Is the Fiberglass Window Market Poised for Growth?

John G. Swanson
April 3, 2012
THE TALK... | Markets & Trends

This week's news announcement from James Hardie and Teel Plastics doesn't say too much about windows and doors, but the story suggests we could have huge new player in the window and door industry.  A $1.25 billion building products company like James Hardie could have an especially big impact on the fiberglass segment of the industry.

Fiberglass accounted for about 3.5 percent of the 2011 window market, according to the annual AAMA/WDMA study conducted by Ducker International.  That study sees fiberglass's market share increasing, but the gains are not too dramatic.  A couple of major manufacturers–Marvin and Milgard, most notably–are strong advocates for the material, as are a handful of smaller window manufacturers, but most manufacturers have shied away from it.     

Is that changing?  That's our poll question of the week. And, of course, I'd like to hear from you. Do you see a new big player like James Hardie in the market giving fiberglass a boost in the window and door maket? Or is the acquisition a signal that fiberglass is already poised for a growth spurt, and James Hardie just happens to be positioning itself in the market at the right time? We'd love to hear what you're thinking.  Post a comment or email me to share your thoughts.

 

Survey Results as of 04/09/2012:

 

Do you see fiberglass windows increasing market share?

No, I foresee fiberglass remaining in its current niche.

  

 

52%

Yes, I see growth accelerating in next few years.

  

 

19%

Yes, I see growth but no big jumps.

  

 

17%

Yes, but it will be slight.

  

 

12%

Much of the industry sees fiberglass remaining a niche product, with or without the potential entry of James Hardie in the window market. It's not surprising. Fiberglass windows have been around for many years and their market share has remained fairly small.

I won't get into the pros and cons of each product type, but there are reasons to expect some fiberglass growth. First of all, I think Marvin and Milgard have been fairly successful with their product lines. Vinyl has proven to be a practical, cost-effective market performer and wood will always have a fan base. The strong market share of vinyl, however, suggests to me that more companies will want to sell an alternative–something that can set them apart. Some companies have already turned to fiberglass for precisely this reason and I suspect a few more will moving forward.   

There are a couple of other reasons to foresee fiberglass growth.  First, the strength of fiberglass, theoretically, enables windows and doors to be produced with thinner frame and sash profiles. Trends in home design favoring more glass and more contemporary styling, therefore, could favor fiberglass products.

The second area where I see potential fiberglass growth is in commercial applications.  More stringent energy codes will continue to challenge aluminum product designers.  As they move to incorporate more expensive thermal break technology, fiberglass becomes more competitive in the nonresidential market–as does vinyl. This won't increase fiberglass windows' share of the residential market, of course, but it does provide another avenue for manufacturers to pursue.