Although architectural elements and details aren’t necessary for the structural needs of a home, these details often are what add character to a project and differentiate it from others. Mouldings, column wraps, trim and other details often are the deciding elements that transform a house from a forgettable cookie-cutter structure to a memorable one.
Elements and Material
John Seifert, third-generation owner of Seifert Construction, Mattituck, N.Y., does hands-on work with architectural elements and has seen them evolve throughout the years. Seifert works on new construction and remodeling projects. “I’ll build a 12,000-square-foot home from scratch on 10 acres beside the water or work on a home that’s over 100 years old and is getting renovated and an addition,” he says.
Seifert works in a coastal environment in New York state where there are a lot of older houses on the water. “We’ll get 30 inches of snow in the winter and have some horrible nor’easters,” Seifert says. “During the summer months, I think it’s the most beautiful place in the world but there are a few months during the winter where you’re like ‘Oh my gosh, hold on.’” Seifert found wood has a longevity problem. He got call backs within two years of installing wood elements with complaints it was rotting or not holding up. “We had to start using a substitute material and that’s where PVC came into place. They were starting to make it so it didn’t look chintzy and fake. The tradition of wood was not holding up,” he says.
“Up until a few years ago, PVC didn’t make a strong push in the market because it was considered ‘cheap-looking,’” he says. “With the homes we were working on, the owners didn’t want to go with a material that had the stigma of being cheap.”
PVC manufacturers heard demand in the marketplace for high-end looking products and started making historical mouldings and duplicating other elements that belong on a Victorian-style or a Dutch colonial home, which makes it easy to match the old and new while keeping continuity. “We could use PVC trim on these older buildings and people can’t even tell it’s [not wood],” Seifert says. “It’s not a problem to make the old and new flow well together.” Seifert’s facility also has equipment to take plain PVC material and form it to duplicate a moulding that was made 100 years ago.
Seifert, who is on the front line of building, noticed PVC’s potential before the architects did. “A lot of times I inform the architect there’s a substitute material that will withstand the test of time,” Seifert says. “Being the builder, I have a lot of input as to what materials hold up best and work in certain applications. I almost did a little bit of educating them. Once the architects started coming around to PVC, you start seeing it on their specs for the next home.
“The market is changing very rapidly,” Seifert says. “Especially with the Internet, my clients are very well informed. Sometimes they even ask things I need to research myself. It’s an ever-changing environment.”
Details Make the Difference
Steve Roth, an independent construction professional in Toledo, Ohio, buys homes, remodels them and rents them out. “I usually take the worst-looking home on the street and turn it into the best-looking home,” he says. One way he does that is by concentrating on the details.
“If you want to separate and market yourself and be different than the rest of the builders, show clients the details,” Roth says. “Quality is almost a given anymore. Everyone expects quality. But if you can give them little details they can relate to—they don’t have to be huge—that’s where a builder can separate himself. That little cliché “the devil is in the details;” I agree with that. The whole market is so competitive unless you have something different to offer.”