The good news from the ABC Construction Backlog Indicator is the index hasn’t trended up recently. The bad news? It hasn’t gone down, either.

This steady-state condition may not be big news to most residential and light commercial contractors. Many pros are booked through the summer and into the fall and beyond. “The security of having all that work in the hopper is a good feeling,” reminds veteran remodeler Paul Winans.

But a backlog has a downside. Where will material costs be in three to six months? How will your crew or subs change? How do you keep waiting customers happy? When a bid comes down to two contractors with similar ability, who usually wins the business? The contractor with a 60-day backlog or 120 days?

Best of Both

More and more contractors are actively taking steps to compress project timelines without shortchanging the customer experience. Take cladding, for example. It’s tough to top vinyl siding for speed and ease of installation. Any crew can take it on. When the exterior work calls for fiber cement or engineered wood, it’s a different story. That requires a different skill set.

So how do you thread the needle between an engineered high-end look and vinyl’s installation simplicity and speed?

Shawn Hardy, senior vice president and general manager of integrated products at Ohio-based Associated Materials, has an idea.

50% More Installation Performance

“Contractors have enough challenges. Why add to them? Contractors who have ability to influence cladding choice should push for products that are faster and easier to install,” says Hardy.

“Simpler installation can be the difference between having four crews of six installers versus six crews of four installers. Six crews adds 50 percent project muscle. Extra bandwidth helps shrink backlogs, multiplies cash flow and makes more customers happier quicker.”

That threading needle turns out to be composite cladding, a siding material that brings together vinyl siding installation simplicity with superior performance and the high-end look of real wood. Until recently, that look was only available by using fiber cement or engineered wood—materials that come with installation and handling trade-offs.

All-in-One Solution

One composite siding product, Ascend Composite Cladding by Alside, provides such installation ease with a high-end aesthetic that it was named the 2021 NAHB Best of IBSx Most Innovative Building Material. Hardy says Alside’s new cladding is gaining fast acceptance because it blends all the good points of vinyl, fiber cement and engineered wood in one solution:

• Solid feel against the wall and a flat face similar to fiber cement and engineered wood planks• 7-inch profile with embossed cedar mill grain for authentic wood look
• Compatible with high-end trim options for a crisp, engineered appearance
• No rotting, warping, shrinking or swelling planks
• Minimal maintenance without the need to repaint
• Reinforced nail hem for wind load resistance up to 180 mph
• 20 low-gloss, low-maintenance colors with no need to seal, touch-up or caulk
• Graphite-Infused (GP)2 technology to achieve superior performance in tests for wind load and impact resistance, workability and flame/smoke spread, all backed by a lifetime warranty

In Hardy’s view, backlog and installation labor issues aren’t going away anytime soon, so it’s time to “adapt your business to the new normal. Look for ways to streamline workflows and utilize materials that don’t require a high skill level for efficient installations,” he advises. “The good news is, that kind of performance is now available for nearly any project with Ascend composite cladding.”

Learn more on how to speed cladding installation time with high-end aesthetics and nearly maintenance-free performance.