Each year, with feedback from builders nationwide, the NAHB Research Center's Annual Builder Practices Survey (ABPS) documents materials usage in new-home construction. The ABPS covers new-home construction material purchases by volume, size, style, type, and other characteristics. A review of 2002 results shows a continued movement toward the use of durable exterior materials. Two categories experiencing noteworthy gains are plastic- and cement-based exterior products.

It's not surprising that durable exterior products are receiving so much attention. In recent months, insurance coverage for builders, trade contractors, and design professionals has become dramatically less available than in previous years. Builders are seeing enormous increases in premiums--ranging from 50 percent to 1,000 percent. And the insurance industry has narrowed the scope of coverage for builders by attaching exclusionary endorsements to their liability policies. Use of more durable products may help alleviate some of these issues.

ABPS data show three products that stand out for increased usage. Wood-plastic composite decking grew from 2 percent of all new-home decking in 1995 to 17 percent in 2002. Fiber-cement siding, which is termite-resistant and non-combustible, now holds 12 percent of the new-home construction siding market as compared to 2 percent in 1995. In addition, the NAHB Research Center's market research division is tracking the rapid acceptance of cellular PVC and wood-plastic composite exterior trim and molding materials. Cellular PVC lumber is a solid, extruded material that has the working characteristics of wood. Cellular PVC and wood-plastic composite, in combination, account for 10 percent of the market.

The NAHB Research Center is looking for builders to participate in the next ABPS. Contact Sarah Kositzke at 800-638-8556, ext. 6296, or skositzke@nahbrc.org for more information.