Opinion: What the 25th Anniversary of Cedar Impressions Siding Means to Me

by Kacey Larsen

It’s been almost two years since I said goodbye to my CertainTeed siding colleagues, so I jumped at the chance to reminisce about our team and building industry partners that were so involved in establishing Cedar Impressions.

Engineering

It started more than 30 years ago, and I’m still amazed at the sustained growth and innovation of this product. From the very first day it was embraced by the building and remodeling community and property owners. Each year, CertainTeed Siding would host regional think tank-like meetings with our valued contractor and distributor partners across the country. Our sales, marketing and technical teams were involved in these ongoing events, so there was always an opportunity for two-way discussion about what was working with our products, marketing materials and contractor programs—and what wasn’t. We had an internal company score card we would check off from year-to-year to keep us accountable. The score card, as well as our new product development process helped streamline the follow-through on promised product updates and marketing program requests. These annual sessions, in part, were key to the successful launch, development and evolution of the Cedar Impressions product family.

Most importantly, these voice-of-customer feedback sessions were built on trust. They were a real gut-check, which determined whether we were on the right track in provided our contractor and distributor partners exactly what they desired and needed. They also helped solidify CertainTeed’s reputation as a company that listens to its customers, while at the same time demonstrated to our customers that we were committed to their long-term success. One of the key takeaways that led us to develop Cedar Impressions was the wish for a low-maintenance siding product that emulated natural wood shakes and shingles.

In the 1980s, there were a few shake and shingle style siding products on the market made of alternative materials. These products garnered some limited regional success in the marketplace, but most were low-quality, not authentic looking and expensive. Identifying the market potential through extensive voice-of-customer research, we determined there was true product gap.

With our extensive market research, our team justified a large investment in product development, resulting in the patented, industry-first 7-inch perfection shingle. As an injection-molded product designed with a natural vertical wood grain texture and a diverse color palette, we achieved the best emulation of a natural wood shake and shingle product. Cedar Impressions was truly the first of its kind—a stand-alone product to be used on the entire house exterior or with other siding styles for a complementary mix-and-match design.

After much testing and successful home installations on the Jersey Shore and Long Island, we were ready to launch Cedar Impressions nationally by 1992, with one profile and one corner in four colors that worked with existing accessories in they vinyl siding product line.

A beach house with the original Cedar Impressions product installed in 1992.
The same beach house with the same siding in 2017.

Design and Style

Initially revered for its authentic appearance, as well as the ability to create a seamless look, the product line flourished and expanded for more than 12 years with accessories, features and numerous colors to match and complement each other while coordinating with trim and roofing.

From 2004 to 2015, the second generation of Cedar Impressions boasted proprietary installations easements that appealed to all in the industry and made artists and perfectionists, especially, out of vinyl siding contractors. In addition to working closely with the product on a daily basis, contractors could be more creative in their designs with vinyl siding. For example, they had the option of mixing and matching color, styles and textures using different shades of lap vinyl siding on different parts of a home exterior and polymer shingle siding as an accent for dormers, etc.

During this time, CertainTeed engineers invented features that made installation easier, efficient and more accurately. A PanelThermometer indicates the correct panel temperature for precise application in any season. It takes guesswork out of the equation with proper matching of the temperature strip where panels join, allowing for proper spacing as needed. Different widths were created between shingles within the panel for a more realistic-looking installation, so Gap Variation corrects the gaps between panels.

Aesthetically, an even more realistic TrueTexture wood grain-look molded from real wood cedar shingles was patented for Cedar Impressions. Each year, professionals and homeowners clamored for more styles and colors to mix-and-match for a custom designer exterior look. Half-Rounds, Triple 5-inch panels, Rough Split Shakes in Double 7-inch and 9-inch panels were born. Multiple darker colors and accessories came out as well, including outside, inside, offset and bay corners.

Contractor Programs

The product was excellent, but Cedar Impressions wasn’t made to just look pretty sitting on a shelf or in a showroom display—it was made to go on homes and light commercial buildings. So, the next stop was to take our Master Craftsman installer certification program to the next level. At this point the housing market was saturated. We knew our partners were professionals and had the training, but we wanted to help them stand out in their increasingly competitive local markets and be the obvious choice over fly-by-night contractors with low-ball pricing.

The 5-Star Contractor certification program began in 2007, becoming a new way to enhance installation skills, improve a partner’s profitability  and earn exclusive rebates and rewards. It became a premier contractor program, providing all the tools necessary to grow a business.

Color and Texture Leader

As I entered my last year with the company in 2015, I was lucky enough to see the most recent evolution of Cedar Impressions take shape. I was so proud of everyone involved in bringing it to market. They had made Cedar Impressions the Kleenex of the shake and shingle siding industry. And more than 40 colors—ranging from deep, rich hues to neutrals—provided unlimited exterior design possibilities.

Cedar Impressions Triple 5-inch Straight Edge Sawmill Shingles

Cedar Impressions Single 7-inch Perfection Shingles

After four decades in the business, my friends and former team couldn’t help but share their excitement regarding the additions introduced in 2015 and after. The Cedar Impressions Individual 5-inch Sawmill Shingles with CedarLife Color Blends and TrueTexture sawmill finish were first shown at the Remodeling Show/JLC Live event in Chicago in 2015, followed by a display at the International Builders’ Show (IBS) 2016 in Las Vegas. Next, the shingles appeared at IBS 2017 in Orlando; this time with the Cedar Impressions Single 7-inch Perfection Shingles with CedarLife Color Blends and TrueTexture perfection finish and Cedar Impressions Triple 5-inch Straight Edge Sawmill Shingles available in solid colors with a TrueTexture sawmill finish. Because they are resistant to fading, these amazing shingles make time stand still.

Editors from respected building industry magazines were doing double-takes. The panels and single shingles looked so realistic—even up close—that touching and tapping each siding sample was common to prove it was not wood. Even wood shadow lines became more apparent through tapered gaps very close to the panel face that dig deeper as it goes down. The third generation was turning heads.

Today, Cedar Impressions continues to lead, converting even the biggest “wood snobs,” architects, installers and homeowners into satisfied customers. My job is long done, but it was a fantastic ride. As a retiree, it’s fun to sit and watch old friends and the CertainTeed siding team members commit to continue that electrifying spirit of innovation.

 

Bill Eberle is the former vice president of marketing for CertainTeed Siding. In 2015, he retired after 42 years with the company. Under Eberle’s leadership through today, CertainTeed vinyl siding has ranked highly amongst building professionals. He and his team are respected throughout the industry for their development and marketing of building materials and customer programs. 

 

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