New Doors Opening at Remodeling Show

By Christina Lewellen
November 1, 2006
Meetings & Events

Chicago—Attendees didn’t need a fortune cookie to figure out that 2006 was effectively the “Year of the Door” at the Remodeling Show. Around every corner, window and door manufacturers greeted building professionals with decorative entry door systems and large, high-performance patio doors as prominent features in their booths. The show, hosted by Hanley-Wood Exhibitions, attracted about 10,000 contractors, specialty dealers, builders and remodelers to the Lakeside Center at McCormick Place, Chicago, October 19-21.

The housing woes portrayed in mainstream media didn’t seem to follow attendees onto the show floor, as crowds meandered through the hall to check out introductions and upgrades aimed at the remodeling market. Fenestration exhibitors talked to attendees about window line upgrades, enhancements and manufacturing efficiencies that shave off lead-time, but the true buzz from the floor came in the door arena. New companies, new branding efforts and, in some cases, new territories, meant the trade show floor was peppered with sweeping door displays, practically none of which took a back seat to the companies’ window displays.

Many industry representatives at the show pointed to an increasing desire among homeowners for front-of-the-house differentiation as a driver in the entry door market. Buyers are approaching remodelers and builders for entry door products that offer customizable looks—combinations of size, sidelites, decorative glass patterns, grid and grille options, and color and species—to stand apart from their neighbors.

“It’s just another accessory,” said Elizabeth Souders, door marketing manager for Jeld-Wen, about the entry door market. “It’s just like pillows on a couch or knobs on a cabinet. Entry doors are another way for them to personalize their home.”

Popular doors on the market are getting bigger and more elaborate as homes trend in the same fashion, added Kevin Pine, product marketing manager for Jeld-Wen doors. “Entry doors are the exclamation point on any home, which is why they are getting larger and more dramatic all the time.”

Further, doors and windows are now being viewed as sibling elements in a home, as buyers strive to match styles, as well as further energy efficiency efforts, noted Pine. “Rather than separate, individual elements, builders and homeowners are beginning to consider windows and doors as part of a complete package, which can help provide a more cohesive style as well as deliver the desired performance benefits such as energy efficiency and low maintenance,” he said.

The apparent entry door trend made its way to the Remodeling Show floor, as new and veteran door manufacturers displayed solutions and options entering the market.

ENTERING ENTRY DOORS
Milgard Windows took the opportunity to tell remodelers at the show loud and clear that it has plenty of products to serve their window and door needs. The company’s display aimed to tell Remodeling Show attendees a couple of key points, according to Milgard’s Lee Phillips—first, the manufacturer is not limited to West Coast, nor new construction customers, and second, it’s entering the entry door market in a big way. “We now have every product to serve the window and door market,” Phillips explained. “We’ve always been viewed as a new construction company, but our message today is that we can play in all markets.”

The West Coast manufacturer, based in Tacoma, WA, rolled out its fiberglass entry door line—the company’s first foray into the market—at the PCBC Show in San Francisco in June. Just a few months later, Milgard dedicated a significant amount of Remodeling Show booth space to the doors, which were displayed in a variety of finish options and unique decorative glass options. The line combines the company’s experience with the material (as a fiberglass window manufacturer), with proprietary glass designs. “These guys are industry experts,” Phillips said about the company’s entry door line engineers. “They’re doing it right.”

While adding entry doors to its product mix was not a simple undertaking, it was a project worthy of time and effort to better serve customers as a one-stop-shop, Phillips said. “They’re buying patio doors from us, so why not entry doors? It’s a natural progression for us.”

In addition to its entry doors, the company highlighted its replacement window products, as well as its ability to serve the Eastern half of the country. The company opened a Chicago-area facility about a year ago to serve the Midwest market and beyond, and Phillips said Milgard is looking to expand its dealer base in the region now that it has the infrastructure to support growth.

Available only to the aging housing markets of the Midwest and Northeast, Milgard’s Mastri Series premium vinyl replacement window line was designed with aesthetics and energy efficiency in mind for more discriminating replacement buyers. On display at the show, the line also features a block-and-tackle balance, “which is what the remodeling guys want,” Phillips noted.

Also in the category of window manufacturers moving into the entry door market, Eagle Window & Door showcased its evolving line of aluminum-clad wood doors. Introducing the product early this year at the International Builders’ Show, the company has some new upgrades and features to talk about this fall, said Sharon Rea, marketing manager. In addition to expanded finish options and decorative glass, the line now features a venting sidelite option for increased ventilation without screens.

Like many in the industry taking on the streamlined supplier approach, Rea said Eagle expanded its offerings as a service to its customers. “People like to buy in packages,” she noted. “They like the consistency and they like to be able to match window and door products.”

A new player to the door market—or maybe better thought of as a re-worked player—is Neuma Doors. A first-time exhibitor at the Remodeling Show, the company, a Nan Ya Plastics Corp. company, was formerly a member of Plastpro’s Distinction Doors group before it broke out into a separate organization. Unlike its sister company, Neuma sells whole systems rather than components. The Taiwanese products are assembled domestically in a Texas manufacturing facility and provided to builders and contractors through two-step distribution. Corie Sink, regional sales manager, said the full-lite, flushed-glazed patio doors are impact rated and particularly popular in coastal markets. The company showed attendees that its 6-foot, 8-inch; 6-foot, 11-inch; and 8-foot doors can be big and safe for hurricane zone buyers. Neuma Doors also offers a vented sidelite patio door, which gives an “entry door” feel.

Sink said the Remodeling Show display was meant to get mindshare among building professionals. The company expects to add to its line grilles, SDL and other decorative features as it moves into the future, he added.

DOOR VETERANS PREP FOR STRONG 2007
For entry door veterans, the fall show served as a preview to 2007 product launches. Therma-Tru and Jeld-Wen, for example, offered sneak peeks into what will likely be full-court marketing presses after the start of the new year.

Therma-Tru’s Paul Mihm Jr., vice president of wholesale distribution, said the company is working with the National Accreditation and Management Institute to offer a whole-system certification approval process for its doors. The company’s Tru-Defense line of Fiber-Classic and Smooth-Star hinged patio door systems combines a high dam sill, door bottom sweep, rain deflector, astragal and corner seal pads to achieve a minimum DP-40 air, water and structural performance rating. The Tru-Defense certification approach that started in patio doors will likely extend to entry systems in 2007, Mihm said.

The company also noted that its FinishRight technology for its Classic-Craft and Fiber-Classic entry products is now available nationwide. The Finish-Right process pre-stains and pre-hangs doors at the Therma-Tru facility in Houston, TX, to offer remodelers and consumers a product that has a consistent look from job to job, as well as a finish warranty.
Jeld-Wen’s show personnel report seeing such a spike in custom decorative options in the last year, the company has added many popular choices to its standard catalog. Pine says the manufacturer has expanded its list of available entry door grilles to include 20 standard designs, a number that may increase in 2007. “We’ve done a lot of custom designs so we’ve taken some of the really popular ones and rolled them into our standard line,” he explained. The faux-wrought iron options, which span classical, contemporary, Mediterranean and other categories of design, can be added to a Jeld-Wen entry door product without an extension on the product’s lead time, he noted.

The company has also increased its hardware offerings, especially for oversized doors that call for a meatier hardware choice. “If you put small hardware on a big door, it almost cheapens the look of the door,” Pine said. “We wanted more substantive hardware to match the door style.”

Even though the Klamath Falls, OR-based manufacturer is thought of as a big player in the fenestration market, the company hoped to convey to attendees of the Remodeling Show that it can still serve custom needs, said Souders, door marketing manager. In addition to custom grille designs, hardware and various sized doors, Jeld-Wen also displayed its custom wood carving options for doors. The company calls on a skilled team of craftsman to hand-carve designs for national distribution. “We want to show remodelers that we have custom products—we can match wood species, hardware,” she said. “We’re still small enough in this niche market to customize.”

THE DOOR TO NEXT YEAR’S SHOW
The Remodeling Show exhibition and conference will head to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas in 2007 and will take place October 10-12. More information about next year’s show is available at www.theremodelingshow.com.