In Depth: Trim & Moulding

In Depth: Trim & Moulding

The famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright had a thing for trim and moulding. In his house designs, he made liberal use of overwhelming horizontal lines—rows of windows extensively trimmed out, with very little verticality in the design. To him, this design style connected the house to the area where it is built, with the horizontal lines echoing the ground the building sits on. He tried to unify buildings with nature because he believed more harmony makes for a better society.

To this day, Wright’s designs are hailed as masterpieces and are copied by many of today’s architects. And even when they’re not emulating his buildings, they continue to make good use of trim and moulding to personalize homes, both inside and out. This time last year, industry experts expressed cautious optimism, for while housing starts were dropping, expected upturns in the repair and remodel segment held the promise of potential growth for the trim market. The coming year, however, could bring an entirely different landscape for trim and moulding.

“There are several factors that could potentially support remodeling and repair spending,” says Steve Booz, vice president of marketing for Westlake Royal Building Products, “including record levels of home equity and the significant amount of people still working from home. During this time, we foresee smaller projects and those with high return on investment being prioritized. Even with constraints in time or budget, there are still impactful projects that can enhance a home’s ROI. With creativity and effort, these ideas offer an accessible means to updating a home.”

For example, he explains, integrating trim and mouldings has always been an easy, affordable way to add unique architectural details to a home. “In 2024, we expect a growing demand for classical architectural elements, such as trim, mouldings and columns, due to the increasing construction of single-family homes. New homes often incorporate these details to enhance their upscale appearance and overall market appeal.”

Rick Kapres, vice president of sales and marketing for Versatex Trimboard, predicts the category to potentially experience rapid expansion in 2024. “With the evolution of more of low-maintenance trim and moulding products made from cellular PVC and other moisture-resistant materials, builders and designers continue to add more detailed elements for beauty on homes and businesses.”

According to Freddie Mac, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate had dropped to 6.67% at the time of this writing, and as reported by Forbes at the end of the year, while inflation is still well above the Fed’s long-term 2% target rate, policymakers released updated economic projections with a lower rate range for 2024 that included three potential cuts by year’s end—all of which can have significant impact on the growth of the trim and moulding market over the next 12 months. Still, manufacturers relate feeling optimistic about the market.

“We see the trim and mouldings market continuing to outperform in 2024,” says Kim Guimond, chief marketing officer for Modern Mill. She explains that the company’s optimism stems from factors such as the demand for new construction and remodels, as products like trim and moulding are foundational for homes to achieve a more high-end aesthetic and offer improved marketability.

“Even with uncertain interest rates, we anticipate remodeling projects to generate the most demand requiring the replacement of existing, or new trim and moulding products.”

Danny Moe, sales manager for International Wood Products (IWP), shares similar thoughts in regards to new construction. “For the exterior trim category, we see 2024 bringing moderate growth in the western states we serve,” he predicts. “This product category is heavily weighted toward new construction which is affected by interest rates. That said, we are more positive than we were at this time last year when interest rates were still rising. With economists prognosticating interest rates of 6.5% by end of 2024, the new construction market could be well positioned for a strong second half, into 2025.”

Improving market conditions
Everyone is painfully aware of how challenging the past few years have been when it comes to supply chains and labor. For the trim and moulding segment, manufacturers see an upturn of conditions for LBM dealers.

“In 2023, there were notable improvements in supply chains within the building products industry,” says Westlake Royal’s Booz. “Looking ahead to 2024, there is optimism that supply chains and material prices will further normalize.

However, the industry is likely to grapple with persistent labor shortages in the long term. Compounded by homeowner hesitancy towards new remodeling projects, there is an anticipated impact on remodeling spending.”

In navigating these challenges, Booz suggests builders will need to have a comprehensive understanding of their projects and the ability to leverage products and technologies that address these concerns. This presents opportunities for building product manufacturers who can adeptly fill the gaps created by these challenges.

“Barring any unforeseen upstream issues, most Westlake Royal Building Products trim and mouldings products are back to normal lead times,” he points out. “We are also happy to say that we have begun to re-introduce products that had been furloughed as well as launching new products to the market, particularly in our siding and trim businesses.”

Booz isn’t the only one to see the potential of good things on the horizon. “We see many positives, like stabilization of supply and the innovation of durable and sustainable options,” says Modern Mill’s Guimond. “The challenges we see may be experienced more on the construction side where labor shortages may continue to persist.”

When it comes to labor, there are also some positive upturns that have manufacturers feeling cautiously optimistic. “The good news is we have a lot of younger people in the trades, which is great for our future,” explains IWP’s Danny Moe. “The challenge is the time to develop the skills and knowledge to properly handle and install trim, and the challenge is exacerbated by the wide range of trim products available and varying requirements for storage, installation, and finishing.”

Color on the rise
While the old adage of “a rising tide lifts all ships” certainly holds true for trim products, certain product trends lead the way when it comes to builder and consumer demand, and the smart LBM dealer will position themselves to take advantage of those trends.

For example, color. Of course, neutrals will never go out of style, but industry experts say they are warming up with buttery and blush tones rising in popularity. Experts also point to color becoming more personal in the coming years, and bold choices are trending more prevalent than ever.

“In 2024, timeless off-white and cream hues will continue to dominate home exteriors, providing versatility and a modern aesthetic that complements diverse architectural styles,”

Westlake Royal’s Booz explains. “Light grays, browns, and bolder blues will also emerge as popular choices for a fresh and contemporary look. When it comes to a home’s exterior, the role of trim is pivotal in shaping its overall appearance, contributing character and charm. Exploring various trim styles, colors, finishes, and creative details allows homeowners to craft a personalized and aesthetically pleasing finish that harmonizes with the home’s architectural style.”

Creating a seamless, elegant look, he goes on to say, while contrasting trim colors can create visual interest and highlight architectural details, with black trim particularly on the rise for its ability to make a bold statement against neutral siding colors.

And for those looking for something in between, you’ll be in luck as he is predicting an increase in popularity of soft colors like warm brown or taupe for trim.

When it comes to interior color trends, dark tones such as black and charcoal grey continue to be in demand, along with bold earthy tones like navy blue, forest green, dark brown, and red. “Vivid teal and aqua blue are also forecasted as trending colors for 2024,” says Booz, “evoking a sense of calmness and tranquility.”

In 2023, home interior design trends prominently featured nature-inspired colors and textures, emphasizing warm earth tones. Looking ahead through 2024, the desire to bring nature indoors (a design philosophy called biophilic design) persists, but with a shift toward more daring color choices. Bolder earthy tones are expected to be prominent, often combined with nature-inspired materials for an infusion of organic texture and warmth. Modern Mill’s Kim Guimond sees similar trends for trim and moulding.

“Biophilic design seeks to increase humans’ connection and ability to live more seamlessly with nature,” she explains. “Supporting the biophilic trend, we will continue to see earth and organic tones including greens and browns which are nature-inspired and timeless.”

Consultative partnerships bring success
With this potential uptick in sales for the trim and moulding segment, what should LBM dealers be prepared to do to best serve their customers? According to manufacturers, the best tactic is to serve in a consultative fashion.

“Dealers can help their customers return to focus and encourage them to spend their resources (of which time is the greatest) wisely,” Modern Mill’s Guimond recommends. This might look like investing in relationships and building partnerships with installers with technical ability and innovative skills, focusing on helping your team upskill and learn how to be consultative, choosing projects and materials that play to their strengths, and focusing on markets where success is more likely.

IWP’s Moe agrees, pointing out that, with the number of less experienced installers in the market, it would be beneficial to re-focus on being consultative sellers, at both the dealer and distribution levels.

“If we are well versed in the features and benefits of each trim product available, we can more effectively provide the best product for a specific project,” he explains. “Packaging the product to protect it on the jobsite will help protect product prior to installation, and have plenty of resources on hand from your distribution partners, whether printed installation guides, industry install resources, or weblinks to online sources.”

Sarah Caperton director of siding innovation and commercialization for LP Building Solutions, points out the benefits of utilizing technology tools to aid in being a better solutions resource.

“To navigate the challenges in the trim segment, we recommend leveraging best practices such as incorporating a home visualizer tool, like the LP SmartSide Home Visualizer,” she says. “This tool enables users to explore various textures and colors, encouraging a departure from the conventional white trim. Additionally, our design recommendations on LPcorp.com serve as a valuable resource for inspiration, providing insights to help dealers and customers make informed decisions and stay ahead of evolving trends in trim.”

And when it comes to resources, LBM dealers have access to myriad choices from the trim and moulding manufacturers. For example, in addition to the previously mentioned LP SmartSide Home Visualizer, LP Building Solutions also offers an array of training videos and courses, with content available in both English and Spanish.

Westlake Royal Building Products provides a range of online design tools to assist builders and homeowners in visualizing how various products will appear in home designs. Notably, tools such as HomePlay and Virtual Remodeler enable users to preview trim and other exterior elements, allowing for virtual customization of a home. Versatex offers accredited AIA courses for architects that dealers can take advantage, and it recommends dealers set up trainings for their builders and contractors to educate them on new products.

“We recommend that all of our dealers at least bring Versatex sales representatives in to conduct a Contractor Breakfast,” says Kapres. “We pay for it and it only takes about 90-120 minutes, but it really helps create a greater comfort level for the builders and drives sales for the dealers.”

In the case of Modern Mill, in addition to hands-on and in-field product support, it offers AIA and Green Building courses on Biophilic Design, with the goal of giving the LBM community (and extended community of architects, designers, and builders) inspiration to design in harmony and more systematically with nature. “We believe this offers an interesting and meaningful conversation and set of tools dealers, builders, and designers can use to engage homeowners and differentiate their businesses,” Guimond points out.

And for its dealers in the western states, IWP provides training in conjunction with its manufacturing partners.

“We provide training at the dealer level on request, set up lunch-and-learn opportunities, and provide jobsite support,” says Moe. “If one of your contractors has a new siding crew, we would love to spend some time with them in a hands-on learning environment!”

In the end, the best strategy for LBM dealers when it comes to trim and moulding is to be as knowledgeable as possible and to then convey that knowledge to your customers.

As Westlake Royal’s Booz puts it, “Dealers, being at the forefront of customer interactions, need to provide transparent information on product availability, cost, and potential delays. It is crucial to keep supply information updated on websites and portals, especially considering the current challenges in the supply chain.”

By following this advice, you’ll be able to keep your trim and moulding business as rooted to your customers as a Frank Lloyd Wright house is to its setting

  • This article was originally posted on LBM Journal and written by author Mike Berger.
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