco Tools® brakes are widely recognized for helping contractors create high-quality custom exterior siding trim. But did you know that the versatility and precision of the Max-I-Mum® XL and MX Series® brake systems are also ideal equipment for roofing trim and flashing fabrication needs?

Tapco Tools brakes are efficient, durable, and portable, and they’re engineered to make it easy to accurately craft the ideal roofing trim solution for every job.

The Max-I-Mum XL System (pictured above) combines the Max-I-Mum II brake with a MAX Snap Stand and MAX Cut-off for a powerful-yet-portable commercial-grade braking system. The system weighs as little as 133 pounds but can bend all vinyl; aluminum up to .040, galvanized steel up to 24 gauge, painted galvanized steel up to 26 gauge, soft and annealed copper up to 32 ounce, and stainless steel 1/2 hard up to 24 gauge.

Less portable but no less robust, the MX Series provides heavy-duty bending without sacrificing precision. It’s stable, tough, and has double-walled pivot arms for added strength. The MX can bend all vinyl, galvanized steel up to 22 gauge, painted galvanized steel up to 24 gauge, CR sheet and coil steel up to 22 gauge, soft and annealed copper up to 32 ounce, and stainless steel 1/2 hard up to 24 gauge.

The Tapco Tools MX Series brake system for crafting roofing trim
Tapco Tools MX Series brake

Efficient, Accurate Roofing Trim Fabrication

To give your clients a truly custom, finished look, the Max-I-Mum XL and MX Series can be used to craft a variety of roofing trim and flashing details. These include:

  • Hip cap
  • W-valley flashing
  • Angle 3” by 3”
  • 3/4” angles
  • Drip cap
  • J-channel
  • Monoslope ridge
  • Baseguard
  • Outside corners
  • Narrow outside corners
  • Inside corners
  • Residential eave drip
  • Step sidewall flashing
  • Double angle flashing
  • Transition flashing
  • Gambrel flashing
  • Endwall/sidewall flashing
  • Residential gable trim

See Tapco Tools brakes in action and learn bending techniques on our YouTube channel.

12 Frequently Asked Questions About Trim and Moulding

Royal trim and molding on a home in Delaware

Trim and moulding are the often-unassuming heroes of the construction and design world. These seemingly minor additions can transform a space, adding character, elegance, and even functionality. In fact, 97% of real estate professionals say that moulding and trim affect the overall price of a home during a sale.

Of course, when it comes to trim and moulding, even the professionals have questions. Here are a few of the most common questions we get asked.

Trim and Moulding FAQs

Is Westlake Royal® PVC Trim Solid or Hollow?

Cellular PVC is a solid extrusion that’s waterproof, insect-proof, and easy to use. The term “cellular PVC” refers to a process and type of polyvinyl chloride that has microscopic air cells inside. The process makes this type of PVC less dense and more flexible than the PVC you see in plumbing pipes, making it more suited to trim applications.

Can I use interior mouldings outside?

Many interior mouldings can also be used outside, but not decorative woodgrain non-vinyl laminated interior mouldings. Westlake Royal Building Products™ offers a variety of cellular PVC and vinyl-wrapped PVC trim moulding that can be used for both interior and exterior applications. Always check with your manufacturer when trying a new trim product.

Can Westlake Royal’s cellular PVC trim moulding be painted?

Our trim comes in white, one of the most popular options for trim. But if other hues are desired, our cellular PVC trim is paintable. Check out our blog on painting PVC trim to learn more.

Can PVC be stained?

PVC mouldings can be stained, but it takes a specialty coating, such as TruStain from AquaSurTech OEM or AWP SPQT Stainable Primer Wood Base Coat for Hard Surfaces. Our warranty does not cover the product with applied third-party coatings, so be sure to follow the stain manufacturer’s recommendations. We also recommend you thoroughly research the coatings you intend to use with PVC.

The same limitations for coatings concerning light reflective value (LRV) on cellular PVC apply to stain, especially for exterior applications.

How do you clean and remove scratches from PVC trim moulding?

Cellular PVC is durable for standing up to exterior elements, but of course accidents sometimes happen during installation. If the scratches aren’t too deep, an all-purpose cleaning agent and a melamine foam sponge or non-scratch scrubbing sponge can often remove the scratches. A rubbing compound such as Turtle Wax can also be used on surface scratches.

Buffing them out may take some time, depending on the severity of the scratches, so be sure to take that into account. Be sure to also clean the trim after buffing.

How do I remove the product description paper label from the trim or moulding?

Use a dissolving product, following the manufacturer’s instructions. We typically recommend De-Solv-It Citrus Solution or Turtle Wax Label and Sticker Remover. If either of those is not available, you can soak the product in surface cleaner, gently scrape the sticker off with a plastic putty knife, and use rubbing alcohol to remove any leftover residue.

What do you recommend for cutting trim and mouldings?

Royal® Trim & Mouldings should be cut with a carbide-tipped blade with 80 teeth or more. To reduce excessive build up on the blade, you can lightly spray it with cooking spray or furniture polish; however, it is important to note that you should not spray the mouldings directly, which can affect paint adhesion. Cellular PVC can be cut with typical saws and blades used for woodworking.

Are Westlake trim and mouldings bendable?

We do offer mouldings that are specially formulated for heat bending, but not all cellular PVC trim and mouldings apply. For example, Royal S4S Trimboard is not recommended for bending, but SurEdge and Precision Cut trim can be bent into a reasonable radius.

Cellular PVC is a thermoplastic polymer, which means it becomes pliable or bendable when exposed to certain temperatures, returning to a solid state when cool. Because of its nature, some cellular PVC profiles can be reheated and reformed; however, variations in batches, profile geometry, and density or weight of the profile mean some experimentation will be required to perfect this skill.

For best results, don’t bend any cellular PVC trim greater than 6” wide.

Is cellular PVC suitable for applications like raised garden beds?

With adequate construction techniques, yes, cellular PVC can be used for this purpose.

Can item 7311 1×6 trim board be used on garages as fascia board?

Yes, but keep in mind that 1×6 is a nominal size, with true measurement being ¾”x5-½”, so you’ll want to be sure that this size is wide enough for your application.

What recommendations do you have for placing 5523 Base over existing ¼-½ moulding?

Existing moulding needs to be removed before Base is installed; it can’t be placed over the previous moulding. Mechanical fasteners like 16- to 18-gauge nails or 6d or 8d should be used. Liquid Nails can also help keep the product glued to the wall.

Is item 2450 Base Cap flexible enough for picture frame panel mouldings on a curved stairway?

This will depend on the radius of the curved stairway. Some trial-and-error will likely need to occur on the most curved area before deciding on how to finish out the application. This can work, but it will require some creativity.

Have more trim questions? You can reach our customer service team at 1-855-ROYAL85 or via our customer support form.

Ready to see how Westlake Royal trim and moulding products can add the perfect finishing touch to your project? Explore all our solutions.

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.

2023 Southern Living Idea House Embraces Natural Surroundings, Indoor-Outdoor Living

Southern Living Idea House back porch with Zuri decking

Nestled on 20 acres of rolling countryside near Nashville, the 2023 Southern Living Idea House offers a distinct nod to its relaxed surroundings and roots, blending a cozy, welcoming vibe with contemporary and eclectic touches inside and out.

Architects at Lake + Land Studio sought a Modern Farmhouse look but with a feel that it was built over time and added onto in a thoughtful way, growing with the needs of the people who lived there while still working with the landscape. The high-vaulted ceilings of the great room are balanced by smaller adjacent gathering spaces, ample windows of varying sizes and heights bring in lots of light, and the multi-slide back door opens up views to the countryside and valley.

Southern Living Idea House

Southern-Style Outdoor Living

As with any true Southern home, seamlessly connected outdoor living spaces were crucial, anchored by a welcoming front porch and a cozy rear terrace with optional screening. An outdoor kitchen and a raised-bed garden expand the entertainment opportunities.

“Overall the house [has] deeper and exaggerated bracketed overhangs on the front and back porches, which allow you to enjoy those spaces a little bit longer when [the day] gets to the hot parts of the sun, but also helps shield you from the many rainy days that we deal with,” Luke Sippel, architect with Lake + Land Studio, told Southern Living.

With the emphasis on indoor-outdoor interplay, interior designer Laura Hodges and the architects worked together to choose the decking, opting for Zuri® Premium Decking from Westlake Royal Building Products™ in the Chestnut color. “We wanted to make sure the decking would work with the interior flooring,” says Hodges, owner of Laura Hodges Studio. “We chose the decking first, selecting a color that would work well with a white oak floor. For the interiors, we selected a darker floor stain on white oak, and we knew that the Zuri decking was going to live with it in a beautiful way.”

Southern Living Idea House back porch with Zuri decking

The indoor-outdoor connections are strengthened by a cohesiveness in color and texture. “We worked with the architects on the exterior color palette, selecting colors that reflected the landscape and would coordinate with the interior,” Hodges explains. “We carried the stone from the exterior onto the fireplace in the great room, which gives a great sense of continuity to the design.”

In addition, “Zuri was a beautiful and natural-looking complement to the paint colors and the stone finishes,” she says. “The decking color we chose has a warm undertone to it that works so well with the muted greens and grays of the exterior.”

Southern Living Idea House, back porch featuring Zuri Premium Decking

Natural, Sustainable Interiors

Hodges followed similar principles for the interior. “We wanted to make sure the design of the interiors was a reflection of the natural surroundings,” she says. At the same time, “We wanted the house to reflect the lively music and arts scene in Nashville,” which can be seen in the original artwork and locally sourced rugs and vintage furniture.

With a more natural-feeling color palette, Hodges played with stronger textures, including linen, velvet, and leather, and added statement-making light fixtures with graceful silhouettes.

The use of vintage and antique pieces was part of Hodges’ sustainability approach that spans inside to out.

Zuri Premium Decking on the 2023 Southern Living Idea House

“We made intentionally sustainable design choices inside the house,” the designer says. “What’s nice about having the Zuri decking on the outside is the durability and the longevity of the product. Zuri decking feels and looks natural while holding up really well with low maintenance. Hopefully any new homeowners would keep it there even if the house changes hands and that speaks to the idea that good design is sustainable.”

To see how Zuri Premium Decking can help you create the perfect outdoor space, learn more here, try the deck visualizer, or order a sample.

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.

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Where and How to Use Beadboard

Whether to enhance the aesthetics of a home or give it a fresh look before selling, there are few things that offer an elevated look for a great price as well as beadboard.

While beadboard is most popular in Victorian and Craftsman styles (and those in between), it can be used to enhance just about any home as there’s a panel to fit most decors.

What Is Beadboard?

Beadboard is a paneling where each narrow plank is separated by a vertical groove and a small ridge or bump, also called a “bead.” Most commonly applied vertically on walls, the boards are typically trimmed out with horizontal molding to create a finished look. While people often use the term “wainscoting” and “beadboard” interchangeably, wainscoting refers broadly to decorative paneling, of which beadboard is just one type.

Historically, beadboard was made of wood. But advanced materials, like cellular PVC options from Royal® Trim & Mouldings, are becoming a preferred choice of contractors and homeowners looking for higher performance and low maintenance. For example, wood beadboard needs to be repainted every three to five years while acrylic paint on PVC beadboard can last upwards of 20 to 25 years; in addition, most cellular PVC trim comes manufactured in white, so it may not need to be painted at all depending on color preferences.

Royal Trim & Moulding beaded plank
Royal Trim & Moulding beaded plank

Where and How to Use Beadboard

Beadboard can be installed on both the interior and exterior of the home. You’ll commonly see it in mudrooms, saunas, pool roofs, accent walls, and under porch ceilings and soffits.

Inside the home

On the interior, narrower beadboard is often used to add character to the space as an accent wall or by applying whole-room wainscoting. The resulting look evokes a higher-end, traditional feel.

Most commonly, panels are applied in 32” to 36” shorter segments, but taller 54” to 56” installations are becoming more popular as a way to create an even bigger wow factor.

The thinner the paneling and more beading you have on a wall, the more ornate it tends to appear. Narrower paneling is ideal for smaller spaces such as bathrooms, hallways, and stairways.

Outside the home

Beadboard paneling (or cladding with a similar appearance, such as nickel gap or shiplap) is an easy way to provide a more classic look in often overlooked areas of the exterior.  Using a high-performance material, such as TruExterior, which is made with fly ash and polymers, delivers the look as well as resistance to warping, rotting, and insects.

Beadboard is most often found on porch ceilings to create a finished aesthetic as well as to hide leveling irregularities and in soffits with exposed rafters or enclosed built-up soffits.

Boral TruExterior beadboard porch ceiling
TruExterior on a porch ceiling

Tips for Selecting and Using Beadboard

Beadboard is fairly straightforward to install, but keep these considerations in mind:

  • Cost: Like other more decorative trim pieces, beadboard typically has a premium upfront cost. However, it also delivers a high-end look that can elevate the perceived value of the home. And low-maintenance products like cellular PVC can lower upkeep costs over time.
  • Panel installation: Because beadboard usually comes in panels, it can cover more area and therefore can often be installed quicker. Just keep in mind that lining up the panels can be a bit tricky if the installer tries to move too quickly. Always pre-plan your layout from the center.
  • Painting: Because of the texture of all the beading, painting beadboard may require attention to detail. If white is desired, opt for an unfinished white product like that from Royal Trim & Moulding. If color is specified, be sure to clean and prime the surface, opting for a high-quality primer to ensure the paint lasts for as long as possible; follow beadboard manufacturer instructions for paint type and any limitations on color. TruExterior comes pre-primed and ready to paint any color, including dark hues. A paint sprayer will create a smooth finish and get the most surface covered in the fastest time, but you’ll likely need to follow up with a brush to fill in the grooves.

To learn more, check out our idea gallery to see how others have used our panels in their homes.

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25 Years of Vinyl Siding Certification

The Vinyl Siding Institute recently marked the 25th anniversary of its Product Certification Program, an important tool for buyers and specifiers to identify siding materials that are code compliant and high quality. Products listed under VSI’s Product Certification Program are tested and validated by an independent ISO/IEC 17065 accredited third-party certification body to deliver superior protection and meet and exceed international code standards.

“The program’s goal was standardizing the industry as a whole so that all manufacturers were on a level playing field and that products were consistently produced and distributed to the standards established,” explained Sara Krompholz, VSI’s senior director of technical and certification. “The program was also designed to achieve greater consumer confidence.”

VSI Certified Products provide quick, at-a-glance verification of code compliance, eliminating the need for specifiers to research manufacturer documentation. The products also are tested and proven to stand up to harsh conditions. The program certifies traditional vinyl siding, insulated vinyl siding, and polypropylene siding.

The Evolution of Vinyl Siding Certification

According to VSI, the organization has continued to expand and refine the Certified Products Program as the market has required. This includes adding standards for color in 2006 and adding wind-load testing in 2008. And in 2021, VSI relaunched the program as an independent third-party program with ISO/IEC 17065 accreditation, with Intertek as the certification body. With this change, products in the program must carry a Product Certification Listing (PCL) declaring that it complies with recognized standard. An optional Product Evaluation Report (PER), which denotes that a product meets recognized standards and requirements for building codes, is also available.

VSI says it will continue to evaluate, refine, and adapt the Product Certification Program as it moves forward. “The sky’s the limit,” said Krompholz. “We are continuing to evolve and expand our scope as evidenced by the addition of backed siding. We are working on recognizing Canadian certification to the National Building Code of Canada (NBC). In the future, we might consider adding accessories and other PVC-related materials, and a scheme has been written to allow us to include expansion opportunities, which could also expand membership.”

Westlake Royal Building Products Certified Under VSI’s Program

Nearly all vinyl siding products from Westlake Royal Building Products are certified under VSI’s Product Certification Program. These include:

For more details on Certified Products, visit the VSI certified products listing and search “Westlake.”

To view products, browse idea galleries, and order samples, visit Westlake Royal Siding Solutions™.

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Palight® Trimboard Rebrands as Skytrim™

Skytrim on home

Westlake Royal Building Products has rebranded Palight® Trimboard as “Skytrim™.” A sophisticated line of PVC trim options, Skytrim allows designers to achieve the aesthetic they want while enjoying better longevity and lower costs than wood products.

Skytrim is made with free-foam PVC that works and cuts like wood, but is also lighter in weight, making it easier to transport and install. PVC delivers amazing performance without many of the drawbacks of wood — such as rotting, painting, or staining — and significantly lowers regular maintenance for the homeowner over time.

The line includes:

Trimboards & Sheets: Skytrim PVC trimboards and sheets are available in white, sand, and clay colors. The range of neutral trimboard and sheet shades provide the flexibility to complement a variety of siding colors, from lighter to bolder shades. Both trimboards and sheets come in smooth/smooth or fully reversible in smooth or woodgrain texture for design and aesthetic flexibility. This product comes with sealed edges and factory-applied protective film. 

Beadboard and Beaded Sheets: Skytrim beaded profiles are a great match for any home style, especially Modern Farmhouse, as it embellishes warmth and charm, both inside and outside the home. This product creates a point of interest in entryways or on feature walls, and can be installed in the dining room, laundry rooms as wainscoting, and even on porch ceilings. 

Post Wraps: Skytrim Post Wraps are decorative trim kits that come in matching sizes, giving added design flexibility to the installer. 

Skytrim post wraps
Skytrim Images

Decorative Mouldings: Simple to cut and install, and designed to last, Skytrim mouldings are ideal to highlight details and add character to any home. 

Corners & Millwork Profiles: Millwork profiles and corners highlight home details and create virtually seamless transitions. Skytrim Corners are available in a variety of sizes and profiles that perfectly highlight any home style while providing lasting protection and performance. 

Cortex® Fastening System: The Skytrim Cortex Fastening System is a fast and easy way to hide fastener heads when installing PVC trimboards, sheets, and profiles. It combines the strength of a face-fastened connection with the style of a hidden fastener. The screw is specially designed to cut a clean hole through the surface of any Skytrim product so there’s no need to pre-drill. The countersink setting tool is included and available in white, clay and sand in both smooth and woodgrain textures. 

To learn more, visit www.skytrim.com

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.

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Image: iStock.com/gorodenkoff

Project Gallery: Cedar Renditions at Work in Ontario

Cedar Renditions on modern home by Tip Top Exteriors

One glance at Tip Top Exteriors’ Instagram page and it’s clear that owner Joe St. Angelo and his crew are facade experts. Whether cladding a new Modern Farmhouse or replacing aging siding on a traditional split-level, the team’s exteriors deliver eye-catching looks and reliable performance alike. 

Tip Top Exteriors uses a variety of siding materials and profiles in its work, and St. Angelo often turns to Cedar Renditions® siding from Westlake Royal Building Products™ for accents as well as for porch ceilings and soffits.

As an accent, Cedar Renditions provides an easy way to create the multi-textured facades that are currently in high demand. Apply in key detail areas or to bumpouts and other prominent features. In addition, adding vertical or horizontal bands can help avoid the seams brought by long expanses of siding. For porches, Cedar Renditions offers the perfect wood-look accent for a streamlined finish.

Modern and high-end in appearance, Cedar Renditions comes in seven woodgrain colors with a fade-resistant PVDF top coat. The siding is water-resistant, impervious to cold, insect-resistant, durable, and virtually maintenance free.

Cedar Renditions on Homes in Ontario

Along with aesthetics, Tip Top Exteriors relies on Cedar Renditions for its simple installation. Corner posts and J-channels provide starting points, then panels install easily with a drop-in interlock system.

“It’s easy to quote and install. You don’t need to be a carpenter,” St. Angelo says. “While wood is sometimes cheaper, it requires a more skilled install. Cedar Renditions is low maintenance and lasts.”

St. Angelo recommends pre-planning your layout to avoid seams. With porches, he plans for application direction based on which orientation will create the fewest seams and the least waste.

(Watch Tip Top Exteriors install a porch ceiling with Cedar Renditions here.)

In addition, he says, make sure the plane is level. This will ensure that the screws won’t need to be overtightened, which can lead to indents and affect the aesthetic.

Tip Top Exteriors has installed the siding on homes of numerous styles, from traditional to modern. Here are a few recently completed projects:

Niagara Falls, Ontario:
For this project, Tip Top Exteriors installed Westlake Royal Building Products™ Haven® insulated siding in the D5 profile on three sides of the house, then used Cedar Renditions for the porch ceiling, installed perpendicular to eliminate the chance of seams.

Modern Trio, St. Catherine’s, Ontario
For these three spec houses, Cedar Renditions accents helped Tip Top Exteriors achieve the modern look the builder was seeking while still keeping the project on budget.

This home combines blended stone hues with Cedar Renditions 6” siding in Charwood. The dark brown complements the darker grays and taupes in the stone.

The other two homes in the modern trio feature a more muted stone palette with the lighter tones of Cedar Renditions in Cedar Bark. St. Angelo likes the way the lighter tones show the wood grain and complement the dark siding on the sides of the house. 

Cedar Renditions on Tip Top Exteriors modern homes in Ontario

“You can pair Cedar Renditions with anything—stone, fiber cement, and more,” St. Angelo says. “You can use it as the soffit, as the siding, an accent on the porch, or a single accent in center. Add a 2-foot strip and it completely sets the home apart.”

To learn more, see additional projects, and request samples, click here.

How to Paint Cellular PVC Trim

Painting cellular PVC trim, Royal Trim & Mouldings

Nothing accents a home quite like trim. It can help create a bold frame for a modern look or offer a decorative touch to tie a more traditional aesthetic together. While white trim is often a popular choice, painting cellular PVC trim can make a statement for the perfect exterior addition.

Cellular PVC trim typically comes manufactured in a white substrate. But while easy, it’s not the hue every homeowner wants nor every home needs, so achieving the preferred look will require you to paint.  Different types of trim react differently to different coatings, and there are also some best practices for painting cellular PVC trim to keep in mind.

PVC vs Cellular PVC Trim

When most people think of PVC, they’re thinking of rigid PVC, which is commonly used in commercial and industrial applications for things like pipes, doors, refrigeration, and tanks. It’s less flexible than other formulations and is commonly known as UPVC, PVC-U, and uPVC (the “U” standing for “unplasticized”).

Cellular PVC, like Royal® Trim and Mouldings and Kleer® from Westlake Royal Building Products™, is an expanded PVC that is ideal for creating shapes. It’s less dense, more flexible, and more moldable than rigid PVC, making it more economical and able to replicate the looks and profiles of wood. It’s also durable, waterproof, low-maintenance, and resistant to dents, scratches, splitting, and warping.

Choosing Paint for Cellular PVC Trim

It’s crucial to select the right coating for cellular PVC trim to ensure it lasts as long as designed. When painting the trim with a color with a light reflective value (LRV) of 57 or above, a high-quality 100% acrylic latex or acrylic blend paint is recommended. For darker colors with an LRV of 56 or lower, it’s crucial to opt for an approved solar reflective coating (such as Sherwin-Williams VinylSafe or Benjamin Moore Colors for Vinyl) to avoid any heat distortion, warping, or buckling over time.

Best Practices for Painting Cellular PVC Trim

When painting cellular PVC trim, there are a few best practices to follow and details to be aware of.

  • Remember that painting cellular PVC trim is different from other materials. Paint adheres to cellular PVC much better than materials like wood. Wood has a 6% moisture allowance, which means it will need to be repainted after three to five years. Cellular PVC trim, however, won’t need to be repainted for upwards of 20 to 25 years if the right paint is chosen and the PVC is prepped properly. Since cellular PVC doesn’t absorb moisture, most coatings will be dry to the touch within an hour or less, but may take 30 days to fully cure (depending on humidity and temperature).
  • Prep the trim. Always clean cellular PVC trim before painting to remove any dust, dirt, or other foreign material. Because some cellular PVC can have a high sheen, lightly scuff the surface to help improve paint adhesion. Priming isn’t necessary; however, the finish quality is greatly enhanced if you use a premium 100% acrylic latex paint for trim with a built-in primer. In addition, a primer may be required under the paint manufacturer’s warranty. If you do use a primer, make sure to follow the same LRV limitations, as some primers can be dark and can create heat distortion issues.
  • Paint after the trim is installed. While trim can be painted prior to installation, doing so will necessitate touch-ups around fasteners. Painting after installation can help avoid repetitive touch-ups, and if the homeowner isn’t sure about color choice, installers can move forward with the job before the decision is made.
  • Follow paint manufacturer’s instructions. Again, it’s important to select a solar reflective coating when using a 56 LVR or lower paint. Installers should also carefully read and follow the paint manufacturer’s instructions as they can offer additional insight on coloring and coating requirements.

PVC Trim from Westlake Royal Building Products

Following these simple guidelines for painting Royal and Kleer cellular PVC trim can help ensure a look that lasts.

Royal Trim & Mouldings come in a variety of shapes and styles, offering virtually endless ways to transform the exterior of a home. Options include S4S Trimboard, Conceal Trim System, SurEdge Trimboard, Prefinished Trim, Precision Cut Trim, and Garage Door Trim.

Kleer cellular PVC trim products are a beautiful, sustainable alternative to wood. Their TruEDGE feature protects against dirt intrusion with a finished edge on all sides.

To see how Westlake Royal Building Products can bring your next exterior project to life, check out our online design tools or request a sample of Royal Trim & Mouldings or Kleer Lumber.

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.

Introducing: New Versetta Stone Accessories & Accessory Colors

Versetta Stone trim stone accessory

Westlake Royal Building Products™ is expanding its Versetta Stone™ siding line with a new Large Light Box and new colors for stone accessories.

Featuring panelized installation, Versetta Stone siding provides the beauty and texture of authentic stone masonry without the added skill and time required for installation. The siding panels combine seamlessly with Versetta Stone accessories—including universal corners, wainscot cap/sills, receptacle boxes, and light boxes—to create a fully finished look. Every component works as a system with the stone siding panels and is made with the same premium materials and in coordinating styles, colors, and textures.

The accessory expansion includes new Large Light Boxes, measuring 9.5” by 15”. Like the smaller Light Boxes, the new size provides a finished look behind sconces at the home’s front entryway, garage, and rear entry. The new Large Light Boxes come in Charcoal, Stone Grey, and Taupe, which coordinate with Versetta Stone’s siding profiles and color palette.

In addition, three existing accessories have new color options:

  • Trim Stone is now available in Stone Grey (pictured above) as well as Taupe and Charcoal. The Trim Stone measures 36” by 9-1/2” and has a 8.2” exposure.
  • Starter Strips also are now available in Stone Grey in addition to Taupe and Charcoal. Starter Strips come in 10’ lengths, install with mechanical fasteners, and have built-in weep holes for drainage.
  • J-Channel offerings now include Charcoal and Stone Grey as well as Taupe. J-Channel comes in 10’ lengths.

Versetta Stone siding and accessories coordinate to create a flawless exterior, and the new sizes and colors provide contractors and DIYers alike with more options than ever to elevate their homes’ curb appeal in a way that is beautiful, cohesive, and unique.

Learn more at www.versettastone.com.

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.

Accommodating Expansion and Contraction in Vinyl Siding Installation

Exterior Portfolio siding creates a multi-textured facade

Vinyl siding is a fairly straightforward cladding to install, but, like any building material, it’s critical to follow proper vinyl siding installation procedures outlined by your manufacturer. And the No. 1 consideration to keep in mind? Managing expansion and contraction.

Nearly every material expands and contracts. And this phenomenon is one that’s easy to accommodate by following proper vinyl siding installation instructions. Vinyl siding manufacturers have designed their systems holistically to work well together, with a pocketed system design to hide any potential expansion and contraction of the materials.

The Potential Challenges of Expansion and Contraction

Like many PVC-based materials, vinyl siding will grow when it gets warm and shrink when it gets cold. A 12-foot vinyl siding panel could see a ½- to 5/8-inch difference in length between winter and summer. This basic principle drives nearly all installation guidelines for vinyl siding, and understanding the principle is important to ensure your exterior project looks as good as it should for years to come.

When you don’t accommodate for a siding panel’s potential movement, a number of things can happen. Nail the panel too tightly and it has no room to expand; this can result in rippling (also called oil canning) as the panel forces itself outward. A similar issue can occur if panels are too long on the ends. And if you  don’t trim the siding properly, visual gaps can appear as the panels contract.

Vinyl Siding Installation Strategies to Accommodate Expansion and Contraction

Avoiding these issues is fairly straightforward. Here are best practices to keep in mind:

• Nail vinyl siding panels properly: Most vinyl siding panels come with elongated nail slots. Drive the nail in the middle of the slot. Nail it loosely—leaving about a dime’s width between the fastener and the vinyl. Both of these practices will provide room for movement as the panel expands and contracts. Standard nail spacing is 16 inches on center, or 8 or 10 inches for high-wind areas; follow manufacturer instructions for nail type and spacing.

• Maintain a gap at ends: Vinyl siding should be installed with a gap at the end of the wall to accommodate expansion and contraction; make sure there is sufficient room to grow—a ¼-inch gap when installing in temperatures above 40 degrees F, and a 3/8-inch gap when installing in temperatures below 40 degrees F. Because of this, install J-channel trim to hide the gap as the panels contract.  

• Use care with top panels: It’s tempting to cut top panels to fit and then fasten them directly to the wall without the nailing hem. But this technique won’t leave room for expansion and contraction, and it also can trap water and block air movement that’s essential for keeping the wall cavity dry. Best practice is to install finish trim (also called sill trim or utility trim) at the top, cut the vinyl siding panel to height, and use a snap-lock tool to cut lugs to snap the panel into the trim. This holds the panel in place while still allowing for movement.

• Don’t ignore vertical installations: The use of vertically installed vinyl siding across the entire wall continues to grow. The same principles apply—nail loosely and leave proper gaps at top and bottom. Hang the siding from top to bottom, with the top nail in the top of the slot and the rest in the middle.

Following these simple steps, along with the other requirements in your vinyl siding installation instructions, can provide freedom of movement for the cladding, helping to ensure aesthetics and performance that last.

For more details, download the installation instructions for each of Westlake Royal Building Products’ siding brands, starting here. Also, check out the Vinyl Siding Institute’s Certified Installer program.

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.

Celect Cellular Composite Siding Offers Low-Maintenance Solution for California Houseboat

Houseboats featuring Celect and Cedar Renditions siding

When it comes to dream homes, you can’t get much more dreamy than a houseboat. And this 840-square-foot houseboat completed last year by Brad Schnoor is no exception.

Located in inland central California east of Modesto, Don Pedro Lake offers 160 miles of shoreline and a host of activities including boating, swimming, and waterskiing. It’s also a popular houseboating spot, with Schnoor’s project one of its most recent remodels.

For his first houseboat project, Schnoor took the home down to its studs, keeping only the original steel frame and pontoons.

Inside is fully modernized with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, plus a great room with kitchen and living room. Outdoor living spaces envelope the home, with a covered porch on the lower level and the top level featuring a fully outfitted outdoor kitchen, bar seating, lounge area, canopy, and ceiling fans.

In creating the exterior, Schnoor did a lot of research into what cladding was the best fit for a home on the water, and he eventually requested a sample of Celect™ Cellular Composite Siding. “I knew there wouldn’t be rot or rust issues,” Schnoor recalls.

Indeed, Celect combines the look of real wood but is engineered to stand up to harsh weather conditions, is low maintenance, and has a fade-resistant Kynar Aquatec® coating. Celect requires no painting or caulking, and its patented interlocking joints keep moisture out so boards stay straight and true.

The houseboat’s entire exterior is clad in 7” Celect clapboard siding and Celect trim, both in Frost. After almost a year on the water, Schnoor reports that he has seen no movement, despite the moisture and the area’s vast temperature swings. “We’re completely happy with how it turned out,” the builder says. “We’re really pleased, and we get lots of questions about it.”

Schnoor says he plans to use Celect for future houseboat and coastal projects based on its performance.

Cedar Renditions 6” Soffit

In addition to Celect siding, Schnoor installed Cedar Renditions™ 6” aluminum soffit, in the Grey Oak color, on the ceiling of both lower- and upper-level outdoor spaces. Cedar Renditions is water-resistant, impervious to cold, insect-proof, and extremely durable while remaining virtually maintenance free.

Vinyl Siding vs. Fiber Cement Siding: Which Is Better for Your Project?

Housewrap, siding

The home’s exterior offers a host of product options, with one of the most important being which material to choose for the siding. The decision impacts not only the overall look of the house, but also its durability, upkeep, performance, and more.

Fiber cement has a reputation as a premium material, but there are many applications and situations in which vinyl is the ideal option for many homeowners.

Here are some considerations when weighing vinyl siding vs. fiber cement siding:

  • Moisture resistance: Though fiber cement is durable, it’s much more prone to moisture absorption than many people realize, and if it absorbs water, over time its matrix may expand and degrade, causing its paint to fail. To avoid wicking water, fiber cement can’t be installed in contact with a range of surfaces, including the ground and masonry. Vinyl, on the other hand, does not absorb moisture, and therefore does not have restrictions about installation against the ground and other materials.
  • Affordability: As a premium option, fiber cement often falls on the higher end of the siding cost spectrum, depending on brand and product. Vinyl siding has a much broader range of pricing options, offering some of the most affordable profiles on the market up to more premium options with more robust features or insulated backing. In other words, vinyl offers a little something for every budget.
  • Authentic looks: Vinyl siding also offers wood grains and shadow lines to evoke the look of cedar. More premium vinyl siding, such as Foundry Specialty Siding™ Grayne Shingle, for example, boasts even deeper grains and richer, weathered colors for increased curb appeal.
Foundry Grayne shingle in Aged Grey
  • Painting: Some fiber cement products come with factory-applied colors, but others only come primed for painting on site. Vinyl siding is manufactured with through-body color and requires no painting throughout its life.
  • Windload: Though lighter in weight, many vinyl siding options offer high windload resistance. Exterior Portfolio Siding™, for example, comes in options with wind resistance of up to 180 mph. Fiber cement may require face-nailing to achieve certain wind resistance ratings, taking away from the aesthetic.
  • Airflow: Vinyl siding sits off of the wall, so it allows for air movement between the siding and the wall sheathing, promoting drying and reducing the chance of mold and other moisture damage.
  • Warranty: Warranties are all about the fine print, so be sure to read them closely. For example, one fiber cement paint warranty is pro-rated and the fade coverage is for only three years. Vinyl siding warranties vary, but often surpass that of fiber cement. Exterior Portfolio comes with an industry-leading double lifetime warranty. 
  • Sustainability: Vinyl siding sometimes gets a bad rap in the green building community, but the numbers tell a very different story. Throughout its life cycle, vinyl releases significantly fewer toxic chemicals into the environment than other siding materials and has a lower overall environmental impact. Based on analysis using the BEES online software, vinyl siding has 79% less impact on global warming than fiber cement. (Learn more here.)
CraneBoard Solid Core Siding

One final consideration when it comes to comparing vinyl siding to fiber cement is simply versatility. Vinyl’s diverse range of profiles, colors, textures, and performance levels means there’s a little something for every home, no matter the location, style, or budget. To see this for yourself, browse the siding and trim brands from Westlake Royal Building Products 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.

Inspiration: 6 Approaches to Create Compelling Gable Ends 

Multi-textured facades are one of the most popular trends for residential exteriors, and gable ends are an easy way to add differentiation and styling.

Foundry™ Specialty Siding and Portsmouth™ Shake & Shingles offer the warm look, deep textures, and rich colors of cedar in a range of authentic shake and shingle profiles—ideal for accents or the full façade. In addition, both are available in a single-course 7” to minimize waste in a gable application.

Consider these approaches to using shakes and shingles for more eye-catching gable ends:
Two-tone colors: Incorporate gable siding in a color one or two shades removed from the rest of the façade. The siding profile can be the same or different than the main cladding. Shown here are Portsmouth D7 Cedar Shingles in Oceanside and Indigo, as well as Exterior Portfolio™ Vinyl Trim in Aspen White.

On this home, Foundry Split Shake siding in Colonial Grey in the gables combines with a slightly darker tone on the main façade.

• Matching colors, unique profiles: Blending shakes and shingles in the gables with lap siding or other profiles on the main façade offers a subtle yet eye-catching look. This home achieves this with Foundry 7” Split Shake in Blueberry 253.

• Contrasting colors: Adding a bold color to the gable can provide a more dramatic pop of color without a huge commitment on the full façade. When choosing, select accent colors that work well with the main siding. As explained on Color Matters, “color harmony” can be achieved by using a color wheel and choosing analogous colors (three colors side by side on the wheel) or complementary colors (directly opposite each other on the wheel).

Shown here are Portsmouth D5 Cedar Shingles in Greystone above D5 Cedar Shingles in Driftwood.

This home features Foundry 10” Staggered Shake in Russet over a tan facade.

• Board and batten: For an on-trend style combination that adds a touch of distinction, incorporate board-and-batten into the gable. This Craftsman stands out and veers slightly modern with two small Portsmouth Board and Batten accents in Sand, above D7 Cedar Shingles in Storm for the main façade.

• Specialty shapes: For traditional homes, specialty shapes like Portsmouth Half Rounds (shown here in Cypress) add a touch of flair in keeping with the familiar style.

Gable vents: Easy-to-install gable vents are the perfect decorative element for gables, and come in simple shapes or designer options. Choose from a coordinating color or a bolder accent. Shown here is a Mid-America™ half-round gable vent.

For even more gable inspiration, visit Idea Galleries from Foundry Specialty Siding and Portsmouth Shake & Shingles.

7 Best Practices for Installing Stone Siding

Versetta Stone, installing stone siding

Versetta Stone™ panelized stone siding combines the timeless look of stone with an easy-to-install format suitable for pros and DIYers alike. It also can be supplied at traditional lumberyards with your other exterior materials.

Much like a traditional siding panel, Versetta Stone features an integrated nailing flange through which it is fastened to the wall—no mortar, scratch coat, or metal lath required. Each lightweight panel covers 2 square feet and features a built-in rainscreen.

Full instructions should always be followed and can be found here. In addition, here are a few best practices and key steps to keep in mind to ensure Versetta Stone looks and performs at its best:

Plan ahead: Versetta Stone’s Ledgestone and Tight-Cut profiles are made from 20 different master molds that can be flipped, allowing for 80 square feet of wall coverage without visual repetition. Still, it’s important to plan your layout ahead of time to avoid repetition and visible seams. Ensure your seams will stair step by staggering each course a minimum of 8”. Versetta’s Universal Corners ensure corner intersections also have a finished appearance; follow the installation instructions for a staggered left-right installation to achieve an authentic look.

A recent Versetta Stone installation demonstrates a stair-step approach to stagger seams.

Mark studs ahead of time and be sure to hit two studs per panel.

Consider black housewrap or felt paper when to help further disguise seams.

Keep it level: Just like any siding installation, verify your courses are level often.

Brush away dust: When cutting, debris can sometimes land in the panel grooves. Be sure to brush it out to ensure the tongue-and-groove panels nest together properly and your courses stay level.

Drive fasteners straight and flush when installing stone siding to ensure proper performance.

Create smooth transitions: When installing stone siding half-walls for a multi-textured facade, Versetta Stone’s wainscot cap/sill can create an ideal finish and transition from the stone to the cladding above. The wainscot includes the same nailing fin as the siding for easy installation. Install flashing over the 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.

Adjust for continuous insulation: If installing Versetta Stone over foam insulation boards, it’s best practice to install an additional layer of sheathing on top of the foam tied back to the studs. You will need to use longer fasteners to accommodate the additional two layers. Consult this Technical Evaluation Report for fastener requirements.

Learn more about Versetta Stone installation by downloading the full guide here and by watching our YouTube video series, starting here with Chapter 1.

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.

Resources for Selling and Installing Siding & Trim

Westlake Royal Building Products Royal siding

Westlake Royal Building Products’ portfolio of siding and trim comprises more than 30 individual brands, ensuring you and your customers can find the right product for each project, application, style, and budget. To support you behind the scenes, Westlake Royal offers numerous professional tools and resources that can help you select the perfect material, choose the ideal color, and ensure proper installation for long-lasting looks and performance.

Along with our in-house customer service team and in-field sales representatives, be sure to take advantage of our extensive array of resources to help sell, select, and install siding and trim from Westlake Royal Building Products.

Selling Resources

  • Samples: We offer samples for nearly all of our siding products and many trim products. How to get: Visit individual project pages (start here) and click on “Request a Sample.”
  • Sample boards/folders/brochures: When meeting with clients in your office, in their home, or on the jobsite, our portable sample boards can help compare different materials and illustrate the aesthetic and performance benefits of each. Leave-behind brochures outline product benefits and color options. How to get: Contact your local sales rep.
  • Fan decks: Help your customers visualize and select siding options with fan decks featuring siding color and grain options from several Westlake siding brands, including Exterior Portfolio® and Royal®. Vinyl samples are cut from actual siding, providing a true physical representation. How to get: Contact your local sales rep.
  • Product knowledge sessions: In-depth knowledge of the products you sell and install is your best marketing tool. Westlake representatives and dealers are available to provide an in-depth look at your siding and trim options so you can sell with confidence. How to get: Contact your local sales rep or Westlake dealer to schedule.
  • Sell sheets: Download and print hard-hitting one pagers outlining products and topic areas in detail. How to get: Visit individual project pages (start here) and click on “Resources.”
  • Consultative training sessions: Our in-house sales experts can provide in-person sales training and tips to help you sell more effectively and efficiently. How to get: Contact your local sales rep to inquire.

Design Resources

  • Color & design guides: To help customers truly discover what color can do for their home, explore Westlake Royal Building Products’ range of design guides, including:

–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.

  • Design galleries: See completed projects via our product-specific inspiration galleries. How to get: Visit individual project pages (start here) and click on “Gallery” or “Inspiration.”
  • Immersive Experience: This online, 3D interactive program showcases exterior products from Westlake Royal Building Products™ siding and trim brands as well as Westlake Royal Stone Solutions™ and Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions™ on three distinct homes. Tour the homes, explore the material options, and experiment with profiles and colors. Click here to access.

Installation Resources

  • In-person or virtual training: On the jobsite, at the lumberyard, or over the phone, our sales team can provide installation training and best practices to help you avoid callbacks and improve performance and efficiency. How to get: Contact your local sales rep.
  • First nail program: Schedule a short jobsite training with our installation experts for Celect® Cellular Composite Siding, Versetta Stone®, TruExterior® Siding & Trim, and Zuri® Premium Decking. How to get: Contact your local sales rep.
  • Installation instructions: Download and print installation instructions for all Westlake Royal Building Products’ siding and trim via the web. How to get: Visit individual project pages (start here) and click on “Resources.”
  • Code reports: Downloadable and printable. How to get: Visit individual project pages (start here) and click on “Resources.”
  • Specifications and drawings: How to get: Visit individual project pages (start here) and click on “Resources.”

Education & More

  • CEU courses: Expand your exterior product knowledge and earn credits with free online courses. How to get: Visit AEC Daily and search “Westlake.”
  • Westlake Royal PROS Perks: Earns rewards for the products you buy! Enroll in this points-based program to start earning merchant gift cards and Visa® Reward Cards as a thank-you for purchasing products within a robust selection of 13 Westlake Royal Building Products siding and trim brands. Click here to register.
  • Social media: Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn for project showcases, installation tips, and product information, including content from top customers and field experts.

And of course, you can reach out to us at any time. Connect with your local rep or contact Westlake Royal Building Products here.

Tip Top Exteriors Delivers Upgrades With Insulated Siding

Haven Insulated Siding on a Tip Top Exteriors home

Browse Tip Top Exteriors’ Instagram feed and you’ll start to see a pattern—the company installs a significant amount of Haven® Insulated Siding from Westlake Royal Building Products. Owner Joe St. Angelo says the cladding has become a go-to option for the St. Catharines, Ontario-based siding contractor thanks to the benefits to both his crews and his clients.

Haven Combines Beauty With Energy Efficiency

Haven Insulated Siding offers the benefits of traditional vinyl siding, including easy installation, durability, sustainability, and low maintenance, with the elevated thermal performance of an exterior foam backing.

Haven’s EPS foam helps the siding insulate better than fiber cement, wood, engineered wood, and brick, adding R-value as well as reducing noise by up to 45%. By providing continuous insulation, similar to that of a separately installed foam board, Haven insulates the framing studs, which don’t get covered in cavity fill or foam, helping to reduce heat transfer.

Haven Insulated siding on Tip Top Exteriors project
A Tip Top Exteriors home under construction features Haven Board-and-Batten insulated siding in white and Ironstone.

For Tip Top Exteriors, Haven also brings installation benefits, with an auto-level feature that makes it easy to attach with just one installer. “It’s much faster than traditional siding,” St. Angelo explains. “Another thing that makes it easy is the coverage. [The D6 panels] are 12”, they’re double 6, so it’s 12 by 12; you get eight sheets per square, so it goes up really fast.”

Haven’s insulated corners come in 20’ lengths and are easy to make square and create a seamless look that doesn’t take away from the visuals, St. Angelo says. “Because it’s rigid, it goes up really easily for a piece that long … you just pop it in.”

(See Haven installation highlights, including the insulated corners, in Tip Top Exteriors’ Instagram video: https://www.instagram.com/p/Cq25F-2gpCP/.)

For homeowners, Haven brings an elevated aesthetic that has helped Tip Top Exteriors promote the upgrade. Haven features a realistic, rustic woodgrain, the foam backing helps achieve a more solid feel, and D6 profiles comes in longer lengths of 16’ for a more seamless appearance. “It’s all about the look—it’s the closest thing to real clapboard,” St. Angelo says. “We’ve found it delivers a 75% return on investment for our customers.”

A Tip Top Exteriors project under construction with Haven insulated siding in white.

Insulated Siding Delivers Sustainability, Resilience

Along with increased energy efficiency and low maintenance, Haven Insulated Siding is manufactured with recyclable and recycled materials, and life cycle assessments reveal that vinyl siding has up to half the environmental impact as fiber cement.

Haven is designed to withstand hurricane-force winds up to 160 mph and is made with TXL Lamination for a stronger bond and better on-the-wall performance. Haven carries a Double Lifetime Warranty, providing full coverage for both the first and second owner.

Here’s how to try Haven for yourself:
• See Haven on your projects with our virtual design tool.
Order a sample.
Find products in your area.
Download the brochure
.

Tiny Home Project Supports Pacific Northwest Tribal Veteran

Operation Tiny Home, Celect siding and trim

Operation Tiny Home is a non-profit in Oregon providing affordable, high-quality housing for at-risk populations, including veterans, natural disaster survivors, and young adults aging out of foster care. On April 6, the organization, in partnership with North Sound ACH, handed over the keys of its latest tiny house project to the Lhaq’temish Foundation in support of a Lummi Nation U.S. veteran facing chronic housing instability.

Zack Griffin, co-host of the television series “Tiny House Nation,” joined Operation Tiny Home, North Sound ACH, and the Veterans Administration National Tribal Advisory Committee at the ceremony, which was held at the Seven Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville, Ore. The home’s recipient spoke to supporters and cut the ribbon on her new house. Following the event, the tiny house was transported to its final destination near Bellingham, Washington.  

“Witnessing the joy on the veteran’s face as she received the keys to her new home was truly a moving experience,” Operation Tiny Home noted on its Instagram page. “We want to extend a heartfelt thank-you to all who made this possible — your efforts have made a real difference in the life of a veteran and her family.”

Tiny House With All the Comforts of Home

The interior of the home will feature two lofts and a full, modern kitchen. Amenities in similar Operation Tiny Home projects have included wood ceilings, mini-split HVAC systems, a large bathroom and shower with bench, and a washer-dryer combo unit.

For the exterior, Westlake Royal Building Products donated 900 square feet of Celect® Cellular Composite 7” Lap siding, in Latte, along with Celect trim in Frost.

Manufactured with cellular PVC, Celect offers the timeless look of real wood yet absorbs a miniscule amount of water, so there’s no need to worry about swelling, cracking, chipping, and degradation. It’s an ideal combination of features for the Pacific Northwest locale, where wood cladding looks are popular but the wet weather can wreak havoc on natural materials. The siding includes a fade-resistant Kynar Aquatec® coating that withstands all weather conditions and climates, and it comes with a 25-year color protection warranty.

It was the perfect backdrop for a joyous ceremony that brought together members of the tribal community, the local community, and the building community. During the event, attendees were invited to fill unfinished interior walls with messages for the new homeowner.

“This is more than just a housewarming; it’s an opportunity to show our love and support for our tribal veterans,” Operation Tiny Home stated. “We’ll be making this house a home by filling the walls with messages of blessings and support! Because who wouldn’t want to live in a home infused with love and positivity?”

To try Celect Cellular Composite siding on your next project, find products in your area or request a sample.

Westlake Royal Building Products™ Launches PROS Perks™ Contractor Loyalty Program

Versetta Stone panelized stone siding being installed on the wall.

Westlake Royal Building Products™ now offers Westlake Royal PROS Perks™, a contractor loyalty program for new and existing customers. PROS Perks is a point-based program that will award customers with merchant gift cards and Visa® Reward Cards as a thank-you for purchasing products within the robust selection of Westlake Royal Building Products brands.

PROS Perks rewards are easy to redeem and use—customers simply log in, add purchased products, and submit photos of their invoices to the PROS Perks website (www.wrproperks.com). Points are awarded based on dollar amount spent, will accumulate, and can be redeemed for gift cards.

“Contractor programs are not new, but are often cumbersome for the user, with complicated points systems, rebates solely for more materials, or merchandise-only rewards. The new Westlake Royal PROS Perks program is hassle-free and delivers rewards to spend however they wish,” said Steve Booz, Vice President of Marketing & Product Management for Westlake Royal Building Products. “We value our customers and want to ensure they not only receive beautiful, high-performance exterior and interior products, but can cash in on their loyalty to our portfolio of brands.”

PROS Perks will include products within 13 of Westlake Royal Building Products’ brands: Royal® Siding, Exterior Portfolio® Siding, Portsmouth™ Shake & Shingles, Foundry Specialty Siding®, Cedar Renditions™ Aluminum Siding, Celect® Cellular Composite Siding, TruExterior® Siding & Trim, Versetta Stone®, Royal® Trim & Mouldings, Kleer®, Mid-America® Components, Royal® Shutters, Mounts & Vents, and Zuri® Premium Decking. Additional points incentives will be added throughout the year, making this Westlake Royal Building Products’ most robust reward program to date.

To learn more about Westlake Royal PROS Perks contractor loyalty program, visit www.wrproperks.com. You can also visit our PROS website at www.westlakeroyalpros.com.

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.)

8 Outdoor Living Trends for 2023

Zuri Decking, outdoor living trends

The demand for outdoor living space that emerged during the pandemic (and even before) remains on trend. Homeowners are increasingly looking to the outdoors to extend their home’s footprint while creating places to relax, entertain, and so much more.

In a report released in December, Zillow noted that functional outdoor space is the most sought-after feature in for-sale homes in 2023. “The humble backyard, once overshadowed by chef’s kitchens and walk-in closets, is the new luxury for today’s home buyers,” the company said. “Backyards are now highlighted in 1 out of every 5 Zillow listing descriptions. Mentions of patios and pools also surged, up by more than 13% and 11%, respectively, in 2022.” 

Similarly, in the American Institute of Architects’ most recent Home Design Trends Survey on Home Exteriors, a whopping 74% of architects indicated that popularity of outdoor living spaces among homeowners is increasing. 

Here’s a look at some of the biggest outdoor living trends and how to accommodate them.

Functional, indoor-like spaces: With more focus on the outdoor space, creating separation between functions is increasingly popular. Areas for dining, sitting, or quiet relaxation are separate and appointed with appropriate amenities. Outdoor rugs can create visual designation, as can multiple levels or incorporating different colors and patterns of composite decking to frame an area or create an aesthetic separation. Furniture with the look and comfort level of interior options furthers the feel.

Zuri® Premium Decking in Pecan

Sophisticated features: With growing popularity comes new ways to use the outdoor space. Along with mainstays like decks, patios, and hot tubs, homeowners aren’t afraid to appoint their spaces to meet their unique usage needs and hobbies. This may include swim spas, smaller but more practical plunge pools, pizza ovens, a dedicated yoga space, sound systems, and more.

Fireplaces and fire pits: An increasing number of options for size, style, and fuel type has given homeowners the flexibility to add the ambience and season-extending benefits of outdoor fires, no matter the size of their deck or their budget. From a soaring stone fireplace to a simple Solo stove, there are few obstacles to adding a fireplace to nearly any outdoor space. Kindred™ Outdoors + Surrounds, part of the Westlake Royal Building Products portfolio, offers a range of outdoor fireplace options, including elegant fire bowls in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Kindred Outdoors Infinite Fire Bowl with Aged Teak Honed Finish

Comfort products: A direct result of the pandemic and a need for safer gathering outdoors is the desire to use outdoor spaces well into the colder months and throughout a sweltering summer. Along with more standard propane-fueled heat lamps, a growing number of infrared heating options is available in decorative and built-in styles. Similarly, ceiling fans are essential for creating airflow during the summer. Also consider screened-in areas and sun-blocking canopies or pergolas.

Pergolas: Indeed, “Requests for pergolas are on the rise,” Design Builders, Inc. recently told us. “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.”

Blended indoor-outdoor space: The outdoor living trend toward blurring the lines from indoors to out continues unabated. Panelized opening glass walls and coordinating flooring and decking help create the illusion and truly connect the two zones to maximize physical and visual space.

At the 2022 Southern Living Idea House, the Chestnut Zuri decking on the balcony blends seamlessly with the similarly toned interior flooring.

Gardens: Gardens have always been a thing for outdoor spaces, of course, but increased flexibility has opened up the hobby to a greater number of homeowners and even apartment renters. Raised planter beds, small herb gardens, and even lettuce grow towers allow homeowners to source some of their own food, which is a growing concern among some consumers, without the space or commitment required for a full vegetable garden.

Work from home space: For the many homeowners still working remote, spring means an opportunity to take their laptops outside and soak up some vitamin D while still getting their jobs done. Comfortable seating and overhangs or other sun barriers, along with great WiFi access, are critical to making this happen.

Inspired by these outdoor living trends? Learn more about Zuri Premium Decking and browse our idea gallery here.

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.