Las Vegas — Stone veneer has been the leading option for homeowners who want the look of a stately residence but can't afford the real thing — and a mason — as well as those who want to mix materials for curb appeal.
Say, maybe some concrete-molded river rock at the base of a modest vinyl-sided house.
However, a third choice — injection molded polypropylene stone panels — has emerged to the point it is essentially opening up a new product category in North America, according to Ralph Bruno, president of sales for Quebec City-based Novik Inc.
Called NovikStone, the most popular style of the plastic building product is the dry stack stone, which was rolled out in Canada four years ago and is migrating south of the border with a branding effort to capitalize on the traction of masonry and stone.
Novik brought its PP panel line to the International Builders Show in Las Vegas from Jan 19-21 and also teased to a new product. The company says the plastic panels are durable — resisting winds up to 110 mph — lightweight and can be put up by one person thanks to a fast-fit, locking system that makes installation and alignment effortless.
“Stone veneer opened up the stone look to more people,” Bruno said. “What we will do with NovikStone is really give it a mainstream appeal. We will make it an attainable luxury for every homeowner because we install at a fraction of the price of stone veneer.”
Bruno said he has been involved with the launch of a couple of polymer-based building product categories in his 30-some year career.
“I was part of the team that launched Trex in the ‘90s and I was part of the ownership group that launched Azek cellular PVC trim,” he said. “I do have a little bit of experience when I see a category change taking place.”
A lot of the plastic materials on the market that that mimic stone and masonry are made of polyurethane, Novik said, adding they are more suitable for indoor use.
“If you think about the knee wall around a house, what hits that? Baseballs, weed whackers. We're resistant to all that from an impact standpoint. And another key feature, because we're totally impervious to moisture, is that you can bury it in the ground.”
In addition to the design trend of masonry and stone accents rippling from upscale and fashion-forward neighborhoods, Bruno sees a big macroeconomic factor at play. That's the rebound in the new home construction market.
“That's very good for us considering our value proposition,” Bruno said. “We're about a 50-50 mix of new construction and R&R. I see our new construction picking up as builders look for faster and better ways to put stone products on houses — and that segment is growing pretty rapidly for us right now."
Bruno described 2015 NovikStone sales as fantastic — “up high double digits” — with continued growth expected in 2016.
“We will outperform the market in general because we are at the beginning of our growth cycle,” Bruno said.
Novik partnered with the research firm Principia to get a handle on how big the market is.
“Our best estimates right now based on the research is that stone veneers or masonry veneers in the United States is over $440 million a year and growing,” Bruno said. “When we put the U.S. and Canada together it's over $500 million. We know we can play very well in that space and that's one of the reasons we're seeing growth so quickly.”
The company's dry stack stone and hand-cut stone are the best sellers in the NovikStone line followed by fieldstone and river rock. Novik's product offering will grow again in the second quarter with Mosaik. Novik had prototypes at IBS to give a glimpse of what is in the pipeline.
“That's also injection molded polypropylene but we developed a new technology for surface treatment to give it more of a multi-color effect than we presently have,” Bruno said. “The feedback we've gotten from the market is they want individual stones to stick out. They want variations in color like there are in nature with some stones rich and others light. The coloring takes Mosaik to that next level toward realism.”
NovikStone is manufactured in Quebec City along with other injection molded PP products that mimic brick, wood, cedar and slate for siding and roofs. The products are sold at lumber yards and wherever masonry, trim and siding are stocked as well as the website fauxpanels.com.
“In general, square foot per square foot we're less expensive than stone veneer but when you add in the install aspect of it, it just exacerbates the differential because we're so quick and easy,” Bruno said. ‘Stone veneer is still heavier and more difficult to cut. For those who want a stone look, we definitely present the best value of mainstream options.”
The price appeals to custom, high-end home builders, too, Bruno added, but he expects strong sales from the other end of the spectrum.
“You can get a real-stone look where you want, like a knee wall or around a deck, and you can get it at the price of a traditional siding product,” he said. “That's why we feel passionate that we're creating this new category.”
Novik was founded in 1998 and acquired by the private equity firm Clearview Capital LLC in 2014 for $45 million.