LUMBERYARDS

February housing starts slip 1.1%

BY Ken Clark

Commerce Department data released Tuesday morning show February housing starts were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 698,000.

There’s good news and bad news in Tuesday’s data.

February starts declined 1.1% compared with the upwardly revised January figure. And single-family starts declined 9.9% to a rate of 457,000. The total-starts figure fell below expectations, as analysts expected about 710,000. 

The revised figure for January 2012 — 706,000 — gives that month the distinction of being the highest since October 2008. 

More good news for the home-building industry lies in the year-over-year data. Compared with February 2011, total housing starts increased 34.7%. And single-family starts grew 17.8% year over year. 

This good news, however, is tempered by the fact that February 2011 was one of the two worst months on record for residential construction.

Also released today, building permits in February increased 5.1% to an annual rate of 717,000.

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Class action lawsuit filed over weather barriers

BY Brae Canlen

KB Home is being sued by a group of homeowners in Cary, N.C., because it installed weather barriers behind fiber cement siding in some residential developments but not others, according to a case summary provided by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly

A Business Court judge certified the lawsuit, describing the class as "all persons in the state of North Carolina who own a home that was constructed by KB Homes without a weather-restrictive barrier behind the exterior veneer of Hardiplank cement fiber lap siding."

But this group may only consist of approximately 300 homes in the Twin Lakes, Amberly and Wynbrooke developments in Cary. KB Homes said in court filings that it used Hardiplank only in those communities and that after June 2007, it began installing a weather-resistant barrier due to a change in local building codes.

The home builder, which contracted with Stock Building Supply to install the siding, has brought the North Carolina pro dealer into the lawsuit as a third-party defendant.

The plaintiffs claim they have elevated levels of moisture in their houses. KB Homes disputes the existence of any real damage, claiming that it received no complaints until an attorney mass-mailed a solicitation letter about the missing weather barrier to homeowners in December 2007. 

The plaintiffs’ lawyers respond that it would be necessary to remove the Hardiplank to determine the extent of the damage. They also contend that KB Home was supposed to follow the manufacturer’s installation specifications and seek approval from the local building code authority, as opposed to looking to the building codes for guidance. 

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Sales rise at Ply Gem

BY Brae Canlen

Ply Gem Holdings, a manufacturer of exterior building products, reported net sales of $242.4 million for its fourth fiscal quarter, a 3.9% increase over sales of $220.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Net loss for the quarter, which ended Dec. 31, 2011, was $15.2 million, compared with $19.6 million in the same period a year ago. Operating earnings for 2011 decreased by $11.9 million to $44.9 million compared with operating earnings of $56.8 million for 2010, reflecting increased commodity costs that were not fully offset within the year and higher selling, general and administrative expense.

The Cary, N.C., company reported annual net sales of $1.03 billion for 2011, a 3.4% rise over net sales of $995.9 million for fiscal 2010.

"Our fourth-quarter 2011 sales were up 9.9% over the same period in 2010, and sales for the first two months of 2012 have been even stronger relative to the same period in 2011,” said Gary Robinette, president and CEO of Ply Gem. “However, it is still too early to tell how much of the positive performance may be attributable to the favorable weather conditions that have been experienced across much of the country. As such, we will continue our focus on maintaining a lean overall cost structure while striving to outperform the market across all of our product categories.”

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