LBM dealers are facing challenging markets and making major decisions from one end of the country to the other. But the details and the markets vary tremendously depending on geography and local market conditions. In the following examples, we discuss some regional microtrends affecting how pro dealers are going after business.
• Midwest: Homeowners are pulling back from discretionary remodeling projects, and retailers are feeling the pinch in the kitchen and bath departments. But most people won’t put off replacing their roofs. A 2006 survey of U.S. households by the Home Improvement Research Institute found purchasing declines in 10 out of 14 building material categories. But spending on roofing products remained unchanged.
• Northeast: Although northeastern builders were among the early adopters of I-joists, home builders in New York, New Jersey and other East Coast cities were not as quick to adopt laminated veneer lumber (LVL) beams and other engineered wood products (EWP) in place of dimensional lumber. But as these builders find themselves working on more multi-family projects -- dictated by both the economy and the availability of open land -- many are finding EWP to be a good choice.
• Northwest: Manufacturers of insulation, moisture barriers and anti-mold products are learning how to work in tandem, often in public-private groups like the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH), an organization that includes, along with home builders and government agencies, representatives from DuPont, Andersen Windows, Armstrong World Industries, CertainTeed, Arxx Building Products, Louisiana-Pacific, Advanced Wall Systems and General Electric.
• Southwest: KB Home offers “TechShield,” a radiant barrier made by Louisiana-Pacific (LP), to homeowners throughout the Sunbelt states. In 2007, nearly one in two home buyers in those markets chose that option, according to the Los Angeles home builder. In some markets the acceptance rate was more than 80 percent.
• Southeast: One of the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina has been a rush of new building codes in southern Louisiana and Mississippi. Among other mandates, cities and counties are requiring that new housing built in “velocity zones” can withstand high winds. But Gulf Coast home builders need only look east, to the state of Florida, where local authorities have laid down some of the most stringent hurricane-related codes.