As materials improve, the race is on for market dominance.

When it comes to trim and siding, homeowners and production builders share a common desire: They want a material that’s durable and aesthetically pleasing and requires little maintenance. But when price enters the picture, the two groups split: Homeowners can accept higher prices for higher quality, while builders prefer to keep costs at a minimum.

This quality-versus-price tug-of-war is nothing new for the construction industry, but what is new is how emerging technologies can shift the balance one way or the other. With trim, the common trend from our Product Monitor last year was that PVC was gaining ground in a category still largely dominated by wood, as it provided the best durability and least maintenance, albeit with a higher price tag. Now, however, it looks as though PVC isn’t as hot as previously thought. “PVC is a high-end product, and builders want to maximize their bottom lines,” says Casey Olson, an industry analyst at Principia Consulting. “If durability and maintenance are comparable, builders, especially volume builders, will choose the cheaper product.”

Though PVC still wins outright on durability, especially in areas with moisture, Olson and others say warranties on treated wood are starting to become competitive. “Treated-wood products now offer an almost comparable warranty to PVC. And people like wood,” Olson says.

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