Learn the top 3 things a builder looks for when selecting building products.

Matt Risinger

Episode 29: Learn the top 3 things a builder looks for when selecting building products.

What You Will Learn:

  • What a seasoned expert looks for in a building product and manufacturer

In the latest episode of GWP’s Constructing Brands podcast, we speak with Matt Risinger, host of The Build Show and Founder of Risinger Build. Matt offers us insights in how he’s selected certain building materials and the process by which he tests and vets them for use on his project. Matt’s goal is to elevate the standards of the building industry. Learn what he looks for in his relationship with building manufacturers.

About Matt Risinger

Matt Risinger received his Bachelor’s of Science in Industrial Management from Grove City College. He worked for one of the National Production Builders (NVR Ryan Homes) after college where he met his Texan wife in Washington, DC. His 7-year experience with National Production Builders was fun, but didn’t satisfy his desire for “Craftsmanship”. In 2002, he and his family moved to Portland, OR in 2002 during the national mold crisis which led him down the path of Building Science. He wanted to understand why these homes were failing. This helped him learn about the science behind the construction and it’s been his passion ever since. After moving to Texas in 2005, he worked exclusively with architects to build the very best in home craftsmanship using products and skills he can stand behind.

Resources:

Intro (00:02):
Building materials manufacturers run a complex business, but we are here to help you plan for the future. Whether you are launching a new product, rebuilding a brand, trying to get thoughtful communication strategies in place or everything in between. Here on Constructing Brands, we will be talking with leading experts in construction, architecture, engineering, marketing, and manufacturing to help make your building materials company stronger and more profitable. With 15 plus years of experience, helping building materials companies succeed and grow, your host, Eric Lanel.

Eric (00:44):
Good morning and welcome to Constructing Brands. Today, I'm so happy to have on Matt Risinger. Matt is the CEO and Chief Builder at Risinger and Co. Matt has a show that he hosts called Build Show on YouTube. Matt, welcome to Constructing Brands.

Matt (01:02):
Definitely. Eric, thanks for having me man. Appreciate it.

Eric (01:04):
So I was looking at you and your background. I was just so fascinated by the fact that A, you know, who your target is and it's, you're looking specifically for remodeling or new builds, but it's whole home remodels or new builds and their homes that are significant. Is that accurate?

Matt (01:22):
100%, yep. That's our target audience. And typically we only do projects within about 30 minutes of my office. So I'm thankful I'm in a major metro area that supports that.

Eric (01:37):
Austin, Texas is definitely a place that's on the rise right now. Huh?

Matt (01:43):
Yeah. And you know, this is a really design oriented town, Eric which is helpful because I then don't have to market myself to the broader, you know, million, million and a half people in Austin. I just need to market myself to a couple of dozen architects that have a good reputation and attract good clientele. And then when they get one of those good jobs over the last 15 years, myself and some other good builders in the town and kind of trained the architects to not move forward with plans, without bringing a builder on board under a pre-construction services agreement. So my clients usually don't know a thing about me until an architect goes, hey, before we go too far down the road, you've given me this program, I know you have this beautiful lot, maybe I have a sketch, but I don't know exactly how much this is going to cost. And we need a builder to kind of captain the budget and make sure that we're building things that are going to work permit wise and within your budget constraints. So let's interview these two or three builders I know that will do a good job on your project and see which one fits with you. And then I've totally gotten out of the three-bid game which is wonderful for my business.

Eric (03:02):
And it seems as though, you know, you have such a thoughtfully crafted and well-designed, I think that's the way how you approach your work. Is that pretty close to right?

Matt (03:15):
Yeah, I'd probably throw in nerdy maybe on there, on that as well. We really think about the details and care about what's unseen, so that my clients then get a project that's dramatically more comfortable, more durable, more efficient, and better built than most homes in America, because we've really thought through those details. And by the way, we're also good at the aesthetics as well. Our craftsmanship, our abilities to execute very crisply are really honed. And so I'm able to kind of sell, not just the things you can see, but the things you can't see as being a differentiator for us.

Eric (04:00):
And so, because we're walking into this section, this is really where my audience who's listening. This is where they live, which is manufacturing, building supplies, building products that are going both on the outside and the inside of the walls and on the floors and on the ceilings and all the way around. So when I really was digging into who you were and what you were about, it's really for the love of the game, as well as the game, it feels like that really came across, that you're going to come up with and you're going to really build a home that is the best home that could be built.

Matt (04:36):
That's right.

Eric (04:36):
And so I would imagine you're always looking at different products to use for these homes. What's your process? How do you find how, what goes into it and where do you look for these products?

Matt (04:52):
Yeah, that's a great question, Eric. Sometimes it's history and tradition you know, for instance, I've used the James Hardie siding for 20 years successfully. Now I don't use it on every project. But when I have a project that looks like it's going to look for a cement based siding, it's really easy for me to go to that manufacturer. I have a good relationship with them. I use them a lot successfully but because I work with architects, a lot of times they don't want to do what's been done already or do you know, off the shelf things, which means that over the years I've really become a researcher. And sometimes that's just looking at data sheets and looking at the you know, what I can find about the product. Usually it's requesting a sample. Oftentimes it's doing a little bit of my own research as well. And sometimes even some materials testing. I've broken a lot of materials. I've set a lot of materials on fire. I've set a lot of materials out in the sun in my backyard for 3 weeks to see what they look like. I've gone to data sources on the internet. And I also have garnered a large group of friends on social media that I've gone to and said, have you used this? I haven't used this and it's being specced on this project. What's your experience? Is this as good as they say it is? Or are there some pitfalls that I should know about that aren't in the literature? So it's not the same process every time, but I've learned that you know, ultimately I'm responsible for the project and if we're going to use a product that's untested or new or different, or even just expensive, I got to make sure that I'm going to put it in a way that I can stand behind. And I've been burned enough times, that cost me a lot of money and a lot of heartache that I'm really interested in reliable, durable products that I know are going to last and perform. And so I'm not just going to trust some internet marketing. I'm going to really make sure that I can put my stamp behind it. Because when it goes in one of my houses I need to make sure that I'm okay with those clients calling me in 3 years and me saying, hey, how's that holding up? We looking good? Is the house still meeting your expectations? And the times that I've put some things in that I didn't fully research it's come back on me and I've spent a lot of time and effort to make sure that happens less and less over the years.

Eric (07:39):
So I'm hearing you're doing your grandmother research, you're kicking the tires, you're testing it yourself, you're doing it, putting it through its paces. You're also doing online research, seeing what people say you're hearing from people you're looking at testimonials, stuff like that. What can a building material manufacturer provide you that would help you in these decisions that you're making?

Matt (08:08):
Yeah, you know, it's funny to say this as an influential person you know, I'm kind of, I've gotten this reputation as being an influencer, which is a marketing term that was never, I never heard that term before, maybe 5 years ago, but I look to see what other, what I would consider like-minded peers think about a product. And if I see a builder that I know and trust using a product, let's say on social media, I may reach out to them and go, hey, what's your experience with that? You know, is this your first time using this? Have you used it before? Those kinds of things and shockingly, I get really, really good responses from people that are really willing to help because they've been in a similar situation, they were evaluating something and I'm always really willing to talk to people when they call me or reach out to me as well because I want to make sure that people are avoiding those mistakes that I've made too, as a younger builder.

Eric (09:11):
So word of mouth. Word of mouth is key in your world. Makes sense.

Matt (09:15):
Yeah, and beyond even word of mouth, but just you know, you mentioned the word testimonial. In the old days, you know, that might be a merry homeowner with a 2 sentence blurb about a builder or a product on the website. We seem to have gotten away from that, but that actually can be a really powerful thing, especially even for your audiences manufacturers. You know, I'm XYZ builders in Fort Lauderdale, I've used this product now on 4 different houses and I got to say, I've been really impressed. You know, John Smith with John Smith Builders, that actually still means something I think in today's day and age for a builder to put their name on a quote and stand behind it. Maybe even a picture of that builder at the job site with that product. That, I think that's the old school marketing that still works in today's world.

Eric (10:15):
As a, as you'd mentioned as an influencer. And I know you have a large audience who follow what you say, what are the most effective ways that different building material companies have gone to you? And what do you respect when you see it from a building material company? What do you like to see them do or present?

Matt (10:44):
I'll give you a little case study. So over the years, I've maybe in the last 4 or 5 years now, I've started to reach out to some manufacturers and say, hey guys, you know, I already use your product or already liked your product. I've got this kind of big machine that makes videos. It's kind of expensive. It's a great way for me to market as a builder, would you help support me? And, you know, 5 years ago that wasn't very costly. That was you know, paying a guy to edit my videos at night and me shooting with a camcorder. And nowadays, it's a lot bigger of a deal. I've got expensive equipment, I've got 3 or 4 full time guys. You know, it's a bigger ask today. But as a for instance, 4 or 5 years ago, Huber Engineered Woods, a big manufacturer came to me and said, hey, you know, we have the zip system we're interested in talking to you about it. And I was kind of like, I don't know, you know, I don't trust this product. I don't believe in tape-based systems. And they were like, okay, you know, no problem we'll see you at the next event or whatever. They weren't pushy, they really were genuinely interested in a relationship with me, and what I thought about it. Time went on, I started asking some builder friends about it. I saw the research that was being done at the UT durability lab here in Austin and started to realize, actually, this is a better product than I initially thought. And you know, some trusted building science guys that I knew or were saying good things about it. Okay. Maybe it's not, maybe it isn't what I thought it was originally. Then I had someone specify it on a project. I said, all right, you know, let's try it. It's been specified. They want to use it. I'm feeling more comfortable with it. I used it, I really was impressed with it. And then time went on. We had some more negotiations, we had some more discussions I should say. Hey, we'd really like to sponsor a video where you kind of put our products with us. Okay. Yeah. I'd be interested in that. Great. You know, no parameters around that really just, hey, we think you're going to like it. Here's 2 or 3 things you could do to test this. Would you make a video of it? Yeah, yeah I would.

Eric (13:08):
That's cool.

Matt (13:08):
Sure enough. It was really, I was really impressed. This is really a cool product. And today they're one of my big anchor sponsors on my videos and I have a you know, an expensive annual contract with them, where I use their product a fair amount. But I don't have exclusivity with them either, which is really important for me, so that I don't look like I'm bought out by any particular company. And I also don't use their product on every project. I still decide there's other products that are also quite good. And so I really tell my, the manufacturers that I work with, look, I don't have just one, I don't get married. I have multiple girlfriends. Sorry if it's about analogy, honey, if you're listening, I've been married 20 years. But the point is, look, there's not a one size fits all in any category and there's not one product that's amazing and everything else is junk. So we need to talk about the pros and cons. We need to talk about some better products, but it's interesting that the manufacturers that I've gotten to know over the years, almost all of them, I have some relationship with that has been built over time. And now I've got, you know, dozens of manufacturers that I have in my Rolodex that I could call and say, hey, I've got this project coming up. I'm not sure about this. It says this in your data sheet, how's this made, is this really UV stable for 60 days, until it gets covered or is it longer? What's the deal with this? Could I talk to your tech guy? Could I talk to the engineer and man, it's so awesome to be able to pick up the phone and talk to some of these people and have a relationship and talk to you know, any different level of the company from marketing to technical, to engineering, to manufacturing. I feel like I'm living in a dream world, that I get to do this now. It's such a privilege.

Eric (15:03):
That's cool that you actually are geeking out on all the details that the people who are manufacturing, the products geek out on. Right? So you're speaking the language of the people who are making the stuff that you're appreciating. So that's awesome. That's the full circle.

Matt (15:17):
Yeah. And I think the thing that is a little bit of my superpower in my videos is I'm able to kind of distill down what's important for me as a builder to know that maybe I think other builders would like to know. And then I also, I'm always thinking what would Matt from 5 years or 10 years ago want to know today that I didn't know back then? Because there's a lot of builders, I've been building 25 years. There's a lot of builders have been building 20 years and maybe they hadn't come across this or didn't realize this or whatever. And so I'm always trying to kind of think in my videos, what's the takeaway that if someone watches this, they're going to think that was really helpful for me. I'm going to file that away for the next time this incident happens or this whatever situation so that I am better prepared to give a better product for my clients.

Eric (16:10):
That's awesome. So, now looking toward the future, because you're always thinking about where it's going, right? What products do you think are, are emerging? Where are we seeing the future is terms of building materials in the spaces in which you're working?

Matt (16:27):
Oh man future projections are always hard. And building materials is a hugely broad category, right? I mean, that's everything from framing materials to waterproofing to tile to flooring and countertops. I think that there is more of an awakening in this country to building more healthy and more durable houses. And it's interesting, we're still in the midst of this pandemic that we all thought would be over by now. And the conversation around healthy and houses of sanctuary sure has come up a lot. And anecdotally, I'd tell you, in the last 2 months, I've had more interviews in the last 2 months for new jobs. And I have in the last 12 months, people are really interested in doing something with their house right now on either remodeling or going to build that new house they've always wanted to build. It's a, I don't see that this is a doomsday situation or that our market's really going to falter. I think quite the opposite. We could have a banner year in 2021 after suffering this year through both some unrest and some pandemic issues. I think people are going to get out and do it next year or even, you know, the latter half of this year. But when it comes to healthy, durable, low maintenance, those are the things that people are going to be talking about and evaluating materials on. And the manufacturers that can speak to those things and how their product is better than other products in that category. I think those manufacturers are going to do well.

Eric (18:10):
I think the year ahead is going to be so bright for this category. Yeah. People are recognizing the value of of the value of what you're building, right? And the health and how important it is.

Matt (18:26):
And they realize that we actually spend a lot of time at home and actually I'm pretty darn productive on Zoom calls. Like I had a, I was in an architect client interview today where the client, my client was interviewing the architect and the architect was saying, you know, I love these Zoom calls and I love clients that are actually out of town like you, because we're super productive on a Zoom call. We're not focused on what's happening around the house. You know, if I were to meet you at your house, we're not distracted by the office and people coming in, you're able to sit and focus for that 30 minute call and we get stuff done. I think if people are finding that those home offices that they've neglected, dang, we can get a lot done in our home office.

Eric (19:11):
110%, and so are you looking at new visualization tools or different ways to help your customers, your clients see the vision that you're seeing?

Matt (19:26):
You know, that's not really my area of expertise Eric, because my company doesn't do any design work. We're relying on architects to give us those drawings. I'm kind of an old school general contractor, really, where the architects provide all the plans and I'm just the guy who does it, makes it happen. We might make products. We actually make a lot of product suggestions and even selections. But we don't usually comment besides constructability, affordability and some of those kinds of things on aesthetics. We're usually letting the architects do that. And more and more we're seeing architects that are giving renderings that are like, you know, you double take to think it's a picture, but it's really a rendering. And I'm hearing from architects of that kind of software is just absolutely transforming in a way that they designed because clients can really get it now.

Eric (20:24):
And it's more cost effective now than ever before too. So it's something that the general public can see and from their home, see. Right? So real quick, what's the first thing that comes to mind? What is the quickest way for a building material to get value engineered out of your project?

Matt (20:44):
Oh man. For a building material to get VE-ed out. I'm not a good one to ask because usually I'm not allowing my clients to VE out things that are important to me. And it's something I talk about a lot in my, in presentations that I give to builders, because I say, look don't allow clients to VE out things that are important to them that they don't realize are important to them. So, you know, you as a builder needs to be the expert. If you think this is the right window for them, you tell them this is the window to use. If this is the right flooring, the right foundation or waterproofing, the right framing, don't let them VE that stuff. Let them VE the stuff that doesn't matter. You know, and for me, I'm not saying that countertops, certain appliances or other things don't matter, but I can tell you that builders don't get sued because they put cheap cabinets in, or because they put a less expensive countertop. They sure as heck get sued because they got a leak in the house or anything water related. And so if it's something that's going to get you into hot water, so to speak as a builder, you should be no value engineering. This is the system. Here's how we're going to build the house. This is the roof, this is the underlayment. This is the waterproofing, this is the framing. This is going to build you a great house. Beyond that, I'm happy to talk about your allowances in any one of these categories. But when it comes to these systems there is no value engineering. This is how it needs to be done. Now, there might be some levels of how it needs to be done. You know, I've got kind of a good, better, best HVAC system. And we talk about their goals and priorities. And most of the time we go somewhere between better and best. But I almost haven't put a, what I consider a good system in a long time. And yet that's what I have at my house. I've lived with it for 15 years. It's been great for me. I've had no problems because my good system, that I consider good is better than 98% of what's getting installed in America.

Eric (22:56):
When we think of health of a home, what is the number 1, the first thing that you think that you go to when you think the health of the home?

Matt (23:04):
I mean, number 1 for me is a quote that I come back to all the time. Joe Lstiburek this famous building scientist says, "dilution is not the solution to indoor pollution." You can't bring unhealthy things into the house and expect to have a fresh air system to dilute those pollutants. You need to be really cautious about how we build the house to begin with. And then the second most important thing is water management. If you have a mold issue, you have a water issue. And mold needs 3 things that happen in our house. It needs a food source. It needs a temperature and it needs water. And the food are everywhere. We build out of wood and cellulose products are made from wood. Wood is good. God made an incredible building material, when he made wood. We're not going to change that. Temperature mold really likes the same temperatures as we do, so there's not a lot we can do there either, but we can control the moisture in our houses. And if we control the moisture, we can control mold. And mold is a big issue when it comes to indoor air quality concern. And actually I think mold is going to make a resurgence as a big, hot topic in America. And I've seen it come up a lot with clients and with architects and builders, even in the last 2 years or so, I think we're going to start seeing it more and more.

Eric (24:26):
For people listening. Where can they see you? How could they get in touch with you? Tell us a little bit about that.

Matt (24:31):
Yeah, Eric so I'm a little odd as a builder in that I have 2 businesses. I have a building company and I have a video production company. You can find my biggest platform is YouTube. That's just, YouTube backslash Matt Risinger, R I S I N G E R. On Instagram, I'm @Risingerbuild. I also have a big builder following on Instagram. And then my building company website is Risingerbuild.com and my video production company is buildproductions.com. And you can email [email protected]

Eric (25:07):
Matt, thank you so much for spending this time with us today. Really appreciate that.

Matt (25:11):
Thank you, brother. I appreciate you having me, man. Take care out there. Thanks for having me on the podcast.

Eric (25:16):
Thank you. Take care of yourself.

Matt (25:18):
Alright Eric. Thanks man. Talk to you later. Bye bye now.

Eric (25:19):
Bye bye.

Conclusion (25:21):
Thank you for listening to another episode of Constructing Brands. Your feedback is how we thrive, so please leave us a rating and review on your favorite platform. And if you want access to even more great information, go to constructingbrands.com.