ANY INDUSTRY WHOSE PRODUCT HAD a 40 percent–plus market share would be dancing a jig. And, in a way, vinyl siding manufacturers are. Here's why: According to the Vinyl Siding Institute, a Washington-based trade association of manufacturers and suppliers, vinyl is the exterior cladding of choice for twice as many homeowners as any other cladding product; is chosen more often for all homes priced up to $300,000; and is the most affordable exterior cladding on the market.
Not satisfied, however, the industry has come up with insulated siding, a foam-backed vinyl product that costs substantially more than conventional vinyl. “It's just an extension of the [vinyl siding industry's] continued advancement in material and design,” says Walt Hoyt, director of marketing communications for the siding products group at Valley Forge, Pa.–based CertainTeed.
SOLID TO THE CORE Foam-backed (or solid-core) siding is conventional vinyl that has been fused with expanded polystyrene. Introduced in 1998 by Columbus, Ohio–based Crane Performance Siding, foam-backed vinyl offers major benefits. “We can make more authentic–looking products with the boards,” says Mark Axelrod, Crane's director of marketing. Because the boards are more rigid, they can have a wider reveal and a straighter face—a look that is usually associated with wood siding or fiber cement, he says.
The foam is the key. Toronto-based Royal Building Products says its insulated siding product exceeds ASTM impact standards by 300 percent. The foam, Royal says, adds panel strength and also helps keep walls straight. The product's most obvious benefit is the added sound and thermal insulation it gives a building envelope.
"Depending on the style, the foam adds an R-value of 3 or 4 to the wall," Axelrod explains, "and that's attractive to people.
"The foam also has been treated to resist insects, and it has channels that drain moisture away from the wall," Axelrod says.
PRICE WAR This list of benefits sounds impressive, but will it be enough to convince consumers and builders to pony up almost 50 percent more for foam-backed siding over conventional vinyl? Manufacturers say absolutely.
Mark Badger, vice president of Marketing and Corporate Communications for Royal Group Technologies, says response to the company's products has been very positive. People, he says, are attracted to the ease of installation, the feel of wood, and the ease of maintenance. Axelrod says the product has been quite successful, particularly in high-end communities where homeowners want the look of wood without the maintenance headaches.
Nevertheless, the cost factor is still the most important issue and is likely to limit foam-backed vinyl's appeal to the wider home-buying public.
According to Hoyt, the vinyl category is broken into four price ranges: economical, standard, premium, and super premium. “The economical and standard price range makes up almost 80 percent of the market,” he says. “[Insulated vinyl] is a great product, but the cost makes it a niche product. The size of the pie at this price point is a lot smaller.”
The industry is still bullish. Pat Culpepper, president of Beach City, Ohio–based Progressive Foam Technologies (which makes most of the foam used in siding), says a recent industry survey reveals that siding manufacturers expect the insulated siding market to grow to about 3 million or 4 million squares in the next five years. This year, the market is estimated to be about 1.1 million squares. “The product is heavy in remodeling, but it is making inroads in new construction,” Culpepper says.
Manufacturers such as Crane believe home buyers will see the inherent benefits and opt for the material. In light of this, Crane is boosting production of foam-backed vinyl accessories to go along with its CraneBoard products.
FAUX WOOD: True-Comfort Double 6 insulated vinyl board features a polystyrene backing and a grain molded from natural cedar, the company says. The foam gives the boards a ¾-inch panel projection with a 90-degree straight edge for the look of wood. The rigid backing resists impact up to five times better than traditional vinyl siding and is engineered to allow the escape of moisture, the company claims. CertainTeed. 800-233-8990. www.certainteed.com.
CHARTER CLUB: Backed with thermal insulation, the manufacturer's Charter Oak Energy Elite eliminates the void between conventional vinyl and the wall. It can reduce energy bills up to 20 percent and provide up to five times the impact resistance of standard vinyl siding, the manufacturer claims. The foam also is treated with an additive to deter termites and carpenter ants. Alside. 800-922-6009. www.alside.com.
WALK THE PLANK: The manufacturer claims its DuraPlank reinforced siding offers the look of wood, the impact resistance of fiber cement, and the maintenance of vinyl. The board has a 7-inch profile and a cedar wood-grain–like surface. Energy Star–rated to reduce energy costs, the product's foam is free-floating to encourage expansion and contraction. It is available in various colors. Royal Building Products. 800-387-2789. www.royalbuildingproducts.com.
FOAM HOME: The Structure line of insulated siding has been bonded to Styrofoam to improve the exterior wall R-value by 25 percent, the manufacturer says. The product offers noise reduction and water resistance, the company adds. Structure is available in 700 baseline colors, and the manufacturer offers a custom color matching system. Alcoa Home Exteriors. 800-962-6973. www.alcoahomes.com.
SOLID SURFACE: The first insulated siding introduced to the industry, CraneBoard is fused with expanded polystyrene foam insulation, which means boards can be wider than standard vinyl. The insulation also results in 17 percent better air infiltration protection, 300 percent more impact resistance, and 45 percent more noise reduction, the company says. Boards come in 6- and 7-inch thicknesses, and there is a line of foam-backed accessories. Crane Performance Siding. 800-366-8472. www.cranesiding.com.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.