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Evolving exterior design

Throughout the past several years, customers have been demanding increased energy efficiency and darker, bolder colors from their exterior siding products, according to Kirk Aikey, CGR, CAPS, CGP, owner of Aikey’s Home Improvements in Midlothian, Va. “In my area, I’ve seen an increase in interest in insulated vinyl siding, as well as longer-length products,” he says. “I’m also seeing the trend to darker colors, which several manufacturers are responding to.”

Design and installation

Aikey notes that although many customers are choosing  white trim, the majority are going with premium darker colors, including heavier, natural-looking wood grains. Because he lives in an area heavily populated with colonial design, Aikey sees a demand for more authentic-looking mouldings and other exterior accessories. “Here, customers want their exteriors to look more like the originals,” he notes.

Proper installation  also affects the look and quality of trim and siding products. “Most manufacturers make some ‘second generation’ accessories that upgrade the look,” Aikey says. “The quality of a product’s appearance usually comes down to the installation and the custom-made aluminum/vinyl-coated aluminum trim. Contractors who cut corners by not using factory-made products whenever possible are downgrading a home’s  look. I still see siding jobs with double J-Channel instead of inside corners. Or, they’re not spending money on colored J-Channel and are using white J along roof lines and porches/decks. It stands out like a sore thumb.

“I appreciate great products,” he continues. “However, the best products can look horrible with poor installation. Customers are looking for innovation in the materials, but need  education as to what constitutes a good installation. If the trend is not toward both better products and better installations, it should be.”

Sustainability and maintenance matter

Seven or eight years ago, Aikey found the energy savings provided by insulated vinyl siding to be a tough sell. Today, however, it’s a much easier sale. “Insulated vinyl siding is our biggest exterior seller,” he says. “Once people are educated about it, they like the feel, the rigidity and energy savings of the product. They like that its green properties improve a home’s efficiency and put ‘green’ back in their pockets.” 
Customers also express interest in low-maintenance products. “People are tired of rot and repair issues. They want a permanent solution to the problem instead of repair and paint. By the time you have a home professionally painted two to three times, you’ve paid for a siding job, and that paint provides no resale value,” says Aikey. “I always show them the latest statistics on their return on investment.” Often, Aikey has found, it’s more cost efficient to replace siding because of the cost of paint jobs and the return on investment new siding results in. 

The siding sell

Aikey has developed a plan of attack for discovering what his customers’ needs and wants are, and how best to deliver.

  • First, I have them fill out our siding survey to assess their needs. The siding survey helps us zero in on what is important to them when choosing the product, as well as anything else about the job that is important to them.
  • Although it has nothing to do with design, I bring up my status as a VSI-Certified (Vinyl Siding Institute) installer because so few of my competitors are certified.
  • I use a pitch book with plenty of pictures. I discuss my recommendation to remove the old siding and show pictures of what we can find underneath, such as carpenter ant and termite damage, structural rot or flashing issues. All of these are easy to fix when the old siding is removed. I also explain they get a better-looking siding job by removing the old siding. It’s easier to sell insulated siding if the cost of the old siding removal is justified by fixing problems. The pitch book also covers VSI installation procedures.
  • I lay out several siding samples that meet the needs uncovered in the siding survey. When shown the differences, many choose the most expensive siding we carry. I think this step is why we sell so much insulated siding and factory-made crown, hidden vent soffit, and similar products.