As baseballs slammed loudly against siding at Azek's durability demonstration, the fiber cement sales people found themselves flanked by plastic siding producers at IBS. Ply Gem Industries Inc. was on the opposite side of Azek's outdoor exhibit. With corporate sales of $1.5 billion and PPT sales estimated at $900 million, Ply Gem is the No. 4 extruder, according to Plastics News' ranking. The Cary, N.C.-based company built a three-room “home of solutions” at IBS with its siding, windows, patio doors and more.
Inside, the company had display boards and videos about how its products can contribute to curb appeal, comfort and storm performance.
“We've not done a great job of telling the vinyl siding story versus fiber cement. This illustrates how our products perform better than fiber cement relative to water, wind and sun or heat,” said Jerry Blais, senior vice president of marketing for Ply Gem siding.
Outside, Blais pointed to dark siding colors, including red brick, mahogany and brandy, which he said are made possible by a patent-pending reflective technology that protects against fading and heat distortion. Called SolarDefense, the proprietary formula is an industry first, the company says.
“Now we have the ability to offer dark colors that are on trend in wider profiles and in a thickness more appealing to a builder typically a little more cost conscious,” Blais said.
Taking another jab at fiber cement, which he said is factory painted and will need more maintenance, Blais said, “Ours has color in it, not color on it.”
Royal Building Products also is getting increased demand for dark colors, said Simon Bates, senior vice president of the Woodbridge, Ontario-based company.
“Traditionally that has been a challenge for PVC products because with darker colors you tend to get more heat build up, thermal expansion and contraction,” Bates said. “But I think we're amongst a number of manufacturers to invest in new technology that manages that heat build and we don't have the expansion and contraction problems anymore. It's a combination of chemistry and additives.”
Royal sale possible
Royal Building Products is owned by Axiall Corp. but that may be changing. A “strategic review” is underway on the heels of the divestiture of the aromatics business and reduced headcounts in both the chlorovinyls and building products businesses.
Net sales for the building products segment were $248 million for the third quarter of 2015, which was down 11 percent compared to the prior year, according to financial results released in November. The quarterly report says the stronger U.S. dollar and weak sales in Canada were offset by a 4 percent increase in U.S. sales volume.
Bates said the strategic review process continues.
“One possible outcome may be the sale of Royal Building Products,” he said. “We wait to see. Our mentality is very simple. It's business as usual and our job is to continue to grow the business.”
A 7-inch shake product is due out early this year.
Royal Building Products had PPT sales of $878.6 million in its most recent year, making it the No. 5 extruder, according to Plastics News' most recent ranking.
At IBS, the company also brought new Celect Cellular siding, which Bates said is more than an extension of the line launched three years ago.
“We see it as a completely different product. The extrusion technology is completely different. It's the first time we've offered a painted product in our lineup. So, for us it's very different,” Bates said.
The latest Celect Cellular siding aims to look like freshly painted wood and to compete against fiber cement.
“We think aesthetically our product is one of the best siding products out there. What we really tout is the fact that there are no seams and no caulking,” Bates said. “The other thing we think is unique is we have a 25 year manufacturer's warranty. We're the only siding product offering a 25-year, no-need-to-paint, no-fade warranty.”
The Celect Cellular products are doing well in coastal areas, mainly in Canada and the Eastern United States. The siding is made at the company's cellular PVC trim plant in Bristol, Tenn., where capacity has been an issue and prevented an offering to all of North America.
“On the Celect side we've doubled our sales in 2014 and 2015 and we expect to double our sales again in 2016,” Bates said.
Right now the company is the No. 1 vinyl siding manufacturer in Canada and third in the USA as well as the second largest PVC trim manufacturer in North America, according to Bates.
“We're growing double digits every year and we'd expect over the next few years to become the second largest vinyl siding manufacturer and we expect within two years we will be the largest PVC trim manufacturer in North America,” he said.
Attention ‘wood snobs'
Nearby at IBS, CertainTeed Corp. was premiering its new single shingle Cedar Impression polypropylene siding. The company is moving into an entirely new category with it and trying to appeal to wood installers and cedar customers who had snubbed plastic shake and shingles in the past, said Brian Kirn, marketing manager for the siding division.
Made in Kansas, the individual 5-inch shingles come from a patented in-mold variegated technology that colors it throughout each piece for the lifetime of the product, Kirn said. For colors, the Valley Forge, Penn.-based company is offering the look of eastern white cedar and western red cedar in either their fresh cut, intermediary or weathered stages. Customers can stop the clock on a fresh cedar appearance or turn it ahead. White cedar ages into a light tan or silvery gray while red cedar starts as a russet color and ages to grays and browns.
“Normally siding is panelized,” Kirn added. “With individual shingles you get a much better aesthetic that you couldn't get that with a panel. We can make each one look unique like a real cedar shingle. And, we're actually replicating the aging process. Whatever color you like, you put it up and it stays that way a lifetime.”
Unlike real cedar, no maintenance is needed in terms of staining and painting and no problems will occur with rot, mold, mildew, insects, mice, termites or woodpeckers, Kirn also said. The shingle siding is installed with a pneumatic nailer and held down in four places.
“It does add to installation time but the people installing this aren't your true siding contractors. The installer is typically a wood installer and they're accustomed to installing this way,” Kirn said. “We're penetrating a market we hadn't been in before. This is a polymer that looks like wood and installs exactly like wood.”
Having four staples per shingle bolsters the product's wind load, according to Kirn, who added, “It outperforms any siding we have in our portfolio today. There's a lot holding it down.”
Launched in September, Cedar Impressions is available in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states. Kirn said he expects it do well with custom home builders and high-end remodelers of beach front properties.
“This to compete with super premium cedar shingles, essentially the wood snobs,” he added. “This is one of the beautiful things you can do with plastic.”
As the subsidiary of Cie. de Saint-Gobain ramps up production of its cedar color blends called CedarLife, the products will be offered in other regions. CertainTeed is the No. 6 PPT extruder with estimated sales of $615 million.