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All The Trimmings: Trim Gives Your Homes The Perfect Touch

Choosing the right trim has many benefits. It can reduce waste, speed installation, give your homes tremendous curb appeal, help you make a sale, and ensure homeowner satisfaction for years to come. But perhaps because trim is one of the final steps in finishing a home’s exterior, some builders have a tendency to treat it as an afterthought. That can be a costly mistake, particularly in today’s market.

Decades ago, trim was a no-brainer. Supplies of cedar trim were readily available and prices were reasonable. That meant builders could finish out a home in a wood that had a relatively high level of natural resistance to moisture and fungal decay, as well as some resistance to insects. But cedar prices rose dramatically over time and supplies of cedar trim dwindled. Once cedar ceased to be cost-effective, it became impractical for most builders. The plentiful, affordable alternative was “white wood” trim made of spruce, pine or fir, also known in the trade as “SPF” trim.

Though it had been in use as far back as colonial times, the dominance of SPF trim brought home a raft of issues. Simply put, spruce, pine and fir lack some of the advantages of cedar. They’re more vulnerable to fungal decay and insect damage. And like any traditional wood product, white wood trim creates plenty of waste on the job site. Splits, knots and voids—along with warping, twisting, cupping and shrinking—can cost a builder a fortune in lost time and materials. Then, there’s every homeowner’s nightmare: hungry termites eager to sink their jaws into SPF trim.

While manufacturers of fiber cement siding tout their trim products as the obvious solution to the SPF trim dilemma, fiber cement trim has its own set of issues. Fiber cement products are heavy and brittle, making them difficult to work with and subject to a high rate of breakage. They also take nails and screws poorly, often pitting, splitting or even shattering around the nail head. What’s more, fiber cement products require special safety training, special gear to protect against airborne silica and specific cutting tools. Some municipalities have laws that mandate workers who cut fiber cement products on the job site must wear special protective gear designed to prevent silica dust inhalation. That adds costs and complicates installation, further reducing the practicality of a material that already suffers from a woeful lack of workability.

Meanwhile, LP Building Products offers a product line that the company positions as the ideal trim solution. The LP® SmartSide® Trim & Siding product line features a wide array of engineered wood trim products. LP SmartSide Trim products are made from real wood and deliver an authentic wood look, including cedar grain and reversible (smooth on one side, cedar on the other) patterns. Durable and consistent, these products are free of knots and voids, dramatically reducing waste. They’re more resistant to the twisting, warping, cupping and shrinking common with traditional wood. Yet they work and cut just like traditional wood, taking nails and screws with ease. And unlike fiber cement products, they don’t require extra handling methods.

Ray Ward, director of purchasing for the Dallas-based West Division of DR Horton Builders, points out, “Our waste factor has gone down tremendously since we’ve been using LP SmartSide Trim.” Gary Evans of Onyx Homes, also in Dallas, notes, “It’s lightweight. Doesn’t have a lot of the dust stuff .” Clay Bennett, manager of L&L Builders in Raleigh, North Carolina, also considers safety a key factor. “The guys aren’t having to wear masks, worrying about cutting on the cement siding. It’s just a better product for us—and we believe it’s a better product for our installers.”

Bennett mentioned more reasons LP SmartSide Trim products are popular with his installation crews. “It comes in 16-foot pieces instead of 12. So it’s easier. Also, the product is more durable. It doesn’t break. Guys can put up a 16-foot piece of soffit by themselves, compared to using two guys and worrying about it breaking.”

The proprietary SmartGuard® manufacturing process adds to the durability of LP SmartSide Trim products. This zinc borate–based process creates materials that resist fungal decay and termite damage. The factory primer adds a layer of moisture protection and helps ensure these products take paint well also.

Mike Murphy, vice president of Best Homes in Dallas, has high praise for the SmartGuard process. “I think they’ve come up with a revolutionary process to give us the moisture resistance, (and) the termite resistance,” he says. “The other thing that I like about it (LP SmartSide Trim) is the density. The board is more rigid. It gives us a straighter finish line. It has everything we’re looking for.”

LP SmartSide products are backed with an impressive warranty: a 5/50-Year Limited Warranty that provides a 5-year, 100% labor and replacement feature and a 50-Year Prorated Limited Warranty on the product. Needless to say, the depth of warranty coverage is considered a big plus by builders and homebuyers alike.

Ben Skoog, Business Marketing Manager, LP Siding Division, is blunt in his assessment of the trim market. “SPF is the flawed status quo. Cedar is the upgrade that has lost its value proposition. Fiber cement? Durability without workability. LP SmartSide Trim is the logical evolution of wood trim: beauty and workability, minus the hassles, plus engineered durability.”

Mike Ennis, manager of Guy C. Lee Building Materials in Raleigh, North Carolina, offers an even shorter summary of what he sees as LP SmartSide Trim’s advantages: “Better price. Better warranty. Better cut. Better looking product.”

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