Are single-family home builders and remodelers facing too much demand?

It’s a bittersweet time for the industry. The confluence of skyrocketing material cost (read: scarcity), chronic skilled labor shortages, and unrelenting home buyer demand are constraining single-family home production. For example, lumber prices have surged 170% since mid-April.

Finding skilled help is a deepening challenge that won’t go away. Meanwhile, home buyer demand has the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index spiking to record-shattering heights.

What’s a home builder or a remodeler to do?

Many rely on manufacturing innovation to cut project delivery time and ease material installation without upending the high-end features Houzz-savvy home buyers now expect. Consider cladding, for example.

A Difficult Question

For years fiber cement, engineered wood, and composite panels were the go-to alternatives to wood in cladding applications due to their higher-end appearance. Unfortunately, even these alternatives have shortcomings, including installation challenges, moisture issues, and ongoing maintenance expenses. So why hasn’t someone reinvented the category with a material that delivers high-end looks without the limitations?

“Home builders and remodelers shouldn’t have to choose between style, performance, and speedy installation,” explains Shawn Hardy, senior vice president of integrated products at Alside, a leading Ohio-based manufacturer of residential building products.

Innovation Challenges

Four years ago, Alside decided to take on the challenge. The company’s product management team set out a groundbreaking requirements list for a new cladding class, including:

  • On-trend 7-inch, flat-face plank profile compatible with high-end trim
  • Simple and quick installation with standard tools – no diamond-tipped blades, vacuum saws, respirators, or special training
  • Aesthetics that meet or exceed the market need for color, wood-grain appearance, and feel
  • Class A fire-rated composition, water-resistant (no rotting, warping, shrinking, or swelling), engineered to withstand wind speeds up to 180 mph, and an R-2 insulation rating
  • UV fade resistance, including dark colors without the need to ever repaint

For labor-strapped home builders, remodelers, and installation contractors, next-gen thinking couldn’t come at a better time. “Five or six installers are typical for a fiber cement crew for a five-day project,” Hardy says. A new approach could easily double that output by cutting installation times in half, helping pros work through a significant labor and time constraint.

Breakthrough Performance & Value

In late spring Alside launched ASCEND, a composite cladding material “… with an on-the-wall cost savings of at least 10%, and closer to 20%, in some cases,” reports Hardy, adding it also comes with a limited non-prorated lifetime warranty.

The patented breakthrough is made with glass-reinforced polymer and graphite-reinforced polystyrene. There’s nothing like it. At just 25% the weight of a standard fiber cement panel, it replicates the look, feel, and bold coloration of real wood without the downside risk and maintenance exposure of the cladding options available today.

Winning Advantage

The new cladding has gained rapid traction with pros and homeowners. For example, the material earned high marks for its resilience during the destructive derecho winds this past summer in Iowa. “ASCEND cladding survived unscathed, it was like nothing happened,” reports Ankeny, Iowa, homeowner Jeff Graeve.

Adam Shampaine, CEO at Homefix Custom Remodeling says, “Compared to fiber cement, ASCEND cladding has a more cost-effective price tag, lasts forever, and adds energy efficiency. It also installs fast and easy. We do twice as many jobs in half as much time.”

“Builders and remodelers need better ways to grow their business through differentiation, productivity, or profitability. ASCEND helps compress delivery timeframes with on-trend style, installation speed, and product availability confidence,” Hardy says.

In an industry struggling to keep up with a booming market, it’s good to know innovation is once again helping builders and remodelers maintain their competitive edge.

Learn more about this new class of cladding.