Two words made vinyl siding manufacturers groan at the International Builders' Show in Orlando: fiber cement.
According to analysts at Cleveland-based Freedonia Group Inc., fiber-cement producers almost have accomplished their mission to conquer wood siding, and now they are going after vinyl.
Despite a drop in single-family housing completions, demand for all kinds of siding in the United States is projected to advance 1.4 percent per year to 111 million squares in 2008, according to Freedonia. Fiber-cement siding is expected to post stronger gains through 2008, advancing 6.4 percent per year to nearly 14 million squares. Vinyl siding is expected to grow only 0.4 percent per year to 40.1 million squares.
Vinyl siding producers are fighting back with features like new colors, heavier grades, realistic embossments and insulated panels. With insulated backing, producers can make wider panels, and the backing offers better impact resistance.
Alcoa Home Exteriors Inc. of Pittsburgh launched DreamColor, with a custom program that offers a baseline palette of 700 colors. With the technology, Alcoa even can match weathered siding.
President Gary Acinapura said some communities have banned vinyl siding because people assume there are only three or four colors, and that has given fiber cement an advantage.
``We view this as an opportunity for, from a plastics perspective, to come out with virtually unlimited colors, unlimited design flexibility for the homeowner or the homebuilder, with products that are maintenance-free,'' he said. ``There's a segment of the market that was really undeveloped because there wasn't an alternative. You're stuck with a palette of 20 or 30 colors. You're limited to what the outside of your home is going to look like. Now, we've changed all that.''
Resource Materials Corp. of Fremont, Ohio, introduced four new colors in its Legacy series.
``The market has asked for this for a long time,'' said Deborah Meek, RMC's operations manager. ``We made the investment to go to a 100 percent acrylic capstock.''
The firm has installed two new extrusion lines in the past 18 months at its Fremont plant, and increased capacity on one other line, with more of those types of upgrades scheduled, Meek said.
Royal Group Technologies Ltd. of Woodbridge, Ontario, showed its DuraPlank reinforced siding with ribbed foam backing. Its Dura Clip fastening system is a patented steel clip designed to facilitate the installation of long panels and allows vinyl panels to expand and contract naturally, officials said. The product also protects siding against warping and buckling by eliminating the possibility of nailing siding too tight to the wall.
Crane Performance Siding of Columbus, Ohio, offered a new twist on its foam-backed feature. Its new SmartTrack technology incorporates diagonal, grooved designs into the foam backing to guide any excess moisture away via release holes at the panel's base.
Beyond vinyl extruders, other plastics-based-siding producers are getting aggressive, duplicating wood and touting the benefits of maintenance-free polymers.
Nailite International Inc. of Miami offers siding products that it said consumers can't tell apart from real wood. Officials from the injection molder said material alone will cost consumers 50-100 percent more if they select real cedar vs. Nailite's polypropylene shake duplicates. The firm introduced its adjustable M corner, engineered to install faster and fit better.
Nailite's 100,000-square-foot site in Miami has Krauss-Maffei and Demag machines with 800-1,800 tons of clamping force.