A better bark

BarkClad brings anti-rot bark to WNC homeowners
By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | May 24, 2014
Photo by: Donated photo Pictured, from left, is Brian Summers, Corporate Operations Officer of BarkClad, and BarkClad owner and founder Danny Heatherly of Canton. BarkClad, a bark siding company, was developed out of Canton in 1999.

When it comes to providing a smart and affordable solution for homeowners who want the rustic look of natural bark, the Canton-based business BarkClad is barking up the right tree.

Early this year, BarkClad, a leader in the bark siding industry, introduced a new product called SmartBark — the world’s first engineered bark siding.

Canton native Danny Heatherly, a second-generation timber farmer, founded BarkClad about 15 years ago to provide poplar tree bark to residents in western North Carolina.

After several years, Heatherly realized that natural bark was not all it was cracked up to be. Determined to find a more sustainable solution for customers, Heatherly developed an alternative bark that was resistant to weather and rot called SmartBark.

Designed to mimic the rich beauty of traditional poplar bark siding, SmartBark provides the distinct look of the natural product with the added benefit of being maintenance free. It includes a 30-year limited warranty and is a smarter and more affordable solution that lasts longer in a natural climate.

“Danny realized that there were a lot of limitations to natural bark,” said Brian Summers, corporate operations officer of BarkClad. “It’s beautiful, but things happen to it that can cause some trouble.”

Summers said weather elements like sun exposure can cause natural bark to crack and curl, dry out, bleach in color and eventually lose its integrity. SmartBark is different — it is fire resistant, does not rot, mold, crack or curl, does not darken, bleach, shrink or expand and does not require bug treatment or attract woodpeckers.

Though Heatherly has been working on SmartBark for nearly seven years, it has only been released to the public since January.

“We were very cautious to bring it to market because it goes on the outside of peoples homes,” Summers said. “We wanted to make sure it would do all those thing we said it would do before it went for sale.”

Before releasing the product, BarkClad tested it out on a small shed to make sure it could endure weather conditions — which it did.

Today, BarkClad manufactures both natural bark and SmartBark throughout North Carolina. The first pieces of bark were manufactured in Haywood County, and since then the business has expanded through North Carolina.

"(Our bark) is basically repurposed from trees being timbered to use for in home building supplies," Summers said.

The cost of installed SmartBark is approximately 20 percent less than natural bark. And with an R-value (the capacity of an insulating material to resist heat flow) of 4.7 per inch, the engineered siding contributes to homeowners’ annual energy savings.

Manufactured of a polymer blend in an innovative patented process, SmartBark has the texture and look of natural siding. Versatile and easy to install, SmartBark panels are 16-by-18-inches and can be used on exterior and interior surfaces, as full or partial house siding, on porches, decks and facades, or as accents inside the home. The siding is available in three natural colors —Weathered Brown, Medium Brown and Silverback Gray — or can be painted using any latex finish.

For now, BarkClad’s biggest challenge is getting exposure. But fortunately, word of mouth from previous SmartBark customers has been bringing in some business.

“It is already outselling our poplar bark,” Summers added.

One of the biggest installations of SmartBark so far has been replacing the badly weathered bark outside of theSapphire Valley Country Club near Cashiers. The results have impressed many and have resulted in numerous SmartBark sales, Summers said.

What’s more, SmartBark is virtually identical to natural poplar bark.

“It’s hand painted so each piece has its own uniqueness,” Summers said. “In North Carolina, people touch this bark with a paint brush in their hand, which is exceptionally rare. There is a lot of pride taken in this. Architects and builders who use our SmartBark can’t believe how realistic it looks.”

Summers and the rest of the BarkClad staff are enthusiastic that business will take off as the word continues to get out about SmartBark.

“Danny (Heatherly) has built up an amazing reputation,” Summers said. “Because of where we’re located in Canton, near Cashiers and Highlands — this part of North Carolina is the largest consumer of poplar bark in the world. It has certainly been a huge benefit to be located here in western North Carolina.”

For more information on SmartBark and the other BarkClad products, visit www.barkclad.com.