Siding: Bringing the Farmhouse Home

Homeowner siding tastes vary by region, but many seek profiles that recreate traditional styling. Manufacturers are launching new designs and darker colors to meet this demand.

authors Chuck Ross | April 17, 2020

The phrase “modern farmhouse” is front of mind for siding manufacturers these days. HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines have made this clean-lined interpretation of vernacular rural architecture the go-to choice for many homeowners. Of course, since remodeling customers are working with existing homes, how that look plays out can vary with every project.

“That classic look but with more crisp, angular lines,” says Ben Drury, brand manager for Boral Building Products, which manufacturers Foundry and Grayne composite shingle-style siding along with TruExterior siding, trim and beadboard products fabricated from a proprietary mix of fly-ash and polymers. “It’s keeping those traditional lines, but with a little bit of a modern flair.”

Tando Beach House Shake is fabricated from a polypropylene material and designed to be almost indistinguishable from traditional cedar shake. The siding can be installed by a single worker and is available in shades of fresh cedar, weathered grays and a redwood-stained look.

Transitional approaches also are becoming more popular, according to Steve Booz, marketing vice president with Royal Building Products, which makes Celect composite siding along with Royal and Exterior Portfolio brands of vinyl siding and Royal Aluminum, its aluminum brand. “People taking an original-style colonial and turning it into something else,” he says, describing one way a transitional design could play out. “It’s got elements of both, but the intent is to get it as close as you can” to a new, possibly more contemporary look.

What’s often key to both modern farmhouse and transitional styles is a mix of materials and textures across the home’s exterior. “We’re continuing to see this whole notion of mixed materials continuing to grow,” says Ralph Bruno, president and CEO of Derby Building Products, maker of TandoShake and Beach House Shake polymer offerings. “Masonry, then some shakes and then some board-and-batten—we continue to look at that becoming a mainstream design trend.”

Of course, not all homeowners are looking for a complete makeover, notes Marc Setty, James Hardie’s marketing director. “Some homeowners are just looking to refresh the look of their home—so if they had lap siding, they’re going with lap siding again,” he says. “There’s another segment of the market that wants to re-imagine their dream home. In that case we’re seeing more mixed-material use and a lean-in to more modern designs, especially on the West Coast.”

Robert Clark, siding and shake product manager with CertainTeed, says a mixed-material approach can help update a home’s exterior, even when it’s only added as a highlight. “If a home doesn’t need a full siding replacement, shake or shingle-style accents or board-and-batten vertical panels on dormers and gables can provide that wow factor,” he says. “This includes using accessories such as soffit vertically as an accent. Accent colors are also often used within gables or on additions, making unique architectural features stand out from the primary wall color.”

Color Their World

When it comes to color, manufacturers see a dark future—and they’re OK with that. They say the move toward darker colors seen over the last several years has moved past “trend” status, with a number of companies expanding their color offerings to meet this growing interest.

“We’re definitely seeing dark colors and mixed colors, but the dark color trend has continued,” says Mark Lipsius, business development manager with Chelsea Building Products, maker of Everlast composite siding. His company launched three new darker hues—Storm Gray, Blue Spruce and Saddle Wood—earlier in the year.

ProVia offers coordinating products to help remodelers design the mixed-material looks many homeowners are seeking. CedarMax foam-insulated vinyl Board ‘n Batten siding is shown here paired with Timberbay cedar-style polypropylene shakes.

Booz agrees, while adding that location also plays a role in color preferences. “There are definite regional variations in color trends, but across the country there is a continuation of dark color palettes—and not just dark siding, but also dark trim,” he says. “We’ve seen a surge even in navy, which doesn’t seem to be tied to any region.”

Drury is very specific about the regional preferences that Booz mentions. For example, he sees homeowners in the Southeast often opting for darker shades of burgundy and beige as accents, while black trim and white siding top the list in the Southwest. On the West Coast, he sees tans and beiges, along with olive-colored siding, and greens and yellows remain the most popular in the Pacific Northwest. In some cases, he adds, there are differences in color choice based on whether a project is a renovation or a new build.

“In the Northeast, black is now trending with windows,” he says. “A lot of it, though, will be new construction—a lot of the remodelers aren’t changing to black.”

CertainTeed CERTAplank siding features an extra-thick panel and a reinforced foam backer to provide added rigidity. The single-course panels have a 7-inch exposure and are available in 18 low-gloss designer colors.

Similarly, Bruno sees regional preferences in the buyers of Tando’s Beach House Shake, which is offered in four cedar-replacement colors: the reddish Pacifica, tan Sandcastle, light gray Atlantica and dark gray Hatteras. “With our Pacifica color, we see that more in mountain and valley cottages off the coast,” he says. “The northern coast goes with the Atlantica, and the southern coast goes more for the darker gray.”

Clark says remodeling customers also are interested in contrasting approaches. “Homeowners are looking for bold colors that stand out,” he says. “Mixtures of dark and light colors, such as dark blue or red with white trim, are very popular these days. I have spoken with a lot of remodeler salespeople who tell me they show this to all homeowners for in-home selling. Other popular colors are natural hues, like forest greens, and neutral tones, like gray.”

Of course, this interest in darker and more vibrant colors can pose a challenge for manufacturers because these hues are more susceptible to fading over time. As a result, many are developing proprietary formulations to address this issue. Ply Gem now offers what it calls SolarDefense Reflective Technology for two of the product lines under its Mastic vinyl siding label.

“Instead of absorbing the sun’s heat, the newest, darkest colors are engineered to resist fading and heat distortion,” says David Johnston, director of product marketing for the company’s siding group. “A tough UV-stable polymer stands up to damaging rays, and new cooling compounds scatter more light to reflect more heat away from the siding.”

Revealing Choices

Reveals and profiles are becoming more important to homeowners alongside bolder colors. This can play out as a combination of materials—lap siding with shake-style accents, perhaps—and fits into that contemporary farmhouse look that’s become so popular lately.

“Board-and-batten is becoming a lot more popular and, additionally, vertically applied siding,” says Drury, who breaks down the looks that homeowners are seeking by region. “In the Southeast, we’re seeing a lot more of the large-size, nickel-gap siding. In the Northwest, lap siding is still dominant. In the Northeast, they’re accenting their gables with board-and-batten and shiplap. In the Southwest, we’re seeing a lot of stone, some vinyl mixed, with hardboard siding and then stucco.”

Mastic SolarDefense finishes are available for the manufacturer’s Carvedwood 44 and Ovation lines of vinyl siding. The SolarDefense reflective technology is designed to allow for dark, rich colors that won’t fade over time.

Kevin Mickle, a product manager with ProVia, which manufactures several varieties of vinyl siding, says many of today’s homeowners are simplifying their exteriors. “For a while, it seemed like everyone was trying to put every available siding on the nose. Now they’re using a primary cladding with accents,” he says, noting that he too sees varying taste in reveal size across the country. “In the South and Southeast, 4-inch seems to be predominant. In New England, they like the 3-inch, but also often see a 5-inch. In the Midwest, it’s 4- to 5-inch Dutch lap and clapboard.”

Vertical installations, along with a combination of traditional lap siding with board-and-batten are high on the list of trends James Hardie’s Setty sees, along with a demand for a more contemporary no-lap, flat-wall look. And, where budgets prevent owners from cladding an entire home in that manner, they might reserve this higher-end approach as an accent for gables or bump-outs.

New Offerings

Siding manufacturers are meeting these evolving color and pattern preferences with a range of recently introduced offerings and line extensions. CertainTeed, for example, launched CERTAplank Reinforced Siding at this year’s International Builders Show. The plank-style vinyl product features a 7-inch reveal and incorporates a foam backing. According to Clark, it can be paired with any standard ¾-inch siding accessories for trim. He adds the company expects to introduce a new shake and shingle product later in 2020.

James Hardie Artisan V-Groove fiber cement siding can help create the clean-lined—and yet still traditional—modern farmhouse look. The Artisan line also includes lap, shiplap, square channel, bevel channel and beaded designs.

Royal Building Products has boosted its color offerings with the addition of a deep blue, called Indigo, to its Exterior Portfolio series of vinyl siding. It’s also added the uniquely customizable Canvas line to its Celect series of cellular composite siding. “It’s a very paintable product,” Booz explains, “and it makes it easy to create any look homeowners want.”

James Hardie’s Aspyre Collection includes the Artisan Siding line of fiber cement offerings. Setty says these products, which are offered in a range of profiles and reveals—including lap, shiplap, V-groove and square-channel—are a good match for those seeking a flat wall or modern farmhouse look. “This is a product that looks like traditional cedar,” he says, noting it also enables some onsite customization. “You can miter the corners.”

ProVia has added polypropylene shake and scallop shapes to its lineup with the Timberbay series. The products are designed with cedar-like details and can be ordered in 30 solid colors and six blended colors. “It really allows the homeowner to create the exact palette they want to see,” Mickle says.

Last fall, Chelsea Building Products introduced the Board & Batten profile to its Everlast line. According to Lipsius, “our Board & Batten has a reveal and a batten strip built into one profile.” This means no need to attach a separate batten strip and no extra caulking.

Contractor Programs

The 2-inch batten incorporated into Everlast‘s Board & Batten offering is integral to the panel, so no attachment or caulking is required. It has a 9-inch reveal and is available in 14 colors. It’s shown here in Blue Spruce.

Recognizing remodelers as a primary market channel, siding makers offer these pros a range of incentives, including various rebate and credit programs, along with installation training assistance. CertainTeed, for example, has its 5-Star Contractor Program, which incorporates a broad training effort that can lead to cash bonuses and rebates for related company purchases. Ply Gem also offers a training and certification plan, along with marketing assistance—including referrals, extended warranties, discounts and rebates—as loyalty benefits.

James Hardie has two signature efforts directed toward contractors, according to Setty. “The Contractor Alliance Program is designed for the business owner who’s selling every single day to consumers. It’s about helping these contractors with training, tools and marketing support to boost sales and profitability for their business,” he says.

Benefits include jobsite training for crews and working with owners to help boost sales. Approximately 12,000 contractors have signed up in the last five years, he adds. The company’s SIDE Master program is intended for installers, specifically those companies that do siding installation. It too incorporates proprietary training with a focus on jobsite safety, crew efficiency and business growth.

LP Building Solutions ships its SmartSide Smooth Finish Vertical Siding in 16-foot lengths to eliminate horizontal joints.

ProVia also offers marketing and business development assistance, according to Mickle. “We can help remodelers with their business plans, and we’ll provide them with anything from scripts to billboards, and we’ll even help them with timelines and budgets,” he says. “We also have an in-house design team.”

Chelsea Building Products has boosted its existing training with the launch of its Board & Batten line, Lipsius says, and it also offers financial incentives, especially for first-time users. This can include providing some material free with a minimum purchase.

Royal Building Products joined the Contractor Rewards program last year, according to Booz. “It’s not just a Royal program—it’s a coalition program,” he says. Through purchases from participating building products companies, contractors can earn points that can be redeemed for merchandise, events and vacations. The company also recently launched a training road show, Booz says, “with trailers going across the country to teach contractors tips and tricks.”

Boral also sends its Foundry and Grayne experts out into the field, according to Drury, with teams based around the country with trucks and trailers. “They talk directly with contractors about how to install the products—they’re not salesmen,” he says, adding that the company has modified products based on feedback received from these jobsite visits. “Our contractors are very open with them.” QR

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