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Credit: Chart source: The Freedonia Group

Bob Birner, vice president of Amazing Siding, a home improvement company headquartered in Houston, calls Texas "the Holy Land" of fiber-cement siding. Five years ago, he estimates, 5% of the company's siding jobs were fiber cement. Now, he says, "it's the majority of our siding business." Amazing Siding, with branches in other states as well, also sells an acrylic siding product and composite windows.

Onward and Upward

A report on the U.S. siding market issued earlier this year by the Freedonia Group suggests that by 2017 fiber-cement sales will increase to $2.065 million, with a 14% market share, and use of fiber-cement siding "will expand 7.7% annually" in improvement and repair applications. Up to now, much of that growth has been regional, focused in the South and Southwest. Freedonia suggests stronger future growth in the Northeast and Midwest. Peter Martino, marketing manager and project consultant for United Home Experts, in Boston, says that before his company took on the product in 2002, it was "rare" to see a fiber-cement replacement job in Massa­-chusetts. But, he says, in the last three or four years, "it's become increasingly widespread as a siding option." So widespread that United Home Experts, on its website, estimates that fiber-cement siding "is approaching a market share of 10% in Massachusetts and other parts of New England."

Slow Market

This year the overall siding market is slower, and contractors have noticed that consumers who have money to invest in the exterior of their home prefer to spend those dollars on windows or a new roof. At Weatherguard Systems, a Wisconsin company that sells gutter protection, windows, and siding, 2009 has been a lean year in the siding department. "We've done one job in vinyl and five or six in fiber cement," company president Jared Murray says. Residential siding customers, Murray has noticed, are those who have "saved and want to upgrade." Last year siding jobs at the company were 60% vinyl, 40% fiber cement.

In the past, home improvement companies tended to offer consumers one product or another. Today many companies carry several products, an arrangement that Birner compares to auto dealerships that carry products from multiple manufacturers. Exterior Home Improvement, in Indianapolis, for instance, offers insulated-vinyl, fiber-cement, or a wood-vinyl composite siding. For companies with fiber cement as a core product, quality installation is the appeal. At United Home Experts, where 80% of jobs are fiber cement, reps show prospects pictures of the company's fiber-cement jobs versus the less-than-stellar installs of others.

Birner guesses that 5% to 7% of Amazing Siding's fiber-cement projects in Houston involve rescuing botched do-it-yourself projects. Typically, the homeowner starts, then realizes what's involved and calls Birner's company to come over and begin again from scratch.