Vinyl siding has lost its 25-year lead to stucco as the most popular cladding choice for newly constructed houses, while fiber cement gained ground to round out the top three exterior wall materials.
Stucco was installed on 27 percent of the 903,000 single-family houses built in 2019 compared to vinyl siding on 25 percent and fiber cement on 21 percent, according to the characteristics of new housing data collected in a survey of construction by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Of the other exterior siding materials, brick was installed on 20 percent of new houses, wood on 5 percent, and "other," as in concrete block, stone and aluminum, on 2 percent, the survey says.
In the latest shift, stucco gained 2 percent, fiber cement picked up 1 percent, vinyl siding and brick each lost 1 percent, and use of wood and other materials held steady, the survey also says.
The figures, which are based on new single-family houses completed in 2019, are part of a database going back to 1973. Vinyl siding use has been tracked since 1992, when it was put on 23 percent of new houses. That was second to wood's 33 percent share of wall but not for long.
Two years later, vinyl siding edged out wood by 1 percent after being installed on 28 percent of new homes. Use of vinyl siding peaked in 2002, when it was installed on 40 percent of 1.325 million new houses for single families.
Affordable, durable, low maintenance vinyl siding enjoyed a 25-year reign until there was a surge of stucco installations in the South. There, the cement-water-sand mixture took wall share from brick, the region's preferred exterior wall material since 1990, and contributed to unseating vinyl siding.
Steve Booz, marketing vice president of Royal Building Products, which is marking its 50th anniversary this year, said he is a little surprised by the results, but not concerned.
Royal Building Products is owned by Houston-based Westlake Chemical Corp., which posted sales of $1.3 billion and is the No. 4 pipe, profile and tubing producer in North America, according to Plastics News' newly updated ranking.
Booz told Plastics News: "If certain regions are building a larger proportion of homes, the geographic shift could have caused stucco to rise to the top of this survey. Vinyl siding remains a strong product choice from the Midwest to the Atlantic and even into the Southeast. If these results are due to regions, such as the West and the Southwest, having more home building, we don't find these results concerning."
And, that is the case.
The South leads the U.S. in new home construction and stucco has been making steady gains there for more than 40 years while also staying on top of exterior wall materials in the west for 37 out of the last 46 years.
In the South, builders have constructed more than 400,000 new homes a year since 2016, giving an increasing wall share to fire-resistant stucco and its array of earthy hues and Spanish and Mediterranean qualities.
Matt Dobson, vice president of the Vinyl Siding Institute, an Alexandria, Va.-based trade group, also said the survey doesn't tell the whole story of vinyl siding's popularity.
Dobson said it's important to note that stucco and vinyl siding represent two different categories of exterior finish that point toward regional differences more than consumer preferences.
"Vinyl and other polymeric products will continue to be recognized for their strong attributes, including low maintenance, durability, not susceptible to freeze-thaw issues, and providing great value," Dobson said. "And with the industry offering more and more innovative polymeric products, we are beginning to diversify and grow more in other areas."
Dobson pointed to advances with architectural polymers, such as polypropylene siding, insulated vinyl siding and cellular PVC siding, which he said are creating new opportunities for vinyl siding manufacturers.
"If these new polymeric products that are part of our industry were added to the vinyl siding column, our total number would still be dominant," Dobson said.