Lifetime Remodeling Systems in Portland, Ore., offers customers just about every type of siding available and appropriate to homes in the area. That includes vinyl, stone, red cedar, fiber-cement, and EIFS replacement.
Co-owner Gino Streano estimates that five years ago cedar made up 5% of siding sales. Today? It's about 40% of sales. “But I push it,” he adds. And he can't get enough of it.
Wood's share of the residential siding market is expected to decrease from 15% to 11.5% between 2005 and 2010, according to market research firm The Freedonia Group, which includes all species under the rubric “wood.”
But shipments of cedar, for siding and other products such as decking and trim, has remained constant, according to spokesman Paul Mackie, billed “Mr. Cedar” by the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association (WRCLA).
Far from fading away, cedar is a product about which installers, and many upper-end homeowners, feel passionate. Cedar siding, Mackie says, “is the product that all the substitutes want to look like and claim to be.”
In addition to its beauty and versatility, he touts cedar as the most genuinely green siding product on the market, “a sustainable, renewable resource” that leaves a far smaller carbon footprint in production than rival materials such as vinyl or fiber-cement.
CEDAR GUYS Cedar siding installers need little convincing. Vermont contractor Henry Cleveland, who markets himself as the “Cedar Guy,” and whose customers come mainly from referral, says that when homeowners are choosing between cedar and other siding materials — usually fiber-cement — he makes his case for the beauty of the wood and the fact that, properly treated, it will last a lifetime. “People ask: ‘What's your price per square foot?' I tell them that we don't do it that way.”
Rather, he suggests that home-owners think long-term and weigh what they want the house to look like against a price difference of 20% to 25%. Other contractors agree that cedar's aesthetics are a self-sell.
“I've never had a cedar siding customer come to me and tell me he should have gone to something else,” Streano says. But, he points out, he has had customers who chose other materials later express regret that they hadn't bitten the bullet and opted for cedar siding.
MAINTENANCE ISSUES Cedar siding today typically comes pre-primed. Many homeowners want the raw look of the wood, attained by staining. Those seeking the natural graying of the wood can apply a stain with bleaching oil that makes it water repellent and makes the graying process uniform. Right now, clear stains last for one to two years, semi-transparent stains can last for four. Under testing at the moment, Mackie says, is a stain that will last five to seven times longer.
Still, cedar is far from a no-maintenance material, and homeowners must not only be willing to pay more but commit to its upkeep. “Proper installation and finishing are a must to get the results the customer expects,” Mackie says. To that end, the WRCLA offers an installation and maintenance DVD in English, dubbed in Spanish and in Russian, available through its Web site: www.wrcla.org.