Akron, Ohio — Vinyl building products are very durable, but they have other benefits like a great appearance — think of the growing market for luxury vinyl tile and luxury vinyl plank that looks just like wood — or ease of installation, like insulation-backed vinyl siding, a construction industry.
Products that are easy to install are important these days, as the downturn in spending for home construction caused many skilled workers to leave the industry, Ed Hudson, director of marketing research services at Home Innovation Research Labs in Upper Marlboro, Md., said at Vinyltec, Oct. 2-3.
"Builders could be building more new houses now if they had the labor. So what's happening is, we're seeing a big change in the types of building materials that are being adopted and used by both builders and remodelers," Hudson said at the conference in Akron. The pressure is on to use products that look great but can be installed by unskilled labor, he said.
A subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders, Home Innovation Research Labs helps the development and commercialization of new building technologies.
Other factors favoring vinyl include stricter energy codes and a strong remodeling sector. Hudson said 2017 was the best year for remodeling ever, and it has held up since then. "The outlook for remodeling is very good," he said.
Energy codes are calling for ever-more airtight homes. Vinyl window makers already tout the higher R values of their products, but Hudson thinks more sweeping innovation is coming.
"I foresee that in the coming years, the thermal performance of windows must and will increase," he said. "Ten years ago, vinyl began to grow like mad in new construction. Twenty years ago, vinyl began to grow like mad in residential remodeling."
Vinyl windows are now the largest category for both new construction and remodeling, Hudson said.
Vinyl is more durable than wood, and innovations have helped grow the sector.
"At this point, if you can make a vinyl window that looks like wood from the inside, be protective from the outside and have darker colors on the outside, that's a very attractive product," Hudson said.
In the strong U.S. economy, wood windows are making inroads in the replacement market because it's seen as a premium product, Hudson said. But, he added, wood could decline again if the economy weakens.