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!

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Top photo: Nick Hagen Photography

8 Winter Workwear Options for the Yard or Jobsite

Ergodyne winter workwear jacket

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

Here are a few work gear options to check out.

Winter Workwear for Outdoor Jobs

Heated Jacket

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

Heated jacket from Milwaukee as winter workwear

Work Boots

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

Wolverine work boots

Hi-Vis Winter Jacket

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

Ergodyne winter workwear jacket

Insulated Winter Workwear Pants

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

Carhartt winter workwear pants

Balaclava

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

Helly Hansen winter workwear balaclava

Cut-Resistant Winter Workwear Gloves

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

Mechanix work gloves

Beanie

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

Caterpillar beanie

Base Layer Shirt

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

Blaklader base layer work shirt

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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

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

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5 Home Exterior Trends for 2024

Siding like Celect can help meet 2024 exterior trends

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

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

1. A Connection with Nature

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

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

2. High-Performance Siding

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

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

Celect siding

3. Functional Outdoor Living Spaces

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

4. Exterior Trends: Mixed Materials and Textures

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

Versetta Stone manufactured stone siding

5. Exterior Trends: Transitional Takes on Tradition

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

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

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

Man types on computer to ensure good SEO for building pros

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

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

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

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

Content Strategy:

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

Technical SEO:

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

Local SEO:

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

Offsite SEO:

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

SEO Changes You Can Make Right Now

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

Smart Keyword Use

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

Image Optimization

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

Google Business Profile Tune-Up

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

Regular Content Updates

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

Other Ways to Increase Google Visibility

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

Local Service Ads

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

PPC (Pay-Per-Click)

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

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

Setting Expectations for SEO for Building Pros

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

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

Introducing Socius’s Fast Start Program:

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

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

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

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.

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

3 Ways Leadership Is Evolving to Ensure Happier Employees and Customers

Leadership team on construction site

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

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

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

Burleson describes three ways the old methods are changing:

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

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

Stay connected with Westlake Royal Building Products on LinkedIn.

How to Leverage AI in the Construction Industry

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

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

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

AI Will Not Replace Construction Jobs

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

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

AI and the Future of the Construction Industry

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

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

AI and pre-construction

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

Performance and safety during the construction process

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

The Future of AI in the Construction Industry Is Bright

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

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

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

Better Sales Starts With the Introduction

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

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

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

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

The Power of Introduction for Sales

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

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

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

Overcoming Fear of Introducing Yourself


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Be a Master at Canvassing

canvassing at a home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay connected with Westlake Royal Building Products on LinkedIn.

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

Featured image: iStock.com/grandriver

How to Use Inspiration Boards for Siding Selection

Westlake Royal Building Products inspiration boards

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

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

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

Westlake Royal Building Products inspiration boards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LBM Dealer Surveys Show Continued Strength Amid Economic Concerns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other trends of note:

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

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

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

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

Find Helpful Tools and Resources During National Home Remodeling Month

National Home Remodeling Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Cyber Security Tips for Contractors

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

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

The Risk of Cyber Threats to Contractors

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

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

3 Cybersecurity Tips for Contractors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exterior Remodeling Projects Deliver Greatest Return on Investment, Study Says

Royal Siding, vinyl siding remodeling ROI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to See at the 2023 International Builders’ Show

2023 International Builders' Show

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

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

Education Sessions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real-Time Experiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s New From Westlake Royal Building Products?

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

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

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

We can’t wait to see you there!

Image credit: Oscar Einzig Photography

10 Home Exterior Trends for 2023

CraneBoard siding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Are Color Trends Shifting Into 2023?

Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions

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

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

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

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

Ongoing Macro Trends

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips For Using Color Trends

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

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

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

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

What Awaits the Remodeling Market Into 2023?

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

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

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

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

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

Homeowners Invest in Existing Houses

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

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

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

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

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

Stop Selling. Start Solving Homeowners’ Pain Points.

CraneBoard board and batten siding

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

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

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

He recommends the following tactics for more effective selling:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2023 Color of the Year Selections Reflect Life After the Pandemic

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

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

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

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

Benjamin Moore: Raspberry Blush

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

Benjamin Moore 2023 Color of the Year
Photo courtesy Benjamin Moore

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

Sherwin-Williams: Redend Point

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

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

Behr: Blank Canvas

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

Behr 2023 Color of the Year
Photo courtesy Behr

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

PPG: Vining Ivy

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

PPG 2023 Color of the Year
Photo courtesy PPG

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

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

8 Quick Tips to Work Efficiently

As labor challenges abound and schedules remain tight, trimming inefficiencies out of your installation processes can add up to critical time and money savings. Every contractor has their tricks for eliminating wasted steps without sacrificing a quality install. Here are a few best practices to work efficiently.

1. When installing vinyl siding, be sure to leverage available accessories that can reduce detail work while ensuring a finished look. These include:
• Dual undersill trim: This is used the same way as standard finish trim, such as under windows or at the top of the wall, but because it has two slots instead of one, there’s no guesswork as to whether you need to bump out the finish trim to keep the siding angles correct.

• Board and Batten Trim: Use this to separate the courses of vertical siding since the profiles can’t overlap at the seam. The Board and Batten Trim has built-in flashing, making installation easy as well as functional.

• Shake Finish Trim: Designed for Westlake Royal Building Products’ Portsmouth Shake Panel, Shake Finish Trim secures ripped panels under windows and doors or at the top of a wall. Use a snap-lock tool to create snap lugs about every 6” to 8”, then snap the panel into the Shake Finish Trim and lock the snap lugs into place securely.

2. If you have a damaged vinyl corner, you can replace it without removing any siding. Cut and remove the existing face, leaving the channels. Cut and remove the face of the new corner, leaving the return. Then snap the new corner over the channel of the old.

3. When installing CraneBoard® Solid Core Siding® insulated vinyl siding, keep the ends of the foam no more than ¼” from each other to retain the insulation value, while giving the panels enough room to expand and contract. Pull and use your measurements from the foam instead of the panel. Both the panel and the foam will be the correct length.

4. For deck stairs, Fulton Fine Woodworks created a wooden jig that fits between the deck boards and shows precisely where to pre-drill for screw placement, eliminating the need to measure. See it here.

5. Need to find center but working with an uneven number? Simple rotate your tape measure, like so: https://www.instagram.com/p/CfnFg3lJAHT/

6. Tim Uhler, lead carpenter at Pioneer Builders, often creates makeshift tools that can do tasks more quickly while reducing user strain and fatigue. For example, instead of bending to cut sheathing while framing walls on the ground, he mounted a floor scraper to a router with spiral bit: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CcuBh83gBzS/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

7. To lift heavy beams into place, Uhler made a beam wrench out of plywood: https://www.instagram.com/p/CZIt_NnKiU3/

8. When painting trim, Robert Cripps Construction sprays aerosol hairspray on the painters tape, helping to prevent bleed-through.

Want more pro tips to work efficiently? Check out our compilation on Instagram. Have a tip that can help others in the trades? Post it to Instagram and tag us at @WestlakeRoyalPros.

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

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

Habitat for Humanity MidOhio home dedication

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

Installing siding on a Habitat for Humanity MidOhio home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEO Google Map Pack

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top LBM Dealers See Dramatic Growth Alongside Supply and Labor Challenges

LBM dealers, lumberyard, warehouse

The 2022 LBM 100 from LBM Journal and the Construction Supply 150 from Webb Analytics are not just lists of the leading LBM dealers in the country—they’re a reflection of the state of the greater construction industry and its challenges and opportunities. As such, it’s not surprising that dealers reported dramatic sales increases all while navigating a series of unprecedented obstacles.

“Though the nation’s dealers continued to navigate the pandemic in 2021, the challenges that accompany it were slightly different,” LBM Journal said. “Pandemic-amplified labor shortages and continued supply chain constraints and price hikes have only worsened and have recently been joined by rising inflation and fuel costs, due in part to the war in Ukraine. At the same time, booming residential construction activity continued throughout 2021, forcing dealers to channel their problem-solving even more as they tried to keep materials in customers’ hands, deliveries on time, and expenses down.”

Growth indeed. The magazine reported that all but one dealer on the list experienced sales gains in 2021, with 29 growing 50% and 10 companies experiencing gains of 75% or more. Some of the growth was driven by acquisition, but much of it can be attributed to booming construction activity.

Skyrocketing lumber prices also played a role, Webb Analytics noted. “Largely because of softwood lumber’s 116% price increase between January 2020 and January 2022, according to the Producer Price Index, lumberyards with manufacturing operations saw their revenues shoot up 58.6% in 2021 from the year before,” the analysis said. “This group—one of five subcategories tracked in the CS150—gets a lion’s share of its revenue from sales of framing lumber as well as from manufacturing wood-based components. Thus, a huge amount of what these dealers stock sold for drastically more than it did just a few years ago.”

Here are other notable trends from this year’s LBM Journal 100 and Construction Supply 150:

Ongoing labor woes: Not surprisingly, LBM dealers are feeling the labor strain like elsewhere in the construction industry and the rest of the country overall. “This year, 84% of companies indicated that recruiting, hiring, and retaining employees is a challenge, up 7 percentage points from last year,” LBM Journal reported. “The most difficult positions to fill, by a significant percentage, were drivers and yard workers.”

In response, dealers said they are implementing a number of efforts, from mentoring programs to pay and benefit increases.

Price and supply: Also expected, dealers cited price hikes and tight supply as another top hurdle. “Our biggest challenge currently is extended lead times and the constant rising costs,” Charlie Parks, owner and vice president of Parks Lumber & Building Supply, told LBM Journal. “Both of these challenges make it extremely difficult to play a consistent and reliable role in our customers’ attempt to get jobs under contract.”

Yet dealers still came through for their customers. “Priority customer retention was over 95% during extremely unprecedented times in which keeping the customer fulfilled was more difficult than ever,” Parks said.

Acquisitions abound. The trend of dealers gobbling each other up continued. Webb Analytics reported 156 deals covering 693 facilities in 2021. At the same time, 167 new facilities opened.

Ecommerce growth: Webb Analytics said that 72.7% of the Construction Supply 150 are allowing customers to access bills online, and 58.6% are allowing online payment, a significant increase from 56.7% and 42.3% the previous year, respectively.

On the other hand, online sales are still sluggish, LBM Journal found. “Compared to 2020, fewer LBM 100 dealers—just 31%—say they conducted sales online last year. However, among those companies, more are seeing greater chunks of sales online: 3.9% are seeing 25% to 49% of sales take place online, up from 0% the year before, and 3.9% are seeing 10% to 24% of sales take place online.”

View the full LBM Journal 100 here and download the Construction Supply 150 here.

Image: iStock.com/Foryou13

Celebrate National Remodeling Month With Helpful Tools & Tips

National Remodeling Month 2022

May is National Home Remodeling Month, the NAHB’s annual celebration that spotlights the remodeling industry, recognizes the expertise of remodeling professionals, and showcases the myriad benefits of hiring a professional remodeler. Westlake Royal Building Products is proud to be a sponsor of the 2022 event.

For National Remodeling Month, the NAHB encourages remodelers to leverage tools and tips to promote the industry through the local press, social platforms, and in-person fairs, seminars, and tours. Available resources include social media posts, web banners, press releases, fact sheets, and other materials, along with government proclamations, customizable educational articles, and op-eds. Get started with their Step-by-Step Guide here, get promotion tips here, or access downloadable promo materials here.  

As part of its sponsorship, Westlake Royal Building Products is hosting several events for NAHB members during the month of May, including:

• Shop Talk session featuring Chris “CJ” Johnson, Director – Product & Marketing – Siding, Westlake Royal Building Products, discussing the topic of product warranties.

• Webinar “Addressing Multi-Faceted Needs in AIP & UD Renovations,” May 18, which will address multi-faceted needs in aging-in-place and universal design renovations (Sign up here)

Along with professional tools, the NAHB provides a consumer resources portal, with tips on how to choose a professional remodeler, links to find a remodeler in their community, and design trends.

3 Google Ads Tips and Tricks for Contractors

When marketing your business to acquire and retaining customers, you can’t always rely on traditional marketing efforts such as print ads to get your business and brand in front of homeowners looking for your expertise. Leveraging today’s digital tools is a necessity, and adding Google Ads to your marketing toolbox can help you acquire more business.

If you’ve already taken this important step, here are three simple strategies to help boost the effectiveness Google Ads can have on your business.


1. Use More Keywords in Your Ads

Simply put, Google Ads allow you to advertise and promote your business, products, and services online when users search relevant keywords. The more keywords you incorporate into your ads, the better traffic and leads you could receive.

Think about what you and your customers use to search for products or services. Make a list and match it to what you are using today to ensure you are getting the most out of your ads.

For example, let’s say one of your services is siding installation on residential homes. Adding “Siding Installation” to your copy can help make your ad more effective. The copy should flow naturally as well.

Using negative keywords can also help optimize your campaign. For example, telling Google to exclude keywords like “DIY siding installation” helps to narrow traffic to those truly looking to hire a contractor. It also helps avoid paying for ad views by those not interested in hiring a pro.

2. Buff Up Your Landing Page

Once your ads are working and driving potential customers to your site, it’s time to make sure they are landing exactly where they should on your website and that it’s easy for them to take a further step in the customer journey.

Let’s take the Siding Installation example again: Once they find and click on your ad, direct them to a page that talks about what makes your services unique—e.g., no callbacks, top-notch customer service, etc.—and include that at the top of the page.

And be sure to include a clear call to action. Keep a fillable form at the top of the page; making them scroll or click around the page will only create frustration. Ensuring the form is clear, concise, and short will encourage more users to fill it out. Name, contact information (email or phone), and the type of project should be all you need to get started. Asking too many questions or making the form too long and time consuming will turn off your potential customer.

3. Take Advantage of Geo-Targeting

When someone uses Google to search for a contractor, it provides location-based results in two different ways. First, if someone searches “home exterior contractors in Pittsburgh,” Google will provide a list of contractors that match that keyword phrase and sort it by their location. Alternatively, if someone just searches “home exterior contractors” without defining their location, Google will still provide a list of results based on businesses that are near the person searching.

If you’re like many contractors, you likely have specific service areas. When you’re creating Google Ads, try to include the specific city where you’re looking to acquire new customers.

Using this tactic regularly with your ads can help you get on the short list of contractors Google will offer to people who are searching in your area. You can even take this tip further by asking past customers to leave a positive Google review for added authenticity.

Once your Google Ads are set up and running smoothly, regular check ins on their performance are key to ensuring ongoing success. The great thing about digital is you can change it immediately and in real time to get the most out of your marketing investment.

Westlake Royal Building Products’ portfolio of siding, trim, stone, and roofing brands offer a diversity of styles and options to meet the needs of your buyers’ shifting tastes and needs. Learn more here.

6 Lifestyle Shifts Influencing Exterior and Interior Design

Exterior Portfolio siding in blue

The last two years brought significant change to all aspects of our lives. To make their homes more comfortable, functional, and beautiful, homeowners—now more than ever—are willing to spend more on home renovations, both interior and exterior.

As the pandemic shifted lifestyles and altered our overall sense of what’s important, so followed consumers’ approach to the design and livability of their homes. Here’s a look at how these new realities translate into key exterior and interior design trends and changing product designs and innovations.

1. Biophilic Design

Biophilic design—the use of natural or nature-inspired materials and textures within a space—remains one of the hottest design trends for both residential and commercial properties. This allows them to feel connected to the natural world even when they’re indoors, and it has a marked benefit to people’s physical and mental health.

Incorporating natural colors and textures—including greenery, accent pieces such as water or fire features, and light wells and stone veneer statement walls—into the built environment can provide inhabitants with multisensory components and connections with the outside world. Natural light is key to any space, and research suggests incorporating more sunlight can help with everything from reducing overall stress levels to encouraging healthier sleep patterns.

2. More Is More: The Resurgence of Maximalism in Design

Many homeowners are stepping back from the “less is more” movement and embracing Maximalism instead, where “more is more.” The beauty of Maximalism is that it allows their space to be as unique and expressive as they are. Designers and building pros should start the process by asking the client to consider, quite simply, themselves.

One of the true joys of Maximalism is the freedom to be bold in their color choices, in terms of color selection, layering, and juxtaposition. For example, an accent wall with architectural stone veneer in a lighter, more neutral color palette provides the ideal backdrop for incorporating bold colors. With those bolder colors, an overarching scheme will help maintain a sense of cohesiveness and intention.

Cultured Stone manufactured stone veneer Echo Ridge Old Country Fieldstone
Cultured Stone’s Echo Ridge Old Country Fieldstone

The key to achieving a Maximalistic masterpiece is the incorporation of both patterns and textures. Consider scale and pair larger patterns with small prints. A large-scaled stone or brick accent wall is a clever way to achieve this look and find balance by incorporating depth and texture without overpowering the eye and taking away from the unique appeal of the space.

For exteriors, choose bold and darker colors of siding and/or trim, wider siding profiles, and Craftsman-style trim. 

Westlake Royal Building Products’ Atlas Stone in Sierra and Cedar Renditions 6" Aluminum Siding in Timberline
Westlake Royal Building Products’ Atlas Stone in Sierra and Cedar Renditions 6″ Aluminum Siding in Timberline.

3. Optimizing Your Outdoor Space

More than ever before, the outdoors has provided us with our most favorite bonding experiences. Making memories under a canvas of stars can happen without needing to travel any farther than our own backyards.

Outdoor spaces allow homeowners to expand their living area without adding interior footprint, and they’ve continued to blur the lines with designated activity areas and inclusion of interior comforts from entertainment to furniture. Outdoor dining was already on the rise for years, and it’s now more attainable than ever before. Today, there are more options at varying price points for elevating the outdoor space, including rapid-install outdoor kitchen “building blocks” that can be custom ordered and configured to match the exact appliances and countertops they prefer.

Zuri Premium Decking in Weathered Grey
Zuri Premium Decking in Weathered Grey

For kids, creating a unique play space, such as with a play structure or treehouse, provides ample opportunities for them to be physically active while spending time in an outdoor space that is primarily “theirs.”

And, of course, nothing complements an evening outside better than the warmth and glow of a fire. An intentional conversation space anchored with a fire bowl or fire pit elevates the ambience as they build and reinforce personal connections.

Sherwood wood-burning fireplace from Kindred Outdoors + Surrounds
Sherwood wood-burning fireplace from Kindred Outdoors + Surrounds

4. A Dash of Rustic Allure: Unique Accents in the Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home, yet so much of what we think about during the kitchen design process is focused solely on function over form. For a space as universal and iconic as the kitchen, there is more we can explore to infuse character into its walls.

Tile backsplashes provide an immensely versatile range of options for incorporating colors and patterns, but for those looking to incorporate a touch of texture on the walls, brick veneer remains your best bet. (A “brick-splash,” if you will.) And nothing complements the vibrancy of natural light quite like other natural textures, so a light stone accent wall could be ideal when pulling off a kitchen transformation; stone or brick veneer offers a transitional style, providing a contrast to sleek, modern cabinetry, fixtures, and appliances.

Eldorado Stone’s Lucera Hillstone veneer adds rustic warmth to this otherwise modern-leaning kitchen.
Eldorado Stone’s Lucera Hillstone veneer adds rustic warmth to this otherwise modern-leaning kitchen.

When updating the accent wall, consider tying in some of the other color tones in the space. And don’t rule out the power play of white-on-black or gray-on-white.

5. Balancing Modern with Traditional

Design styles are shifting from minimalist and clean lines toward something with more personality and character. When it comes to stone, consumers are looking for traditional-style stone with a modern, clean color palette. On the exterior, the Modern Farmhouse continues to trend, in part for its blending of comforting traditional elements with modern accents, mixed materials, and a subtle contemporary vibe.

Architect Michael McKinley’s modern interpretation of the traditional farmhouse, featuring TruExterior Nickel Gap siding and InSpire Roofing in Olive, Ash Grey, Evergreen, and Red Rock.

6. Metro Mojo: Urban Aesthetics for the Sophisticated Suburbs

Since early 2020, numerous surveys show a significant bump in the number of people moving from the cities to the suburbs or rural areas. Transitioning from one environment to another in this way can be emotional, especially if you’ve acclimated to a metropolitan vibe. As a significant portion of the population shifts from one setting to another, it’s likely that some of the most prominent design trends and other aspects of city life will soon take root in suburban areas as well.

To help your clients bring a chic, cosmopolitan feel to their new abode, consider accents such as brass hardware on kitchen cabinets, a statement lamp in the entryway, or dark, industrial-like windows.

Versetta Stone siding panels in the Ledgestone profile and Sand color.

Westlake Royal Building Products’ portfolio of siding, trim, stone, and roofing brands offer a diversity of styles and options to meet the needs of your buyers’ shifting tastes and needs. Learn more here.

What to See at the 2022 International Builders’ Show

After going virtual in 2021 due to the pandemic, the International Builders’ Show returns in-person, and returns to Orlando, Feb. 8-10, 2022. Once again the show is co-located with the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) for Design & Construction Week.

Along with general excitement for the return of face-to-face events, here are some must-dos to help you get the most out of your show experience.

Educational Sessions

As usual, the IBS conference is packed with helpful sessions, including trends, design, installation, and business tools. Here are a few that caught our eye:

Home Trends, Buyer Preferences & Most-Likely Features for 2022
Tues., Feb. 8, 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Leveraging AI to Build the Right Home for Your Market
Tues., Feb 8, 12:15-12:45 p.m.

Fixing Old Floor Plan Faux Pas & Out-of-Date Design
Tues., Feb. 8, 1:45-2:45 p.m.

Residential Construction Industry & Materials Outlook
Tues., Feb. 8, 3:45-4:45 p.m.

From Strategy to Construction: Building Assemblies that Deliver Optimal Home Performance
Tues., Feb. 8, 3:45-4:45

A Practical Approach for Blending Custom Design Trends with High Performance Building Strategies
Weds., Feb. 9, 9:15-10:15 a.m.

Build Lean: Remove the Waste, Increase your Profit
Weds., Feb. 9, 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

What Millennials Want: Market Intelligence on Home & Lifestyle Preferences
Thur., Feb. 10, 1:45-2:45 p.m.

The New Suburban Dweller: Pandemic-Driven City Exodus & How to Remodel to Meet Their Standards
Thur., Feb. 10, 1:45-2:45 p.m.

See Hot Trends

In addition to cruising the exhibit floor and attending knowledge sessions, you can see the latest in design and product trends through show homes and tours. This year, these include:

• ProBuilder Show Village
Located just steps outside the convention center, this year’s Show Village features four homes that respond to what people value today: greater flexibility, more private outdoor space, and safety and health as a top priority. Take a self-guided tour, watch live how-to demos, view exclusive exhibits, and more. More details: https://pbshowvillage.com/

The New American Home
Each year, The New American Home showcases the newest products and design trends, as well as the latest construction practices that ensure efficient, durable homes. This year’s show home is located in Laureate Park at Lake Nona and is being designed to achieve National Green Building Standard “Emerald” certification, Energy Star Certification, Indoor airPLUS Certification, DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home Program Certification, and net-zero. Details and tour/shuttle ticket info: https://www.tnah.com/

The New American Remodel
This year’s New American Remodel is a one-story, 6,993-square-foot property featuring indoor-outdoor living, a detached guest house, and a luxurious summer kitchen. Like The New American Home, it is being remodeled to achieve National Green Building Standard “Emerald” certification, Energy Star Certification, Indoor airPLUS Certification, DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home Program Certification, and net-zero. Details and tour/shuttle ticket info: https://www.tnarh.com/

IBS Building Zone
Get the latest expertise on building more durable, energy-efficient, higher-quality homes. Across the three days, you’ll find how-to demos, presentations diving deeper into demo techniques and best practices, and full-size displays of walls, roofs, and other components for an up-close look at the details being discussed. More details: https://www.buildersshow.com/focus/focus.aspx?showPageID=21226

Outdoor Living Pavilion
Head to the South Hall for the Design & Construction Week Outdoor Pavilion, showcasing the latest outdoor/backyard products, from decking to lighting to appliances.

See What’s New From Westlake Royal Building Products at booth W2520

Boral Building Products recently joined the Westlake Exteriors family, and we’re excited to see you at IBS at the Westlake Royal Building Products booth, #W2520. IBS marks the official debut of the new Westlake Royal Building Products brand, bringing together the rich legacy of three leading North American Building Products Manufacturers: Royal® Building Products, Boral® North America building products, and DaVinci® Roofscapes.

At our booth, you’ll find a breadth of innovative exterior and interior building products, including the brand-new 5/8” Lap Siding from TruExterior. The new profile combines the coveted look and shadow lines of traditional lap siding with the high performance of TruExterior’s poly-ash material.

Get your free Builders’ Show expo pass, which includes access to the exhibits at both the International Builders’ Show and the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, here: https://ibs22.buildersshow.com/928

See you at the show!

7 Winter Work Gear Picks for 2021-2022

With construction going as strong as ever and labor shortages prominent around the country, slowing down for cold, wet weather isn’t always an option for many workers. Here are a few winter work gear picks to help keep you comfortable on the jobsite as the temps start to drop. (Disclaimer: Boral Building Products is not affiliated with the following companies and does not endorse the products.)

Insulated Bomber Jacket

New from Duluth Trading Co.’s 40 Grit brand, this bomber jacket is made with durable 9.9-ounce 100% cotton twill, a quilted insulated polyester lining, metal rivets at pressure points for added durability, and a ribbed collar, hem, and cuffs to keep out the cold. The jacket includes pen sleeves, snap-close handwarmer pockets, a utility chest pocket, and an inside pocket, along with a back loop for hanging.

Duluth Trading Co. bomber jacket

Waterproof Work Boot

Combining durability and protection with cushioning and comfort engineering, CAT Footwear’s Accomplice X waterproof steel-toe work boots are ideal for everyday use, the company says. Features include a soft, breathable nylon mesh sock lining with pro-biotic odor control, a durable rubber outsole for traction, and Cement Construction for a durable-yet-lightweight feel.

CAT Footwear waterproof work boot

Base Layer Pants

Designed for mild to cold conditions, Ergodyne’s N-Ferno 6481 Lightweight Base Layer Pants are made with lightweight, breathable stretch fabric to keep you warm without overheating and without a constricting or bulky feel. For added comfort, the pants also feature an elastic waistband, moisture-wicking technology, anti-odor technology, a breathable mesh fly, flatlock seams, and a tagless interior. The pants are machine washable.

Ergodyne base layer pants, winter work wear

Heated Jackets

Milwaukee Tool has launched the next generation of its M12 Heated ToughShell jackets. Powered by the company’s M12 RedLithium battery technology, Heated Gear distributes heat across body areas via carbon fiber heating elements woven in between exterior materials and thermal insulating liners. The new M12 Heated ToughShell features Stretch Polyester with 80% more stretch and five times longer life, offering better mobility and flexibility while being lightweight and comfortable. The new jacket heats up in 2.5 minutes and allows for battery placement in the front or back depending on the situation.

Milwaukee M12 heated jacket

Hi-Vis Hoodie

This hooded sweatshirt from Blaklader offers added warmth in high-vis yellow or orange. It features a large front pocket; interior phone pocket with zipper; a fixed, adjustable hood; and a ribbed hem. The sweatshirt includes reflective tape on the body, sleeves, and shoulders.

Blaklader high-vis hooded sweatshirt

Winter Work Gloves

The Coldwork Original work glove from Mechanix is made with heavyweight fleece and C40 3M Thinsulate insulation, along with water-resistant SoftShell on the back to block out wind. The gloves’ palm side features synthetic leather with touchscreen-capable technology. Other details include a thermoplastic rubber closure for a secure fit and Armortex thumb saddle reinforcement. Five sizes are available.

Mechanix Coldwork Original work gloves

Knit Beanie

This classic beanie from Dickies features a 4-inch fold-up cuff for a customizable fit. The hat is made with soft acrylic to trap heat and keep the head warm and comfortable. Fifteen colors are available, including neon yellow (shown), neon orange, black, brown duck, aged brick, oatmeal, and white. 

Dickies knit beanie, winter work gear

How Contractors Can Leverage Instagram and TikTok

Boston Exterior Remodeling

By now, many builders and remodelers have a Facebook page, a LinkedIn page, and perhaps a Twitter account. But should you be doing more to stay on trend?

We chatted with two contractors who are continually pushing the envelope on social media—one who’s grown to influencer status on Instagram and another who has built a massive follower base on TikTok—to see why they’re finding success staying on top of the hottest platforms.

Why Is Social Media Important for Construction Businesses

Remodeler Joe Danz, owner of Boston Exterior Remodeling, has become something of a star on Instagram, telling stories, posting his company’s work, and connecting with manufacturers. “Instagram really has changed the platform, how contractors in real time can show their work, show problem solving, show products,” Danz says. “People are really receptive to that because they enjoy content. Homeowners can see our page and know we’re serious about what we’re doing, that we’re craftsmen, that we take pride in what we’re doing.”

Danz says social media content also helps provide validation. “If someone is looking up ideas and they see the same company over and over, and their friends are following you, they start to vet you. It’s another form of word of mouth.”

In fact, Danz says social media has become an essential lead generator for the company. “I would say 60% of our business comes from social media at this point.”

Plus videos and imagery on social media also provide a more detailed look at quality and craftsmanship, allowing a remodeler to charge more for their work.

In this traditional Instagram post, Boston Exterior Remodeling showed in-progress and completed images of an 1870s Victorian featuring Boral’s Foundry Grayne siding in Rustic Slate (click to scroll through the album on Instagram).

Kyle Stumpenhorst, owner of Rural Renovators (aka RR Buildings) in Franklin Grove, Ill., has 1.7 million followers on TikTok, eschewing the notion that it’s an app for youth doing dances.

On the short-video app, participants use shared music and sounds (or their own original audio) to create content. While widely known for dances and music, it’s quickly become a place for education, demonstrations, and idea sharing. As a result, creative contractors, trades, and manufacturers in the building industry have been jumping on the trend.

Stumpenhorst uses the app from the jobsite to show craftsmanship and installation techniques, both in straightforward videos as well as leveraging the app’s unique features and trends.

“I just want to bring awareness to the trades, to cool tools, and overall post-frame construction,” he says.  

Strategies for Social Media Success

For those just starting out on social, Danz encourages a jump-in-and-stick-with-it approach. “It doesn’t matter how many followers you have or how many likes you get,” he advises. “You just want to show your company in a good way. If you do that and stay with it, you’ll get noticed. It does validate your company.”

Danz also cautions that you need to enjoy doing social media to get the most success out of it. “What you put into it is what you get out of it.”

“I think a big reason for my success was consistently creating unique content that was positive and educational,” he adds. “People could learn something while also being inspired or motivated to do something themselves.”

Boston Exterior’s posts include tips and tricks, such as using the water tube approach to leveling:

Also, revealing new approaches, including this use of Kleer PVC trim:

The type of content varies greatly based on what your audiences respond to as well as the style of platform. For example, Instagram is great for showcasing finished projects or before-and-afters, and Instagram stories offer an opportunity for quick videos of your craftsmanship and process.

And showing the people doing the work is important, too. “They want to see the faces behind it, not just the pretty pictures,” Danz advises.

And, of course, creating pictorials of completed projects:

Like Boston Exterior, RR Buildings also seizes the opportunity to showcase its attention to detail and expert craftsmanship (click to play):
https://www.tiktok.com/@rrbuildings/video/6877352098212613381

And within that, tool tests, as shown while Stumpenhorst was installing Boral’s Versetta Stone siding:
https://www.tiktok.com/@rrbuildings/video/6864727432121830661

And be sure to adapt your content based on the unique features of the app. TikTok is a platform that thrives on using songs and keeping up with trends. Along with more traditional videos, RR Buildings makes videos to trending sounds or, in this case, playing on viewers’ love of “satisfying” sounds and actions while simultaneously showing its roofing prowess:
https://www.tiktok.com/@rrbuildings/video/7025047484443397381

@rrbuildings

Installing the standing seam panels… no visible fasteners #tight #satisfying #ceoofconstruction #metalroof #metalart

♬ original sound – RR Buildings

Equipment manufacturer Doosan is an expert at this, choreographing its machines and people to the tune of trending songs, as seen here:
https://www.tiktok.com/@doosantok/video/6983437574379539717

Like other platforms, TikTok is interactive and thrives on engagement, allowing viewers to comment, share, and even “duet” your videos to make them their own. You can respond to questions as a comment or with another video, as RR Buildings did here regarding its timber framing techniques:
https://www.tiktok.com/@rrbuildings/video/6935528335183187206

Love social media? Be sure to follow Boral Building Products on Facebook and Instagram. And check out our 11 exterior brands at www.boralbuildingproducts.com.

How Are Housing and Pandemic Trends Impacting LBM Dealers?

Each May, some of the industry’s supply channel-focused publications release annual reports, listing the industry’s leading LBM dealers and distributors as well as the economic trends that have shaped their businesses the previous year.

This year saw the release of two new lists—the LBM Journal 100 and the Construction Supply 150 from Webb Analytics—which were published in May following one of the most unprecedented years in construction history. From the uncertainties at the onset of the pandemic to the housing and remodeling boom that soon followed to the supply and pricing challenges going on now, the building supply industry has been challenged in ways most had never seen before. And many dealers navigated extremely successfully.

Here are a few observations from LBM Journal and Webb Analytics for how dealers and distributors weathered 2020 and what trends are shaping up in 2021.

• Acquisitions continued: LBM dealers continued to scoop each other up. The most high-profile was Builders FirstSource purchasing BMC, growing from 440 locations to 550 locations in the process. But the moves weren’t limited to the big players, with dealers of all sizes taking advantage of opportunities to expand in size and geography via acquisition.

• Retail sales big, commercial suffers: With the surge in home improvement and DIY projects, it’s not surprising that home centers and dealers with heavy percentages of retail customers posted some of the biggest growth last year, as reported by the Construction Supply 150. Unfortunately, companies selling commercial-heavy inventories, such as steel studs and ceiling systems, saw declines. “It’s pretty clear that homebuilding will remain strong, and surveys suggest big-ticket remodeling will rebound as homeowners become less fearful of having remodelers working in their kitchens and baths,” Craig Webb wrote in the CS150.

In looking ahead to this year, a majority of CS150 respondents believe new construction and remodeling will continue to grow, but most expect retail sales, as well as multifamily and commercial, to remain the same.

• Labor remains a challenge: 77% of the LBM Journal 100 reported challenges with recruiting, hiring, and retaining employees, with drivers and yard workers the hardest-to-fill positions.

• The power of relationships: LBM dealers have always touted the importance of employees and customer relationships, but the pandemic drove that home even more. “The silver lining of the pandemic for us has definitely been relationships,” Charlie Parks, co-owner and vice president of Parks Lumber & Building Supply told LBM Journal. “We have developed stronger relationships with our customers, suppliers, and even with other supply houses in the area that we have done some dealing back and forth with during the shortage.”

• Installed sales: More than half of the Construction Supply 150 conduct installed sales. The most popular product categories include entry doors, cabinets, countertops, interior doors, and bathroom vanities.

• E-commerce expanding…slowly: The construction industry is notorious for slow adoption of technology, but the pandemic helped speed things along. LBM Journal found that while only 33% of leading dealers are offering online sales, 78% said online sales were significantly or slightly higher than the year before. As Webb noted in the Construction Supply 150, “true online shopping is unlikely to become ubiquitous until dealers figure out how to automatically adjust a price based on the customer.”

View the full LBM Journal 100 here and down the Construction Supply 150 here.

Image: iStock.com/ArnoMassee

Boral Celebrates 75-Year Anniversary

Boral helps its customers Build something great™ by supplying them with high-quality, innovative, sustainable building products and construction materials. It is a purpose that mirrors the company’s 75-year history.

Founded in 1946 as Bitumen and Oil Refineries (Australia) Limited, Boral has become Australia’s largest construction materials and building products company with a global reach, a reach that includes Boral North America’s portfolio of category leaders across stone veneer, roofing, siding, heavy materials, windows, shutters, and trim. The company officially rebranded in 1963 to the BORAL acronym that had been commonly used since its beginning.

Boral employees leaving for the United States in 1947.
The first employees, just before they embarked on their training trip to the United States, in 1947.

While Boral officially entered North America in 1979, many of the companies and brands that have since become part of Boral have longer histories here. For example, Cultured Stone began in 1962 when two brothers, Garrett and Floyd Brown, saw the need for a new kind of building material, one that resembled natural stone but was much lighter and would adhere to most surfaces.

This commitment to answering customers’ unmet needs and helping builders and other specifiers grow their business with new product and technology solutions remains an integral part of Boral. Customers and partners can see that innovation come to life at the Boral Discovery Center in San Antonio, Texas. Opened in 2016, the state-of-the-art Discovery Center is home to scientists and engineers keenly focused on developing the future of building materials.

Sydney Opera House under construction
The forecourt of the Sydney Opera House during construction. Boral supplied and laid the asphalt.

Boral has been involved in many iconic building projects over the past 75 years, from the Sydney Opera House and Olympic stadium to the Fisherman’s Wharf Pier in San Francisco and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa, Florida, not to mention some of the most important projects of all — the places people call home.

Boral North America’s Brands

Boral North America comprises numerous product brands you sell every day:

Boral Building Products

AtlanticPremium Shutters • Builders Edge • Foundry Specialty Siding • Kleer Lumber • Mid-America Siding Components • SturdiMount • Tapco Tools • TruExterior Siding & Trim • Vantage • Versetta Stone • Wellcraft Egress Systems

Boral Roofing

Boral Roof Tile and Components • Boral Steel – Stone Coated Steel • Inspire by Boral • Roof System Components • US Tile by Boral

Boral Stone

Cultured Stone • Drain-N-Dry Lath • Dutch Quality Stone • Eldorado Stone • Kindred Outdoors + Surrounds • ProStone • StoneCraft Industries • Versetta Stone

Boral Windows

Fly Ash + Synthetic Gypsum

NAHB Study Reveals ‘What Home Buyers Really Want’

Foundry staggered shake

The NAHB recently released the 2021 edition of its “What Home Buyers Really Want.” The study, conducted after the pandemic began last year, surveyed 3,247 recent and prospective home buyers.

Here are some of the findings:

The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced some home buyers

Though the majority of buyers (67%) said the pandemic didn’t impact what they look for in a home, 21% indicated they desire a larger home because of it; the demand is higher for those with at least one teleworker and one virtual student.

The pandemic also increased preferences to buy in an outlying suburb from 26% in previous studies to 30% this year.

Home style preferences vary

In a new question this year, participants were shown pictures of four exterior designs. The NAHB reports that preferences are diverse, with no one style garnering a majority at a national or regional level. Traditional homes led the way with 32%, followed by Contemporary (24%), Transitional (16%), and Modern (14%). Traditional styling was the top option in all regions except the Pacific, where Contemporary came out on top.

Shift in new vs. resale preferences

The majority of respondents—60%—desire a new home, the largest percentage in 14 years. “The increase may be due in part to buyers’ concerns about touring occupied homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the severe lack of inventory of existing homes on the market, and the higher likelihood that new homes are located where buyers want to buy—the suburbs,” the NAHB explained.

Most desired home features include a laundry room, exterior lighting, patios

Home buyers were given a list of more than 200 home features. Of those, the most desired elements were a laundry room (87%), exterior lighting (87%), ceiling fans (83%), Energy Star-rated windows (83%), and a patio (82%).

On the exterior, home buyers additionally ranked front porches (81%), rear porches (75%), and a deck (75%) high on the list.

For the greater community, survey respondents indicated they want walking/jogging trails, a “typically suburban” neighborhood, a park, proximity to retail, and walkability.

Among the features that 40% of respondents indicated they don’t want were elevators, glass walls, a community daycare center, a wine cellar, and a pet washing station. 

Open layouts still in demand

Despite some speculation to the contrary, most home buyers still desire open layouts.

Open layouts, such as the one shown here with a Versetta Stone fireplace, are still high in demand with home buyers.

Green homes must have ROI

There was a significant difference between home buyers being concerned about the impact of their home on the environment (78%) and those (15%) willing to pay more for an environmentally friendly home. “However, significantly more buyers are willing to pay extra for a home if they understand it will lead to annual savings in utility costs,” the NAHB said. “In fact, 57% are willing to pay $5,000 or more, on top of the price of the home, in order to save $1,000 a year in utilities.”

To get more insights, download a summary of the results or order the full “What Home Buyers Really Want” 2021 edition at BuilderBooks.

Architects: Low-Maintenance Exteriors Continue to Pique Homeowners’ Interest

TruExterior siding, modern house

Even though they spent much more time at home in 2020—and spent much of that time improving those homes—homeowners continue to have little desire to waste time cleaning, painting, and staining their exteriors.

In its recently released Q4 2020 Home Design Trends study, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) found low maintenance and durability to be the exterior detail homeowners were most interested in, with 62% of architects reporting increasing interest, nearly the same as the year before. (Data is calculated by the percentage of architects reporting “increasing” minus percentage reporting “decreasing.”) Products that offer the look of wood without the associated maintenance, such as TruExterior poly-ash siding, can combine authenticity and a natural look with high performance and resistance to rotting, warping, and cracking.

Though farther down the list, fire-resistive design and materials saw growing interest, with 32% of architects reporting increased popularity in 2020, up from 29% in 2019.

When it comes to home styles, contemporary looks were the most popular feature, with 50% of architects reporting popularity increasing, down slightly from 54% the year before. Modern Farmhouse saw a perhaps not surprising decline, with 33% of respondents reporting increasing popularity versus 41% in 2019.

Interest in front porches is growing, with 38% of architects seeing increasing popularity in 2020 compared to 31% the year before.

Among neighborhood/community options, infill housing was the most popular, with 61% of architects reporting increasing interest (slightly less than 64% the year before), followed by multi-generational housing, which rose sharply from 41% in 2019 to 54% in 2020. Also noteworthy was high-density housing, which plummeted from 55% of architects reporting increased interest in 2019 to just 34% in 2020. The dramatic drop may be a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, with homeowners desiring outdoor space and places to grow their own food.

In AIA’s Q3 2020 Home Design Trends study, the association reported a continued softening in home size, with -11% of architects reporting home square footage increasing minus those reporting it decreasing. Interest in larger homes dropped even farther, to -22%, for entry-level/affordable homes. Custom home sizes stayed steady.

And of course, outdoor living continues to be popular, with 53% of architects reporting increasing interest; however, there was a large drop versus 2019, when 68% reported increasing interest. Interest in blended indoor/outdoor spaces also hovers near 50%

To view the full quarterly reports, as well as an archive of the studies from the past few years, visit the AIA Home Design Trends Survey.

Best Practices for Ongoing COVID Safety on the Jobsite

jobsite safety, COVID-19, construction site

Our lives have been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, directly or indirectly, and home building and remodeling jobsites are no exception. As the pandemic unfolded last year, tackling safety on the jobsite quickly became paramount to continuing to work, and many building professionals had to implement at least some COVID safety best practices, depending on local requirements, from social distancing to PPE to limiting the number of workers on site at a time.

Here’s an overview of the latest recommendations—and some insights from the field.

The Official Word on COVID Safety

The Centers for Disease Control’s page dedicated to construction workers and safety best practices during COVID-19 is continually updated as new information comes in, as methods of protection change, and as we continue to learn more about how the virus works. OSHA also continues to maintain a detailed page chock full of COVID worker safety information to help you conduct a job hazard analysis and make decisions on best practices for workers.

These conversations and decisions must be made daily for everyone’s safety, particularly because, as Professional Builder reports, construction workers are one of the highest groups of people who get COVID—even higher than healthcare workers. In addition, a large percentage of construction workers intend to refuse the vaccine.

Along with keeping workers safe on the job, taking precautions also sends a visual message to clients that we’re doing everything we can to operate safely in every capacity.

As the vaccine rolls out slowly across the country, it may become a requirement by your employer that you get the COVID vaccine to continue going to your workplace—that includes people in the building industry. Regardless, until more people have been vaccinated and we eventually reach “herd immunity,” COVID safety measures must continue to be taken wherever and whenever possible, particularly if you have workers who do not wish to get vaccinated.

COVID Jobsite Best Practices

A year into these changes, most builders and remodelers have adopted best practices and procedures to keep team members safe and ensure their companies are in compliance with local requirements.

Joe Danz of Boston Exterior Remodeling is not only a home remodeling professional, he’s a former nurse, so he’s taken COVID seriously from the start. Danz says he takes a customized approach to each jobsite and situation. Early on, he found problems in requiring complete PPE when it wasn’t necessarily needed—his workers generally stay a safe distance apart while working together anyway. In some cases, the suggested protection could do more harm than good. “If [workers] have a mask on and wear glasses or need to put on safety goggles, the lenses can fog up, which can be dangerous,” said Danz. “So instead we keep workers separate, a safe distance apart. Fortunately, on exterior projects like ours, that’s usually easy to do.”

Whenever workers are physically close together, he does make sure they are masked. “There’s a margin of tolerance we have with making people safe. The optics can be important to our clients. It’s a balancing act.” To that end, Danz puts on his mask and shield before meeting with clients and texts them to let them know he has arrived so they can meet him outside where there is fresh air. He maintains a safe distance from clients even with the PPE on so they feel reassured.

Boston Exterior Remodeling, Grayne, Kleer
This recent project by Boston Exterior Remodeling combines the two newest colors of Foundry’s Grayne shingle siding, Mountain Ash and Rustic Slate, and Kleer window trim.

Danz has implemented other safety procedures to serve as a daily reminder that compliance is necessary—but uses common sense as to whether or not every single measure is warranted. For example, in the early months, he instituted a sign-in sheet procedure where each worker has to state at the start of each day that they feel physically well and that they have a normal temperature before they can start working. This requirement has lessened as his team knows the drill—and knows not to show up for work if they feel sick or have a temperature. Knowing your clients and thinking about how many workers are on the job and where they will be placed while working is a key part of using your best judgment. “We definitely make sure to use the sign-in sheet on big jobs where there will be a lot of people, including inspectors,” Danz says.

Boston Exterior also added a foot-operated hand-washing station when possible, or at minimum a hand sanitizing station with sanitizer, paper towels, and buckets to ensure hands stay clean.

No matter what, all building professionals should refer to the requirements of their local jurisdictions and follow procedures as required, as they vary greatly from area to area.

One growing issue is “COVID fatigue,” something building companies must tackle if they want to continue to keep their teams safe. The NAHB expressed concerns about this phenomenon in January, Builder magazine reported, and pushed for a second safety stand-down (the first was held last April) to keep best practices top of mind. If your company wasn’t able to participate, NAHB offers guidance and steps here. The association provides additional resources on its website, including a downloadable jobsite safety poster.

COVID-related best practices for worker safety are here to stay—at least for the time being. Many of these changes are easy to implement and smart, regardless of COVID. Studies have found that other illnesses like the flu sharply declined this season, and regular hand washing, social distancing whenever possible, and wearing masks have helped spur that trend.

Depending on the willingness of your workers to get vaccinated and the changing nature of the virus, safety measures like this may need to be in place permanently to help keep workers from making each other sick with any type of illness. For your safety, the safety of your clients, and the safety of your workers, staying consistent with COVID-smart practices on the jobsite is good for everyone.

Hero image: iStock.com/Juanmonino

What do the 2021 Colors of the Year Mean for Your Exteriors?

One of the most fun reveals at the end of each year are the various Colors of the Year announcements from manufacturers and color experts. They’re a unique reflection of the current moods of the populace and perhaps also a nudge toward where we expect to be headed in the coming 12 months.

This year was no exception, as three of the major Color of the Year announcements seemed to deliver on a similar theme of calm, hope, and grounding.

Here’s a look at the colors, what they symbolize, and how you can leverage them on your homes.

2021 Colors of the Year

For only the second time in 22 years, Pantone selected two Colors of the Year: Ultimate Gray (17-5104) and Illuminating (13-0647). The two hues “highlight how different elements come together to support one another,” the company says. “Practical and rock solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, the union of Pantone 17-5104 Ultimate Gray and Pantone 13-0647 Illuminating is one of strength and positivity. It is a story of color that encapsulates deeper feelings of thoughtfulness with the promise of something sunny and friendly.”

(Check out ArchDaily’s collection of projects featuring similar colors.)

Pantone 2021 Colors of the Year, Iluminating, Ultimate Gray
Pantone’s Illuminating and Ultimate Gray (Image courtesy Pantone)

Sherwin-Williams named Urbane Bronze (SW 7047 (245-C7)), a rich, enveloping gray-brown, its Color of the Year. “Nature at its simplest and most elemental—embodying the richness of the Earth’s stone, metal, and wood—forges a feeling that’s grounded, meditative, and serene,” the paint manufacturer describes. “Let a color rooted in nature create a feeling of calm and bring all you cherish together.”

Sherwin-Williams 2021 Color of the Year, Urbane Bronze
Sherwin-Williams’ Urbane Bronze (Image courtesy Sherwin-Williams)

Paint manufacturer Benjamin Moore went for a richer neutral as well with its selection of Aegean Teal 2136-40, “a blend of blue-green and gray … an intriguing midtone that creates natural harmony,” as its Color of the Year. The hue, along with the other colors in the company’s Color Trends 2021 Palette, celebrates the simple pleasures of home, eliciting a feeling of calming positivity that embraces the viewer in its warmth. The aesthetic feels traditional but much more modern in tone. 

Benjamin Moore’s Aegean Teal (Image courtesy Benjamin Moore)

“Every year, the Colors of the Year reflect what’s happened over the past 12 months, and that is very apparent in this year’s selections,” says Trisha Wagner, National Accounts Manager for Boral Building Products. “People have changed a lot in how they view their surroundings; it’s taken a turn from looking at home from outside in. And these colorscapes demonstrate that.”

How to Apply Trending Colors to the Home Exterior

Wagner points out that home aesthetics are no longer just about curb appeal. With the pandemic, home is also a workspace, vacation space, and much more—so how colors live is important. They need to be much more fluid, with a flow from inside to out, rather than a bold exterior color with a more neutral interior or vice versa.

Trending colors have a feel of the “new neutral,” with a natural tone but with a richness that keeps them feeling modern. In siding, Foundry’s Deep Granite color is one example.

“When I look at new construction projects, it’s not just siding and stone; it’s shake in the gable, multiple textures, but they’re all tonal. Texture and color fold and weave into this calm, serene space,” says Wagner. “It’s the same on the interior. We’re seeing less of the stark contrast, such as a single accent wall in a bold red. It’s more of a blend. It’s not just about one room, it’s about the palette throughout the home.”

Foundry siding
Foundry siding on the second floor blends with the first-floor hues to create a soothing-yet-elegant look.

There’s still a place for bold, but there’s an elegance to it. The bright red is still around, but in a deeper, earthier version that feels calm instead of overpowering. On the exterior, a neutral palette may pair with black-framed windows or a half wall of Versetta Stone’s Northern Ash hue. “That’s the foundation for some of these modern neutrals. We’re not going back to the boring hues. These are elevated, richer, calmer,” Wagner explains.

Versetta Stone in Northern Ash offers an opportunity to add a bold look without feeling overpowering.

The Colors of the Year themselves can be easily weaved into a front door, shutters, and other accents, areas that showcase a trend without having to make a dramatic change.

Atlantic Shutters, Bahama Shutters, green shutters
Shutters and doors offer homeowners an opportunity to experiment with trendy colors, whether the Colors of the Year or a bright green as seen here, without making too much of a commitment.

“Colors are an absolute reflection of where we are this year,” Wagner says. “Color inspires. We shouldn’t be afraid of it, but it has to work with you.”

Ready to take advantage of the latest color trends? Atlantic Shutters can be matched to nearly any color, offering a perfect opportunity to incorporate similar hues to the Colors of the Year. And TruExterior Siding & Trim can be painted any color, making it easy to respond to the latest preferences.

7 Exterior Trends for 2021

Kleer Lumber, outdoor living, retaining wall, pergola

The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced many aspects of our lives, and home design and exterior trends are no exception. As stay-at-home orders stretched out into months, homeowners turned to home improvement projects to keep themselves busy and whittle down neglected to-do lists. At the same time, many homeowners chose to relocate to new or existing homes in search of more space or outdoor-friendly properties.

Those shifts will likely continue to influence home trends in the months to come. Alongside those changes, there are some existing exterior trends that remain top of mind with pros and homeowners alike.

  • Easy upgrades: Staying at home means more time staring at ho-hum exteriors or facades in need of a facelift. Simple updates to the exterior, such as replacing aging siding, adding gable vents or decorative mounting blocks, or installing decorative trim, can go a long way to improving curb appeal while still remaining affordable and in reach of DIYers.
  • Outdoor living, elevated: Outdoor living has been trending for years, but the need for great exterior space is stronger than ever with the pandemic. For homeowners stuck in the house, the outdoors have become a much-needed place of respite. Making outdoor living areas even more inviting—with everything from integrated seating to warm lighting to a flashier grill—has become even more desirable.

Along with the deck and patio surfaces, your customers should consider how the surrounding façade looks, adding trim and other accents to make the space feel more refined and complete.

Awnings and overhead coverings, as well as fire pits and outdoor heaters, can help to extend the useability of those outdoor spaces during colder temperatures.

Kleer Lumber, outdoor living, retaining wall, pergola
Warm lighting, ample seating, and a covered area made with Kleer trim and column wraps help make this outdoor space inviting .
  • Updated offices: With more workers logging in remotely, creating home offices that are welcoming and well-designed is top of mind, and exterior siding products can make a perfect decorative element. Shiplap siding or panelized stone siding is an easy way to add an accent wall to elevate a guest bedroom into a cozy home office.
TruExterior, office
This office space features a shiplap accent wall made with TruExterior Siding.
  • Window options and placement: More time at home means even more need for better indoor air quality and comfort. For windows, this means paying attention to placement to maximize both daylighting and cross-ventilation. Sound control options also should be considered to minimize disruptions during the work day.
  • Authenticity: Authentic siding and trim profiles, like TruExterior’s Craftsman Collection, offer the nostalgia of tradition and the comfort of the tried-and-true, fueling a greater sense of normalcy in a world that is anything but.
  • Multi-textured facades: Multi-textured facades continue among leading exterior trends. Blending multiple cladding types, such as a stone siding half wall with vinyl or poly-ash siding above, and incorporating shingles or vertical accents on gables and bump-outs helps distinguish homes along the streetscape and adds warmth and curb appeal.
  • Vertical and board-and-batten siding: Vertical and board-and-batten siding can add dimension and visual interest to the home exterior, particularly to meet demand for multi-textured façades and Modern Farmhouse looks. Vertical applications also can help spice up accent areas, such as gables. (Learn more about vertical siding here .)
exterior inspiration, vertical siding, siding, TruExterior, poly-ash siding
Vertical siding, such as this look created with TruExterior Siding, remains a popular trend for home exteriors.

Even after the restrictions of COVID-19 fade into memory, the idea of the home as a place of escape and sanctuary is likely to remain for some time. Simple touches can add physical and aesthetic comfort to secure the feeling of home.

Virtual Learning Opportunities for Builders, Remodelers, and LBM Dealers

As the industry has continued to navigate life during the COVID-19 pandemic, masks and temperature checks on jobsites have become the norm as face-to-face sales calls and travel to trade shows have disappeared. But with many projects still moving forward, in some cases with more urgency than before the pandemic, what hasn’t changed is the need to stay educated on new products, selling strategies, and installation best practices.

Luckily, manufacturers, publications, and other entities in the construction industry have adapted fast, and there are ample virtual learning opportunities to learn via computers and tablets.

At Boral Building Products, our customer representatives are able to provide product knowledge and installation training sessions via online platforms. Simply contact your rep to set up a time.

In addition, here are some virtual learning options you can take advantage of now and in the near future:

ProTradeCraft
This robust online learning portal isn’t new, and it’s chock full of videos and podcasts covering construction best practices, from detailing siding to building high-performance walls. You’ll find content from the site’s team of experts as well as product knowledge and installation sessions from manufacturers.

Browse the videos.

The Weekly
The folks behind Pro Builder and Pro Remodeler magazines stream a new video series each week, interviewing building pros of all types on everything from modular homes to recruiting strategies to Facebook marketing.

Catch up on past shows and subscribe here.

The Remodeling Show Reimagined (Nov. 16-18)
In its new virtual space, this year’s Remodeling Show is focusing on both business and installation topics. Live and on-demand sessions include a state of the industry, kitchen design trends, creating transitional trim details, digital marketing, lead generation, window installation, and much more. 

Details and registration here.

LBM Sales Podcast
Dealers can brush up on their sales strategies with LBM Journal and sales trainer Rick Davis, a longtime contributor to the magazine. Not only will Davis share his expertise, but also sales strategies from LBM leaders as well as experts from outside the industry.

Find the podcasts here.

NAHB Online Learning
The association’s new portal features live and on-demand courses, on-demand modules, and live and recorded webinars. Tracks include business management, building techniques, architecture and design, land development, project management, trends, and sales and marketing.

Visit the portal.

National Housing Outlook Webinars
Metrostudy’s weekly live webinars provide real-time data and insights to help guide your decision-making.

Browse the schedule.

NKBA Webinars
Hone your kitchen and bath design chops with the association’s lengthy list of live and recorded webinars. Topics range from a broad look at trends to details such as bio-adaptive lighting.

Peruse the library.

7 Tips to Improve Your Website’s SEO

search engine optimization, website analytics

When customers are looking for information on the internet, it tends to always start with a simple search.

Search engines are the “middlemen” that work to connect businesses to customers who are in need of their goods and services. And there are ways you can help the search engine’s artificial intelligence (AI) find your websites, facilitating potential customers to connect with you faster.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a strategic way of positioning content on websites to ensure higher rankings in search engines. The higher you rank, the more likely your website is to land in front of potential customers.

Here are 7 tips for improving your website’s SEO to rank higher on search engine inquiries.

1. TEST THE WEBSITE SPEED

When ranking websites, speed is one of the first things Google and other search engines look at. Speed matters because users will leave sites that take too long to load.

And keep in mind that SEO AI will look at both the mobile and desktop speed. Your site must run fast on both to rank higher.

There are tools offered to help check speed; one is Google Developer.

2. ADD VIDEO AND IMAGES

Having videos and images on a website will always rank the site higher—provided you use them where they make sense. The AI will favor your site when the videos and images help elevate the content. AI does not favor pictures over videos or videos over pictures, which provides tremendous flexibility.

3. FIND AND FIX BROKEN LINKS

There is nothing more disappointing to a website visitor than clicking on a link that doesn’t work. As such, Google and other search engines will rank websites with broken links lower.

Fewer broken links also will result in lower bounce rates and exits from your website. There are tools that can help you find broken links for free, or it can be done manually .

4. ANSWER THE QUESTIONS PEOPLE ARE ASKING

If you can figure out and understand the questions your customers are asking, and then provide the answers to those questions, your website will rank higher in search engines.

When customers search the internet, they are asking questions that may not directly link to your services or products but are related. If you can create content that answers relevant questions, your brand can be put in front of the consumers, and you can gain their business.

For example, remodelers might create content around common homeowner questions such as “What siding is best for my home” or “How do I improve my home’s curb appeal?” Having blog posts or other content on your website that answers common questions can help lead potential customers to your site.

Also, every good question has a follow-up question. Try your best to understand and answer the next question that comes after the first set of questions.

5. HAVE A STRONG CALL-TO-ACTION

A strong website will have an even stronger call-to-action (CTA). When a customer lands on your site, you should always have a goal in mind. It could be having them sign up for your newsletter, getting them to schedule a discovery session, or encouraging them to follow you on Instagram.

You want to make sure you have a clear task for them to complete. Google and other search engines will rank websites with higher task completions (such as subscribing to your newsletter) better than those with lower completion rates. 

If the customer does not complete the task and ends up back in the search results, the search engine will rank your site lower because it is an indication that your website does not answer the customer’s questions or needs.

6. DON’T FRET TOO MUCH ABOUT KEYWORDS

When SEO rules and ranking first became a hot topic for businesses, keywords became the focus.

As search engines continue to evolve, focus on keywords is not as essential. Customers are using long-form questions with tools like talk-to-text, and AI is becoming more sophisticated. Instead of focusing content on specific words, spend the time making sure you are providing the best content for your customers and answering the right questions.

The search engines will rank you higher for better content versus using a keyword over and over.

7. EARN INCOMING LINKS TO YOUR WEBSITE

Another way to earn higher rankings on search engines is to have other sites link to yours.

It is not necessarily about the number of links to your site, but the overall quality of those links. For example, if a big media outlet links to your site compared to a low-traffic blog, the big media outlet has a higher reputation and a more powerful link.

Keep in mind that Google and other search engines do not allow websites to buy links to their website; in fact, you can land on the “bad” list and lower your ranks drastically. Don’t do it.

It is better to work on networking and tasking PR professionals to publicize your content to help earn links to your site.

Though ranking can be challenging, the reward of being ranked higher in search engines is worthwhile.

A strong SEO strategy can help ensure potential customers can find you and that search engines put your business in front of those customers as the best solution for their needs.

Safety and Business Resources for Contractors During COVID-19

residential construction

The safety of employees, partners, customers, and visitors has long been a key mission for the residential construction industry. That focus is even more critical now as builders, remodelers, and contractors navigate the COVID-19 crisis while keeping both their businesses and their team members healthy.

Knowledge is power, and one of the best steps to take is to arm yourself with information from the experts. Here are a few resources from around the industry to help you determine the best practices and procedures to implement on your jobsites—and at your office. 

National Association of Home Builders
NAHB offers a host of extensive resources on jobsite safety during the pandemic, including a response plan template, jobsite checklist, a toolbox talk, jobsite posters, and more, each in English and Spanish.  

On April 16, construction sites across the country participated in the NAHB’s COVID-19 Job Site Safety Stand Down, a 10-minute work stoppage devoted to educating employees on staying safe and helping to flatten the curve. If you weren’t able to participate, click here to access the NAHB’s guide to the Stand Down, including a toolbox talk outlining prevention measures, jobsite best practices, and worker responsibilities.

OSHA
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s COVID-19 portal is robust, with guidelines on everything from identifying potential sources of exposure to prevention strategies and decontamination procedures.

Pro Remodeler
Pro Remodeler’s COVID-19 Resources portal has links to tools from the CDC, OSHA, and SBA, as well as a state-by-state tracker. In addition, you’ll find a range of business tools, including Build Aid, a free online joint conference featuring expert speakers presenting on everything from management to material procurement, as well as first-hand accounts and advice from fellow remodelers.

National Association of the Remodeling Industry
NARI also has a COVID-19 portal, featuring links to CDC and OSHA guidelines, the Dept. of Commerce’s Essential Workforce Tracker, and the Construction Industry Safety Coalition’s prevention and response plan. The website also offers updates on the association’s efforts to ensure construction is deemed essential, business-themed webinars, and loan guidance.

Builder magazine
Builder’s COVID-19 dashboard offers state-by-state tracking of limits to construction and building material supply. The publication is also hosting weekly webinars from Meyers Research. View a recap of the most recent webinar, discussing how builders are adjusting to the new normal, here.

Image: iStockphoto.com/photovs

Trends and Products From the 2020 International Builders’ Show

International Builders' Show 2020

Attendee numbers—and attendee attitudes—remained strong at the 2020 International Builders’ Show Jan. 21-23. NAHB reports that nearly 65,000 attendees converged on Las Vegas, just a few thousand short of last year’s total. When combined with the co-located Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, attendee numbers soared to about 90,000. Not too shabby considering it was the show’s second consecutive year in Sin City.

“The strong attendance at this year’s show reflects the positive outlook for the home building industry and the enthusiasm that our attendees have for the future,” NAHB Senior Vice President of Exhibitions and Meetings Geoff Cassidy said in a statement. “Attendees continue to seek the innovative products, education sessions, and networking opportunities that only IBS can provide.”

If you weren’t able to attend, read on for a look at the trends, news, and highlights from the show floor and beyond.

IBS Trends: Easy Installation, Dark Windows, Smooth Siding

Visit enough booths and talk to enough people, and trends start to emerge. Here’s a bit of what our team saw on the show floor:

Labor: The labor shortage continues to dominate conversations about builders’ and remodelers’ biggest business challenges, and manufacturers touted products accordingly. (Be sure to check out our Versetta Stone stone siding, which installs like a traditional siding panel with nails and screws.) In addition, the Home Builders Institute and The Home Depot announced a half-million-dollar grant to fund student training in home construction careers. Meanwhile, Fine Homebuilding continued its mission to #KeepCraftAlive.

Versetta Stone stone siding, manufactured stone veneer

Black windows: Like last year, black window frames were everywhere. We also noticed an uptick in black window trim—coinciding with a decline in white window trim. (If you’re jumping on board this trend, be sure to consider TruExterior trim, which can be painted dark colors, including black.)

Bookend colors: Along with dark accents, exterior siding, stone, and trim products are trending to both sides of the scale—lots of darks and, in direct contrast, lots of whites. Warm neutrals were scarce to nonexistent.

Smooth siding: Smooth siding appears to be on trend as more manufacturers jump on board. Love texture still? Try our new TruExterior Reversible Shiplap/Nickel Gap, which comes in both smooth and wood-grain.

• Outdoor living: No surprise, outdoor living is here to stay, and manufacturers are responding with more options than ever to deck out the space with all the comforts of the interior. As just one example, our sister company, Kindred Outdoors+Surrounds, launched at the show with fire bowls, fire pits, fireplaces and surrounds, and outdoor kitchens.

Kindred outdoor living fire bowls

For even more prognosticating, check out NAHB’s latest trend report, released at the show. Top “most likely” features include walk-in closets, low-E windows, and laundry rooms.

Show Houses Reveal Consumer Preferences

Each year, a handful of showhouses offer a look at what today’s homeowners are, or will be, looking for, from the practical to the extravagant. This year was no exception:

The New American Home, the show’s centerpiece demonstration home combined wow factor with “ahhh” factor, with water and fire features, flooring that resembles drifting sand, and a soothing color palette. Professional Builder walks you through it here.

And for more “TNAH,” check out Products magazine’s summary of 7 Design Ideas to Steal From The New American Home.

Photo courtesy Jeff Davis Photography (c) 2020

• The designers behind this year’s The New American Remodel leveraged advances in home performance technology to help demonstrate to showgoers how to achieve true net zero. Follow along with Professional Remodeler.

• The pre-fabricated, multi-million-dollar Sekisui Showhouse home renovation concept showcased Japanese homebuilding innovation to highlight the future of building. Las Vegas Review Journal provides a peek.

New From Boral

Boral Building Products’ portfolio of exterior products means you can find the perfect whole-house solution for any home, any design, and any budget. Check out our newest options to inspire your work:

• Versetta Stone Northern Ash: The easy installation and beautiful look you love about Versetta Stone stone siding in a dramatic new hue. This bold head-turner meets consumer demand for darker colors and accents on the exterior. See it here.

• Kleer Lumber Extruded Beadboard: Our new beadboard is extruded as one piece and sealed on all four sides to eliminate the open cells that may be prone to dirt intrusion—ensuring a brilliant white out of the box and on the jobsite. Learn more here.

Kleer Lumber, beadboard, cellular PVC trim

• TruExterior Reversible Shiplap/Nickel Gap: Two looks in one! The newest profile in our high-performance TruExterior Siding & Trim lineup comes in two formats: one features smooth Nickel Gap on one side and wood-grain Shiplap on the other; the second has wood-grain Nickel Gap on one side and smooth Shiplap on the other. Check it out here.

Boral TruExterior Reversible Shiplap Nickel Gap

Foundry Grayne Shingle Siding Colors: Foundry’s Grayne shingle siding now comes in Mountain Ash, a sandy white, and Rustic Slate, a bluish gray, both a perfect complement to the sidings’ distinctive graining patterns and sharp, crisp edges. 

Foundry Grayne shingle siding

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What to See at the 2020 International Builders’ Show

Builders' Show, Boral Building Products booth

The 2020 International Builders’ Show (IBS) is right around the corner, being held in Las Vegas Jan. 21-23. Check out our must-dos as you prep your schedule. 

Get Educated

As usual, the IBS conference is packed with helpful sessions, from trends and design predictions to small business strategies. Here are a few that caught our eye:

“Missing Middle Housing: The Perfect Bridge to the Missing Millennial & More”
Tues., Jan. 21, 9:15-10:15 a.m.

“Growing Your Remodeling Business: Smashing the Barriers to Increased Profits”Tues., Jan 21, 11:00 a.m. – noon

“Appealing to the Next Generations: Current Patterns, Behaviors & Preferences of Gen Z & Millennials”
Tues., Jan. 21, 12:45-1:45 p.m.

“Timeless to Trendy: What’s Next in Curb Appeal & Elevations”
Tues., Jan. 21, 12:45-1:45 p.m.

“Attainability: Design Strategies to Keep Costs Down & Meet Consumer Demand”
Weds., Jan. 22, 1:45-2:45 p.m.

“Home Trends, Buyer Preferences & Must-Have Features for 2020”
Thurs., Jan. 23, 8:30-9:30 a.m.

“From Swinging the Hammer to Running a Business: Strategies for Taking Your Remodeling Company to the Next Level”
Thurs., Jan. 23, noon-1:00 p.m.

See Hot Trends

In addition to browsing the 2020 International Builders’ Show exhibit floor and attending knowledge sessions, one of the best ways to see what’s hot in home design are the handful of show houses on and off site. This year, these include:

The New American Home: Always an attendee favorite, this year’s New American Home is located in the Ascaya community in Henderson, Nev. Designed to be a tranquil sanctuary, the home boasts a modern aesthetic, with clean lines, minimal décor, abundant light, and flat rooflines against a mountainous desert backdrop. See a sneak preview here. Sign up for a tour on site at the convention center. 

The New American Remodel: The New American Remodel has transformed a 2,170-square-foot, one-level 1977 home into a 7,523-square-foot two-story masterpiece showcasing innovation, exceptional design, and net-zero construction. Click here for a preview. Sign up for a tour on site at the convention center.

Show Village: Located in the parking lot outside the Las Vegas Convention Center, this year’s  Professional Builder Show Village will comprise four innovative modular homes addressing the issues of affordability, lifestyle sustainability, and labor. Catch a sneak peek here

55+ Housing Community Tour: Take a tour of two of Las Vegas’ up-and-coming 55+ communities, visiting models, sales centers, and community amenities. Click here for details and registration/tickets. 

Builder Chowa Concept Home: This show house “brings together Japan-based Sekisui House and its wholly owned home building company, Woodside Homes, to introduce technologies, best practices, and a new approach to improving society through housing to the U.S.,” says Builder magazine. “This house will engage with a growing preference for homes that support health and well-being, highlighting the balance between indoor living and outdoor life, between technology and privacy, between comfort and simplicity, and between themselves and their community and the natural environment.” Click here for more information. 

See What’s New From Boral Building Products

There’s lots to see at our booth, C4519, this year! 

• Check out TruExterior Siding’s new reversible Shiplap/Nickel Gap profile

• See new colors of Foundry’s Grayne shingle siding 

• Experience the Versetta Stone wall featuring our dramatic new Northern Ash and new accessory colors

• See new accessories for Tapco Tools’ professional brakes

• Watch installation demonstrations by trim wizard Mike Sloggatt

Plus, get inspired by exterior vignettes and displays comprising new and classic products from multiple Boral Building Products brands.  

Click here to get your free pass.

See you at the show!

5 Winter Workwear Options to Keep You Warm and Dry

The winter months bring cold temperatures and wet conditions—but typically not a break from work and deadlines. If your job keeps you out in the elements no matter the weather, here are a few pieces of gear that can help keep you comfortable. 

High-Vis Rain Gear

Blaklader’s 4312 Hi-Vis rain jacket features a wind- and water-proof polyurethane coating; a high, fleece-lined collar; a storm closure with buttons; welded seams; and a removable, adjustable hood. The jacket’s high-vis yellow body and reflective tape on the body, sleeves, and shoulders ensures visibility. 

Blaklader High-Vis Jacket

Heated Jacket

The M12 Heated Axis Layering System from Milwaukee is designed to withstand the heaviest rain and snow conditions. The M12 Heated Axis jacket provides the primary source of heat; powered by Milwaukee’s M12 RedLithium battery technology, the jacket distributes heat across core body areas. Workers can then layer an outer shell—a Hydrobreak Rain Shell (designed for extreme wet conditions) or a Gridiron Work Shell (designed for extreme cold).

Milwaukee Tools heated jacket

Cold-Weather Headgear

New to Ergodyne’s N-Ferno line of cold-weather gear, this soft-cuffed Beanie Hat includes a bump cap insert for added head protection. The hat is made with 100% soft dry acrylic with 40-gram 3M flex stretch insulation for both warmth and comfort. A zippered compartment holds the removable bump cap.  

Ergodyne work hat

Cold-Weather Gloves

Ironclad’s Cold Condition Waterproof Gloves are rated to 20 degrees and are guaranteed waterproof. Still, the low-profile gloves offer high dexterity, and their Duraclad reinforcements are eight times more durable than leather, the company says. A cuff puller helps get the gloves into position faster, and reflective stripes provide visibility in low-light conditions.

Ironclad winter work gloves

Fleece Underlayer

Made with a blend of polyester and fleece with knit-in channels, 3 Dog Fleece Base Layer pants from Duluth Trading Company provide more warmth without a lot of bulk, along with breathability and moisture wicking. Features include a 1-1/2-inch non-chafing waistband, a seat panel that prevents bunching, and a functional fly. 

Duluth Trading Co. fleece underwear for construction

2019 Builders’ Show Wrap-Up: Dark Colors, Blended Textures, and Fun New Products

International Builders Show Boral Building Products

The numbers are in: The 75th annual International Builders’ Show marked its largest draw in a decade, with more than 67,000 attendees. Combined with the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, collectively referred to as Design & Construction Week, more than 100,000 people flocked to Las Vegas Feb. 19-21. We felt the enthusiasm at the Boral booth, where a steady flow of builders, remodelers, and designers were eager to get inspired, learn about products and trends, and gather new strategies to positively impact their business.

Couldn’t make it to the show? Here is just a handful of the noteworthy trends and products.

Exterior Trends: Dark, Vertical, and Blended

In touring the Builders’ Show floor, the Boral team spotted a few common design threads, including several we highlighted earlier this year.

  • Dark colors: The preference for dark colors has been building for the last few years, and that was clear at nearly every exterior product manufacturer’s booth, from black window frames to rich brown trim to deep blue siding panels.  If you’re loving this trend, too, check out TruExterior® Siding & Trim, whose superior dimensional stability makes it an ideal choice for darker hues.

Boral Building Products International Builders' Show

Boral Building Products International Builders' Show Home Exteriors

  • Vertical siding: Whether a traditional board-and-batten for Farmhouse-style exteriors or a more simple approach for modern-style homes, vertical installations attracted a lot of attention during IBS.
  • Authenticity: Historic profiles, such as Shiplap, Nickel Gap, and V-Rustic, were prevalent. We’re partial to our TruExterior Siding Craftsman Collection.
  • Smooth siding: Even with the push for authenticity, smooth siding was prominent in many displays. In fact, we saw many instances of contemporary panels and traditional wood grain siding used in combination.

Industry Experts Weigh In

As usual, journalists from around the industry were out in force at the Builders’ Show reporting on the latest trends and new products. A few of the highlights:

New From Boral

Boral Building Products showcased our breadth of exterior products at the Builders’ Show, including several new options to spruce up your facades:

  • Virtual Remodeler: This online home design tool makes it easy for contractors and homeowners alike to create eye-catching exteriors. Users simply upload a photo of their home (or choose one from an online gallery) and then select from Boral’s siding, trim, and shutter lines to update the image in real time. Color Harmony palettes are available to further simplify the process. Learn more about the Virtual Remodeler here.

Boral Building Products Virtual Remodeler Remodeling Exterior Design

  • Versetta Stone Carved Block: We’re giving our popular stone siding a contemporary edge with this new larger-format profile that’s reminiscent of split-face stone. Carved Block features the same easy-to-install format pros love: simply nail or screw the panels to the wall—no mortar required. Choose from dark gray Midnight or creamy Sea Salt. Click here to learn more.

Versetta Stone Carved Block stone siding mortarless stone veneer

  • Kleer Lumber 10” Post Wraps: Our KLEERWrap cellular PVC post wraps, which conceal treated posts for a beautiful, finished look, are now available in a 10” version. Even with their robust size, these wraps install with just one person—simply apply adhesive to the three-sided piece, secure around the post, snap the fourth side into place, and fasten. Complete the look with accompanying cap and base moldings. See the wraps here.

Kleer Lumber cellular PVC post wraps

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How to Leverage Completed Projects in Your Marketing Efforts

A beautiful photo of a beautiful home can attract customers more than nearly anything else. And if you’re like most building and design pros, you have had many of your projects professionally photographed (and if not, it’s time to start). But are you just using those images in brochures, on your website, and on the walls of your conference room?

Here are a few more low-cost ways to use your projects and photos to market your company.

  • Write a case study: What makes your home stand out in addition to looking pretty? What challenges did you have to overcome? How did you meet the needs of the client? Write a short story about your stand-out projects that explains what makes that home—and your company—special. Here’s an example. Once it’s written, you can:
    –Post the case study with images to your website and/or blog; link to it from your e-newsletter
    –Send the case study to your local news media (regional lifestyle magazines, the home section of your newspaper, etc.) as well as to the national trade magazines (Remodeling, Professional Builder, Qualified Remodeler, etc.) for their consideration for coverage.
    –Turn it into a video walk-through to share on your web site and social media.
  • Showcase your skills: When photographing your projects, don’t just take pictures of the overall home and rooms. Zero-in on the details that make it special—whether it’s a unique gable end detail, a hidden storage compartment in the kitchen, or an advanced-framed wall that will save energy costs.
    –Share individual photos of those elements on social media calling attention to what’s unique.
    –Share those photos/details with local and national media. Many publications not only cover full projects, but also like to highlight simple details or installation techniques. For example, NKBA magazine has a “Details” page for this exact purpose.

    Instagram TRG Home Concepts
    TRG Home Concepts showcases its custom capabilities and creativity by showing—and explaining—project details on Instagram.
  • Share everywhere: Take advantage of every free platform at your disposal—Houzz, Instagram (posts and stories), Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest. And use each platform’s unique written space wisely: Instagram is photo-heavy, so make captions catchy and to the point. LinkedIn is geared toward for pros, so think about what that audience cares about. Pinterest is a mecca for search, so be sure to use keywords when tagging those items. Facebook’s slide shows offer a chance to show a handful of pictures with meaty captions. Adjust accordingly!

    GH Buildings Instagram TruExterior
    GH Buildings Inc. showcases its projects on Instagram.
  • Offer advice: Installing a unique detail or using a method that consumers can learn from? Take a video as you do so to educate viewers. This showcases your work while also positioning you as a leader.

    Video Peter Brown Design Patio Roof YouTube
    Peter Brown Design creates animated YouTube videos detailing installation techniques, including “How to Attach a Patio Roof to an Existing House”
  • Create an infographic: Does the exterior of the home or one of its rooms have a lot of unique elements or features that set your company apart? Create an infographic pointing out those elements and how they contribute to your and your client’s vision.
  • Generate engagement: Got an in-progress project? Why not have your fans weigh in with their thoughts? On Facebook or through an Instagram story, post the exterior before the paint is chosen and offer a poll with two options for the paint color. Offer up two faucet choices to vote on. The more your fans interact with your social posts, the more they’ll get seen by non-followers, and polls are a great way to do that.
  • Assemble trends: If you have a blog or newsletter, use your own projects (or combine your projects with some you find on Houzz) to assemble trend stories for your readers. For example, “6 Ways to Incorporate Red into Your Exterior” or “Tesla’s Solar Roof Tiles: We Tried Them.”

    Design Build Pros blog post Midcentury Modern
    Design Build Pros offers trends and design advice on its blog.
  • Enter contests: All of the national trade magazines have design contests that, if you win, provide lots of great, free publicity in addition to prestige and bragging rights. Professional Builder’s Design Awards are just one example.
  • Create a look book: Follow the lead of fashion designers and create a look book that shows off your best work in an elegant, sophisticated way. Tie the theme of the look book back into your company’s mission statement and keywords.
  • Partner with your favorite manufacturer: Project photos are also one of the best ways for manufacturers to market their products and, trust us, they’re always looking for good images to use in their own publicity. Reach out to your rep about sharing your project stories and photos with their marketing department; they could be perfect for the manufacturer’s own case studies, advertising, editorial, and social media—which means free publicity and recognition for you.

Want to share your Boral projects with us for consideration in our marketing efforts? Email Becky Duffy at becky.duffy@boral.com.

LEAN Principles That Increase Efficiency

LEAN principles shadow board

The first thing you see when you enter the Boral Discovery Center in San Antonio, Texas, is what you can’t see—no clutter, no chaos, no extraneous noise. Because while nearly 30 people, including scientists, engineers, and support staff, work throughout the facility’s labs with numerous machines, hundreds of materials, and thousands of samples, a concentrated focus on safety and efficiency guides each step.

Assisting in those efforts is a facility-wide adherence to LEAN principles, much like you would find at some manufacturing plants.

“We are a lab with many, many projects and many samples,” notes Sarah Fortenberry, a Discovery Center research technician who also leads the facility’s LEAN programs. “So you have to manage not only the individual projects as well as the amount of materials coming in and going out. LEAN principles help us do that.”

Fortenberry notes that following LEAN guidelines also is key to maintaining a safe, healthy environment.

Here are a few of the LEAN tools the Discovery Center has implemented:

• Shadow Board: In areas with tools and equipment, storage areas are outlined and labeled, as shown in this photo. This includes everything from duct tape rolls to a hammer to extension cords. “There’s no wasted time trying to find an item,” Fortenberry notes. “It’s labeled, it’s where it should be.”LEAN principles shadow board The 5 S’s:
Sort: Frequently determine what you actually use and get rid of the rest. This helps keep work areas clutter-free and safe.

Set in order: Label everything and where it goes. The most important items should be the closest.

Shine: Keep work areas clean.

Standardize: Have a standard method for tools and equipment. Everything is labeled—every tool, every shelf, every drawer. This also pertains to samples, which ensures every test is tracked and identifiable. The process of managing samples is the primary reason that LEAN is essential at the Discovery Center.

Sustain: Establish how you keep the workplace clean and a cleaning schedule.

• 3C Board: The three Cs stand for Concern, Cause, Countermeasure. In each work area, the team has a 3C board. If something is wrong in the area, it goes up on the board, what’s causing the problem, and, eventually, what is being done to fix the problem.

• Total Productive Maintenance: Broken machines lead to costly downtime, so each machine has a list of maintenance steps needed to keep it running properly.

• 5S Fridays: At the end of every Friday, the team convenes to address problems on 3C boards. “We work as a team to get to and maintain a sustaining level of production,” Fortenberry notes.

• Kaizen: Kaizen is Japanese for “continual improvement.” The team hosts kaizen events in which they visit areas of the lab and track team members’ steps to see where there is wasted movement and how those steps can be consolidated. Bringing in team members who don’t work in that area provides a fresh perspective and out-of-the-box thinking.

“It’s made us more of a team, working as a group to improve our areas,” Fortenberry says. “Through the kaizen events and 5S Fridays, we can do something in a short period of time that would take someone weeks to do alone.”