The healthy housing market is giving builders, architects and manufacturers plenty of work to do, and plenty to talk about. The boom in business is creating opportunities for homeowners and builders alike to experiment with materials and design, especially on the exterior of their homes.
The siding market’s response to the recent boom has been focused largely on design, including the popularity of materials that replicate cedar or that showcase bold, traditional colors. The siding industry — a market dominated by vinyl — is giving homeowners rebelling against cookie-cutter lap siding, such options as fiber cement, manufactured stone and any combination of available siding materials.
Homeowners might feel backed into a corner by vinyl siding’s seemingly intimidating hold on the market, and its low cost. But in the midst of a housing boom that is allowing homeowners to invest in higher-quality materials for the exterior of their home, homeowners are looking beyond the suburban phenomenon that is vinyl siding.
“People are continuing to upgrade but not spending as much as they used to,” says Ben Skoog, brand manager for Louisiana-Pacific engineered siding. “The whole industry’s becoming more efficient and driving down the cost of homes.”
More efficient and affordable home-building processes are providing more options to home-owners, who are hungry for the opportunity to invest in differentiating their home from their neighbor’s. One option many homeowners are pursuing is the mixing of siding materials or including unique architectural elements such as trim and accents.
“People don’t want flat-box details anymore … because new materials (like fiber cement and engineered materials) are on board with trim and accent panels. It allows builders not to build ‘boxes,’” Skoog says.
Certain cities and metropolitan areas such as Atlanta and Chicago have restricted the use of vinyl and stucco siding, Skoog adds, in the interest of “getting away from bland, boxy-type homes.”
Architectural details are adding differentiation and variation in siding design by including different types of materials, says Brent Spann, director of marketing, Eldorado Stone.
“I think a few years ago you might have seen stone being used for accents, but now you’re seeing it embraced as a true architectural element of the home, whether it’s a grand entrance or maybe an entire home,” Spann says.
Some homeowners are rebelling against cookie-cutter siding options, while also improving their curb appeal, by mixing the types of siding used on the home. “In the front (of the home) you’ll see stone or brick accent panels. On the sides, it’s a different story,” Skoog says. He says many homeowners are choosing cost-effective siding for three sides of the house, and upgrading the material and design on the front of the house. Design-wise, though, Skoog says the type of siding a homeowner considers more high-end often depends on the region’s preferences.
“Down in Texas, you’ll see brick fronts with three sides of lap, but in a place like Kansas, you’ll see lap fronts with three sides in brick,” Skoog says. Skoog adds that often a homeowner’s perception of high-quality siding is determined by their limited knowledge of different categories of siding, such as brick, stone or lap. Homeowners are relying on their builders to choose quality brands and materials that will give them the look they want without the maintenance.
“Consumers are fickle. They can’t tell you exactly what they want, but they’ll tell you when they see it,” he says. Regardless of the design trends, Skoog adds, the traditional look for homes is something homeowners consistently favor when choosing siding.
“The actual innovation in siding is a company’s ability to mimic that traditional look so well. If you could replicate real wood or stone, for example, without the cost and maintenance, it tends to be by those companies that win,” Skoog says.