Exterior Specialties of Ankeny, Iowa
Exterior Specialties is a stucco and architectural trim company providing services to both the residential and commercial construction industries. The company has been operating with Hotwire Direct foam equipment since 2005. Owner Tory Lint has seen his lead times shrink for custom foam trim, while customer satisfaction and creativity have grown. The market Tory competes in has grown to also include specialty interior cast stone elements.
Using the 8600 CNC, 3000 Shaper, and 5460 Miter Cut Exterior Specialties created the custom molds and positives for this sign, and the trim molding on this home.
When Exterior Specialties began to offer foam moldings on jobs, Tory was buying them from a local supplier. The supplier offered a limited variety of shapes and sizes to choose from. Furthermore, Exterior Specialties is a small company and was not able to get EPS pieces when needed, commonly waiting 3 weeks to get 150’ of 6” crown molding. The problem Tory saw was clients’ desire for EPS trim moldings grew, however buying it from the local supplier was something he shied away from because of the slow turnaround and limited options, eventually Tory did some research.
“I researched the market extensively, I spent a number of evenings at home on the web doing research and I looked at everything out there. I was looking to see if people had pros and cons about equipment they had purchased, and I actually went to two different manufacturers’ facilities. Hotwire Direct was the second and last place I went. They were very personal, and have a good family system. Where one employee left off, the other took over and you felt warm and fuzzy when you got done out there, you really did! The Hotwire Direct people knew what they were talking about and would work with me.”
Architectural moldings and trim details cast with ArcusStone in custom hot wire cut foam molds
Out of the Gate Running
Hotwire Direct’s 8600 CNC machine is a turnkey system. After the installer arrives and sets up the machine, hands-on training begins. Within hours, actual production starts, as Tory says:
“I was producing trim shapes for my business needs in 2-3 hours. This is not brain surgery here, or rocket science. The installer did a very good job of explaining it to me, and I was able to draw up a piece and print it out on a piece of paper and take it down to my machine and scan it and cut out the piece. Within a month you could be very-very good on it.”
Along with thorough training, the products have characteristics that enable them to thrive in the Exterior Specialties production shop environment, Tory says:
“The machinery is very nicely put together and engineered. They are built like tanks, and it’s a good thing. I see what else is out there and I’ve never-ever regretted buying my machine from Hotwire Direct.”
The in-house hot wire technology has sparked creativity, which allows Exterior Specialties to confidently deliver ahead of schedule if necessary on customers’ requests for designs, even if they are out of the ordinary. Tory is now doing custom crown moldings for every job and allowing people to bring their own designs, he says: “It’s all custom now and it’s so quick it’s scary!”
For better or worse, the creativity bug has crept out of work and into his personal time:
“Sometimes I get insomnia at night. I get fired up on something and it’s endless, it’s absolutely endless the things you can think up and do with the 8600 CNC. I mean anything I look at today, I’m thinking: ‘How can I make that out of foam?’ It’s like a computer or cell phone, after you have it you wonder how you lived without it before.”
Reducing Labor Costs
Corner made as one piece in the shop
One area that bogs down trim molding applicators is mitering and fitting corners at the jobsite. For the high-end market Exterior Specialties serves, getting ‘close’ is not an option. Every corner detail needs to be perfect. Hours spent on the job site cutting miters and cleaning it up with canned spray foam is time consuming and unnecessary, especially when you can show up on the job with all the corners done and ready to install. Tory says:
“We create all our miters on our machine and fill in with straight pieces out on the job. I see my competition out on the job still cutting all their corner pieces…these guys don’t realize how much time their employees are spending putting this together on the site. I come in with all my corners done and that’s what’s nice about having the Hotwire Direct system. The time savings alone for an EIFS shop would probably pay for the equipment in 2-3 years.”
Exterior Specialties used to install regrind foam and pieces with wire drag on the corners. Now Tory says:
“I control my accuracy. Before some of my pieces were terrible, and I wonder why did I even accept that from our supplier? But of course, when you don’t know any different, you don’t what to expect. And after you know the difference, yeah, there’s a ton of difference in quality. We now control our quality.”
Working outside in the cold Iowa winters year after year is a lot to put up with. From the bone-chilling wind, to the extra work involved with constructing a warm space around the job area and the fuel costs to get the temperature right so you can apply stucco. With the foam cutting equipment Tory discovered a way to work in the shop more on the frigid days. Using casting techniques and foam, Tory now has found a niche market doing interior fireplaces and range hoods. He recently was published in a regional housing publication that highlighted a 19’6” tall fireplace he created with the foam casting technique.
Business Growth with Hotwire Direct
The in-house foam shop has enabled Exterior Specialties to grow. Before having the CNC contour cutter he was turning some jobs away because of the wait time he experienced with his foam shape supplier. He’s now able to offer more for his customers. Since setting up his foam shop, he’s expanded his exterior trim capabilities while reducing lead times and reducing labor costs. He’s also found a new niche market doing interior cast stone work. Tory says:
“I would say that my Hotwire Direct system has allowed me to reduce my costs, improve quality, speed up the process considerably, and allow me to enter an exciting new market. I have never dreamt of doing fireplaces, I mean the name of my business is Exterior Specialties.”