Estate also comes in four profiles: double 4 inch, double 4 1/2 inch designer, double 5 inch designer and colonial beaded.
“Royal is known for being an innovator,” he added, pointing to its Celect cellular PVC-based siding. “But in our traditional lines we hadn't done as much work so we made this decision. It's still really a large portion of what we're doing and we needed to take it to the next level.”
Traditional vinyl siding is still a big part of what many building product manufacturers do. The extruded profile was the predominant exterior wall material on 30 percent of the 620,000 houses constructed in 2014. Of those new homes, 77 percent built in the Northeast were clad in vinyl and 60 percent in the Midwest.
For other exterior wall materials, brick and stucco each were used on 23 percent of homes, fiber cement on 18 percent and wood on 5 percent.
Compared to the previous year, vinyl and stucco are down 1 percent each, brick and fiber cement are up 2 percent each, and wood as a home cladding didn't change.
A look back at census figures show vinyl's market share rising steadily to a peak of 40 percent in 2002, losing ground through 2007 and then rebounding a bit through 2010. Since then, it has dropped a percentage point or two every year to 30 percent in 2014. Still, it remains the clear leader.
Of vinyl's competitors, fiber cement siding maker James Hardie is the most aggressive with its long-term, 35-90 growth strategy. The Ireland-based company wants to see fiber cement make up 35 percent of the cladding used on U.S. houses and for James Hardie to maintain 90 percent of that market.
However, vinyl siding manufacturers and advocates plan to keep giving end users reasons to stick with their products.
“We think everyone should choose vinyl over fiber cement so it's always in our mind to make sure our product is competitive,” Johnson said. “We feel like we have a good thing.”
So do the makers of Vytec siding, a brand of Cie. de Saint-Gobain that is manufactured by its subsidiary, CertainTeed Corp. of Valley Forge, Pa., which ranks No. 6. Vytec added profiles, colors and an embossing pattern to give building professionals and homeowners more options to customize projects. The brand came out with five more colors in 2015 for its vinyl siding and accessories and three new profiles: board and batten, semi-beaded panel and a beaded porch panel.
The updates round out the product line and support it with “a modern and consistent color palette” of white, Maplewood, natural sand, rustic clay and musket brown, according to Vytec Marketing Manager Robert Clark.
Vytec also introduced a low-gloss wood grain embossing pattern for its premium Proside line.
CertainTeed also added three colors to its line of Encore vinyl siding, which brings its palate to 16.
To choose the wood grain finish for Estate, Royal did a perception study that sought trade and consumer feedback.
“We asked: Which do you prefer, not which looks more realistic,” Johnson said. “We know it will be well received.”
Royal “spent a substantial amount” of money to create new tools for the new look and conduct internal tests and trial runs before putting $750,000 into marketing, namely with magazine ads that will run through the year.
“Neither us nor the competition did national print ads,” Johnson said. “With this innovation, we needed to promote it. Having someone talk about traditional vinyl siding rather than just their very high-end alternative products is a good thing for the industry and hopefully it's good for Royal especially. That's obviously our goal.”
He expects Estate to play well with remodelers but he said it is finding a home in new construction, too.
Vinyl siding continues to be the most popular choice in cladding because “homeowners want beauty and durability and they don't want the burden of never-ending upkeep,” Vinyl Siding Institute President Kate Offringa in a news release.
Those benefits are being echoed by the Vinyl Council of Canada, which has a new online campaign called “Vinyl is Beautiful” featuring Scott McGillivray, the host of the home renovation show, Income Property, who talks about vinyl as a practical, innovative and beautiful material.
A lot is at stake. In June, building permits issued for new homes increased 11.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.275 million, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. That's the highest since August 2007 but still below the peak of 2.27 million homes in 2006.