Entry Doors See Sales Resurgence

Renewed consumer confidence driving demand for higher-priced, custom options

There is excitement again among entry door manufacturers, thanks to strong sales in the new construction and replacement markets, and expectations of continued double-digit growth over the next three to five years. Adding to suppliers’ optimism is the reemergence of confident
consumers willing to look at higher-priced options to customize their homes.

 
 There has been a resurgence of the mid-20th century look: a modern,
contemporary look with no angles, says Derek Fielding of Therma-Tru. In response, the door manufacturer introduced the Pulse collection.

“Demand has come back incredibly stronger and faster than we thought it would,” says Derek Brosterhous, director of product marketing for the door division of Jeld-Wen Inc., Klamath Falls, Ore. “The whole industry is getting a lift” from the rebound in the housing market, he reports.

“From a volume standpoint, sales are growing in double-digits, and from what we’re seeing so far, the recovery will more than sustain itself,” he continues. “We’re expecting 20 percent to 30 percent growth this year.” And Jeld-Wen’s not alone in its predictions.

“For us, it began in the fourth quarter of last year,” says James Wilson, COO of Tru Tech Doors, Vaughan, Ontario, Canada. “We expect to see about a 40 percent increase in sales year-over year.”

Door glass manufacturer, ODL Inc., Zeeland, Mich., sees the same type of upward growth curve. “We are in a growth trend, and it doesn’t appear to be a short one,” says Keith Juhola, director of sales. “We think there is going to be double-digit growth averaging 13.5 percent to 14 percent over the next five years.”

Fiberglass and steel door manufacturers are benefitting equally from the sales resurgence, and sales of wood doors aren’t far behind. “We are seeing very strong growth, particularly in our Signet fiberglass doors and our 20-gauge Legacy steel doors,” says Randy Albaugh, regional sales manager, Provia Inc., Sugarcreek, Ohio.

“Doors go as housing starts go and remodeling projects go, and the outlook is good,” reports Brad Loveless, marketing and product development manager for wood door manufacturer Simpson Door Co., McCleary, Wash. “This year will be a better year than last year, and we foresee more growth for us in 2014.”

Sales are up in both the new construction and replace-ment markets, manufacturers report. “New home door sales will show the largest growth
this year, but replacement doors will still account for the biggest volume,” says Derek Fielding, senior manager of product development for Therma-Tru, Maumee, Ohio.

According to most companies, replacement doors account for roughly 60 percent of entry door sales, and new home sales, 40 percent. Wood doors have an approximate market share of 15 percent to 20 percent; fiberglass, 35 percent; and steel doors, 45 percent to 50 percent.

Customization for the Confident Consumer
What perhaps excites entry door manufacturers most is that builders are offering options again, and consumers are looking to upgrade to more customized products. “Both homeowners and builders are looking at upgrade options and higher-priced doors again versus price, price, price,” Jeld-Wen’s Brosterhous says.

Fielding agrees. “After pulling back and taking out options during the economic downturn we’ve seen builders offer more options again in the last year,” says the Therma-Tru senior manager of product development. “They are putting upgrades back into their products to appeal to consumers who want that choice.”

And many do. “Consumers are looking at more options, because they want to make a longer-term investment and not just a stop-gap purchase” as they did during the economic downturn, says ODL’s Juhola.

 
 Even as buyers customize their doors, Mission and Craftsman styles, such as the one pictured here from Tru Tech Doors, remain the most popular, manufacturers report.

Marcel Chehade, director of sales for Plastpro Inc., the Los Angeles, fiberglass door manufacturer, agrees. “Consumers are paying the difference in price and upgrading to higher-end doors,” he says. “They are spending more to modernize and upgrade their homes.”

The focus: customization of both the door and glass. “Homeowners want to customize things to make the doors fit their personality, expression and style,” Juhola says.

Lance Premeau, product and marketing manager, Kolbe Windows & Doors, Wausau, Wis., agrees. “What’s trending is the ability to customize,” he says. “Architects, builders and homeowners are becoming more aware of the capabilities of manufacturers and are taking advantage of that to make their door a ‘one-of-a-kind’ product for their home.”

“Customization can lean toward the contemporary end of the spectrum,” Premeau adds. “But I don’t necessarily believe that any one style of door is trending.”

Helping to push the trend toward customization has been manufacturers’ introduction of smartphone and website tools that allow consumers to see what their home would look like with the door and glass option of their choice. “You can build a door on your laptop, get an inside view, an outside view, put on decorative hardware and price it,” ProVia’s Albaugh says. “It allows customers to see and visualize exactly how the door will
look. It helps dealers because it drives up the price of the average sales and increases the closing ratio.”

Tru Tech’s Wilson agrees. “It helps dealers sell a higherpriced product and fundamentally changes the way you sell doors,” he says. “When you show a consumer what they can do with doors on their home, it easily can increase the selling price.”

“For years, people used to look in a beautiful brochure. But now, online tools and mobile applications leave no doubt as to what a door will look like on a home,” adds Simpson’s Loveless. “You can change the glass to anything you want and see how opaque it is. And when the consumer
has a true picture of what the door is going to look like, they are far more likely [to pay for a higher-priced door],” he says.

Product Trends
Even as buyers customize their doors, Craftsman and Mission styles remain the most popular, manufacturers report. Fiberglass doors with an oak look are the preferred choice among builders, but fir and mahogany-look fiberglass doors are growing fastest in terms of popularity, they say. In wood doors, Loveless says Simpson’s top sellers are Douglas fir, western hemlock, mahogany and alder.

But the hottest trend—and one that cuts across exterior and interior entry doors—is the return to a simple, less ornate look, i.e., a contemporary-looking door with straight lines and fewer panels. “There has been a resurgence of the mid-20th century look: a modern, contemporary look with no angles,” says Fielding of Therma-Tru. “People want more simplistic, cleaner designs.”

“Six panels are still the most commonly selected entry doors by builders,” Fielding notes. “But more builders and markets are moving to more traditional two-panel doors. Consumers want fewer panels on the doors. It has to do with simplicity and not wanting the same doors as their
parents.”

The other reason: people want their exterior doors to match their interior doors, where the trend has turned to two panels, says Plastpro’s Chehade. “It is driven by the interior two-panel door. Homeowners are trying to make the exterior door match the inside.”

Size-wise, there is more interest in wider and taller doors, and in single-entry doors with two sidelites instead of two double doors. “The market turned back to 6 foot, 8 inch doors during the downturn, but 8-foot doors are coming back into the market again,” Brosterhous says.

At the high end of the market, some consumers are opting for 3 foot, 6 inch-wide entry doors and doors that are 2¼ inches thicker. “It is a heft issue,” says Jeld-Wen’s director of product marketing. “They want the entry to their ‘castle’ as thick as can be. And when you widen the
door, it changes the whole differentiation and look.”

 
 Looking at glass options for entry doors, “we are not seeing a specific trend in glass types—only that customers want more of it,” says Kolbe's Lance Premeau. Pictured is the company’s Ultra Series entrance door.

As for glass options, “we are not seeing a specific trend in glass types—only that customers want more of it,” Kolbe’s Premeau says. “The introduction of our 3-inch door stile has generated a lot of interest from architects wanting more lite, less ‘door’ for viewing.”

"More and more front entry doors are getting glass somewhere, maybe a glass lite at the top or sidelites on an all-panel door,” Loveless agrees. “They want a glass type that allows light in, but permits privacy.”

Manufacturers agree there is greater interest in direct-glazed designs that maximize daylight viewing area and provide a flush frame profile
for a clean, modern look. Brosterhous also sees more people choosing textured glass for sidelites on doors because “you can’t see through it, but the light gets in.”

Mark Albrighton, senior director of exterior products for Masonite Corp., Tampa, Fla., agrees. “Today’s homeowners are looking for ways to
open up their homes to the outdoors, and …textured glass designs offer light transmission while providing high visual obscurity.” There is
consensus that glass with simulated divided lites has gained strong consumer preference because of its ability to provide privacy and still let light in, he says.

With interior doors, simplicity also reigns. “The growth of two-panel interior doors has been very significant the past three years,” says
Shaun Alsdorf, senior director of interior products for Masonite. As a result, he says the percentage of six-panel interior doors has shrunk from 65 percent a decade ago to 40 percent today, and two-panel doors have jumped from 5 percent to a market share in the low 30s.

“Life has become so busy that consumers want simplicity and quietness in their homes,” Alsdorf explains. “Homeowners are increasingly willing to pay for that solid-core door with the extra sound barrier that reinforces the quiet they want at home.”

Brosterhous agrees. There’s more interest in solid medium-density fiberboard doors with a solid polyurethane core because they can reduce noise and reduce weight by one-third, he says. “We think the time is right to make a big push for MDF doors. We are hoping to get its market
share up to 10 percent or more this year.”

Because of the hectic pace of life and time demands on homeowners, more consumers are also opting for prefinished entry doors, both on the interior and exterior. “There seems to be a big trend toward pre-finished doors,” says Chehade of Plastpro. “Buying a pre-finished
door is painless to consumers.”

Albrighton agrees. “Pre-finished doors have been a trend for the last three years, but it’s become much more evident in the last year,” he says. “Homeowners don’t want to spend a week finishing a door and worrying whether it will look right. They would rather just pay someone to finish it and to install it.”

“Consumers want to enjoy their time at home,” Alsdorf adds. “They don’t want to work there.”