Love the look of stone for your projects but looking for a more modern aesthetic? Carved Block combines the mortar-free installation benefits of Versetta Stone with a split-stone look perfect for contemporary and commercial designs.
Like all Versetta Stone profiles, Carved Block offers a panelized format that installs easily with screws or nails, suitable for traditional siding contractors or carpenters; no metal lath or scratch coat needed.
Carved Block comes in two colors: Midnight, featuring gray, black, and subtle tones of brown for darker applications, and Sea Salt, with lighter tones of taupe and white for the crisp appearance of split block stone.
Here are a few projects featuring Carved Block’s contemporary stone look to spark the imagination:
Carved Block in Sea Salt lends a contemporary edge to this traditional home, perfectly complementing the brick and large windows and shutters.
Carved Block in Midnight provides an eye-catching accent for this home’s entryway while complementing the modern feel of the large, crisp cladding panels.
With the look of chiseled stone, Carved Block offers an ideal alternative to traditional concrete blocks for commercial applications, with fast, easy installation.
As seen in this commercial project, Versetta Stone in Carved Block installs anywhere without the need for additional footings for support.
As the building industry navigated the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 18 months, siding, like many categories, weathered the ups and downs—from uncertainties at the beginning to booming demand a short time later to the subsequent ebb and flow of supply challenges. The continued story is the strength of the new construction and remodeling markets, with particular focus on homeowners revamping exteriors and other areas of their homes.
But even in a year unlike any other, the trends we’ve witnessed and the core demands of building pros and their customers has, in many ways, also held steady, with familiar trends remaining at or near the forefront. LBM Journal explored what’s new, and what’s not, in its annual In Depth feature on siding, published this month.
Here are a few of the things they found:
Pandemic Increases Demand
As stuck-at-home homeowners refreshed their spaces, siding surged. “Many homeowners spent quarantine finally tackling their to-do lists, and the exterior was a great place to start,” Boral Building Products’ Brand Manager Ben Drury told the magazine. “We saw an increase in interest from DIYers, particularly in simple exterior projects that make a big impact, such as replacing aging siding, adding gable vents or decorative mounting blocks, or installing decorative trim.”
The magazine says the combination of a robust housing market and low interest rates is creating a positive outlook for siding in the coming months, too.
Continued success, of course, relies on manufacturers’ ability to meet the current challenges of supply and demand, said writer Mike Berger. One manufacturer noted that the industry could be taking 20% to 30% more orders daily if not for material and labor shortages.
Above all else, manufacturers said, keeping inventory stocked will be a critical factor and, alongside that, clear communication with customers is essential. “What we’re experiencing is unprecedented demand coupled with a 10-year undersupplied market,” manufacturer RoyOMartin noted. “Builders need to pre-order what they can; those who wait for prices to come down have lost contracts.”
Perhaps in conjunction with creating homes that are sanctuary spaces of respite, manufacturers report that clean lines and authentic details are still very much in demand. Within this, Modern Farmhouse and Craftsman looks continue to thrive, Berger noted. “Vertical and board-and-batten siding are quite popular right now,” Boral’s Drury explained in the article, with other manufacturers noting similar trends. “These installation approaches are an easy way to add dimension and visual interest to the home exterior. Vertical applications also can help elevate gables and other accent areas.”
Low Maintenance Rules
Low-maintenance has become so trendy it hardly bears being called a trend anymore, with “manufacturers report[ing] it as one of the single biggest differentiators when it comes to purchase decisions,” LBM Journal noted.
Products that mimic wood but without the associated upkeep continue to attract attention from older and younger buyers alike, neither of whom want to spend their summer weekends painting and staining but still cherish a natural, authentic aesthetic. (Try TruExterior Siding, made with a proprietary poly-ash material to combine authentic looks with high performance, or Foundry’s Grayne Shingle Siding, which perfectly replicates the look of cedar.)
The Supply Channel Is Adapting
Even before the social distancing brought by the pandemic, the industry was facing pressure to be more innovative and more willing to switch to technology-based inventory and purchasing solutions. “For years, physical displays have been a mainstay of product information and a key method for conveying how a product will look once installed,” Berger wrote. “But that was then—this is now. In addition to the tried and true, the successful LBM dealer will avail themselves of virtual tools to help impart product knowledge.”
Berger pointed to virtual design tools that show customers how products will look on their homes (such as the Virtual Remodeler tool) as one method. But even as technology infiltrates the buying process, nothing negates the need for dealers to understand the products they sell and the value they bring to customers in helping find the ideal solution for each project.
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.”
The beauty of a stone fireplace never falls out of favor, but installation challenges make it a prohibitive option for some projects. Versetta Stone panelized stone offers an easier path to creating eye-catching fireplace surrounds, combining the look and feel of stone with easy, panelized installation to deliver the dramatic look of a stone fireplace within reach.
One of our favorite examples is the Northmade Farmhouse, which features a soaring two-story fireplace made with Versetta Stone Ledgestone in the Mission Point colorway, perfect for the home’s modern-farmhouse vibe. (Read more about this project here.)
Versetta Stone offers a range of benefits for fireplace surrounds:
• Easy, straightforward installation: Versetta Stone panels install quickly and require no special tools. Each panel can be cut with a diamond blade and fastens to the wall with screws through the integrated nailing fin. As such, it does not require a mason for installation and can be installed by traditional siding contractors and carpenters. It’s also within reach of advanced DIYers.
• No artistry required: Stone fireplace surrounds require an artisan’s touch—laying out the stones so they look perfect and fit well together and then replicating that layout on the wall. With Versetta Stone, those steps are taken care of. Simply fasten the panels to the wall, and the pattern looks beautiful without much creativity. And yet it still has the look of hand-crafted stone. Corner pieces also make it easy to create a clean, finished look.
• Less mess: Versetta Stone eliminates the messiest parts of masonry installation—no lath, no scratch coat, no mortar. This is especially helpful for remodeling projects, eliminating concerns about tracking in mud or ruining manicured lawns washing off tools and mud buckets. Versetta Stone panels require cutting that generates dust, but this can be done outside over a tarp, with cut pieces handed in through the window.
• Lightweight: Versetta Stone weighs 17 pounds per panel, or 8.5 pounds per square foot.
• Suitable for fireplaces: Versetta Stone is safe for use as a fireplace surround for gas and electric fireplaces and does not require distance from the firebox like some non-combustible materials do. (However, it cannot be used inside the firebox.) Still, installers should always follow fireplace manufacturer instructions and guidelines for surround materials.
Find more Versetta Stone design inspiration for interiors in our Idea Gallery.
Outdoor living spaces are one of the biggest trends in home building and remodeling, and demand has only grown during the pandemic.
As the demand for outdoor living moves from growing trend to must-have status, simply adding on an ordinary deck isn’t going to be enough. Building pros can elevate outdoor spaces in numerous ways, and they don’t have to break the bank.
Here are a few simple and relatively inexpensive details to consider to add the finishing touch to your outdoor living spaces and take them to the next level.
Create Indoor-Outdoor Connections
Not every home can have an eight-panel opening glass wall, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create those connections that let in more light and expand the entertaining space.
As Andersen Windows points out in a recent article, the standard French patio doors with sidelight windows can easily be replaced by a small multi-panel door with one or two sliding panels, helping to expand the clear opening to preserve views and create that desired indoor-outdoor connection.
Another more budget-friendly option is to include pass-through windows to create an indoor-outdoor bar, such as this project by Denny Sturgis Construction.
Detail the Deck
No matter the size of the deck, there are a few simple strategies to make it look more finished and polished.
• Rather than leaving deck planks exposed, add fascia board around the perimeter to create a more finished look. TruExterior poly-ash trim can be painted or stained any color and can be used in contact with decking material.
• For composite decks, hidden fasteners cost a little more but make a big difference in the look and feel of the deck. For grooved-edge boards, clip-style hardware stays completely hidden; for face-fastening, a plug system is the most hidden option, or, at minimum, choose color-matched screws.
• Add flair to composite decks with inlays and picture framing. These techniques can be used to add a decorative perimeter, break up long expanses, or create an outline around different areas, such as a sitting area or outdoor kitchen.
• Don’t neglect lighting, which can add ambience, make the space safer, and extend its use later into the night and farther into colder months. Integrated post cap, railing, or stair lights can be easy and economical to add on or integrate.
• Add an accent wall or elevate the grill area with stone, such as panelized stone siding from Versetta Stone.
Amp up your outdoor buildings
A beautiful backyard can be the perfect spot for a studio, she shed, or ADU. But make sure it’s got style. A rickety wood shed or wobbly plastic structure can bring down the aesthetic of the whole outdoor space. Use real siding and trim, include accessories, and add landscaping.
This beautiful tiny house ADU by Koncept Design/Build, for example, looks just as good as a main house, with beautiful craftsmanship, on-trend black-framed windows and doors, and meticulous trimwork using TruExterior poly-ash trim
This garage/man cave by Adam Hass Fine Homebuilding also could pass for a main living space, with its traditional forms and well-thought-out details.
Even a storage shed can look a bit more refined, as seen with this example from Zuccon Works, which features richly colored siding and Kleer cellular PVC trim and window casings.
Don’t Neglect the Accessories
It’s easy to leave the aftermarket accessories up to the homeowner, but why not complete the look or at least show them how?
For example, this flower box made with Kleer Lumber PVC trim not only offers a cleaner, more stylish look than run-of-the-mill planters, it’s durable and can be used in contact with the ground without moisture concerns.
Kleer is also a fun choice for these Adirondack chairs. The teal offers a fun pop of color to the porch without too much commitment or concern over resale value.
And don’t forget to finish the porch. Here, installers used TruExterior Beadboard in a soft robin’s egg blue to add to the vintage vibe of this wide porch.
Post wraps, such as these from Kleer, are a simple way to enhance the porch or deck without adding extra maintenance needs.
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.
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.
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:
Manufactured stone once again has shown its ability to recoup homeowners’ remodeling investment. According to the Remodeling 2021 Cost vs. Value Report, an annual study by Remodeling magazine, manufactured stone veneer offers a 92.1% return on investment. That ROI is second only to garage door replacement.
The Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares the average costs of 22 remodeling projects with the value those investments will retain at resale. The study looked at the cost recouped from replacing a 300-square-foot band of vinyl siding from the bottom third of a home’s front façade with manufactured stone veneer (such as Boral Building Products’ Versetta Stone), sills, corners, and address block.
Manufactured stone veneer’s place in the study is slightly down from 2020, where it reached No. 1 with an ROI of 95.6%. Still, manufactured stone was 20 percentage points higher than the third project on the list, minor kitchen remodel.
Along with manufactured stone and garage doors, exterior products dominated the top of the Remodeling 2021 Cost vs. Value Report list, claiming 11 of the top 12 spots: fiber cement siding replacement (69.4% cost recouped); vinyl window replacement (68.6%); vinyl siding replacement (68.3%); wood window replacement (67.4%); wood deck addition (67.4%); steel entry door replacement (65.0%); composite deck addition (63.2%); fiberglass grand entrance (60.9%); and asphalt shingle roof replacement (60.7%).
“The trend of exterior replacements outperforming larger discretionary remodeling projects has been accelerated, no doubt, by a year in which COVID has made people reluctant to have contractors inside their homes, but yearning to improve outdoor spaces,” the Remodeling editors said. “It’s been a year when we’d expect decks to reign supreme, but the data doesn’t track what’s most popular. The Cost vs. Value report tracks the ratio of value over cost for 22 common remodeling projects, and in that ratio lies the rub: Material costs, especially for decking and pressure-treated framing lumber, went through the roof in 2020, bringing down the return despite the project’s value.”
Manufactured Stone Delivers Most ROI in Two Regions
Manufactured stone maintains a similar level of ROI when broken down geographically, with 90% or more of cost recouped across all regions. In two regions, however, manufactured stone came out on top: West North Central (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri), with 94.1% ROI, and South Atlantic (Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida), with 94.1% ROI.
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.
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.”
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%
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.
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.
From higher frequency of wildfires to an overall focus on safety as more Americans work and school from home, fire safety is top of mind. How do Boral Building Products’ siding and trim materials compare to others when it comes to fire resistance?
Here’s a guide:
Fire Resistance of TruExterior Siding & Trim
All thicknesses, widths, and profiles of the TruExterior Siding & Trim product line are certified by the California Building Commission for inclusion on the Wildland-Urban Interface Zone (WUI) Products Listing, one of the strictest regulations on building products, systems, and assemblies in the country. The product line is part of a relatively small group of cladding materials approved for WUI-designated buildings. This means that architects and contractors can confidently specify the product for use throughout all areas of California, regardless of WUI restrictions.
Fire Resistance of Versetta Stone siding
Versetta Stone offers the look of stone and the ease of panelized installation—and a Class A fire rating meeting the requirements of the ASTM E 84 – fire spread & smoke test.
Versetta Stone can be used for interior fireplace surround applications.
Fire Resistance of Foundry Siding
Not only does Foundry Siding’s authentic looks separate it from other similar siding products, Foundry shakes and shingles contain PVC, which contributes to a 1A fire resistance rating. Siding made with polypropylene does not carry a 1A rating.
In addition, Foundry’s Grayne Shingle line is included on California’s WUI building materials listing.
As with any material, use of Boral Building Products’ siding and trim materials beyond the parameters to which they are designed could impact fire resistance. Have questions? Contact our customer service team today.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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 .)
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.
It’s not every day that an orthodontist office wins rave design reviews. But that’s just the case with a recent project completed by MKM architecture + design, which turned a challenging site into a unique space highlighted by modern geometric forms and eye-catching textures.
The property along the Jefferson Corridor in Fort Wayne, Ind., was difficult to say the least: a pie-shaped lot wedged between two major roadways. A connector to downtown and close to schools, the corridor is a high-traffic area that’s convenient to patients—but also high profile and highly visible. Rather than feeling daunted, Dr. Parrish was drawn to the property, finding inspiration in its similarities to the Flatiron Building in New York. He seized the opportunity to work with MKM to create a design that was distinctive yet still complementary to the neighborhood.
In addition to the oddly shaped lot, the office’s location just outside the city’s commercial core necessitated balancing the feel of heading downtown while staying true to the aesthetic of nearby residential areas.
Dr. Parrish’s eye toward style and forward-looking approach allowed MKM architecture + design Principal Matt Sparling, AIA, LEED AP, to explore different forms as well as different materials. A square building was out of the question due to the lot shape and the limitations of required parking and driveways. Instead, MKM designed the building with a triangle shape extending into the lot, coming to a steep point with a dramatic 20-foot overhang where the building faces the street corner.
Pulling off the shape required a more intensive and lengthy review process; any changes to the square footage of the building meant reworking the plan and proportions of the triangle. The skin of the roof took its own shape and form over the triangular footprint and simultaneously had to balance the design and scale of the building exterior. To achieve this design, all the trusses were unique in size and length with no one alike.
To maximize the floor plan and allow space for parking, MKM had to petition for a variance to extend past the building setback line. This allowance also saved seven well-established trees during construction, helping the building appear as if it had been there for years.
Along with its shape, the project is visually distinctive in its use of color and texture. The lower areas of the exterior feature TruExterior 8” Channel Siding in two shades of gray and taupe. The product’s workability was essential for creating the crisp mitered corners and clean lines, as well as for navigating the trickier points of the triangle. Made with poly-ash, TruExterior offers dimensional stability ideal for the fluctuations of temperature and weather in Indiana, and its authentic wood look adds dimension to the flat surfaces.
Just as striking is the stone cladding along the sides of the triangle and the broad overhang. To pull off this look in a somewhat challenging area of the façade, contractor Steve Desmond installed Versetta Stone panelized siding in a Tight-Cut profile and Plum Creek colorway. Because of Versetta Stone’s lighter weight compared to brick, it could be used for the overhang without adding tremendous structural costs. Its panelized format, requiring just screws to hang, simplified what could have been a time-consuming and costly traditional masonry installation.
The stone carries over to other areas of the façade, including half walls and planter boxes, completing the multi-textured look.
Using TruExterior and Versetta Stone eases the building’s sharper geometries, where previously considered metal options would have been too severe. “You can make it look unique for the area and still be complementary to your neighbors,” Sparling says.
TruExterior also could be installed in the winter, helping to avoid construction delays, he adds. “Contractors around here really favor it because it’s a no-nuisance product.”
Inside the office, the building’s shape created dead space in corners, so MKM used those areas for infrastructure, like a vertical chase, as well as for countertop display areas.
The Mid-Century Modern décor, featuring stone and wood finishes and a feature wall made with plank flooring, maintains a contemporary appeal while keeping the space inviting. Sparling incorporated two setback windows into the layout for the always-on nightlights. Outside, can lights on the underside of the overhang provide emphasis while highlighting the angles. Like the rest of the building, and the design approach overall, the effect is both strikingly modern and comfortably warm.
Not only is Versetta Stone easy to install, with a panelized format that goes up with nails or screws, it adds the perfect aesthetic touch to homes, multifamily projects, and light commercial spaces. Versetta Stone’s authentic look is ideal for adding an elegant or rustic touch to exterior walls, chimneys, and columns, while inside it can easily enhance the visual appeal to fireplace surrounds and walls without the added weight of real stone.
This is especially the case with Northern Ash, the newest colorway and the boldest yet. The dramatic, near-black hue is perfect for today’s trends favoring dark colors—to add a pop to the exterior or create the perfect accent wall.
Need inspiration? Here are a few early applications of this new color:
For this multifamily project, Northern Ash added the perfect accent on the corners, providing contrast to the lighter hues elsewhere on the façade and providing a multi-textured look that’s tremendously popular right now.
Bold and modern, this beautiful two-sided outdoor fireplace by Construction in the Creek is clad in Versetta Stone Northern Ash. The dark hue perfectly coordinates with the space’s black-and-white color scheme.
A half wall of Versetta Stone Northern Ash adds an aesthetic touch to this outbuilding by Rural Renovators, Inc., combining with the shutters and porch to provide a slight residential appeal suitable for the property.
Northern Ash is just as suitable for interiors and for light commercial spaces, as shown here in a lobby waiting room.
Excited by Northern Ash? See all the Versetta Stone profiles here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rural Renovators (or RR Buildings, for short) in Franklin Grove, Ill., specializes in custom post-frame outbuildings, with a reputation for quality craftsmanship and attention to detail. Founder Kyle Stumpenhorst’s love of the job shows through in every project in the company’s extensive portfolio, which includes an array of residential, agricultural, and commercial buildings.
As you look through RR Buildings’ project gallery and Instagram page, it’s hard not to be struck by the aesthetics. Rather than being staid or ordinary, the builder’s rural outbuildings catch the eye with pops of color on the roof or accent walls, interesting overhangs, and texture.
In some of the outbuildings, Stumpenhorst has added Versetta Stone stone siding to achieve a varied look and add a touch of softness to the metal facades. This building is just one example.
A warehouse-like interior accommodates a Crossfit gym, along with a small storage area for the owner’s work truck and professional plumbing equipment. Using post-frame construction with open-span trusses provided not only installation efficiencies but also kept the interior space free of excess load-bearing beams that may have hindered workout equipment. Large rolling doors on the rear provide fresh air to gym-goers in warmer months.
RR Buildings built the structure on a full foundation footing wall to avoid installing posts in the ground. On the exterior, Versetta Stone panelized stone siding in a dark Northern Ash color pops against the white metal cladding for an on-trend look. The stone, dark shutters, and timber frame porch add a touch of residential styling ideal for the building’s location on a family property.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
ways, it’s business as usual in the siding market—authenticity is in demand,
low maintenance is a must, and the Modern Farmhouse continues to reign. And
while the pandemic shifted the way most of the industry is doing business, many
homeowners are using the extra time at home to improve their exteriors.
pandemic has created challenges for so many, it’s also driven many homeowners
to embark on improvement projects, particularly as they embrace the home’s role
as sanctuary. “During stay-at-home orders, many Americans have been making wish
lists for the ways they will have professionals make improvements once that’s
allowed in their areas,” Boral Building Products’ Vice President of Sales Jack
Delaney told LBM Journal. “Siding replacement is a perfect way to give existing
homes an instant facelift.”
also has the distinct advantage of offering outside work, which is isolated
from the homeowner and is easier to do safely as the pandemic continues, making
it an ideal option to consider for a facelift.
Popular Siding Trends Continue
facades continue to be in demand, manufacturers say, combining traditional
siding with stone and accents to help the home stand out and catch the eye.
despite some predictions that the Modern Farmhouse style has run its course,
the look remains popular, as homeowners desire the authenticity blended with
clean lines and a contemporary vibe.
has been in demand for the past few years, and we think that desire will only
get stronger as Americans look to their homes as a sanctuary,” Delaney said. “The
draw of tradition, of the tried-and-true, is likely to continue as homeowners
look for any sense of normalcy in these times.”
TruExterior Siding & Trim’s Craftsman Collection, offering the look of wood in seven authentic profiles such as Shiplap and Channel Bevel, is one way to deliver on that preference.
Low Maintenance a Must
The demand for low-maintenance materials is here to stay, as older and younger homeowners alike eschew the idea of painting their exterior every year. Two products to consider are TruExterior poly-ash siding and Foundry Specialty Siding, each offering a combination of durability and little upkeep.
Easy Installation in Demand
As the labor shortage continues, straightforward, speedy installation is key to maintaining schedules and ensuring long-term performance. (Try Versetta Stone stone siding, which has a panelized format that can be installed by traditional carpenters and contractors.) Building pros also are looking for a partner in their suppliers, one that can be both a single source of materials and provide value and knowledge.
Training Takes Off
With demand still high but face-to-face meetings off the table in many areas of the country, manufacturers have quickly implemented online training sessions. Boral Building Products, for example, has been hosting product knowledge workshops and live installation demonstrations. Check out some recorded classes on our YouTube channel or contact your rep to arrange a live session.
Learn more about the latest siding needs and trends by reading the full LBM Journal article here.
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.
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.
Versetta Stone offers the best of both worlds: The beautiful, timeless look of stone along with panelized installation that’s within reach of nearly any contractor or experienced DIYer.
Much like a traditional siding panel, Versetta Stone siding features an integrated nailing flange so it can simply be nailed or screwed into the wall. And unlike regular stone, there’s no need for mortar, scratch coat, or metal lath.
How easy is it to install Versetta Stone? It breaks down into the basic steps below:
Gather your tools: You’ll need a hammer or screw gun, a circular saw, hand grinder, level, chalk line and tape measure, tin snips, brush, small screwdriver, masonry chisel, and a chop saw with continuous diamond turbo blade. You’ll also want to wear safety glasses or goggles, an N-95 mask, gloves, ear plugs or muffs, steel toe boots, and a hard hat.
Estimate materials: Using provided formulas, calculate the area to be covered and how many panels are needed, along with corners, starter strips, and fasteners.
Inspect and prep the area
Mark your starting point and level lines
Install the starter strip and, where needed, J-channel
Install panels: • Install panels from the bottom to the top, one row at a time, lapping in a shingle fashion so the tongue seats completely in the groove. • Use screws with 3⁄8″ minimum head diameter and ⅛” shank with a length to penetrate the framing at least 1”.
Install universal corners
Install wainscot cap/sill and receptacle/light boxes if needed for the application. Use flashing, metal lath, and adhesive to affix receptable and light boxes.
Clean dust with water and nylon bristle brush
Be sure to follow full manufacturer instructions to install Versetta Stone. For the complete step-by-step guide, download the Versetta Stone Installation Instructions here.
Watch a Versetta Stone wall installation:
Versetta Stone comes in three profiles—Ledgestone, a traditional dry-stack look; Tight-Cut, which features the look of cut-and-fitted stone; and modern Carved Block, offering the look of split-face stone.
Ready to buy Versetta Stone? Find a retailer here. Have installation questions? Contact our customer service department here.
Stone is a sought-after material for home exteriors and interiors, thanks to a rich, eye-catching look that’s both beautiful and timeless. And Versetta Stone stone siding, with its panelized format, makes it easier than ever to add the beloved material nearly anywhere inside and outside the home.
Versetta Stone panels install easily with nails or screws—no mortar, scratch coat, or metal lath needed like traditional stone. The installation method is straightforward and approachable, so much so that experienced DIYers can create projects of their own.
Available in three profiles—Ledgestone, a traditional dry-stack look; Tight-Cut, which features the look of cut-and-fitted stone; and modern Carved Block, offering the look of split-face stone—Versetta Stone is well suited to traditional, transitional, and contemporary styles.
Here are a few easy projects to elevate your home using Versetta Stone:
• Bathroom wall: Want to make your master bath even more like a spa? Add warm stone behind the soaking tub for the cozy, rustic feel of a mountain lodge. (See more images from this bathroom here.)
• Mailbox: Wrap your mailbox post for a touch of literal curb appeal.
• Fireplace: The beauty of a stone fireplace is undeniable, but can be pricey. Versetta Stone makes it easier than ever to create that sophisticated look, whether through a simple surround or from floor to ceiling, like Northmade Farmhouse did.
• Accent wall: Nothing adds a pop to a home office, living room, or bedroom like an accent wall. Instead of the once-trendy red wall, try adding stone for a fresh take.
• Porch columns: Wrap the bottom portion of porch posts for an instant, welcoming boost. We love this look from Erdmann Exterior Designs in Illinois:
• Shed: A ho-hum storage structure can bum out your backyard. Versetta Stone panels can add contrast and interest to this seemingly simple outbuilding or bring pizazz to Cheryl’s she-shed. Oak Lane Structures in Indiana is an expert at elevating sheds with shutters, windows, and stone, as seen here:
• Kitchen backsplash: Tired of tile? Versetta Stone adds a unique twist to the kitchen backsplash. Try Ledgestone in Plum Creek for a traditional feel behind warm wood cabinets, Tight Cut in Northern Ash for a modern backdrop to an all-white kitchen, or blend whites with warm tones as this builder did:
• Freestanding bar: Basement bars can feel a bit pedestrian. Add a professional touch by wrapping the bar in Versetta Stone panels.
• Deck accents: Have an awkward wall on your deck? Turn it into stone like this Mid-Century home:
The annual Cost vs. Value Report examines which remodeling projects deliver the highest perceived return in resale value. In 2020, manufactured stone (such as Boral Building Products’ Versetta Stone), was the retrofit project with the highest ROI at the national level—95.6%, an increase from 94.9% last year. The only other project with an ROI in the 90% range was garage door replacement, coming in second at 94.5%.
The 95.6% ROI for
manufactured stone is based on replacing a 300-square-foot continuous band of
existing vinyl siding from the bottom third of the street-facing façade with
manufactured stone veneer, sills, corners, and address block, along with
outlining the entry archway and adding a keystone and a soldier course on
Manufactured stone also offered the highest ROI of all categories in five out of nine regions: Pacific (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California), with a whopping 119.5% return; Mountain (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico), with a 100.0% return; South Atlantic (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida), at 94.0%; West South Central (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana), at 91.1%; and East North Central (Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio), at 88.0%.
Exterior Facelifts Continue to Deliver
As with the 2019 report, the 2020 Cost vs. Value study found that exterior projects dominated all others, capturing nine of the top 10 spots for ROI. Following manufactured stone and garage door replacement, those projects comprised fiber cement siding replacement, vinyl siding replacement, vinyl window replacement, wood deck addition, wood window replacement, steel entry door replacement, composite deck addition, and asphalt roofing replacement. Only minor kitchen remodels ranked as high, at 77.6%.
“The reason for high returns
on exterior projects, and especially façade facelifts, stems from the
valuations set by the real estate community,” Remodeling reported. “In
order to make the best use of the Cost vs. Value tool, a remodeler
has to think like a real estate broker. ‘Curb appeal’ and ‘first impressions’
are central to a real-estate professional’s estimation of resale value.
Granted, a home’s exterior will only persuade potential buyers to see more, and
first impressions can vary from one individual to the next. But the impact
these impressions make is critical in setting the stage for what a buyer is
willing to pay for a home.”
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
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 Homebuildingcontinued its mission to #KeepCraftAlive.
• 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
• 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.
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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
The dawn of a new year—and a new decade—naturally brings out the predictions for what trends will dominate the landscape. But when it comes to color, it’s not always that simple. While some colors heat up and cool down quickly (perhaps bold hues sparked by pop culture), for the most part, shifts in color preferences happen more gradually, easing in and fading out over a number of years or even decades.
Still, it’s important to know what’s happening, so we checked in with strategist and trend forecaster Renee Labbe, Director of Foresight Strategy at Broadside Studios, to find out what we can expect in exterior color trends during the upcoming year and beyond.
Neutral hues that began trending three, five, even eight years ago are still around as early adoption has merged into mass market appeal. And “neutral” doesn’t simply mean beiges and grays, it can mean subtle colors that are quite muted. Where colors in the ’80s and ’90s were heavily saturated, today classic yellows and creams and oranges lean closer to neutrality on the color wheel. Similarly, white is still a leading house color, but it’s a softer white, a trend Labbe says we’ll see more of this year. She also expects the appeal of contrasting whites and blacks to continue.
One of the reasons for a shift toward neutrality is lifestyle: Americans have become overwhelmed by technology and social media, resulting in sensorial chaos. Neutral tones are less busy and not as distracting, allowing the eye to rest and the brain to relax.
This is also likely the driver of home style trends like the Gabled Modern. This style represents simplicity, with limited use of color, material, and ornamentation, creating a sense of peace and a contrast to the “pinnacle of success” approach that has dominated real estate in recent decades.
“Design imitates emotion,” Labbe says, noting that society is shifting as we emerge into a new decade focusing on solutions instead of division. “Neutrality is necessary as we slow down our focus. The healthy palettes start to trickle in.”
The Rise of “Healthy” Color Palettes
Indeed, the popularity of neutrals will influence increasing interest in colors derived from nature, though Labbe says it’s too soon to know how the hues within those colors are going to evolve. “I think healthy palettes are part of a bigger trend toward ‘entanglement,’” she explains, “where we see the built environment and the natural environment literally beginning to grow into each other.”
While gray has been a mainstay for a number of years, classic gray is starting to fade from favor. Instead, it’s finding its way into other colors, such as an undertone for brown that makes the rustic hue more suitable for contemporary designs without losing its warmth. Tinted grays also are becoming more important, Labbe notes, such as gray with a hint of blue or green.
Labbe says red undertones for exteriors, such as siding, roofing, brick, and pavers, have been downtrending and will continue to downtrend, in favor of undertones that create a more neutral feel. For example, a brown that had a lot of red undertone will now see a gray undertone replace it; a tan would be less warm and more muted (gray undertones).
Similarly, though classic black has been popular for progressive neighborhoods, Labbe predicts some blacks with a bit of tint, such as brown-black or bluish-black.
Above all, it’s crucial to use color correctly. A color is rarely completely “out,” but in her research Labbe often sees popular colors integrated in the wrong way. For example, combining three different grays on a contemporary house will come off stark and cold, but pairing a smooth gray stucco with wood elements can create something warm and beautiful. Gray with tan is another effective combination.
As you design your homes and develop your streetscapes, consult with a color expert who can ensure you’re selecting hues that are on trend yet timeless and are integrated in combinations and configurations that elevate, rather than detract from, your exteriors.
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.
• 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.
Stone sills can be a hassle to install—from propping them up while waiting for mortar to dry to dealing with wasteful breakage. No matter what type of stone you’re installing, Versetta Stone sills can provide a simple solution.
Like Versetta Stone stone siding, Versetta Stone sills feature a panelized format that installs easily with nails or screws—no more holding them in place with mason ties while you wait for the mortar to dry.
Simply follow these steps:
Remove the alignment tab from the bottom of the Versetta Stone sill product with a masonry chisel or hammer.
Apply a layer of mortar to the top of your installed veneer stone with a mortar tube or trowel.
Secure the Versetta Stone sill to the wall with nails or screws, ensuring the bottom of the sill is in full contact with the layer of mortar below. Lap the weather barrier over the flange.
The sills’ simplicity doesn’t mean sacrificing aesthetics. Versetta Stone offers an authentic look and feel in a range of color options—Taupe, Stone Grey, and Charcoal—to perfectly accent your choice of stone veneer. And since Versetta Stone sills come in longer 3’ lengths, there are fewer seams than traditional sills.
Versetta Stone sills measure 36” by 3.5” with a 2.6” exposure and 3” thickness.
Stone Facades Made Easy
Versetta Stone sills offer the same convenience and aesthetics as Versetta Stone stone siding. Along with panelized installation accessible to siding contractors or carpenters, the lightweight stone siding panels feature a tongue-and-groove system for perfect spacing and a built-in rainscreen. The siding carries a Class A fire rating, passes freeze/thaw testing, and is wind resistant up to 110 mph.
Along with sills, Versetta Stone accessories include light and receptacle boxes, J-channels and starter strips, and universal corners. Together, Versetta Stone accessories make it simple to create a fully finished look without extra hassles or wasted time. Every component works as a system with the stone siding panels and is made with the same premium materials and in coordinating styles, colors, and textures.
Click here for more information on Versetta Stone.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
When the Dokken family decided they needed a larger home for their growing kids, Trisha Dokken knew she was going to buck the style trends of her Minnesota locale and opt for the modern farmhouse she had craved for some time.
Dokken worked closely with her builder, Nate Moran of KLS Construction, to select the products and design elements that would achieve the look she desired. The result is a cozy-yet-fresh interplay of white shiplap, weathered woods, crisp stone, and striking blacks.
On the exterior, Dokken’s vision comes to life with white board-and-batten siding and black-framed Marvin windows. Moran introduced his client to Versetta Stone, having used the product, which installs with nails or screws like traditional panel siding, on a previous project. Dokken liked the look and chose the Ledgestone profile in the Mission Point colorway, whose white-gray tones coordinated perfectly with the siding.
Along with the posts and garage, the builder wrapped the lower half of the entire house with the stone siding; because the home backs up to a golf course, the couple felt it was important to ensure the rear aesthetic was as pleasing as the front.
Inside, Moran used the same Ledgestone to create the two-story fireplace, mirroring the exterior while breaking up the shiplap on the walls. A hand-poured concrete hearth and salvaged-wood mantel complete the look.
“The fireplace worked out really well,” Dokken says. “The craftsmanship is great; no one can tell its faux stone. It really did make the fireplace the centerpiece of the room.”
Salvaged wood and local sourcing were key components throughout the house. The interior shiplap was made with real pine by a local sawmill; in the bonus room, four handmade bunks are built into the wall with weathered oak shiplap. A local craftsman handmade the barn doors with reclaimed barn wood, and the exquisite stair rails were locally hand-welded. Dokken’s co-worker made the double vanity in the master bedroom with red pine and a white oak top; layered finishes and burnishing helped create a weathered, rustic look.
Black accents in nearly every room, from the gridded shower door to pendant and vanity lights to cabinet hardware, contrast perfectly with the white and wood that otherwise dominate the modern farmhouse décor.
Though the home is less than two years old, the design decisions lend a decidedly vintage feel. “When you come in you get the feeling you’re being taken back to a simpler, quieter time,” Dokken says.
The Versetta Stone family of stone siding panels is expanding with new Northern Ash, the line’s darkest color yet. A bold, dramatic look, Northern Ash is ideal for meeting today’s demand for dark colors and accent options for the exterior.
Versetta Stone siding panels provide the beauty and texture of authentic stone masonry without the added skill and time required for installation.
blends near-black and dark gray stones with subtle taupe and light gray
undertones, creating a visual texture and a varied aesthetic across the façade.
The new color is available with Versetta Stone’s Ledgestone and Tight-Cut
profiles; Ledgestone offers a traditional dry-stack look, while Tight-Cut
features the look of cut-and-fitted stone.
customers are requesting more options for darker accents, and Northern Ash
answers that call. The stone siding offers a bold look ideal for half walls,
columns, and nearly any other application, and works well in combination with
both light and dark hues elsewhere on the façade,” says Ben Drury, Brand
Manager for Boral Building Products. “And with Versetta Stone’s straightforward
panelized installation, it’s easy for traditional carpenters and siding
contractors to achieve this trendy look.”
mortarless panels install easily with nails or screws with no scratch coat or
metal lath needed, and they feature an integrated moisture management system; they
do not require additional footings for support. The stone siding carries a
Class A fire resistance rating, is wind resistant up to 110 mph, and passes
freeze/thaw testing. Coordinating accessories are available, including starter
strips, sills, and receptacle boxes. For more information, visit www.versettastone.com.
Danz, President of Boston Exterior Remodeling, being a contractor has always
been about the heart. From his first introductions to carpentry watching This
Old House to his star-powered turn on social media today, Danz developed a
passion at an early age that drives him not just to go to work, but to love
that work and commit to it wholeheartedly.
industry where you put as much effort in as you get out,” Danz says. “I was
really drawn to that. I still am.”
We asked the Massachusetts remodeler, who manages a crew of 35 and about four to five projects at any given time, to weigh in on what keeps him motivated—and why Instagram is a contractor’s best friend.
• On hiring well: Danz draws inspiration from his hard-working crews. “I love the guys that work for me,” he says. “It amazes me every single job how good they come out. I challenge them, and they come out with an end product that surpasses what we were originally expecting.”
• On embracing your social side: Danz has become something of a star on Instagram, telling stories, showcasing 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,” the remodeler 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.”
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.”
• On putting quality first: Since the beginning, Danz has sought to keep quality high. “I’m always afraid someone would notice poor quality. And if a homeowner doesn’t see it, a contractor will,” he says. “We never wanted to be that company that didn’t do anything one hundred percent to the best of our abilities and with the best products we could find.”
One of the ways Boston Exterior pulls this off is in the products they choose. In particular, Danz says, he seeks out engineered materials that don’t look engineered. “We need to keep the authenticity of our products high,” Danz explains. “The engineered shingle from Grayne is by far the most realistic pure composite I’ve ever worked with.”
• On letting good products guide your style: A Northeast remodeler, Boston Exterior Remodeling naturally does a lot of Victorians, Craftsmans, and Colonials. But his love of certain products has led to a distinctive style all their own. “Ultimately, we’ve done so many houses using Grayne engineered siding, Kleer trim, and Versetta Stone, it gives our houses a look,” Danz says. “You can basically drive by a home and recognize it as my company. I hear that our houses have a look to them.”
• On loving the job: One of the reasons Boston Exterior Remodeling thrives is because there’s a true love of the work—so much so they try not to label it as such. “I enjoy craftsmanship and I enjoy watching people make my designs and ideas come alive,” Danz says. “When you have four or five projects going, there’s always progress, every day is new. Being in a job like this keeps things fresh and interesting. I’m lucky to be in it.”
A home is a compilation of hundreds of decisions and thousands of products. So when it comes to the exterior, dealers that focus sales approaches on the whole cohesive package—and showing builders, remodelers, and their homeowners what those packages look like—may improve opportunities to increase upgrades, boost efficiencies, and further satisfy customers.
Here are a
few factors to consider:
Instill buyer confidence: When the exterior is sold as a
package, buyers can see what they’re getting as a whole and how it works
together, rather than a sum of individual parts. Builders can send buyers to your
store to view available products in combination, which is less overwhelming
than choosing siding, then trim, then windows. They can get a vision for what
the finished product will look like on their home and likely feel better about
their decision. This in turn may help reduce change orders down the road that
can create hassles for both you and the contractor.
Keep business in-house: Consulting with your manufacturer partners about what you sell versus what more they can provide may help fill gaps in your product offering. For example, stone has historically been a material most dealers do not offer, but Versetta Stone stone siding, which installs like traditional panel siding, offers the opportunity to keep that stone business in house. And by incorporating those products into a systems approach to selling, you can sell the builder on trying that new siding to ensure a cohesive look and to meet buyer demand for multi-textured facades.
Better-looking exteriors: Considering the full façade and thinking of the whole palette collectively may help create more varied, engaging streetscapes and avoid cookie-cutter looks. It also allows for visualization and experimentation with on-trend colors, texture blending, and materials using stocked products.
More upgrades: Similarly, if buyers can see the
possibilities of how different products blend on their home, it’s likely they
might fall in love with the look—and the upgrades used to make that look—even
if it means upping their budget.
Single source: Though portfolios can be created
across manufacturers, selling multiple lines from a single manufacturer or
brand can add economies of scale because you’re working with the same rep, the
same contacts for the PO, and a familiar process. This also means it’s easier
to expand to additional product lines, with less paperwork or hoops to jump
through at the beginning. In addition, contractors may be more willing to try
something new if it’s from a company they already know, use, and trust.
Promoting Exterior Packages The easiest way to focus selling on the whole façade instead of one-off product selection is to create packages that are easy to choose from and customize. Here are a few ways to do that:
Develop product palettes: Collaborate with your manufacturers to create product portfolios of coordinated product lines and colors that can be sold as is, with stock modifications, or with upgrades. Coordinate this process between different manufacturers, such as your siding/trim supplier and your window vendor, to ensure cohesive looks and material compatibility.
Inspire customers: Showcase those palettes and
portfolios in a way that reveals how end products will look on the home,
whether via simple binders with images, glossy lookbooks, wall vignettes, or inspiration boards. This makes
it easy for them to choose an overall look they want instead of trying to
visualize and piece together individual parts.
Leverage software: Our Virtual Remodeler tool allows homeowners to select the siding, trim, shutters, and stone, and then see how the combinations will look on their homes. Once a group of products is chosen, the dealer often can get a material list for easy ordering.
With so many moving parts, it’s easy for the product selection process to become stressful for customers, pro and consumer alike. Considering exterior packages collectively, rather than a sum of parts, can ease the process while offering direct benefits to your bottom line.
One of the hottest trends in exteriors right now is mixed-texture façades, in which stone, varying colors and textures of siding, and trim combine to create unique looks that set homes apart, highlight key features, and vary the streetscape.
With multiple brands under one portfolio, Boral Building Products makes it easy to mix and match cladding and trim to create one-of-a-kind exteriors that stand out while also standing the test of time. Even better, you can see what the home will look like before making a commitment with our new Virtual Remodeler tool. Simply upload a photo of the house, or use a similar home from our image gallery, select products and colors from Boral’s collection of brands, and get a real-time view of how the home will look. Give it a try here.
Looking for inspiration? Here are a few ways builders, remodelers, and designers are blending textures to create one-of-a-kind exterior facades:
Colors don’t have to be boldly different to make an impact. The brown-gray tones of the Foundry Split Shake siding, stone, and garage doors create layers of visual texture that unfold slowly on this home.
A small section of light-gray stone, along with the juxtaposition of horizontal and vertical TruExterior siding, give this L-shaped home a unique pop for a modern take on the popular Farmhouse look.
Combining Versetta Stone and Grayne engineered siding with a unique porch roof adds visual interest to this seemingly simple, smaller home.
Bumpout accents with TruExterior siding and stone block set this home apart from the plain stucco next door.
Foundry siding combines with rich stone and gable accents to evoke a cozy vibe.
Vertical and horizontal TruExterior siding, along with cedar-like shakes, create a visual feast across this all-white exterior.
Versetta Stone in the Ledgestone profile plays both a primary and secondary role in this exterior by Canadian Stone Interiors.
Stone is a sought-after material for exteriors, but its rich texture is also an ideal option for injecting cozy warmth into interior spaces. Case in point: Debbie Merica’s spa-like bathroom, where a Versetta Stone stone siding accent wall provides the perfect backdrop for her luxury soaking tub.
Versetta Stone siding wasn’t always in the plan. The focal point of the room is by far the ample tub designed to accommodate Merica’s 6-foot-4 husband. “Once I picked it out, I told him we had to do something awesome with the wall behind it,” she says. “Having just plain drywall there was going to look boring.”
Merica reached out to her boss at Jenkins Lumber & Hardware, owner Dave Jenkins, for ideas. He suggested using rock, and Merica quickly thought of Versetta Stone. A call with Jenkins’ distributor, Boise Cascade, confirmed that it was suitable for use in a bathroom environment. Next up: convincing her husband, who was swayed after seeing its straightforward installation in a YouTube video.
Indeed, Versetta Stone’s mortarless, panelized format makes it easier and less messy for indoor installations, including in tight spaces like a bathroom. The panels install with nails or screws and feature a tongue-and-groove profile that ensures proper spacing. The lightweight aggregate makeup helps reduce installer fatigue.
Merica chose the Ledgestone profile, which offers a traditional look of narrow, dry-stack stones; combined with the rich Plum Creek color, the stone expertly complements the bathroom’s rustic vibe alongside the knotty wide-plank wood floors, earthy-tone walls, deep red accents, and wood console table.
“It turned out amazing. All my family and friends love it,” Merica says. “We plan on using it in other areas of our house as we do more remodeling.”
Along with bathrooms, Versetta Stone makes a great accent in bedrooms, family rooms, under bars, wine cellars, and around fireplaces. Check out our Idea Gallery for inspiration.
The numbers are in: The 75th annual International Builders’ Show marked its largest draw in a decade, with more than 67,000 attendees. Combined with the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, collectively referred to as Design & Construction Week, more than 100,000 people flocked to Las Vegas Feb. 19-21. We felt the enthusiasm at the Boral booth, where a steady flow of builders, remodelers, and designers were eager to get inspired, learn about products and trends, and gather new strategies to positively impact their business.
Couldn’t make it to the show? Here is just a handful of the noteworthy trends and products.
Dark colors: The preference for dark colors has been building for the last few years, and that was clear at nearly every exterior product manufacturer’s booth, from black window frames to rich brown trim to deep blue siding panels. If you’re loving this trend, too, check out TruExterior® Siding & Trim, whose superior dimensional stability makes it an ideal choice for darker hues.
Smooth siding: Even with the push for authenticity, smooth siding was prominent in many displays. In fact, we saw many instances of contemporary panels and traditional wood grain siding used in combination.
Industry Experts Weigh In
As usual, journalists from around the industry were out in force at the Builders’ Show reporting on the latest trends and new products. A few of the highlights:
Professional Builder: The New American Home
Always a show-stopper, this year’s demonstration home boasts jaw-dropping views and an outdoor living area that rivals Sin City’s hottest rooftop bars.
New From Boral
Boral Building Products showcased our breadth of exterior products at the Builders’ Show, including several new options to spruce up your facades:
Virtual Remodeler: This online home design tool makes it easy for contractors and homeowners alike to create eye-catching exteriors. Users simply upload a photo of their home (or choose one from an online gallery) and then select from Boral’s siding, trim, and shutter lines to update the image in real time. Color Harmony palettes are available to further simplify the process. Learn more about the Virtual Remodeler here.
Versetta Stone Carved Block: We’re giving our popular stone siding a contemporary edge with this new larger-format profile that’s reminiscent of split-face stone. Carved Block features the same easy-to-install format pros love: simply nail or screw the panels to the wall—no mortar required. Choose from dark gray Midnight or creamy Sea Salt. Click here to learn more.
Kleer Lumber 10” Post Wraps: Our KLEERWrap cellular PVC post wraps, which conceal treated posts for a beautiful, finished look, are now available in a 10” version. Even with their robust size, these wraps install with just one person—simply apply adhesive to the three-sided piece, secure around the post, snap the fourth side into place, and fasten. Complete the look with accompanying cap and base moldings. See the wraps here.
Boral Building Products has launched the Virtual Remodeler, an online home design tool providing contractors and homeowners with a simple way visualize how their facade will look with different profiles, textures, and colors from the company’s comprehensive lineup of siding and trim products.
With Virtual Remodeler, launched during the 2019 International Builders’ Show, users upload a photo of an existing home or select a similar house from an online gallery. Using the program’s product interface, the user then selects from Boral’s siding, trim, and shutter lines, including Versetta Stone®, Kleer® Lumber, TruExterior® Siding & Trim, and Mid-America Siding Components®; the image updates in real time, revealing how the exterior will appear with each product and color selection. To further ease the process, the home design tool includes Color Harmony coordinating color families, each of which can be further changed and updated to suit the homeowner’s tastes and needs.
“Designing a home with fantastic curb appeal requires navigating an endless array of options, from the shape of the siding to the color of the trim to the size of the shutters. Boral’s new Virtual Remodeler tool eases the process for homeowners—and their remodelers—by helping them visualize how products will look on their house, much more than a small sample ever could,” says Becky Duffy, Director of Marketing for Boral Building Products. “Remodelers can ensure customers are happy with their home exterior before products are ordered and installed, leading to fewer surprises and greater satisfaction when the project is complete.”
Virtual Remodeler users can save multiple projects to work on later and compare. For a small fee, pros can have their image professionally mapped by Boral, which will increase the accuracy of the rendering’s appearance. And once a finished look is chosen, Virtual Remodeler will generate a product list for easy ordering through Boral dealers and distributors.
Remodelers and homeowners can once again count on exterior stone and siding to provide a solid return on investment, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value report.
An annual survey released in January, the Cost vs. Value report provides insights into which remodeling projects deliver the highest perceived return in resale value. Manufactured stone veneer, such as Boral Versetta Stone® stone siding, continues to be a safe bet, with a 94.9% recoup of investment at the national level. Though this is a small drop from last year, manufactured stone veneer ranks second-highest in ROI, after garage doors.
The 94.9% ROI for manufactured stone veneer is based on replacing a 300-square-foot continuous band of existing vinyl siding from the bottom third of the home’s front façade and replacing it with adhered manufactured stone veneer, sills, corners, and an address block, along with an entry archway with keystone and soldier course of flats on each side.
As in 2018, manufactured stone veneer offered the highest returns in the Pacific region (Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Hawaii), at 110.4%. Returns were also particularly high in the East South Central region (Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky), at 107.7%.
Manufactured stone veneer offered the highest ROI out of all categories in the East South Central, South Atlantic (91.4%), West North Central (93.5%), and West South Central (98.3%) regions.
Exterior Investments Deliver Biggest Paybacks
Siding overall finished strongly, as well, with a fifth-best return on investment at 75.6%, just shy of the 76.7% recoup in 2018. In fact, out of the 10 projects with the highest returns, nine were exterior categories, including a wood deck addition, steel entry door replacement, vinyl window replacement, a fiberglass grand entrance, wood window replacement, and a composite deck addition.
“The reason for high returns on exterior projects, and especially façade facelifts, stems from the valuations set by the real-estate community. … ‘Curb appeal’ and ‘first impressions’ are central to a real-estate professional’s estimation of resale value,” Remodeling says. “The impact these impressions make is critical in setting the stage for what a buyer is willing to pay for a home.”
What’s more, projects like kitchen and bathroom renovations tend to be more individualized, which can mean some buyers may not like the look.
The overall percentage of investment recouped across all categories on average decreased slightly year over year. The magazine attributes the decline to the sharp increase in material costs over the summer, including those driven by tariffs.
When it comes to the outside of the home, what does this year hold? A few familiar looks as well as some emerging exterior trends. Here’s what to expect:
• Outdoor living: Demand for outdoor living spaces isn’t abating. In AIA’s annual Home Design Trends survey, architects named the outdoors as the No. 1 specialty room increasing in popularity.
• Low maintenance: This one will also sound familiar—home buyers, particularly younger buyers, simply don’t want to deal with painting, staining, and cleaning their façades and decks. In fact, the AIA survey lists low maintenance as the top product feature increasing in popularity. Expect composites and other low-maintenance materials for decks to continue to grow alongside demand for easy-to-maintain siding materials like TruExterior Siding & Trim, Kleer Lumber, and Grayne engineered siding.
• Darks and lights: Move over, earth tones. Consumers are increasingly drawn to the contrast of dark-colored siding against bright white trim. Trying to achieve this look? TruExterior Siding’s dimensional stability makes it an ideal fit for the darkest of paints, while Kleer trimboard’s TruEDGE technology and UV inhibitors ensure the trim stays brilliant white for years to come.
• Black trim: When trim isn’t white, look to black and dark browns. (Try TruExterior Trim, which can be painted dark hues, including black, without concerns about expansion or warping.) Also increasingly popular—the streamlined, sophisticated look of black window frames.
• Grays (for now): Gray is still a go-to hue, but its popularity could finally be waning. Boral Senior Product Manager Trisha Wagner reports seeing more reds creeping in and believes it may be one of the colors to affect gray’s go-to status.
• Match game: The coordinated look of a matching entry door, garage door, and window trim is in.
• Blending textures: The varied streetscapes created by blending stone and siding textures across the façade continue to dominate. As in 2018, the transitions between textures are a bit more seamless than in years’ past. Versetta Stone siding makes this trend easy, with a panelized format that installs with screws or nails.
• Authenticity: Also returning for 2019 is demand for historic looks brought by siding profiles such as nickel gap, shiplap, and board and batten.
• Modern farmhouse: Like it or not, the modern farmhouse style is sticking around for at least a little longer. Some designers are tiring of the look, but it’s still going to be popular among homeowners both inside and outside the house. “White [board-and-batten] siding delivers a ‘homey look’ and can provide texture and interest to an otherwise flat façade,” the Washington Post reports.
A beautiful photo of a beautiful home can attract customers more than nearly anything else. And if you’re like most building and design pros, you have had many of your projects professionally photographed (and if not, it’s time to start). But are you just using those images in brochures, on your website, and on the walls of your conference room?
Here are a few more low-cost ways to use your projects and photos to market your company.
Write a case study: What makes your home stand out in addition to looking pretty? What challenges did you have to overcome? How did you meet the needs of the client? Write a short story about your stand-out projects that explains what makes that home—and your company—special. Here’s an example. Once it’s written, you can:
–Post the case study with images to your website and/or blog; link to it from your e-newsletter
–Send the case study to your local news media (regional lifestyle magazines, the home section of your newspaper, etc.) as well as to the national trade magazines (Remodeling, Professional Builder, Qualified Remodeler, etc.) for their consideration for coverage.
–Turn it into a video walk-through to share on your web site and social media.
Showcase your skills: When photographing your projects, don’t just take pictures of the overall home and rooms. Zero-in on the details that make it special—whether it’s a unique gable end detail, a hidden storage compartment in the kitchen, or an advanced-framed wall that will save energy costs.
–Share individual photos of those elements on social media calling attention to what’s unique.
–Share those photos/details with local and national media. Many publications not only cover full projects, but also like to highlight simple details or installation techniques. For example, NKBA magazine has a “Details” page for this exact purpose.
Share everywhere: Take advantage of every free platform at your disposal—Houzz, Instagram (posts and stories), Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest. And use each platform’s unique written space wisely: Instagram is photo-heavy, so make captions catchy and to the point. LinkedIn is geared toward for pros, so think about what that audience cares about. Pinterest is a mecca for search, so be sure to use keywords when tagging those items. Facebook’s slide shows offer a chance to show a handful of pictures with meaty captions. Adjust accordingly!
Offer advice: Installing a unique detail or using a method that consumers can learn from? Take a video as you do so to educate viewers. This showcases your work while also positioning you as a leader.
Create an infographic: Does the exterior of the home or one of its rooms have a lot of unique elements or features that set your company apart? Create an infographic pointing out those elements and how they contribute to your and your client’s vision.
Generate engagement: Got an in-progress project? Why not have your fans weigh in with their thoughts? On Facebook or through an Instagram story, post the exterior before the paint is chosen and offer a poll with two options for the paint color. Offer up two faucet choices to vote on. The more your fans interact with your social posts, the more they’ll get seen by non-followers, and polls are a great way to do that.
Assemble trends: If you have a blog or newsletter, use your own projects (or combine your projects with some you find on Houzz) to assemble trend stories for your readers. For example, “6 Ways to Incorporate Red into Your Exterior” or “Tesla’s Solar Roof Tiles: We Tried Them.”
Enter contests: All of the national trade magazines have design contests that, if you win, provide lots of great, free publicity in addition to prestige and bragging rights. Professional Builder’s Design Awards are just one example.
Create a look book: Follow the lead of fashion designers and create a look book that shows off your best work in an elegant, sophisticated way. Tie the theme of the look book back into your company’s mission statement and keywords.
Partner with your favorite manufacturer: Project photos are also one of the best ways for manufacturers to market their products and, trust us, they’re always looking for good images to use in their own publicity. Reach out to your rep about sharing your project stories and photos with their marketing department; they could be perfect for the manufacturer’s own case studies, advertising, editorial, and social media—which means free publicity and recognition for you.
Want to share your Boral projects with us for consideration in our marketing efforts? Email Becky Duffy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first thing you see when you enter the Boral Discovery Center in San Antonio, Texas, is what you can’t see—no clutter, no chaos, no extraneous noise. Because while nearly 30 people, including scientists, engineers, and support staff, work throughout the facility’s labs with numerous machines, hundreds of materials, and thousands of samples, a concentrated focus on safety and efficiency guides each step.
Assisting in those efforts is a facility-wide adherence to LEAN principles, much like you would find at some manufacturing plants.
“We are a lab with many, many projects and many samples,” notes Sarah Fortenberry, a Discovery Center research technician who also leads the facility’s LEAN programs. “So you have to manage not only the individual projects as well as the amount of materials coming in and going out. LEAN principles help us do that.”
Fortenberry notes that following LEAN guidelines also is key to maintaining a safe, healthy environment.
Here are a few of the LEAN tools the Discovery Center has implemented:
• Shadow Board: In areas with tools and equipment, storage areas are outlined and labeled, as shown in this photo. This includes everything from duct tape rolls to a hammer to extension cords. “There’s no wasted time trying to find an item,” Fortenberry notes. “It’s labeled, it’s where it should be.”•The 5 S’s:
Sort: Frequently determine what you actually use and get rid of the rest. This helps keep work areas clutter-free and safe.
Set in order: Label everything and where it goes. The most important items should be the closest.
Shine: Keep work areas clean.
Standardize: Have a standard method for tools and equipment. Everything is labeled—every tool, every shelf, every drawer. This also pertains to samples, which ensures every test is tracked and identifiable. The process of managing samples is the primary reason that LEAN is essential at the Discovery Center.
Sustain: Establish how you keep the workplace clean and a cleaning schedule.
• 3C Board: The three Cs stand for Concern, Cause, Countermeasure. In each work area, the team has a 3C board. If something is wrong in the area, it goes up on the board, what’s causing the problem, and, eventually, what is being done to fix the problem.
• Total Productive Maintenance: Broken machines lead to costly downtime, so each machine has a list of maintenance steps needed to keep it running properly.
• 5S Fridays: At the end of every Friday, the team convenes to address problems on 3C boards. “We work as a team to get to and maintain a sustaining level of production,” Fortenberry notes.
• Kaizen: Kaizen is Japanese for “continual improvement.” The team hosts kaizen events in which they visit areas of the lab and track team members’ steps to see where there is wasted movement and how those steps can be consolidated. Bringing in team members who don’t work in that area provides a fresh perspective and out-of-the-box thinking.
“It’s made us more of a team, working as a group to improve our areas,” Fortenberry says. “Through the kaizen events and 5S Fridays, we can do something in a short period of time that would take someone weeks to do alone.”
A growing diversity of innovative products is helping to fuel the latest exterior trends, according to LBM Journal’s annual In Depth feature on siding. Homeowners are clamoring for color and variety in their façades, while builders are not only trying to meet those aesthetic needs but also are seeking out easy-to-install solutions and product knowledge support.
Here’s an overview of trends and industry observations from LBM Journal’s report:
Mix and Match: A diversity of materials is contributing directly to one of today’s hottest façade trends: mixing materials. “Gone are the days when houses tended to be rather homogenous in terms of colors and textures,” magazine contributor Mike Berger writes. “In today’s siding market, it’s all about mixing and matching textures and products.”
Darker Colors: The magazine notes that darker colors are in growing demand, a trend that aligns well with TruExterior Siding, which can be painted any color, even black, thanks to its high levels of dimensional stability.
Authenticity: Buyers are craving products that offer the look of wood without the maintenance. “There’s an authenticity people want with products today,” TruExterior Siding & Trim Product Manager Aaron Sims tells the magazine. “They want it to look like wood. They want it to feel real. They want the details to be right. They want it to look very authentic to replicate a traditional Craftsman-style or Farmhouse-style home.”
Resilience: The increasing rate of natural disasters, from hurricanes to wildfires, is driving code changes in certain areas of the country. “To meet these needs, manufacturers are developing products to withstand the rigors of storm and fire,” Berger explains. The writer pointed to products like Grayne engineered siding and TruExterior Siding, which both meet California’s Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) code for fire and the Florida Building Code for wind.
Labor: The ongoing labor shortage continues to be top of mind and, according to the NAHB, is currently builders’ No. 1 concern. This is driving demand for products that are easy and straightforward to install. Versetta Stone mortarless stone veneer, the magazine notes, offers the stone look without requiring the skill of a stone mason.
Training: Dealers and distributors can no longer just stock products, the magazine says, they have to be knowledgeable about those products, how they work, and how they compare to competitors’ offerings.
To read more trends and insights into today’s siding market, view the LBM Journal article in its entirety here.
It takes less than 10 seconds for someone to form an impression about a house. One of the most important factors in that impression? Color.
And with a lifespan of 10 to 15 years or more, siding and accent color choice is important.
“When selecting colors, follow the 60-30-10 rule of decorating,” advises color expert Trisha Wagner, senior product manager at Boral Building Products. “Sixty percent of your color will be siding; then your accent, which may be the trim, will be near 30%; and, finally, 10% will go into shutters or another element such as a stone façade.”
When looking at a home, think about what you want to see first and where you want to have the biggest impression.
Here are general rules and factors to consider when choosing and combining colors:
Work With Home Style and Period
To achieve the right look and feel, it’s important to understand the limitations of a home’s style and choose colors that align with the architecture and time period.
For a home with natural-finish cedar siding, for example, a more neutral trim and shutters will help maintain a traditional Colonial style, while bolder accent colors such as green or brown will give it a Craftsman-like look.
Take Cues From Existing Design Elements
For homes with existing stone or brick or those looking to add this element, Wagner offers this tip: To highlight or make the stone stand out, pair with a paint color that incorporates minor undertones from the stone. This will help draw it out and give a more dynamic appearance. Conversely, to make the stone or brick blend in, find a siding color that is more similar in tone.
Further tie these elements into a home’s look by matching the trim to the grout color of the stone or brick.
Consider the Role of Nature and Lighting Consider how landscaping will contrast and complement the look of a home. Houses with mature landscapes and shrubs with vibrant greens and other colors will draw the eye down. Be aware of what colors you or the homeowner will plant and how that relates to the colors you’re selecting for the home.
For homes that don’t have a lot of landscaping, consider brighter siding. For those with a denser landscape, you may want to consider darker colors for more contrast.
Landscaping can also influence lighting if a home is heavily shaded by trees or natural topography. Wagner advises to look at the direction the home faces and where the sun hits at various times of day to understand how the color may change.
Consider What’s Trending
For the last five years, shades of gray have been the most popular choices for a home’s exterior. Homeowners inspired by the versatile neutral are frequently selecting varieties and combinations like green-gray, greige, and blue-gray.
Dark, rich jewel tones, such as sapphire blue, are another common selection for home exteriors. Colors in this family are typically paired with white trim, particularly on the ever-popular Craftsman-style homes.
For the indecisive homeowner or buyer, Wagner says neutral bases and black and white accents are a safe option that will stand the test of time.
Another growing trend on new construction home exteriors has been mixing textures, such as combining shake and traditional siding with brick and stone for a variegated look.
Avoid Common Mistakes The easiest way to avoid color mistakes is to consult the color wheel.
“It’s the same color wheel you played with in kindergarten,” Wagner says. “There are still complementary and contrasting colors, and that should be your ultimate guide.”
But you have a lot of flexibility, she adds, with the variety of tones available.
Before committing, get sample pieces of the siding colors being considered. Have your buyers put them up for a few days—perhaps on the weekend when they can see in the light at multiple points across the day—to see how they look.
In the end, “personal preference is the ultimate guide,” Wagner says. “A home’s color is highly personable and a definition of the homeowner’s style, so give it the time and attention it needs.”
To fully grasp how unique Boral’s customer service department is, one need only look at two numbers: a 95% call-answer rate and a 0% turnover rate.
“We take a proactive approach in our call center, and that has afforded us a very high service level,” notes Tim Barber, Boral’s director of customer service. Most call centers average around 80% of calls answered in 20 seconds or less; Boral’s average at that rate is 95%. “If you call, we pretty much answer immediately. We know that busy contractors need answers fast and that jobs can be held up if we don’t meet that need.”
But while phone calls are the primary form of communications, the omnichannel department responds just as efficiently to requests made via email, fax, EDI, and pretty much any other form of communication with a hands-on strategy Barber calls a “concierge approach.”
“We really hope to cultivate an experience that keeps customers coming back to our family of brands,” Barber says. “We want to make sure we’re ending the call having solved the customer’s problem and having used their time effectively.”
The employees’ dedication shows in the department’s high tenure rate, including 0% negative attrition (firings or voluntary company departures) for the past two years, a significant feat considering the typical rate for call centers is 30% to 40%.
The department fields as many as 800 to 1,000 calls a day, taking orders, addressing warranty concerns, providing tech support, and responding to any number of other topics. Staff numbers ramp up during busier months from April to October, and the full team is engaged with onboarding new employees.
“We’ve been fortunate to have a fabulous staff that comes to work every day with their A game,” Barber says. “We’re building our culture around customer service. Our culture is important—you can’t have success without good culture and good leadership, with people feeling like they can contribute. They come in and do the best they can for customers. We empower them and provide an atmosphere that’s supportive.”
As the housing industry continues its steady climb, the shortage of skilled labor is only intensifying. In fact, builders have indicated that cost and availability of labor is currently the No. 1 problem facing their business, according to a December NAHB/Wells Fargo survey. A Home Improvement Research Institute study found that 60% of skilled trade professionals believe there is a shortage of labor.
In January, the construction industry’s unfilled jobs reached 250,000, up from 159,000 in January 2017 and just shy of the post-recession high of 255,000 last July, according to NAHB analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The challenges can lead to scheduling problems, budget woes, and quality concerns, among other issues.
Several industry organizations are attempting to tackle the issue through new initiatives that encourage young people to consider the trades, provide scholarships for training, provide direct training, or simply promote the benefits of a career in the industry. These include:
Skilled Labor Fund. Created by Professional Builder publisher Scranton Gillette and with an operating committee that includes leaders from the NAHB and the National Kitchen & Bath Association, the non-profit is raising money to “build a foundation for a stronger workforce” via student scholarships, accredited trade schools, and training facilities.
Home Depot Skilled Trades Initiative. In early March, The Home Depot Foundation announced a $50 million grant aimed at training 20,000 people in the trades to help fill the labor gap, particularly in areas of the country devastated by natural disasters. According to USA Today, the Home Builders Institute will use the funds from Home Depot to train veterans and U.S. Army soldiers readying for civilian life.
Lowe’s Track to the Trades. In February, Lowe’s announced a workforce development initiative to support its employees wishing to pursue a skilled trade. Employees will be eligible to receive tuition funding for certification in a skilled trade, academic coaching and support, and apprenticeship placement opportunities within Lowe’s or among its contractor network.
Why I Build. Hosted by Fine Homebuilding, Why I Build showcases the voices of craftsmanship and shares stories about why those in the trades love what they do. The resulting videos are inspiring and demonstrate the pride and integrity associated with careers in construction.
#KeepCraftAlive. Another program from Fine Homebuilding, this movement is designed to spark conversation and spotlight craftspeople. The magazine encourages pros to tag their social media posts with the hashtag #KeepCraftAlive to share their passion with the world (see Instagram posts here). Sales from T-shirts will fund a sponsorship alongside SkillsUSA.
TruExterior remains committed to assisting our customers with training, as well. Our sales reps are available for a range of hands-on education opportunities, including dealer product knowledge sessions and one-on-one jobsite installation instruction. In addition, TruExterior has a fleet of mobile training units that travel the country, setting up shop at dealer yards to provide installers with hands-on experience with our products.
For many contractors, the safety of employees and site visitors takes top priority over nearly everything else. For firms looking for new ways to ensure and promote a safe work environment, one proactive process to consider is “Take 5,” a method for re-familiarizing oneself with a task.
When facing a task they haven’t performed in awhile, such as operating a piece of machinery, staff at Boral facilities are encouraged to pause to identify and control hazards before they start work:
Stop, look, walk around the task
Think about the task, have a clear plan
Identify and assess hazards that exist or may be created by the task and rate their risk levels
Control the risks and communicate
Do the task if low risk, and keep a lookout for changes
As part of this process, staff members carry or have easy access to a Take 5 notepad that takes them through a series of quick steps: a pre-task checklist that confirms they are authorized to do the task and that they fully understand the task; a hazard-identification checklist; and a review of the personal protective equipment.
On the back, the employee identifies each potential risk to the task and its controls. Using this list, they can identify whether the task requires sign off by a supervisor or a written safe operating procedure.
By compelling employees to stop and consider each task, its potential hazards, and its safe operation, the Take 5 process helps further ensure the safety of themselves and those around them. For builders and contractors looking to elevate their safety efforts, it’s one additional way to keep safety top of mind each day and ensure employees and visitors are actively engaged in ensuring the well-being of themselves and others.
As outdoor building season continues, expect to hear some familiar requests—as well as some new demands. Homeowners are increasingly discerning when it comes to their exterior facades as they seek to ramp up curb appeal while still making their home reflect their personality and lifestyle.
Here’s a look at what’s trending this year:
Design With Intention: Aaron Sims, Product Manager for Boral’s Light Building Products Division, is seeing a resurgence of architects looking at the whole picture rather than the individual home, designing a structure to fit the environment around it. The results are more timeless looks that don’t feel dated in a few years, and homes that feel well-suited to their towns and cities. “Everything seems more intentional,” Sims says. “You have to nurture that. It’s not something you can create, but you can nurture it.”
Past Is Present: Historical favorites never go out of style for a reason. Buyers are turning toward familiar, timeless profiles such as nickel gap and shiplap. Some of their popularity stems from TV shows such as Fixer Upper, but also a desire for creating a sense of place. At the same time, buyers aren’t afraid to update those looks, as seen in the subtle modernization of older restored buildings or farmhouse designs that blend industrial metallics.
Mixed Textures—With a Twist: Like last year, designers are still mixing materials, such as siding, stone, and metal. But they’re doing so in a cleaner way, Sims says. Color combinations are more monochrome, lines are straighter, texture planes are seamlessly blending together.
Clean & Crisp: From those seamless transitions to the sleek forms of shiplap, the transitional and modern trend is creeping into exterior home styles, with more rectilinear lines and forms.
Natural Versions of Popular Colors: Grays, blues, and neutrals are still common, but they’re moving to the more organic versions of themselves rather than feeling manufactured. Grays are veering toward a more beige-like warmth, blues are earthier and darker. Buyers will see this trend reflected in Versetta Stone’s new Carved Block mortarless stone veneer panels; the line’s Midnight color is warmed by dark gray and almond tones, while the Sea Salt hue features neutral, soft khakis and beiges.
Outdoor Living: Tour any model home or pick up any trade magazine and it’s clear that homeowner demand for decked-out exterior spaces is not going away. Many are clamoring for decks and patios with the same amenities they enjoy indoors, including dedicated sitting and eating areas, seamless transitions and views, and even technology. They also need to look the part, so don’t forget accessories such pergolas made with Kleer cellular PVC trim and KLEERWrap post wraps, and be sure to finish off the underside with trim and post wraps.
Low Maintenance: No surprise here: Homeowners still don’t want to spend time painting and staining their facades and decks. Foundry and Grayne siding both offer a long-lasting, low-maintenance alternative that still features the authentic look buyers crave.
Labor Crunch: The challenge of finding qualified labor continues, so products that offer easier installation can make a difference in time and cost. Foundry and Grayne offer a straightforward installation process familiar to any siding installer. Versetta Stone provides the look of stone in an easy-to-use panel profile that siding contractors can install. TruExterior Siding & Trim cuts and routs just like wood, using traditional woodworking tools, while eliminating steps such as edge sealing.
Key drivers of the growth over the next several years, the research firm reports, will be increasing new-home completions, particularly in the South and West, growth in residential re-siding activity, and an increase in light commercial projects such as retail, offices, and restaurants.
The Freedonia Group cited Boral as one of the industry’s leading players, alongside CertainTeed, James Hardie, LP, and Ply Gem.
Outdoor Living Remains Strong
In AIA’s latest Home Design Trends survey, architects indicated that demand for outdoor living is not only popular, but surging. Outdoor living was the most desired feature in the study, with 70% of architects reporting its popularity increasing minus those reporting it as decreasing. This figure was up from 58% in 2016.
By contrast, the next most popular special room was the mudroom, at 36% and declining.
Elsewhere in the survey, low maintenance products continue to be an in-demand product feature, with 63% of architects reporting an increase minus those reporting a decrease, compared to 59% the previous year. The only feature more popular was smart thermostats, at 64%. Synthetic materials were third most popular, rising from 48% to 52%.
Reflecting today’s trends, other special features in higher demand were multi-generational accessibility, first-floor master bedrooms, and wider doorways and hallways.
For remodelers and homeowners looking to maximize return on investment, manufactured stone veneer is a safe bet, according to the Remodeling 2018 Cost vs. Value report. In the annual study, materials such as Boral Versetta Stone® offered 97.1% payback on investment at the national level, second only to garage doors. Exterior facelifts overall also proved high in value.
Published in January, the Cost vs. Value report is an annual survey from Remodeling magazine that offers insights into which remodeling projects deliver the highest perceived return in resale value.
The measurement for manufactured stone veneer is based on replacing a 300-square-foot continuous band of vinyl siding from the bottom third of the front of the home and replacing it with manufactured stone veneer, sills, corners, and an address block. This year’s 97.1% perceived ROI is an increase over 2017’s report, where the material offered an 89% return.
On a regional level, manufactured stone veneer offered the highest returns, of 125.5%, in the Pacific region (Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Hawaii).
Overall, exterior projects are paying off, as well. “Except for the minor kitchen remodel, work done on the exterior of the house generated higher returns than did interior renovations,” the magazine stated.
Indeed, exterior projects made up seven of the 10 projects with the highest returns. Among those was siding replacement, which took the fifth spot with a national average of 76.7% cost recoup, up just a hair from 2017’s report.
Regionally, the Pacific again posted higher returns in the siding category, at 86.6%. ROI was also above average in the South Atlantic (82.2%) and New England (80.2%) regions.
Other highlights from the report:
Compared to previous years, upscale and large projects declined in value. “Growing concerns nationwide about affordability could be leading real estate pros to question moves that would make a house even more expensive at resale than it is now,” the magazine speculated.
Overall, average payback of the 20 common projects in 100 major markets declined, from 57.9% to 56.8%. Remodeling magazine attributes this to rising costs across all 20 projects versus values increasing in just two-thirds of the projects. The magazine expects that trend to continue this year, with high demand from hurricane and fire recovery keeping prices higher.
As indicated in the two siding categories above, tech regions in the West, where inventory is low and housing prices have skyrocketed faster than national averages, are reporting higher returns than most others. “Real estate professionals in Silicon Valley rated 17 of our 20 projects as likely to generate more in resale value than project cost if the home where the work occurred was sold within a year,” Remodeling said. “The same was true for 12 projects in San Francisco and the North Bay market of Santa Rosa and for six projects in Seattle.”