Industry Pulse: Product Trends

Vinyl and multi-panel products still dominate; color and commercial-looking trends on deck
Emily Kay Thompson and Kelly Smith
January 25, 2018
FEATURE ARTICLE | Markets & Trends

Units shipped in 2017 and 2016

Above: Manufacturer respondents reported that the number of units shipped in 2017 widely increased over 2016. This trend looks to continue into 2018, where 86 percent of manufacturers anticipate an increase in units shipped over 2017. (*Represents manufacturer respondents only.) Click image for larger view.

Product Trends

Vinyl products are still dominating the window market, as indicated by our surveyed manufacturers, who also indicated that wide open spaces are still the rage. Luxury products and those with a commercial feel were also noted as in high demand. Despite the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the program, Energy Star-rated products are still among the top five products most in demand in 2017.

Most in Demand in 2017

1. Vinyl Windows
2. Multi-Panel Doors
3. Wood Windows
4. Energy Star-Rated Products 5. Aluminum Windows

Product Launches

Last year brought many new products to market—69 percent of surveyed manufacturers added products in 2017; 59 percent intend to launch new products in 2018. The anticipated product categories, however, remain consistent, with the majority of products being added in the vinyl category.

Top 5 Anticipated Categories
Launching in 2018

1. Vinyl Windows
2. Multi-Panel Doors
3. Aluminum Windows
4. New Color Options
5. Wood Entry Doors

These anticipated launches and additional units shipped in 2018 will also affect the supply side, as 73 percent of surveyed manufacturers reported they will add production capacity this year. 

The optimistic sales outlook carries over into product trends, as the industry gears up for a positive 2018. Manufacturers will look to keep up with growing demand for powerful performance characteristics coupled with design flexibility and aesthetics. 

Along with clean sightlines and appealing design, our sources tell us that customers continue to focus on energy-efficiency and security options in their doors and windows. All of these factors serve to set the bar higher than ever for the fenestration industry, as they strive for strong, secure and inventive products. The notion of form and function is top-of-mind for homeowners and therefore, the entire supply chain.  

As windows and doors continue to get taller and wider, we’re seeing more glass and less profile, says Lee Maughan, general manager and vice president at LaCantina Doors. “No matter if you are renovating or building,” he says, “open space products are the focal part of the design.”

That statement is echoed by representatives across the industry; homeowners want large, expansive views of their surrounding environment, along with creative solutions that allow for extended use of their homes. “Customers want that (open glass) look on the back of their homes; they might have a view of a lake or the ocean,” says Rob Moulds, senior director of sales at CGI Window and Doors. They also increasingly want to customize those products and choose from boundless options in finishes, colors, textures and materials. 

A surge in hurricane-rated products

Manufacturers are also responding to the higher awareness of performance. Hurricane-rated product lines, always important to those in vulnerable climates, are in high demand. 

Rick Mullen, national sales manager for Florida-based Custom Window Systems, reports that his company has seen a surge in business from Floridians and others in the region who are upgrading their homes in the wake of the recent hurricanes. “Even if they didn’t sustain damage [in 2017], they don’t want to worry about placing shutters on their windows every time a hurricane comes,” he says. “The hurricanes of 2017 were a wake-up call; they want to be ready for the next time around.”

Even manufacturers outside the known hurricane-prone regions are stepping up to build these products. Bob Taylor, VP of business development at Sierra Pacific Windows, says that in response to last year’s storms and projections for more hurricanes in 2018, the company is introducing an expanded line of hurricane solutions. 

Materials on the market

While vinyl products still dominate the window market, sources also point to the escalating trend of aluminum and clad options. These marry the aforementioned tendency toward thin profiles and large glass with exceptional performance characteristics. Mark Montgomery, vice president, marketing, Ply Gem Windows, also notes the modern design trend toward a more commercial look, which brings aluminum more into the residential picture. The company recently launched its new Euro Series with these trends in mind. “With multiple configurations and material choices, our assortment addresses challenges with the most sought-after solutions for builders, architects, remodelers and homeowners,” he says. And, advances in aluminum technology allow for a DP50-rated door, rather than yesterday’s DP25 product, says LaCantina’s Maughan.

Clad options are likewise in demand to speak to this modern aesthetic/performance balance. Kolbe’s Forgent line features its proprietary Glastra material, a vinyl-fiberglass mix that offers the best of both materials. Michael Bousfield, Cascadia’s technical director and operations manager, notes that the company will launch a fiberglass-aluminum-hybrid window wall in 2018.   

These are a few of many examples of how manufacturers are stepping up to create the latest trends—to list all of the new options by every manufacturer here would be a daunting task. (Editor’s note: See page 46 for a host of new products from all sides of the supply chain.) While each of them are quick to extol the individual virtues of their product lines, each share the same sentiment: there is a niche and a place for every product and material on the market. Whether it’s a wood entry door or aluminum-hybrid multi-fold door, vinyl or aluminum windows, there is a customer and a market demand. 

The challenge for 2018, whether working in any of the myriad materials available to the fenestration industry, from aluminum, vinyl, steel, and iron to fiberglass and wood, remains the same. Create a multitude of design options, offer flexibility, and build products that can withstand the harshest conditions that Mother Nature creates. 

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