Rock Solid

As homeowners look for ways to distinguish their homes and increase value, fiber cement siding and manufactured stone products are gaining popularity. Pushing this trend is a focus on greener materials and materials that require less maintenance as homeowners become more concerned with the style and design of their home.

Green remodeling continues to be an important trend. Consumers are looking for products that are friendly to the environment and help sustain resources. CertainTeed Corp. has made a push in this direction introducing its fiber cement siding with a new patented process for the WeatherBoard and ColorMax products. For both of the products, the core of the material was recently reformulated to contain over 30 percent of recycled material.

The Web and home improvement television shows continue to have a huge influence on consumers. Today’s average consumer spends time researching their purchase before they speak to a contractor and may know more about the specific products and brands than the contractor because they’ve invested in learning about them.

With more demands on time, consumers don’t want to spend their valuable family time dealing with home maintenance.

What’s changed is that they want maintenance freedom, but they don’t want to sacrifice good looks. Many companies are meeting these demands.

Crane Performance Siding has spent lots of time researching consumer opinions and has clearly found that homeowners want to be bolder with their choices for the exterior of the home.

“They want the outside of their home to express their personality, but they want to make sure they make sound attractive choices,” says Mark Axelrod, director of marketing for Crane Performance Siding. “It used to be that only homeowners who owned the most expensive homes, $500,000 and up, expected their decisions to be influenced by an exterior designer or architect. Today consumers are seeing that the impact of proper style and design can even be more dramatic on average sized or even small homes.”

Crane also observed that in the past, homeowners went with one style of cladding in an earth tone color to be safe and not have their house stand out for the wrong reason. Today, they are looking for contrast in color, lines and textures. They are using several complementing products on their homes’ exteriors to provide more character and dimension — mixing stone, clapboard and cedar shake and complementing bold dark colors like blues, greens and browns with softer earth tones for homes that are distinct and attractive.

“The amount of stone used on the exterior of a home has increased over the last few years,” says Brent Spann, vice president of marketing for Eldorado Stone. “This is being driven predominantly by the contractor looking to differentiate his home designs from others. By using manufactured stone in a grander scale, the curb appeal is increased tremendously.”

Fiber Cement

“One of the things that we know in regard to fiber cement is that it’s growing and taking sheer from the other cladding materials,” says Lisa Santerian, marketing manager for CertainTeed’s fiber cement division. “The fiber cement market is growing and projections through 2012 are looking good. It’s taking away market share from many other materials.”

With companies like James Hardie and Nichiha focusing on the fiber cement siding, innovation is leading the way to taking a piece of the vinyl siding market. For CertainTeed’s fiber cement division has even seen pockets in the United States, like the Atlanta area, where fiber cement is the product of choice for residing.

CertainTeed’s two product lines give remodelers some options for fiber cement. The WeatherBoard line is primarily its primed product, but does offer them in six prestained colors. It also recently launched ColorMax which is a line of prefinished fiber cement with 16 colors to choose from. For the homeowner, they should be made aware that fiber cement siding is almost a completely maintenance-free product that is extremely durable and resists any rotting or bug infestations.

“From a remodeler’s standpoint, if they haven’t installed fiber cement before, they just need to know that the installation is a little bit different and they’ll have to take time to get used to it,” explains Santerian. “We have directions online or available from their distributor, that they really need to take a moment and read and understand because there are some nuances about installing fiber cement.”

Santerian indicated that if someone is used to putting up vinyl siding, the first house that they install fiber cement on is going to go more slowly because the product is heavier and it’s just a different animal from vinyl. Once the learning curve is over and a remodeler understands fiber cement siding and how to handle it, it becomes as simple as just nailing it up.

Because of fiber cement’s maintenance-free qualities and with warrantees usually around 50 years, the only thing homeowners might have to think about is painting their siding, every 12 to 15 years. As compared to a wood product, especially cedar, fiber cement’s price range is about half of the cost.

Natural-Looking Stone

One of the fastest growing and strongest markets is manufactured stone veneer. Owens Corning Cultured Stone has enjoyed in the last 15 years, and particularly the last five years, a growth rate that has been in the double digits and seems to be continuing on that pattern. Overall these products come with 50-year warrantees and come in at about half the cost of natural stone.

“I think we’re still in the infancy stage,” says Heath. “I think a lot of that is because we’ve been responsive to design textures and shapes and particularly color. We created our market by replicating colors quarries were running out of. In the last five or six years, we’ve started creating designer products in response to the building community needing materials that will go with certain type sof architecture and color palette. You won’t find our top three most popular colors in a quarry.”

A study released by Owens Corning revealed that respondents were as much as 50 percent more likely to consider purchasing a new home featuring a Cultured Stone veneer exterior and judged a home with an entryway enhanced with stone veneer to be $9,300 more valuable than the same home without the enhancement. The added value was double the average cost of such an enhancement and equated to a 3 percent increase in the perceived value of the home.

“Remodelers should remember there is a wide variety of profiles, color blends and accessories to select from, so they are not limited by just a few options,” says Spann. “Walls and surfaces need to be properly prepared before installing the stone. There is a helpful installation video available on our Web site should they require assistance. It’s also a good idea to consult with a professional mason to have the stone installed properly.”

Not all stones are preferred in all areas however. Owens Corning has some stones that are very popular right across the country, but then it has some products that become regionalized. For example, the Midwest preferences will be much different from Southern California or Florida. Oftentimes people will select a stone that is similar to what they’re used to seeing in their own area or take that look with them as they move to a different region of the United States.

“There is some wall preparation required before installing Eldorado stone or brick,” says Spann. “However, the process is pretty straightforward and masons who regularly work with Eldorado Stone tell us that because it is lighter weight and has a flat back surface, they are able to install a manufactured stone twice as fast as they would natural stone.”

Crane Performance Siding has found a way to simplify installation with its BellaStone product. BellaStone offers the hard chiseled look of real quarried stone, but installs in sections rather than one stone at a time. At only 20 percent the weight of manufactured stone, it is easy to handle and can be installed without any concern for structural reinforcement.

Building Together

“One of the trends that is popular is the use of masonry materials and natural looking type materials in conjunction with other materials,” says Heath. “Often our product gets used in remodeling projects as a major design element; in other words, someone designs stone as a major element on the exterior of the home or the use of stone and brick as kind of an accent material to add some curb appeal and to add some contrast to the exterior.”

This use of mixed materials is being used in several ways. By first covering the home in a lap siding, areas of the home are then highlighted with a stone or brick product for a home entry, wainscoting or even columns. Spann adds there is a growing interest in using brick and stone combined. Designers and architects are focusing on recreating authentic looking styles in their projects and the blended use of brick and stone is an ageless, Old-World style that continues to be in high demand.

“We’re seeing more use of a combination of materials like fiber cement and Cultured Stone,” says Santerian. “There’s a move toward more combination of materials, to make it more stylistic with more color choice. People want to pick a color for their house and because of that there is more involvement with the homeowner’s decision on color.”

In areas where stucco is used a lot like Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico, there might be 1,000 color options for the stucco, but if used all over, it doesn’t take long before the home can start to look boring. Manufactured stone gets use in this area where people want to differentiate that exterior somewhat and add some curb appeal. It might be on some columns on the front of the home or maybe some wainscoting or trim around the windows, or the entryway. It’s this mixing and matching that has really pushed for manufactured stone companies to be compatible with other sorts of materials.

“I think a good balance in the amount of stone that a contractor chooses to use is important,” explains Heath. “There can be situations where the use of stone can be overdone. The tasteful use of the right amount of product in the right locations is important. We have a lot of design tools that can help a remodeler to determine stones including literature, our Web site and a software program called StoneCAD. There are a lot of ideas and photos and information about the proper use of stone and how to select it.”

The Push Forward

“Wider acceptance of manufactured products is apparent as consumers learn more about the benefits of working with a manufactured product and the cost savings they experience while still achieving the unsurpassed textural beauty of stone,” says Spann.

Companies are always looking at what the next texture and color should be, and are doing a lot of research to be ahead of the curve to make sure they’re introducing new products and providing things that people are asking for. Darker colors in certain areas of the country are beginning their push so products are in the cooking pot for companies to launch early next year.

“We are always listening to the market and following the long-term trends,” says Axelrod. “We can’t change trends, but by truly listening to all aspects of the market, we can absolutely meet them.”