Window and Door Manufacturers Press on With New Products at IBS

John G. Swanson
January 26, 2009
Meetings & Events | Channels

Las Vegas—On day three of last week’s International Builders’ Show, the government announced that housing start had hit their lowest level in 50 years ago. Given that environment, the number of builders and other housing industry professionals that made their way to the event here last week was “almost a pleasant surprise,” according to one door manufacturer.

Attendance was certainly down. The National Association of Home Builders, organizer of the annual showcase, reported more than 60,000 industry professionals came to Las Vegas, significantly lower than the 90,000 attendance figure in 2008. The number of exhibitors was down too. Among the past exhibitors who chose to forego the event this year were Jeld-Wen and Loewen. Having passed up 2008, Atrium Windows & Doors and Fortune Brands, parent of Therma-Tru Doors, Simonton Windows, and a number of other companies, decided not to return as well this year. 

Last week’s WDweekly featured an initial report, highlighting a number of introductions and developments at the event. This week follows up on that article to look at some of the other new products seen over the four days of the event. An online slideshow also provides a look at some of the IBS displays.

Composites and Fiberglass
One trend evident in Las Vegas was an uptick in composite and fiberglass products. Although first introduced last year at the PCBC show in San Francisco, Andersen Windows featured its new 100 Series builder line for the first time at IBS in Las Vegas. The line is manufactured with the same Fibrex wood plastic composite used in the company’s Renewal line and in many of its other products. The line, which is targeted at Western markets, combines "the best of wood and vinyl," said Blaine Verdoonn, marketing manager, as it offers low maintenance, energy efficiency and increased strength. The added strength provided by the wood, he continued, is particularly beneficial in enabling the line to be offered in dark colors.

Andersen highlighted its new 100 Series line, targeted at builders in the West, in Las Vegas.

The window uses injected molded corner keys and adhesives to create corners that are stronger than vinyl welds, Verdoonn continued. The corner construction also provides increased aesthetics. Since its launch, the line has proven popular as an alternative to vinyl products, particularly among Andersen customers that now have a new alternative to use when they need to come in at a lower price point on a job, he said, predicting strong growth for the line.

On the fiberglass window front, Milgard Windows was showing a new mahogany veneer option on its Woodclad line of products. Previously supplied with a fir veneer, the mahogany veneer enables the product line to deliver a wider variety of aesthetics. In addition to the new interior finish, the company was highlighting a new inswing patio door model. "The fiberglass line continues to gain in popularity, particularly as we give homeowners more choices," noted Maureen Focaccia, director of marketing.

Her sentiments were shared by John Kirshner at Marvin Windows & Doors, who pointed to a new black color exterior option available on the company’s Integrity line, as well as new SDL options. “We started with a basic line, but we keep adding more options that our customers want. It keeps expanding the potential.”

Pella extended its Impervia line with the addition of a new casement product launched at IBS.  The company's Chris Simpson reported that the fiberglass product line is the company’s fastest growing business.  Also noteworthy on the fiberglass front, as reported last week, Weather Shield officially introduced its new fiberglass window and door line in Las Vegas too.

On the fiberglass door side, Plastpro was touting a new trimmable door system targeted at replacement and remodeling applications. The composite stiles and rails around the perimeter of the slab are wide enough to be trimmed as much as 1 inch, enabling contractors to easily size the door to fit an existing opening, explained the company's Franco An. “This really opens up a new market for us and our distributors,” he said. Previously, replacing an existing door with a new fiberglass door required a full frame tear out. “Now if a homeowner wants to upgrade their entrance, they can get the enhanced look and new style they want and the performance of fiberglass.”  With a door that fits into and existing opening, “it takes out a lot of the cost and the hassle,“ he concluded.

With its new trimmable door, Plastpro was one of many companies featuring products for the remodeling market in Las Vegas.

Big Doors
Four or five years ago, there was a growth spurt in the fiberglass door arena evident at the annual Builders' Show, with established manufacturers bringing more designs and new manufacturers entering the business making their way to the event as well. That same sort of spurt seems to be taking place now when it comes to wide-opening door systems. Pella, along with Kolbe & Kolbe, Andersen’s Eagle Window, Windsor Windows, Weather Shield were among the established wood window and door makers showcasing new lift-and-slide systems, including pocket systems in which the panels could retract into the walls.

Pella showcased a corner-opening door system, which is one of the configurations it offers. In addition, its door offered electronic operation, an option other manufacturers were displaying as well. Pella’s Simpson noted that this is still an emerging market, but interest is definitely on the increase. One challenge that lays before the industry, he cautioned, was developing products that perform well enough for colder climates.

In addition to the big brand names, specialty manufactures focusing on wide-opening doors were prominent throughout the show aisles. These included established names, like Nana Wall Systems, which was showing a new inline sliding system, in which all the panels moved on one track, but could still be stacked at one end when the door was completely open.  Fleetwood Windows & Doors showcased a 15-foot high model, and there were at least a dozen other specialty companies showing various types of sliding and folding doors.  Demand for these products continues to grow, reported Greg Header of Solar Innovations, another company that has been producing sliding and folding glass wall systems for some time. He also suggested some caution might be wise as this market grows rapidly, noting that not all the new companies entering this niche necessarily know what they’re doing yet.

As usual, the Builders’ Show featured numerous hardware suppliers, and many of them were featuring hardware for these larger doors. Also evident in their booths was an uptick in electronic products, with suppliers agreeing that the North American market may not be quite ready to embrace these products, but the time is coming. G-U Hardware featured a number of electronic locks designed to install and operate fairly simply through a key pad. The locks represent only a small sampling of the electronic door hardware offered by G-U, noted the supplier's Kevin O'Connor, as these products are now being used fairly extensively in Europe. “We’re beginning to see interest here,” he noted, but “manufacturers are still pretty cautious about getting into these products.”  Much work needs to be done to adapt the some of the existing European technology to the American market, he said, notably “cutting down on the cost.”

Interlock NA’s Axel Husen agreed. In the booth of Siegenia-Aubi, which Interlock now represents in North America, he said Europeans are willing to pay a lot more for the benefits of electronic locking systems and operators than Americans would be. More companies here do want to explore some of the options available, he added, however. Rudy Kessler of Winkhaus offered a similar perspective. Pointing out an electronic multipoint locking system in his company's booth, he admitted, “It’s expensive. It’s only going to appeal to a limited number of people. “ This type of offering, he also predicted, will find a growing niche.

Green Update
At last year’s show, window and door manufacturers appeared to join en masse many other building product manufacturers in featuring a green message in their displays. Although one important green attribute—the energy efficiency of windows and doors—has long been emphasized by the industry, more companies were talking about the green attributes of their materials and their manufacturing practices last year. That trend continued with the 2009 event. In addition to a new Craftmaster door style, for example, CMI was highlighting the fact that its products are now certified as being free of any added urea-formaldehyde, and its door panels are also certified as containing 63 percent recycled content.

Andersen and Kolbe & Kolbe were highlighting Forest Stewardship Council chain of custom certification. PlyGem was among the window and door manufacturers that made a point to display a mission statement related to sustainability in its booth. “We want to be cautious. People make a lot of claims and we don’t want to greenwash,” noted Jerry Blais, director of corporate marketing for the company. "We do want to show, however, what we’ve done and what we’re doing, as well as our commitment to keep doing things better.”

“Green building can be very good for this industry,” said Kevin Surace of Serious Materials, which manufactures ultra-high performance window and glass products, and announced that it was going to expand with the addition of the one-time Kensington plant in Pennsylvania during the show. “While the market’s down, our business is growing, and we see even more growth ahead.” 

Despite the current market, a number of window and door exhibitors expressed confidence that there was further growth ahead. Most said the next few months are likely to be rough, while others said the industry is likely to struggle well past the next edition of the International Builders’ Show, which returns to Las Vegas next January.

As noted, other news from the show can also be found in last week’s initial report on the event featured in last week’s WDweekly.   More images from the event are also available in an online slideshow.