The pandemic-driven surge in home improvement projects continues to benefit sales of polymer siding with some manufacturers working around the clock to meet demand as they launch new colors and styles to grow their market share.
Royal Building Products introduced five new colors of vinyl siding for 2021, new polypropylene shake and black PVC soffits for the modern farmhouse and other looks.
And Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio-based Alside Inc. launched Ascend composite cladding to take aim at fiber cement and premium sidings. The company combines a glass-reinforced polymer with graphite-infused polystyrene to produce a Class A fire-rated cladding in 20 colors that also resists strong winds and impact.
Ascend was named "most innovative building material" during the virtual International Builders Show organized by the National Association of Home Builders from Feb. 9-12.
Alside invested in more extruders and hired operators at an Ohio facility to produce Ascend, which is distributed from a regional center there, Nick Thompson, senior product manager of siding and metals, said in a Microsoft Teams interview.
"We launched in the mid-Atlantic region and expanded out nationwide. We've been in the market over a year now and it's being well received everywhere. The real driver is the labor savings," Thompson said.
While housing is one of the few sectors experiencing year-over-year job gains, having hired more workers in the wake of the pandemic, it hasn't been enough to meet the increasing demand for housing, according to the NAHB.
Historically low interest rates and a geographic shift in where people are choosing to live is affecting the housing industry. For example, lower-density areas are becoming more popular, in large part because of new work-from-home options for buyers.
After posting an 11 percent gain, single-family housing starts totaled a little less than 1 million in 2020. The NAHB forecast calls for an additional 5 percent increase to 1.03 million in 2021. If it happens, that will mark the first year that total annual single-family production has exceeded 1 million since the Great Recession.
Remodeling also will remain strong as people continue to upgrade existing homes for more purposes, such as home offices, home gyms and in-law units, according to NAHB. The group expects residential remodeling to go up 4 percent this year over 2020.
Building product manufacturers are trying to keep up with the stepped-up pace of new construction and home improvements.
"It has been quite a challenge. We were fortunate that we never had to shut down our plants due to COVID," Royal Vice President of Marketing Steve Booz said in a phone interview. "On our pro side, with our vinyl siding and trim and moldings, we've had a full order file since the summer. It hasn't stopped. We're not alone. A lot of building products have longer lead times these days."
Booz described the company's vinyl siding sales as "way up" and said the industry is experiencing growth across all of North America.