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In Depth: Windows & Doors

Bold aesthetics dominate today’s fenestration segment.

It’s easy to take windows and doors for granted. They’re both such an integral part of our day-to-day lives that we tend to overlook how lucky we are to have them in their current form. Take windows for example—we didn’t always have glass. Originally, windows were simply openings in walls that could be sealed over with shutters. They worked well at letting in light, but they did little to block the outside conditions from entering the home.

Over time, windows that could transmit light and keep out the elements began to be constructed from small flattened pieces of translucent animal horn, paper sheets, or thin slices of marble. It wasn’t until the 17th century that glass windows became commonplace.

Similarly, doors weren’t always the insulated barriers for the entrances into our homes that they are now. While originally consisting of nothing more than hides or textiles hung in front of a doorway, a 5,000-year-old door excavated in Switzerland was little more than a slab of wood that used loops of rope as hinges.

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According to ProVia, its Signet fiberglass entry door is a highly energy-efficient fiberglass front door that looks like authentic woodgrain. Shown here in a cherry finish with a Natural Leather Glaze along with Waterfall privacy glass sidelites, the door comes with Energy Star certification for maximum performance in energy efficiency and durability.

We’ve come a long way since then, with today’s windows and doors delivering not only light but security, energy efficiency, and high levels of aesthetics. And while the fact that they are (and will always be) a much needed building commodity, continued economic worries have left many LBM dealers concerned about what to expect for the fenestration segment. Yet government statistics seem to point to positive signs. According to the United States Census Bureau, privately‐owned housing units authorized by building permits in February were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,518,000. This is 1.9% above the revised January rate of 1,489,000 and is 2.4% above the February 2023 rate of 1,482,000.

“As interest rates have risen, demand for doors and windows within the remodel market has remained strong as homeowners choose to invest in their current home,” says Jake Calhoun, executive director of marketing for ProVia. “We expect that changing design styles, improved functionality, and increasing energy efficiency will also help sustain demand as consumers see tangible ways to upgrade their homes.”

This isn’t to say that everything is blue skies. Continued patterns of severe weather across the country are slowing product availability while simultaneously bolstering product demand, explains Colleen Pritchett, president of Aperture Solutions – U.S. at Cornerstone Building Brands. “During the first quarter, weather conditions have notably influenced housing and construction project timelines, resulting in delays for both deliveries and the processes of building or renovating,” she points out. “However, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) projects a promising increase of 5% in single-family homes new construction starts this year. This is bolstered by a limited inventory of resale homes, which continues to drive demand for new constructions. Plus, with the current high interest rates, a lot of homeowners are deciding to improve their living spaces rather than entering the market. So, we’re looking at an optimistic outlook for the new construction and remodeling sector through the remainder of the year.”

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MITER Brands’ new 4SG spacer system features the latest energy-efficient technology. According to the manufacturer, the onepiece, warm-edge spacer replaces the spacer bar, primary seal, and desiccant common on competitive spacer systems with a permanently flexible edge that is more forgiving under heat, pressure, and other environmental conditions.

Dark colors, big sizes
Not that long ago, windows and doors simply needed to block out the elements while letting in light. It’s no longer enough, however, for windows and doors to be functional; in today’s market, they need to bring a sense of style.

For example, one of the leading product trends door and window manufacturers point to is the use of darker colors. Color trends are important to watch to stay in tune with what homeowners are looking for, says ProVia’s Calhoun. “There will always be a need for tried-and-true colors but also demand for more contemporary options,” he says. “At ProVia we support both needs; we have a lineup of trending colors which changes every few years and a set of classic standard colors. Over the past few years, we refreshed our entire paint and stain offering to ensure our customers can offer the colors homeowners are looking for no matter their preference; classic or contemporary.”

Nick Board, digital marketing and communications manager for MITER Brands, also sees dark colors as growing in demand. “A trend in the window space is the color black to offset white or gray exteriors and to enhance the popular black trim we see on houses,” he explains. “Co-extruded frames with a black capstock finish continue to enhance the color vibrancy and durability, making this color option more practical and desirable across all climate zones.”

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Cornerstone’s Pritchett agrees. “Interior and exterior black windows and doors are still very popular,” she says. “We’re excited to be adding this color choice to more of our offerings to meet customer demand, including the Ply Gem West Pro Series windows and doors and the Prime Series 720 windows.”

Says Jamilla Walcott, director of marketing at YKK AP America, “We continue to see strong interest in dark colors as well as larger glass openings for enhanced aesthetics and more modern home styles.”

It’s not just color that’s getting bolder. As Walcott pointed out, there’s a growing demand for bolder, bigger sizes as well, and other manufacturers agree with that observation. “There’s a growing demand for more natural light, which means people want bigger windows and larger sliding patio doors,” says Cornerstone’s Pritchett. “Cornerstone Building Brands is responding by making our Ply Gem Perspective Multi-Slide Vinyl Patio Door up to 10 ft. tall or 30 ft. wide. Additionally, these doors will be available this spring with either black or bronze exteriors.”

“Customers say they prefer more expansive views for windows and patio doors, including glass walls up to 10 ft. tall x 20 ft. wide that let in an abundance of natural light, MITER Brands’ Board points out. “This is especially true of the Southeast and West, where the weather is more conducive to the trend of blurring the lines indoors and outdoors.”

New from Cornerstone Building Brands, the Ply Gem Perspective Multi-Slide Vinyl Patio Door (shown here in white) is now available in exterior black and bronze color options. According to the manufacturer, this patio door’s robust construction can meet rigid coastal building codes including requirements for High Velocity Hurricane Zones (HVHZ).

Listen to the customer; understand the need
Understanding product trends is only part of the equation, however, to sales success in the fenestration segment, door and window manufacturers stress. Equally, if not more importantly, LBM dealers need to be able to identify the actual needs of their customers, and only then can they best present product solutions that actually fulfill those needs.

“From our experience, the most effective sales organizations deploy a question-based approach that is consistent within the enterprise’s customer-facing departments, i.e., outside sales, inside/counter sales, and customer service,” says Beard. “These companies invest time and energy in training and coaching, striving for a consistent customer experience. The outcome of this approach results in additional revenue streams by uncovering additional needs and opportunities to create value for the customer.”

He goes on to point out that occasionally, customers can confuse what they want with what they need, and that’s where the LBM dealer comes in. “In pursuing effective solutions, the best LBM sales teams strive to understand the application, installation, and environmental conditions to match their client with the best product solutions through a series of questions,” he explains. “Questions like, ‘When will you be starting your project?,’ ‘Other than price, what else is important to you?,’ or ‘What other projects do you have coming in the next several weeks?’ Starting with these questions can create additional revenue opportunities for the dealer while demonstrating value and competency to the customer and creating a truly consultative, solution-based, world-class experience. This value creation model truly separates the best-in-class LBM [dealers] from the more transactional, ‘order taker’ enterprises who traditionally lead with price.”

Another way LBM dealers can help their customers—both the pro and the homeowner —understand their needs is by making it easy for them to visualize the end result. “Seeing is believing; the more you can visualize the finished product on the home the better you can help homeowners envision the home exterior of their dreams,” says ProVia’s Calhoun. “This is why ProVia continues to invest in our entry-LINK system, in-home presentation solutions, 3D modeling technology, and visualization tools.”

Of course, part of that visualization strategy includes making sure every employee at the dealer is as educated on the products as possible, and that part of the equation can be challenging to implement in the face of staff turnovers or shortfalls.

“Over the past three years, our industry has welcomed a significant number of new employees, explains Matt Gibson, director of marketing, aperture solutions—U.S. at Cornerstone Building Brands. “As a response, dealers have prioritized equipping their teams with comprehensive knowledge. They need to ensure their employees are knowledgeable about the products they sell so they can be a go-to resource for contractors, installers, and homeowners. In a market where choices abound for contractors and builders, establishing themselves as the primary source of expertise is essential for cultivating loyalty.”

YKK AP recently introduced the newly designed StyleView Classic window series for new construction. Key features include precision-welded corners for a cleaner, quality look, flat frame design for integration into a wider variety of materials, modern brickmould and sloped sill nose to create a thinner profile, easily removable top sash for easy drywall pass-through, stronger pivot bar retention to ensure easy sash removal and replacement, and fusionwelded sill nose and clear shadow line to mimic a wood window.

And as YKK AP America’s Walcott points out, the manufacturers can significantly help LBM dealers with this educational challenges. “Dealers can work hand-in-hand with manufacturers to best position the product within their lineup and understand the target customer for which it is designed,” she says.

While nothing is a given, if history proves anything, doors and windows will continue to be not only a necessary element of whatever the building forecasts predict, but a growing one as well. And while economic uncertainties will continue to be a challenge for the LBM industry, door and window manufacturers will continue to stand ready to help LBM dealers create their own successful history. As MITER Brands’ Nick Board puts it, “Supply chain has been a challenge in the past few years but it is now abating as things normalize. We got through it by optimizing and streamlining our product lines. We continue to invest in our supply chain and distribution channels as we strive to deliver 100% on-time and accurate orders.”

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