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Volume 6   Issue 6                July  2005

One of a Kind

Custom Manufacturers Get Creative to Remain Competitive

by Sarah Batcheler

Windows are a powerful design piece for a home. They have the ability to make a house look distinctive and exclusive—or just plain ordinary. Architects, builders and homeowners have many ways to customize their projects by choosing from the virtually limitless options available for custom windows. There are observable differences in the way manufacturers of custom windows have responded to these market demands. 

The Market
People are much more willing to pour extensive amounts of money into their home than they were years ago. They are buying homes with many amenities, including custom windows.

Jeff Kibler, brand manager of Vetter Windows and Doors, says his company has experienced less competition in the high-end market, and more in the middle market. 

“The industry is becoming more complex, and has been evolving over the last ten years,” says Kibler. Builders and homeowners have become more discerning about the environment, codes and wood species. 

Artistic Doors and Windows Inc. of Avenel, N.J., custom manufacturer, attributes its highly competitive market to the fact that New Jersey has two of the highest per-capita-income counties in the United States. 

“Our customers aren’t just plugging regular windows into their high-end homes, they are looking for certain key features in their windows,” says Guy Cichy, vice president sales and marketing. 

The replacement market has increased in the United States, and some manufacturers are feeling the effects. 

Cichy says his company’s work is divided evenly between replacement and new construction. 

Approximately 90 percent of windows from Vetter are being used in new construction, according to Kibler. 

The Sky’s the Limit
Many builders use custom windows to make a statement of their signature styles. 

Unique windows most typically are being manufactured for areas over the front door, over a jacuzzi tub and in the family room. Radius windows are also more prevalent in homes today than in the past.

And as the saying goes, bigger is better, especially in windows. Large windows are ideal for homes in coastal and mountainous areas, where there is a magnificent view. 

“Our trend is towards the extra-large windows especially over entry doors,” says Carolyn Andrego of CW Ohio Inc. She also says the company has more requests for odd shapes and sizes.

“In the west, we are seeing a lot of contemporary design,” says Mark Gallant, senior marketing manager for Milgard Windows. “We have manufactured unique configurations that tie windows, doors and side-lite windows on top in an enormous setting.” 

“From the hardwood standpoint, some customers want a window to blend in with the hardwood used in the interior décor, such as in a kitchen or a library,” says Kibler.

Other features include the addition of high-end custom hardware. Cichy reported that some customers spend $40,000-$60,000 on hardware on a home.

“People have become more discerning on the level of quality and are more than ever willing to pay for their champagne tastes to match their champagne pockets,” he says. 

Challenges
Time and product availability are the main challenges for these manufacturers. 
Everybody wants it yesterday. 

According to Cichy, builders and architects in the high-end caliber projects usually understand the time requirements, but the new builders don’t realize that custom creations take three months or more. 

Kibler echoed the time issue. It’s difficult when a customer calls and wants to know how much a certain custom product will cost immediately. Obviously the bid process takes time, says Kibler. 

Sarah Batcheler is an assistant editor for DWM. 

Advancements in Custom Windows

As you now know, one-of-a-kind products are just what some architects and builders are looking for. Check out some of the custom products available from window manufacturers.

Thinking Outside of the Glass Block
Glass block is a possible alternative for custom projects. Just ask Earl Rivard, marketing director at Glass Block Innovations Inc. in Phoenix, Ariz. Glass block windows allow natural light into an area, while providing insulation, security, beauty and maximum light without sacrificing privacy. 

The company uses real glass blocks made by Pittsburgh Corning which feature an innovative interlocking PVC joint system, so there is no grout or exposed silicone. 
Going on its tenth year, the company reports an increase in variety and volume of its projects. The concept has really picked up with custom homebuilders, says Rivard. 

Still a young company, it plans to continue expanding in the use of its new fiber optics technology, which illuminates glass blocks. In this application, fiber optic cable is placed in the joints between the blocks, which are filled with clear silicone. The fiber optic cables are connected to an illuminator with a light wheel, which fills the block with ever changing colored light. 

www.dwmmag.com/infocenter

Injection-molded Geometrics Deliver Perfect Shapes
A new series of injection-molded Geometrics has been added to Simonton’s ProFinish® product line. 

“One of the best benefits of these windows is that the frame is made in one piece in a customized mold. This means that the shapes are perfect every time,” said Christopher Burk, product manager.

The Octagon window is sized to fit a 24- by 24-inch rough opening. The window features plain glass or can be ordered with a colonial grid sandwiched between the glass, according to the company. The circle window is available with either plain glass or a standard grid. The 24- by 36-inch oval window, which is also available in plain glass or a standard grid, can be installed either vertically or horizontally.

“The three windows in this series are offered with a variety of glass options and the choice of hard coat or soft coat low-E glass with argon gas for increased energy performance,” said Burk. 

www.dwmmag.com/infocenter

Crestline® Simulated Transoms Sheds Light on Rooms
Crestline Windows and Doors has introduced a simulated transom for its CrestWood™ double-hung windows. The simulated transoms offers easy installation and a lower cost than stacking a transom above a window, according to the company. They are created by enlarging the top sash of a double-hung window and adding a 3.5-inch profiled rail to the interior and exterior of the glass. The extra window brings added sunlight into a room.

The windows are available in multiple double-hung shapes and sizes, including rectangular, segment, half round, one quarter round and gothic configurations. 

They feature PVC exteriors with titanium dioxide stabilizers to help preserve the white or almond color, and high-impact acrylic modifiers to resist dents and scratches. Builders can either choose from pine interiors or white pre-finished PVC composite interiors. 

Builders and homeowners can choose from a number of grille options, including snap-in wood grilles, grilles in airspace, value divided lites and simulated v-groove glass grilles. 

www.dwmmag.com/infocenter 


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