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Thursday, August 13, 2015
Sometimes competition between competitors seem like schoolyard taunting. I watched it for many years in the cloud software industry as my employers and their competitors tried to gain an edge. It reminded me of some of the exchanges between kids when I was in Mrs. Murphy's 5th-grade class.
The conversation goes something like this:
"We're the best."
"We're the most trusted."
"We're the fastest."
We get you running in six weeks."
"We get you live in four weeks and we won't leave to you fend for yourself after it's done."
"Yes, they will. They'll throw it over the wall and leave you hanging."
I'm sure get the idea. It provided a lot of mirth for a cynic like me.
Catherine Kavanaugh's reporting on the vinyl siding industry in Plastics News gave me much the same feeling.
The Battle of Words between Vinyl and Fiber Cement
One year ago, Kavanaugh gave us a look at the stiff competition between vinyl siding and fiber cement when she reported the slip in vinyl's lead in the industry. Its market share was 30 percent and falling; fiber cement's was 18 percent and rising (Kavanaugh, Catherine. "Vinyl siding's lead slips, but industry pushing back." Plastics News. July 29, 2014. Accessed August 2, 2015).
Exactly one year later, Kavanaugh reported on how the vinyl siding industry, led by the Vinyl Siding Institute, fought back with a successful campaign discrediting fiber cement's claims of superior durability, moisture resistance, and wind resistance.
In that article, she told us of a study conducted by Home Innovations Research Labs on siding installation. Commissioned by the James Hardie Building Products, the big gorilla of the fiber cement industry, the study result was favorable for fiber cement. It discounted vinyl's claims that its competitor was more costly and difficult to install. Of course, the vinyl producers questioned the study's validity (Kavanaugh, Catherine. "Study put PVC, wood, fiber cement trim to the test." Plastics News. July 29, 2015. Accessed August 2, 2015.).
Innovations in Home Siding
The battle is not just a war of words. In the cloud software business, providers are constantly updating their systems to try to gain a competitive edge. Vendors update their systems several times each year to give their customers better products.
In home siding, the cycle is much slower, but the result is the same - customers benefit from new technology. Producers develop new materials and methods, and we reward them by buying their products.
For example, the fight against moisture is going on throughout the siding industry as researchers learn more about how humidity affects building materials (Tetlow, By Karin. "Drainage and Drying in Low- and Mid-Rise External Walls." Architectural Record's Continuing Education Center. December 14, 2014. Accessed August 3, 2015).
The solution creates a channel between the siding and the sheathing to allow moisture to drain away. Nichiha USA calls their solution "a sophisticated drained and back-ventilated moisture management system" ("A High Performance Solution through and through." Nichiha USA, Inc. Accessed August 2, 2015.)
Last week Kavanaugh reported that Fifth-ranked Royal Building Products has begun producing a new low-cost line of vinyl siding with features that used to belong to only the top-priced lines. The company's Royal® Estate™ siding has the look of natural wood and a wide range of UV-resistant colors. It has a new locking system that gives it the ability to withstand 180 mph winds, and the company provides a "Double Lifetime Warranty" that includes color and hail protection (Kavanaugh, Catherine. "Vinyl siding gets a makeover to remain top choice in cladding." Plastics News. July 30, 2015. Accessed August 2, 2015.
These are just two examples of recent advances in home siding products. Competition breeds innovation, and innovation brings more choices, less maintenance, and better value for homeowners.