Top LBM Dealers See Dramatic Growth Alongside Supply and Labor Challenges

Top LBM Dealers See Dramatic Growth Alongside Supply and Labor Challenges

The 2022 LBM 100 from LBM Journal and the Construction Supply 150 from Webb Analytics are not just lists of the leading LBM dealers in the country—they’re a reflection of the state of the greater construction industry and its challenges and opportunities. As such, it’s not surprising that dealers reported dramatic sales increases all while navigating a series of unprecedented obstacles.

“Though the nation’s dealers continued to navigate the pandemic in 2021, the challenges that accompany it were slightly different,” LBM Journal said. “Pandemic-amplified labor shortages and continued supply chain constraints and price hikes have only worsened and have recently been joined by rising inflation and fuel costs, due in part to the war in Ukraine. At the same time, booming residential construction activity continued throughout 2021, forcing dealers to channel their problem-solving even more as they tried to keep materials in customers’ hands, deliveries on time, and expenses down.”

Growth indeed. The magazine reported that all but one dealer on the list experienced sales gains in 2021, with 29 growing 50% and 10 companies experiencing gains of 75% or more. Some of the growth was driven by acquisition, but much of it can be attributed to booming construction activity.

Skyrocketing lumber prices also played a role, Webb Analytics noted. “Largely because of softwood lumber’s 116% price increase between January 2020 and January 2022, according to the Producer Price Index, lumberyards with manufacturing operations saw their revenues shoot up 58.6% in 2021 from the year before,” the analysis said. “This group—one of five subcategories tracked in the CS150—gets a lion’s share of its revenue from sales of framing lumber as well as from manufacturing wood-based components. Thus, a huge amount of what these dealers stock sold for drastically more than it did just a few years ago.”

Here are other notable trends from this year’s LBM Journal 100 and Construction Supply 150:

Ongoing labor woes: Not surprisingly, LBM dealers are feeling the labor strain like elsewhere in the construction industry and the rest of the country overall. “This year, 84% of companies indicated that recruiting, hiring, and retaining employees is a challenge, up 7 percentage points from last year,” LBM Journal reported. “The most difficult positions to fill, by a significant percentage, were drivers and yard workers.”

In response, dealers said they are implementing a number of efforts, from mentoring programs to pay and benefit increases.

Price and supply: Also expected, dealers cited price hikes and tight supply as another top hurdle. “Our biggest challenge currently is extended lead times and the constant rising costs,” Charlie Parks, owner and vice president of Parks Lumber & Building Supply, told LBM Journal. “Both of these challenges make it extremely difficult to play a consistent and reliable role in our customers’ attempt to get jobs under contract.”

Yet dealers still came through for their customers. “Priority customer retention was over 95% during extremely unprecedented times in which keeping the customer fulfilled was more difficult than ever,” Parks said.

Acquisitions abound. The trend of dealers gobbling each other up continued. Webb Analytics reported 156 deals covering 693 facilities in 2021. At the same time, 167 new facilities opened.

Ecommerce growth: Webb Analytics said that 72.7% of the Construction Supply 150 are allowing customers to access bills online, and 58.6% are allowing online payment, a significant increase from 56.7% and 42.3% the previous year, respectively.

On the other hand, online sales are still sluggish, LBM Journal found. “Compared to 2020, fewer LBM 100 dealers—just 31%—say they conducted sales online last year. However, among those companies, more are seeing greater chunks of sales online: 3.9% are seeing 25% to 49% of sales take place online, up from 0% the year before, and 3.9% are seeing 10% to 24% of sales take place online.”

View the full LBM Journal 100 here and download the Construction Supply 150 here.

Image: iStock.com/Foryou13

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Vinyl Siding: A Surprising Way to Go Green

Most people don’t consider vinyl an eco-friendly building product, but data show it actually is. There are misconceptions that vinyl siding doesn’t have sustainable design, production, or operations. But vinyl outperforms almost all other common cladding materials, including fiber cement and brick, in total environmental impact.

While the classic look of wood is forever timeless, new developments in design allow vinyl siding to look and feel like real wood, down to the actual grain. With vinyl, you can eliminate the cost and maintenance of wood and choose a sustainable, durable, and affordable alternative. If you, your company, or your customers are dedicated to greener construction and building practices, then vinyl siding is for you.

Less Waste

From production to construction, vinyl siding produces less waste than other building materials, such as brick and cement. Vinyl siding products require minimal raw material and produce virtually no waste. They also require less water and energy to produce than other building materials.

Lower Impact

Vinyl siding also maintains a low environmental impact over its lifespan. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) software to measure specific environmental concerns such as air pollution, acidification, and global warming potential in the environmental life cycle of products.

Throughout its life cycle, vinyl releases significantly fewer toxic chemicals into the environment than other siding materials and has a lower overall environmental impact.

Compared to vinyl siding, construction materials like fiber cement contribute 4x to global warming potential, 2x times to acidification, and over 3x to air pollution. Compared to other common sidings, vinyl performs amazingly well. According to the NIST, vinyl has a lower environmental impact than brick, and even rivals some wood siding.

Infographic courtesy Vinyl Siding Institute

Westlake Royal Building Products uses PVC resin as the backbone of Royal and Exterior Portfolio vinyl siding. This is derived from components in nature, such as common salt and natural gas, that make PVC weather-resistant, chemically stable, and lightweight.

Recyclable

While some argue that wood is a more eco-friendly siding option because it is biodegradable, vinyl siding lasts longer and is recyclable. Vinyl siding is recycled with post-consumer recycling, post-industrial recycling, and closed-loop recycling, meaning every part of its production and lifespan lends it to being easily reused.

Recycling reduces waste disposal and extraction of new materials while reducing landfill accumulation and incineration. Both lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Because of the nature of PVC, vinyl is a thermoplastic that can be ground up repeatedly, re-melted and formed into various new products even after the life expiration of the original product.

According to the Vinyl Siding Institute, 99% of all manufactured siding is recycled into other products rather than being sent to the landfill.

Longevity

The longevity of vinyl siding is part of what makes it so eco-friendly. Although recycling is an important component of sustainability, vinyl lasts such a long time it is unlikely to end up in the waste stream anytime soon. Many warranties on vinyl siding last for 40 years or more, meaning it doesn’t have to be ripped out and replaced very often.

Not only is vinyl long-lasting, but it’s low maintenance. Exterior siding that requires less care saves resources and reduces emissions and chemicals.

Thanks to innovative technology and sustainable practices, PVC vinyl siding is perfect for giving homeowners the aesthetic and performance they are looking for, while offering the peace of mind that our products were purpose-built to support a sustainable alternative and future.

Learn more about vinyl siding’s sustainability properties on the Vinyl Siding Institute’s website.

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Videos: How to Install Foundry Grayne Shingle Siding

Foundry’s Grayne Shingle Siding not only offers a beautiful aesthetic that replicates the look of cedar, it’s easy to install with minimal waste.

How easy? Check out our new three-part video series where contractor and educator Mike Sloggatt outlines the steps and best practices along the way.

Chapter 1: Getting started

Learn how to mark reference lines, including using a story pole to reference off the control line, preparing outside and inside corners and flashing, and installing the starter strip

Chapter 2: Layout

In this part, learn how to offset the panels to avoid repeating patterns and best practices for cutting panels.

Chapter 3: Installing the Panels

Learn how to install the panels, including preserving the offset pattern, proper gapping, locking in the panels, and proper nailing and nail placement, as well as installing inside corners and starting on an adjacent wall.

Learn more about Foundry Grayne shingle siding here.

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Trends in Multifamily Exteriors

Whether they own or rent, people want to be proud of where they live and feel good coming home. And whether it’s a custom single-family bungalow or a condo in a three-story multifamily building, first impressions are everything and comfort is paramount. Multifamily dwellers don’t want to sacrifice simply because they share walls and common areas—and savvy developers and builders are responding by paying closer attention to exterior facades and outdoor amenities.

Multi-Textured Facades

Many trends trickle over from single-family design, and that’s certainly the case with the drive toward multi-textured facades. The days of building a 120-unit monotone apartment building with plain block under gray vinyl are fading fast. Like single-family homes, more multifamily properties are emerging with a blend of cladding materials and colors, such as stone and siding, EIFS and stone, or stone and brick. Leveraging multiple textures adds visual interest while adding dimension and differentiation between buildings, while accents and trimwork provide essential finishing touches. The resulting looks lean more home-like and comfortable instead of industrial and one-note.

Three-story multifamily

Versetta Stone and TruExterior Siding offer an ideal combination for achieving these looks. Versetta Stone siding offers the look of stone but with a panelized format that installs like traditional siding along with a built-in rainscreen. Made with poly-ash technology, TruExterior Siding comes in a range of authentic profiles and can be painted any color, including dark hues that look great in multifamily buildings in urban or suburban areas.

Versetta Stone on multifamily building

Along similar lines, we’re seeing variation in dimension, with more balconies, decks, recesses, and bumpouts. Along with adding aesthetic appeal and differentiation, these features can help define individual units.

Because multiple materials also often means multiple trades, it increases the risk of failure in the wall system. Extra caution should be taken to ensure everyone works together and plans ahead collaboratively and schedules thoughtfully to ensure the integrity of the air and water barriers.

In fact, it’s wise to create a small-scale mockup, which will allow for more careful planning and upfront identification of problem areas.

Three-story contemporary multifamily building

Outdoor Amenities

COVID-19 lockdowns were harder on multifamily dwellers, who don’t have spacious yards to escape to, and further brought attention to the need to incorporate outdoor features into condo and apartment buildings. Creative incorporation through balconies, roof decks, courtyards, and pocket parks should be top of mind for builders, as the desire for these spaces isn’t likely to fade even as the pandemic does. Shared outdoor areas with fire pits and lounge seating are an ideal way to not only provide more room to move, but also build a sense of community that may keep tenants in place for longer.

The pandemic also saw a significant increase in pet ownership, so incorporating dog parks or dog-friendly areas also can be beneficial to residents and property managers alike.

On the transportation front, the impact of both electric bikes and electric cars shouldn’t be ignored. Consider not just space for bicycle parking, but covered areas that can protect electric bikes. And factor in spaces in your parking facilities that can accommodate car charging.

Fannie Mae expects the trends that helped multifamily turn around in 2021, following the impact of the pandemic, to continue elevating demand for the next five years. Ensure your properties are at the top of buyers’ and renters’ lists by keeping aesthetics, performance, and occupant comfort top of mind.

Creating multi-textured facades is easy with Boral Building Products’ portfolio of siding, trim, and accessory brands. Learn more here.

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How Contractors Can Leverage Instagram and TikTok

By now, many builders and remodelers have a Facebook page, a LinkedIn page, and perhaps a Twitter account. But should you be doing more to stay on trend?

We chatted with two contractors who are continually pushing the envelope on social media—one who’s grown to influencer status on Instagram and another who has built a massive follower base on TikTok—to see why they’re finding success staying on top of the hottest platforms.

Why Is Social Media Important for Construction Businesses

Remodeler Joe Danz, owner of Boston Exterior Remodeling, has become something of a star on Instagram, telling stories, posting his company’s work, and connecting with manufacturers. “Instagram really has changed the platform, how contractors in real time can show their work, show problem solving, show products,” Danz says. “People are really receptive to that because they enjoy content. Homeowners can see our page and know we’re serious about what we’re doing, that we’re craftsmen, that we take pride in what we’re doing.”

Danz says social media content also helps provide validation. “If someone is looking up ideas and they see the same company over and over, and their friends are following you, they start to vet you. It’s another form of word of mouth.”

In fact, Danz says social media has become an essential lead generator for the company. “I would say 60% of our business comes from social media at this point.”

Plus videos and imagery on social media also provide a more detailed look at quality and craftsmanship, allowing a remodeler to charge more for their work.

In this traditional Instagram post, Boston Exterior Remodeling showed in-progress and completed images of an 1870s Victorian featuring Boral’s Foundry Grayne siding in Rustic Slate (click to scroll through the album on Instagram).

Kyle Stumpenhorst, owner of Rural Renovators (aka RR Buildings) in Franklin Grove, Ill., has 1.7 million followers on TikTok, eschewing the notion that it’s an app for youth doing dances.

On the short-video app, participants use shared music and sounds (or their own original audio) to create content. While widely known for dances and music, it’s quickly become a place for education, demonstrations, and idea sharing. As a result, creative contractors, trades, and manufacturers in the building industry have been jumping on the trend.

Stumpenhorst uses the app from the jobsite to show craftsmanship and installation techniques, both in straightforward videos as well as leveraging the app’s unique features and trends.

“I just want to bring awareness to the trades, to cool tools, and overall post-frame construction,” he says.  

Strategies for Social Media Success

For those just starting out on social, Danz encourages a jump-in-and-stick-with-it approach. “It doesn’t matter how many followers you have or how many likes you get,” he advises. “You just want to show your company in a good way. If you do that and stay with it, you’ll get noticed. It does validate your company.”

Danz also cautions that you need to enjoy doing social media to get the most success out of it. “What you put into it is what you get out of it.”

“I think a big reason for my success was consistently creating unique content that was positive and educational,” he adds. “People could learn something while also being inspired or motivated to do something themselves.”

Boston Exterior’s posts include tips and tricks, such as using the water tube approach to leveling:

Also, revealing new approaches, including this use of Kleer PVC trim:

The type of content varies greatly based on what your audiences respond to as well as the style of platform. For example, Instagram is great for showcasing finished projects or before-and-afters, and Instagram stories offer an opportunity for quick videos of your craftsmanship and process.

And showing the people doing the work is important, too. “They want to see the faces behind it, not just the pretty pictures,” Danz advises.

And, of course, creating pictorials of completed projects:

Like Boston Exterior, RR Buildings also seizes the opportunity to showcase its attention to detail and expert craftsmanship (click to play):
https://www.tiktok.com/@rrbuildings/video/6877352098212613381

@rrbuildings

Tricky detail… doesn’t go this quick in real time #ScaryStories #construction #satisfyingaf #smooth #asmrtiktoks #metal

♬ original sound – RR Buildings

And within that, tool tests, as shown while Stumpenhorst was installing Boral’s Versetta Stone siding:
https://www.tiktok.com/@rrbuildings/video/6864727432121830661

@rrbuildings

This thing keeps impressing #tools #dewalt #batterypower #dirtyhandscleanmoney #smoothaf

♬ original sound – RR Buildings

And be sure to adapt your content based on the unique features of the app. TikTok is a platform that thrives on using songs and keeping up with trends. Along with more traditional videos, RR Buildings makes videos to trending sounds or, in this case, playing on viewers’ love of “satisfying” sounds and actions while simultaneously showing its roofing prowess:
https://www.tiktok.com/@rrbuildings/video/7025047484443397381

@rrbuildings

Installing the standing seam panels… no visible fasteners #tight #satisfying #ceoofconstruction #metalroof #metalart

♬ original sound – RR Buildings

Equipment manufacturer Doosan is an expert at this, choreographing its machines and people to the tune of trending songs, as seen here:
https://www.tiktok.com/@doosantok/video/6983437574379539717

@doosantok

Sorry for the detours this weekend! 🚧⚠🚧 #construction #doosan #heavyequipment #excavator #calabria

♬ son original – French Fuse

Like other platforms, TikTok is interactive and thrives on engagement, allowing viewers to comment, share, and even “duet” your videos to make them their own. You can respond to questions as a comment or with another video, as RR Buildings did here regarding its timber framing techniques:
https://www.tiktok.com/@rrbuildings/video/6935528335183187206

@rrbuildings

Reply to @dad_by_day_dj_by_night #constructiontips #ceoofconstruction #nowyouknow #VideoSnapChallenge #postframe

♬ original sound – RR Buildings

Love social media? Be sure to follow Boral Building Products on Facebook and Instagram. And check out our 11 exterior brands at www.boralbuildingproducts.com.

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