From Accent to Statement

Four Trends in Moulding and Millwork for 2017

By John Taraborelli

Bigger and Bolder

“Because the economy is coming back people are looking for something different,” says Toby Sonder of Leonard Lumber. “People don’t want cookie-cutter mouldings.” Moulding is going from accent to statement piece. That translates into larger profiles, deeper contours, and big depth. Sonder is also finding that moulding is not just for the outer edges of the room anymore. “People are doing whole walls instead of just crown and casing,” he notes. “Moulding is going on walls and ceilings.”

Living in a Material World

Though traditional wood products remain popular, the expanding market of materials is offering more options than ever before. “Exterior trim is one area in which materials are expected to continue to change,” explains Steve Booz of Royal Building Products. “Wood products continue to face increasingly stiff competition from cellular PVC and other engineered wood.” He cites low maintenance and better resistance to the elements as reasons for the continued upswing in wood alternatives.

To keep up with that sort of competition, even wood itself is changing, with new species and types of engineered wood products entering the market. Frank Jolly of Leonard is bullish on sapele mahogany, an African wood that is capitalizing on the difficulty of getting genuine Honduran mahogany. “It’s an excellent product for about half the price,” he says. “And it’s 
good for exterior use, too.” 

John Junod of Hood Distribution is so enthused by the new products that he’s considering expanding into moulding, which traditionally has not been part of his product line. “What draws me into the category is the uniqueness of the product,” he says, referring specifically to a new type of laminated veneer lumber made from poplar and cedar. “It’s been around for a while in structural components, but it’s brand new in moulding.” He cites the durability and appearance, along with its adaptability to custom work, as reasons for excitement.

Try It Before You Buy It

The dizzying array of options on the market now means that manufacturers, retailers, and customers alike are all struggling with questions: Will it work? Will it look good? Fortunately, technology is making it easier than ever to answer those questions. 

Royal uses a web-based Trim Visualizer that not only provides visual aids, allowing builders, contractors, and homeowners to see different designs on six distinct home styles, but is also a wealth of information to make the process easier. “These designs are simplified, easy to build and install, and true to the architecture and home style,” says Booz. “The Visualizer provides style notes, descriptions, and a downloadable PDF of each design, including a components list.”

At Patwin Plastics, Jim Murphy is turning to the possibilities of 3-D printing to streamline the design and build process. They can prototype a custom design before manufacturing it, which eliminates the headaches when a piece doesn’t work as planned. “When a customer comes to us with a new design, we’ll draw it up and print it.” He says this prototyping process saves time and money for both parties, “instead of six weeks of lead time and finding out it doesn’t work.”

High Tech Is Highly Efficient

The customization made possible by modern materials and technologies comes with fringe benefits: accuracy and efficiency. “We have an optimizing line so that people can call us with exact orders for length,” says Sonder of Leonard. It’s a technological advancement that minimizes waste on job sites. “That helps people save money and allows us to optimize the yield of 
what we buy.”

Royal’s Booz also sees the increased capabilities and reduced labor needs afforded by advanced technology as a benefit for both suppliers and end-users. “Modern millwork machines such as molders and shapers are allowing us to quickly develop customized solutions that were previously not available,” he says. Sounds like a win-win.   
 

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