What's in Today's Builder Package

2007 Supply Chain Study examines what’s being sold along with windows and doors in the new construction market
John G. Swanson
November 1, 2007
SPECIAL FEATURES | Channels

Today’s builders buy windows and doors from a variety of sources. They often buy those windows and doors together with other products and services. With our 2007 Supply Chain Study, Window & Door set out to get a better handle on what builders want and expect today—and how various channels within the industry are looking to cater to their needs.

The following report presents highlights from our 2007 study, based on an email survey of more than 100 Window & Door and WDweekly subscribers that sell doors and/or windows directly to builders. Respondents were asked to classify their companies in one of eight categories, with the largest group describing their operations as specialty dealers of windows and doors (43 percent). The next largest group was window and/or door manufacturers (24 percent), followed by multi-location/multi-line pro dealers (7 percent). Coming in at 6 percent each were respondents describing their companies as door shop/prehangers, local lumberyards and glass shops. Finally, 5 percent of respondents described their companies as shortline distributors and 4 percent said specialty millwork distributors.

Survey respondents were then asked about their primary builder customers. The majority (57 percent) cater to smaller builders, saying that builders producing less than 10 homes per year account for their largest sales volume. Another 20 percent reported that builders producing between 10 and 50 homes per year were their largest customers, and 7 percent said the same thing for builders of between 50 and 100 homes per year. Less than 16 percent said builders producing more than 100 homes per year accounted for the largest volume.

Asked about the windows and doors provided to their largest customer group, more than half the respondents (53 percent) that sold windows said they typically sold more than 20 windows per home (Fig. 1). Two-thirds of the specialty window and door dealers said they typically sell packages of more than 20 windows. Only 4 percent of the total group said they typically sell less than 10 windows per home.

Today’s builder package, it would appear, is likely to include two or more patio doors and other entry doors more often than not. Among those respondents selling patio doors, results were split evenly between those reporting one or two patio doors per home and those selling more than two. The breakdown for entry and other exterior doors was similar. Again, specialty window and door dealers reported selling larger door packages more frequently. Of those selling entry doors, 65 percent said they typically sell more than two doors in their builder packages.

While about 90 percent of the companies surveyed sell windows, patio and/or entry doors, fewer—only about half—are involved in the interior door business. Although the sample size is relatively small for both business types, it isn’t too surprising to see that companies describing themselves as glass shops and shortline distributors are least involved in interior doors. Among all the companies that sell them, 50 percent report their builder customers typically buy between 10 and 20 per home. The remaining group was split evenly between those respondents reporting less than 10 interior doors per home and more than 20.

PRODUCTS SOLD
The survey next asked, “For the type of builder that accounts for your largest window and door sales volume, what products are typically in the package you sell? As can be seen in Fig. 2, windows were the most common element in the builder packages offered by respondents’ companies, with nearly 85 percent reporting windows were part of the sale “all the time.” In fact, both windows and patio doors are in more than 90 percent of the builder packages all or some of the time.

About half reported that entry and other exterior doors were part of their builder package all the time, and nearly 40 percent said “some of the time.” Skylights are part of the typical package all or some of the time for about two-thirds of the respondents, while interior doors are included all or some of the time for more than half. For both products, there were a substantial number of manufacturers and specialty window and door dealers that never handle those lines. The survey also made clear that garage doors continue to go through specialty channels. Only a handful of respondents indicated they sold these products as part of their typical builder package.

Looking beyond different types of windows and doors, respondents indicated that a wide variety of building products can be supplied in the same package. The most closely related products, not surprising, were named most often. Door and other specialty hardware is part of the window and/or door package all the time for more than a quarter of respondents and some of the time for nearly 40 percent. Flashing materials and sealants are sold along with windows and doors by more than half the respondents at least some of the time also.

Next in the rankings were millwork and trim products. More than half of the respondents said they provide exterior trim and millwork components all or some of the time and less than have said the same for interior products.  

Some dealers, distributors and even manufacturers clearly look to bundle other things besides window and door products in the packages they offer to builders. In fact, about 10 percent of respondents indicated their package included glass and mirror products, siding and roofing along with windows and doors “all the time.” While more than one manufacturer respondent indicated that their line goes beyond windows and doors, the survey results clearly reflected the more diverse “one-stop shopping” product lines offered by shortline distributors, multi-location pro dealers and local lumberyards.

SERVICES OFFERED
The survey made clear certain services are demanded and perhaps considered a given by builders today. More than three quarters of respondents indicated that jobsite delivery and take-offs or order preparation are part of the package all the time. In both cases, 20 percent said “some of the time” for these services (Fig.3).

A showroom for homeowners and consultation time for homeowners is part of the builder package about half the time for most of these companies, while another third indicated they provide these services some of the time. Field service and warranty work on products is another common service expectation, said to be part of the package all the time for half these respondents’ companies.

More builders may be looking at installed sales, but only about 20 percent of the dealers, distributors and manufacturers indicated they install their windows and/or doors all the time. More than a third said window installation was part of the package some of the time, while the number was somewhat lower with doors.

Trimming out and finishing windows and doors, it would seem, still remains largely in the hands of builder personnel. Fewer than 5 percent of the respondents indicated interior or exterior trim installation was part of their package all the time and less than 20 percent said they did it some of the time. Only 3 percent indicated they painted and finished their windows and/or doors as part of the package and, again, less than 20 percent said they supplied these services some of the time.

 

CHANGES IN BUYING HABITS
Many window and door specialty dealers see builders buying more products from them in the future, the survey also found. Asked to indicate what changes they see in builder demand and/or buying habits, about half of those surveyed involved in windows and entry doors said builders are buying those products “from us more often.” Slightly less than half said the same thing for patio doors and interior doors. For all these lines, the specialty window and door dealers were most optimistic that a shift was taking place.

Windows, entry doors, patio doors, and interior doors were the only products mentioned where more respondents indicated builders are “buying from us more often” than said they saw “no change” in buying habits. 

For most other product lines, the majority of respondents saw “no change” in buying habits. About a third suggested they saw more builders buying door and other specialty hardware from them, followed by about 30 percent who reported more demand for flashing materials and sealants. About a quarter of the respondents suggested interior and exterior trim products are being sold to builders by their companies more often.

Perhaps bigger changes are happening on the services side, where about half the respondents indicated builders want or expect more in several areas. More than half see showrooms, and take-offs and other order preparation services more in demand (Fig. 4).

Slightly less than half see increasing expectation levels in the areas of jobsite delivery, field service, consultations and window and door installation.

Demand for more service doesn’t necessarily mean builders expect to pay more. The survey concluded with two optional questions. The first asked respondents what builders “were asking about most often.” While a variety of new products—from fiberglass windows to folding door systems—were mentioned, two respondents noted lower costs and faster deliveries.

Other answers provided by respondents are available in a special supplement to the 2007 Window & Door Supply Chain Study. Click here to download the supplement, featuring tables with breakouts of all the responses.