Like everything in the building industry, the millwork market has slowed down considerably primarily because of the housing market falling out from everyone. But remodelers who are working have really built up a good family of clients and have learned to upsell a bit more with low-maintenance millwork products. As homeowners use the pause in the market to reinvest in their homes, they are after low-maintenance and higher quality products.

“People want that classic look that wood used to give them without the headaches,” says Kristen Nicholas, channel marketing manager for AZEK Building Products, Inc. “The trim market is about a $1.4 billion market. As consumers become savvier about their homes and options, it’s only going to grow.”

Product placement

“Because of where the economy is sitting, the market is primarily about simple renovation,” explains Vicki Brown, purchasing manager for Architectural Products by Outwater. “It’s about doing little things that can increase the value of the home and showcasing different areas of the home.”

With more people opting to stay in the home that they have and remodel, they’re swapping out the old or changing the look. Homeowners’ returns on investment include few maintenance issues, increases in the resale value of their home, and improved curb appeal.

Another trend hitting the millwork market is the new urbanism in traditional neighborhood developments that are bringing back fancier front porches and entryways with all the decorative elements. For crowns and other exterior millwork areas, remodelers can start with the trimboards and then layer several profiles of moulding to create that ornate and classic look.

“I think homeowners are more educated these days and are more savvy about materials they want to use,” adds Nicholas. “They’re really demanding low maintenance and performance, but want that aesthetic look that wood also gave as well.”

Without the need for frequent repair, replacement or repainting with synthetics, homeowners can have that more detailed, ornate look that they want without the actual headaches of wood. Aesthetically it’s also hard to tell the difference between synthetic mouldings to wood, especially when it’s painted. If painted, there are reduced or no issues of peeling, chipping or rotting paint. Homeowners get the nice brush-stroke look of a painted piece of wood on an ornate window-surround built-up or on a gingerbread look.

The right look

“A lot of what people have been asking for is simpler, plain profiles,” says Brown. “Not so much more on the decorative side. The decorative millwork trend seems to come and go. The market is definitely sitting in the plainer profiles right now.”

A lot of homeowners are starting with their front entrance. Numerous studies on curb appeal show that a home value increases just by upgrading the look of a home with a new door surround. On the exterior, it branches out from there to include windows and porch railing to make the house seem more welcoming and homey. This is especially popular with Victorian-style and historic homes where the gingerbread look continues to be popular, and historic commissions are looking at alternate materials to recreate some of those looks. The point is to differentiate the home and stand out in the neighborhood.

“First you need to figure out what kind of look a homeowner is going for,” says Brian Bunt, director of marketing for WindsorONE. “Oftentimes people have an idea in their head, so it’s best to find out what that is so it feels right.”

On the interior it’s popular to pick a room that the homeowner wants to showcase like a dining or grand room and exhibit it with simple upgrades. Add in some crown moulding, maybe a chair rail, and some baseboards to really give some style and flair to the home. It’s important to understand the style and architecture of the home to design something appropriate for the home. Sketching out the planned millwork also helps the homeowner understand exactly what they’ll be getting and the helps dial in the final look.

It’s also important to know that the height of the ceilings will also make a difference in the types of materials used. If crowns are built up too much and the ceiling height is only 8 ft., it’s going to make the room look small and the proportions are going to be off. Knowing the right height allows a remodeler to make some recommendations on what proportionally is going to look good in the home.

Future potential

There are several millwork materials that include wood, composites, PVC and urethane, but upfront costs on these materials can be somewhat deceiving. Through third-party research conducted on behalf of Fypon’s urethane products, it turns out that urethane’s higher initial cost actually saves on the bottom line.

“The research done on a simple door surround found that by using a synthetic, premolded, ready-to-install urethane product, we save them 19 percent on total cost of ownership,” explains Tina Mealer, retail marketing manager and director of marketing for Fypon. “It’s really looking at what is the right product for the application to get the quality you want, but also to save money on the total cost of ownership.”

With the way the market is right now, millwork is expected to see a slight uptick in sales as people look at the smaller, simpler projects they can undertake now to refresh their home and increase its value. The recent economy and housing market have certainly put a stop to the two-year turn and burn for now.

“I think the future is going to hold a solid standing for millwork,” says Mealer. “We’re seeing as people pull back into their homes, they’re working on updating them, plus builders and remodelers are using millwork to add more value to the homes that they’re working on. I think we’re going to see more use of trim, but in strategic areas that really draw value to the home.”

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