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.

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 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

Want to stay up on the latest industry trends and product news? Subscribe to our enewsletter!

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!

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.”

Culture, Commitment Fuel Boral’s Standout Service Department

To fully grasp how unique Boral’s customer service department is, one need only look at two numbers: a 95% call-answer rate and a 0% turnover rate.

“We take a proactive approach in our call center, and that has afforded us a very high service level,” notes Tim Barber, Boral’s director of customer service. Most call centers average around 80% of calls answered in 20 seconds or less; Boral’s average at that rate is 95%. “If you call, we pretty much answer immediately. We know that busy contractors need answers fast and that jobs can be held up if we don’t meet that need.”

But while phone calls are the primary form of communications, the omnichannel department responds just as efficiently to requests made via email, fax, EDI, and pretty much any other form of communication with a hands-on strategy Barber calls a “concierge approach.”

“We really hope to cultivate an experience that keeps customers coming back to our family of brands,” Barber says. “We want to make sure we’re ending the call having solved the customer’s problem and having used their time effectively.”

_c1a8635hr

The employees’ dedication shows in the department’s high tenure rate, including 0% negative attrition (firings or voluntary company departures) for the past two years, a significant feat considering the typical rate for call centers is 30% to 40%.

The department fields as many as 800 to 1,000 calls a day, taking orders, addressing warranty concerns, providing tech support, and responding to any number of other topics. Staff numbers ramp up during busier months from April to October, and the full team is engaged with onboarding new employees.

“We’ve been fortunate to have a fabulous staff that comes to work every day with their A game,” Barber says. “We’re building our culture around customer service. Our culture is important—you can’t have success without good culture and good leadership, with people feeling like they can contribute. They come in and do the best they can for customers. We empower them and provide an atmosphere that’s supportive.”

Have a question? Contact Boral’s stellar customer service team by calling (888) 926-7259 or submitting a contact form.

New Initiatives Aim to Address Construction Labor Shortages

As the housing industry continues its steady climb, the shortage of skilled labor is only intensifying. In fact, builders have indicated that cost and availability of labor is currently the No. 1 problem facing their business, according to a December NAHB/Wells Fargo surveyA Home Improvement Research Institute study found that 60% of skilled trade professionals believe there is a shortage of labor.

In January, the construction industry’s unfilled jobs reached 250,000, up from 159,000 in January 2017 and just shy of the post-recession high of 255,000 last July, according to NAHB analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The challenges can lead to scheduling problems, budget woes, and quality concerns, among other issues.

Several industry organizations are attempting to tackle the issue through new initiatives that encourage young people to consider the trades, provide scholarships for training, provide direct training, or simply promote the benefits of a career in the industry. These include:

  • Skilled Labor Fund. Created by Professional Builder publisher Scranton Gillette and with an operating committee that includes leaders from the NAHB and the National Kitchen & Bath Association, the non-profit is raising money to “build a foundation for a stronger workforce” via student scholarships, accredited trade schools, and training facilities.

skilled-labor-fund

  • Home Depot Skilled Trades Initiative. In early March, The Home Depot Foundation announced a $50 million grant aimed at training 20,000 people in the trades to help fill the labor gap, particularly in areas of the country devastated by natural disasters. According to USA Today, the Home Builders Institute will use the funds from Home Depot to train veterans and U.S. Army soldiers readying for civilian life.
  • Lowe’s Track to the Trades. In February, Lowe’s announced a workforce development initiative to support its employees wishing to pursue a skilled trade. Employees will be eligible to receive tuition funding for certification in a skilled trade, academic coaching and support, and apprenticeship placement opportunities within Lowe’s or among its contractor network.
  • Why I Build. Hosted by Fine Homebuilding, Why I Build showcases the voices of craftsmanship and shares stories about why those in the trades love what they do. The resulting videos are inspiring and demonstrate the pride and integrity associated with careers in construction.

Fine Homebuilding Masonry
Mason Jane DeWitt discusses her craft in Fine Homebuilding’s Why I Build series.

  • #KeepCraftAlive. Another program from Fine Homebuilding, this movement is designed to spark conversation and spotlight craftspeople. The magazine encourages pros to tag their social media posts with the hashtag #KeepCraftAlive to share their passion with the world (see Instagram posts here). Sales from T-shirts will fund a sponsorship alongside SkillsUSA.

Fine Homebuilding labor shortage craftsmanship
The #KeepCraftAlive hashtag, T-shirt, and scholarship help bring attention to the skills gap in the industry.

TruExterior remains committed to assisting our customers with training, as well. Our sales reps are available for a range of hands-on education opportunities, including dealer product knowledge sessions and one-on-one jobsite installation instruction. In addition, TruExterior has a fleet of mobile training units that travel the country, setting up shop at dealer yards to provide installers with hands-on experience with our products.

Boral TruExterior Training Trailer
Boral’s mobile training trailers provide hands-on education for specifiers and installers.

To arrange a meeting, training session, or trailer visit, contact us today.

Take Five for Safety

For many contractors, the safety of employees and site visitors takes top priority over nearly everything else. For firms looking for new ways to ensure and promote a safe work environment, one proactive process to consider is “Take 5,” a method for re-familiarizing oneself with a task.

When facing a task they haven’t performed in awhile, such as operating a piece of machinery, staff at Boral facilities are encouraged to pause to identify and control hazards before they start work:

  1. Stop, look, walk around the task
  2. Think about the task, have a clear plan
  3. Identify and assess hazards that exist or may be created by the task and rate their risk levels
  4. Control the risks and communicate
  5. Do the task if low risk, and keep a lookout for changes

take-5-notebook-front-small

As part of this process, staff members carry or have easy access to a Take 5 notepad that takes them through a series of quick steps: a pre-task checklist that confirms they are authorized to do the task and that they fully understand the task; a hazard-identification checklist; and a review of the personal protective equipment.

On the back, the employee identifies each potential risk to the task and its controls. Using this list, they can identify whether the task requires sign off by a supervisor or a written safe operating procedure.

take-5-notebook-inside-small

By compelling employees to stop and consider each task, its potential hazards, and its safe operation, the Take 5 process helps further ensure the safety of themselves and those around them. For builders and contractors looking to elevate their safety efforts, it’s one additional way to keep safety top of mind each day and ensure employees and visitors are actively engaged in ensuring the well-being of themselves and others.