Home builders and remodelers have an ever-growing array of synthetic accents to dress up residences as manufacturers take exterior trim from the basic function of covering the transition between siding, doors and windows to new levels.
When paired with decorative mouldings, these accessories offer abodes everything from a subtle contrast with a white notched bead board porch ceiling to the dramatic flair of a wrap that turns a post into a stately column.
Exterior trim and mouldings extruded from low-maintenance, looks-like-wood cellular PVC is all the rage right now and reinforcing the mantra: The curb appeal is in the details.
The bottom line for manufacturers is, too.
Ply Gem Industries Inc. started focusing on the cellular PVC trim category in 2014 to compete against Azek, CertainTeed, Royal Building Products and others. More than 1 billion linear feet of exterior trim and fascia board is installed every year in the United States, according to 2013 Builder and Consumer Practice Reports kept by the Home Innovation Research Labs.
Based in Cary, N.C., Ply Gem is the No. 4 ranked pipe, profile and tubing extruder, according to Plastics News' ranking of North American companies with estimated PPT sales of $900 million. The company posted net sales of $1.5 billion for 2014 and a gross profit of $307.8 million with a net loss of $31.2 million following the $130 million acquisition of Simonton Windows.
The Simonton acquisition included SimEx, a vinyl and PVC foam extrusion operation in West Virginia that is allowing Ply Gem to grow its trim and moulding line, add to existing production capacity, and cut lead times for the east coast.
Cellular PVC trims and mouldings add style and value to a house, Jerry Blais, Ply Gem's senior vice president of marketing, told Plastics News.
“Cellular PVC trim is really important when you design a home,” he said. “You can have great siding but the trim package makes all the difference in the world.”
Ply Gem's PVC trim sales were up $3 million in the first three months of 2015 compared to the prior year period when “the product introduction was still in the early stages,” according to the quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for the period ending April 4. Higher prices this year also contributed to increased net sales of about $5.9 million, the report says.
That's a fraction of the growing market estimated to be worth $300 million to $400 million by Steve Booz, vice president of product management for Royal Building Products, which is owned by Royal Group Inc. He said the market research firm Principia Partners concurs.
“It's a good size market but wood is still by far dominant,” Booz said in a telephone interview.
Most PVC trim, probably two-thirds of the volume, is sold in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, where people have been more accepting of non-wood products going back to aluminum siding.
“It's really a progression of alternative products to wood that have a low-maintenance feature,” Booz said. “The climate demands it. The people demand it because they don't want to be outside doing maintenance.”
PVC trim sales are picking up though in the Southeast, Midwest and West, he added.
“It's part geographic expansion and part the continuation of changing out wood,” Booz said. “Those two factors together have given the industry a little more attention and some nice lift.”
Based in Woodbridge, Ontario, Royal is ranked No. 5 with sales of $878.6 million. Some of its newer products include a conceal trim system to replicate the look of wood while being functional as an interface with siding as well as 6-inch corners for large homes.
“We expect good things from it but there's still a place for 3.5-inch corners where you have Cape Cod or a smaller New England type house,” Booz said.
Azek Building Products has led the conversion of wood trim to cellular PVC and has been the leading brand of trim since 2001, Azek Product Manager Ben Bainter said in an email.
Owned by Scranton, Pa.-based CPG International LLC, No. 14, Azek has dozens of trim profiles with the latest in the lineup called Ready Rake and Quick-Corner.
Azek added mouldings in 2007 and now has 29 profiles, including an 8-inch crown that makes a grand statement at the intersection of walls and ceilings and a crosshead pediment to use above entranceways and garage doors for an ornate crown and drip edge.
“In some areas, like New England, the character of the home can be influenced by the trim and the mouldings,” Bainter said.
Fit and trim
In March, CertainTeed Corp., which is the No. 6 PPT extruder, expanded its INhanced trim line with a new cellular PVC fascia trim board — the horizontal piece that covers the space between the roof and soffit and often is used to attach gutters and drains.
The Valley Forge, Pa.-based company, which is owned by Cie. de Saint-Gobain, says the trim board has recycled content, is UV-resistant, and cuts with traditional wood-working tools.
CertainTeed also says the trim is the first and only cellular PVC exterior trim to be covered by an independent life cycle analysis (LCA).
The fascia trim board is a natural extension of the product line that has been a hit with builders, according to Doug Mucher, marketing manager for CertainTeed Outdoor Living and Trim.
Cellular PVC building products install like wood with standard tools. They can be cut to fit and require little maintenance, including paint.
“Real wood absorbs water which is obviously a challenge to hold paint. This will not absorb water,” Blais said.
Moisture resistance and durability are a couple of the biggest benefits of cellular PVC trim and mouldings. Homeowners are usually an easier sell than builders and contractors but officials at Versatex Building Products LLC in Aliquippa, Pa., are out to change that. The privately held company is increasing its sales force with 12-18 more representatives to educate professionals about the material and to convert more users.
Versatex also is building an addition onto its manufacturing plant to double output and it plans to hire 12-20 more factory workers in the next year as demand surges with the housing recovery and the desire for easier home maintenance.