In Depth: Windows & Doors
Top-selling windows and doors optimize home owner privacy while staying on trend with craftsman styles that boost sound performance and energy efficiency.
Forget ultramodern. With all due respect to mid-century timelessness (and not counting the office/ commercial markets) the Don Draper- informed uber trend has likely come and gone again in residential construction. At Masonite, the global door manufacturer regularly gathers a multi-disciplinary Trend Council of architects, builders, designers and product specialists to keep ahead of the next hottest thing in home design, and Mad Men ain’t it.
“When it comes to contemporary styles, the ultra-modern to us is a little bit of a flash in the pan and may not end up being a sustained product style,” says Masonite senior director of exterior products Mark Albrighton, who adds that few ultramodern residential designs are being built right now. “Much more important is the macro trend toward simplicity in design with a sense of privacy in homes. We think that trend will stay around for a while and we’re investing our innovations around it.”
Indeed, intricacy is out and opacity is in as home builders, remodelers and their homeowner customers embrace contemporary and Craftsman styles but ditch the bevels and swoops for a gentle sandblasting. “It’s a macro trend of simplistic privacy,” explains Keith Juhola, vice president of sales and marketing for ODL. “Customers are looking for semi-private designs with cleaner lines and interesting glass textures, but overall the design needs to be very simple.”
ABOVE: The Embarq fiberglass entry door system from ProVia provides a U-factor of 0.10, the lowest recorded heat conduction for entry doors in the U.S., the maker says. The door is 2.5″ thick, features a dual perimeter seal, custom sweep, internal foam channels and is available in six door styles in cherry, mahogany, oak and knotty alder finishes.
ABOVE: The EpicVue wood-clad line of windows and doors from Charlotte, NCbased JELD-WEN are manufactured with a proprietary, water-based wood treatment to help protect the product core from rot, water saturation and termites. Available in nine different wood species, five different stains and a full range of paint color options, the product is ENERGY STAR certified and backed by a lifetime limited warranty.
ABOVE: Minnkota Windows offers double-hung and double-slider, casement, awning, picture, bay and bow, single-hung, single-slider, 3-lite slider windows and sliding and hinged patio doors. Vinyl windows are manufactured in West Fargo, ND and are available in a variety of frame sizes and interior and exterior colors including almond, brick red, bronze, brown, Dakota sand, forest green, gray, mocha, and white.
ABOVE: Crosswalk Destination door glass from ODL offers classic, contemporary, craftsman and old world style options with nickel caming. Soft-wave and micro-iced granite glass styles provide a high level of privacy. Available with high-performance Severe Weather glass and ENERGY STAR compliant when used with a qualified entry door or sidelite.
ABOVE: The Craftsman Collection of steel entry doors by JELD-WEN provides simplicity in design at a lower price point than similar wood or fiberglass products. Available in two panel, three panel and single panel options, doors can be color-matched and painted, and are also available with optional diamond plating suitable for garage and man cave applications.
ABOVE: The La Marquise product line of windows from Energi Fenestration features optimized thermal chambers, steel reinforcements, and a low-E/argon standard glass package. Tilt/turn windows are available in a range of frame depths and achieve R-7 and ER-46 thermal values.
ABOVE: The Smooth Star line of fiberglass entry doors from Therma-Tru Doors is available between 6’6″ and 8′ heights in six door configurations and 38 different styles, including Shaker (shown). Door glass can be configured to a variety of profiles and opacities, including semi-private Satin Etch. Doors are paintable and available with low-E glass.
ABOVE: New from GlassCraft Door Company, Buffalo Forge ThermaPlus® steel composite doors which are engineered to combine the strength of steel with the jobsite flexibility of composite. The result is a groundbreaking steel door product that is also thermally-broken, field-trimmable and is said to cost 40% less than other premium steel doors. ThermaPlus utilizes an 18 gauge steel reinforced with all composite edges, and sustainably produced with patented BioFoam™ core.
Thermo-Tech Windows, based in Sauk Rapids, MN, continues to see demand increasing for installing its premium vinyl products in upscale homes.
ABOVE: The Heritage line of fiberglass entry doors from Masonite is available in 6’8″ and 8′ heights and features an optional dentil shelf and Craftsman-style architecturally correct detailing to mimic the look of a real wood cottage or bungalow-inspired door design. Door is offered in smooth surface and fir-grain textures and either clear or opaque glass in a 22″x 17″ light frame that allows the door to be glazed.
The Heritage line of double-hung vinyl windows from Hayfield Window and Door Co. offers performance with traditional design featuring colonial sash, stile and rail. A DuraWood stainable interior provides the look and feel of wood with low maintenance, the maker says.
Thankfully, the Internet and online ordering and procurement systems have enabled most vendors to pull physical inventories further up the channel as both production builder and custom home / remodeler supply chains adopt a “just-in-time” delivery model. While showrooms remain ever- critical to the high end, leveraging technology to optimize lead times is the key to perfecting product placement on job-sites large and small.
Part and parcel to the popularity of just-in-time inventories for doors and windows has been the success of mass market consumer product distributors like Zappos and Amazon.com that can seemingly deliver and accept free return of products in a 24-hour time period (see Sales Tips sidebar, on page 62). And while expectations for pro contractor job site delivery haven’t yet reached Amazon Prime levels of execution, they’re getting close, and the pause offered to major product vendors by the Great Recession has enabled a more distribution-center, tech-enabled supply chain model.
“A lot of the inventory that used to be in the distribution pipeline is gone as everything has moved to the ‘just in time’ model,” says Mark Montgomery, vice president of marketing for windows at Ply Gem. “Most of our LBM channel partners do not carry large inventories, they might carry a couple of standard window and door SKUs for replacement applications and back-ups, but by and large we are configuring online what is needed from a product line perspective. That has been a major change over the last several years: just the change in physical inventory.”
ODL, for one, has established six North American regional warehouses that are stocked with at least 85% of the firm’s catalogue ready to be shipped within 24-48 hours and to the customer within 2-3 days from the point of order. “So we’ve done a great job of nailing down the getting-the-productto- the-customer part and trying make sure all of the logistics partners we use insure that we get the product there quickly, correctly, and undamaged,” says Juhola.
Not that LBM has reached Tesla levels of technology sophistication. A wide range of point of sales systems, customer proclivities, and enterprise investments means the array of solutions deployed in the field is equally as wide. “One of the keys to being a great manufacturer is versatility,” says Jim Flickinger, senior director of interior doors for JELD-WEN. “You have to be able to handle the segments that you play in, and nobody does that the same way: some are fast-track technology shops with online ordering and updated inventory, and there are still guys into faxing over a PO. You have to run the gauntlet on operations to cover the wide range of differentiation with builders.”
Indeed, despite supply chain compression and the advent of online ordering and procurement systems, the pro window and door supply channel is still a little bit antiquated. “It certainly is no Amazon when it comes to product and delivery logistics. So the expectations are not quite there yet for serviceme- now and next-day delivery,” says Masonite’s Albrighton. “However, expectations are changing, and when it comes to lead times and inventory positions since the rebound of business, we’ve taken an aggressive inventory position to insure fulfillment across our facilities.”
As a result, pro dealers allying themselves with just in time inventory partners no longer need to stack four different door styles in three heights with a variety of semi-private opaque door lites. They need only be tuned into the trend of homeowners wanting to embrace clean lines with minimal transparency, and rely heavily on vendor relationships to help seal the deal.
“We’ve worked with lumber dealers for many years and some of our own team members come from lumberyard backgrounds,” says Bradley J. Bushaw, general manager for Minnkota Windows. “We offer timely delivery so they have confidence that product ships on time so their customers can plan installation around our lead times.”
Lindsey Fox is the channel marketing manager for Masonite, and says top dealers have very integrated sales teams with their vendor partners and work together to service the builder contractor and remodeler by highlighting doors and windows as a defining element of the home. “That’s achieved through great contractor education and training on the use of sales tools from samples to digital presentations to display doors,” Fox says, adding that Masonite has even developed a Front Door mobile app to help walk the digitally-minded consumer through design and glass options. “It is a holistic 360 approach from training, product knowledge, and tools to address the relevant trends,” Fox says.
Indeed, even as homeowners seek to ensconce themselves in clean, contemporary design with barely-there glass transparency, they simultaneously are seeking an outward, online and smartphone-enabled experience with building product procurement and installation, another area where dealers can team with the resources of national product manufacturers to deliver the digital goods.
“Visualization tools give a broader and more complete picture of what the product will look like on the home,” explains Paul Mihm, vice president and general manager, wholesale for Therma- Tru Doors. “Our DoorWays mobile app and interactive glass displays are great resources for dealers, builders/ remodelers and homeowners to gain a more complete picture of what their new door will look like by showcasing privacy and textured glass design in true-to-life sizing.”
That’s not to say the showroom is dead. Particularly when it comes to higherend doors and windows for the custom home and remodeler segments, showrooms offer dealers a value-add to customers both on and off business hours to help propel category sales. “As we look at dealers who are successfully upgrading their showroom experience, they’re embracing hours on evenings and weekends,” says Ply Gem’s Montgomery. “They’re ultimately moving to a model where the builder and remodeler can use the showroom as their showroom.”
Still, pro dealers investing in showroom square footage need to dedicate trained sales staff to activate the space and act as a valuable resource once the customer is in the showroom. “Position displays in a way that allows the sales team to lead the customer through the selection process exploring design and functionality,” says Mihm. “What’s ontrend? What’s the architectural style of the home? What size is the opening? In terms of functionality: Where is the door being placed? Is it sheltered? Is it facing the sun? Will the door be directly exposed to weather? All of these things play a role in finding the right door for each application and helping the customer determine the look and style to maximize lasting curb appeal.”
For the time being, those looks and styles are dependent on offering clean, contemporary designs, semi-private but not totally opaque glass options, and a seamless and just in time ordering, delivery, and return process. What happens to grab the spotlight as the next hottest trend is anyone’s guess, but you can be sure that the well-informed product experts at leading door and window vendors are looking for the next big thing.
“Would you believe Bohemian Revival?” asks Albrighton, and would Don Draper approve? Well, after all the fifties were followed by the sixties, and the seventies too.
To learn more about these companies’ products, visit their websites.
Companies in bold participated in this article.
Energi Fenestration Solutions:
Hayfield Windows & Doors:
JELD-WEN Windows & Doors:
Royal Building Products:
With vendors assuming the lion’s share of inventory since the residential construction rebound, dealers often have less product on display to help them boost window and door segment sales. Here’s how successful pro shops are setting themselves apart from the competition to fuel fenestration orders.
Know Your Customers
Less inventory doesn’t mean decreased service. Dealers successful with large production builders are using technology to streamline the purchasing process and optimize the supply chain for the fastest deliveries possible. “They’re also moving to installation,” says Ply Gem’s Montgomery, “while dealers focused on custom builders and remodelers are still using showrooms with extended hours for higher end sales.”
Watch Your Timing
In the modern era of compressed supply channels, speed is second only to accuracy when it comes to final delivery. “High value dealer service is not so much about shortening the lead time,” says Masonite’s Albrighton. “It’s about certainty that your product is going to arrive exactly when you say it is going to arrive. On an active job-site with a busy crew, getting there a day early can be as bad as being three days late.”
Deliver An Energetic Performance
After honing in on design and meeting price points, homeowners are looking for low-maintenance, high-performance fenestration. “People don’t want to take the time for upkeep on these types of products even as they also want to keep heating and cooling costs in check with efficient products,” says Minnkota’s Bushaw.
Take It Back
Go where 21st century retailers like Zappos and Amazon have gone and offer fast, seamless, and yes, free returns. Whether it’s a product issue or shipping damage or someone simply changed their mind, exchanging unwanted merchandise for credit or a replacement product keeps job-sites clutter free and customers happy in a way that restocking fees never will. “We ask our customers to contact us directly to be satisfied within 24 hours,” says ODL’s Juhola. “We try to process those very quickly as we know the process quickly becomes a huge drag on customers out there.”
Several vendors have developed mobile apps to help contractors assist homeowners in visualizing windows and doors in an installed setting, often virtually incorporated into photos of their own home. “This has tremendous value for remodeling contractors because homeowners are more likely to buy and upgrade when they can see products in place on a home,” says Wes Ley, door and window brand manager for ProVia.