Volume 7 Issue 2 February 2006
The Case for Casements
How Some Hardware Manufacturers Expect the Market to Expand
By Megan Headley
Casement windows offer a number of advantages to a home. They can open up as far as 90 degrees, offering unobstructed views and drawing fresh air into the home. Yet according to some manufacturers of window hardware, casement windows are still second to other types of windows, notably double-hungs, in the U.S. window market.
“There are, in the American market, two main types of windows that have quite a bit of popularity, at least in the last several years: double-hung and crank-operated casement,” says John Imbriale, manager of technical services and quality control at G-U Hardware in Newport News, Va. “More so than say back in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, where it was a lot of slider-type windows, or push out-type windows,” he adds.
“It [the casement window] has definitely been popular for quite some time, but it’s always been secondary to the sliders and it still is—it’s growing, but it’s still a distant second,” says David Gilson, national sales and marketing manager for Roto Frank of America of Chester, Conn.
“The casement is a growing market—not huge, but it is growing, certainly,” he adds.
The sense that casements may be ready to expand into a bigger section of the window market is agreed upon by several manufacturers.
“The last couple of years this has become a growing part of the market,” says Brian Dallmannn, the casement hardware business unit manager for Truth Hardware of Owatonna, Minn.
“From our view as a hardware supplier, the casement business has been steadily increasing and very regional until the past few years,” says Robert Munin, vice president of Ultra Hardware Products LLC in Pennsauken, N.J. “Specifically, casements have been strongest in the northern part of the U.S. (Northwest, Midwest and Northeast). “They are also the dominant window in most of Canada.”
“Certainly casements exist, but they’re extremely low volume, on the West Coast. They’re more Midwest and East Coast, and certainly Canada,” agrees Gilson.
Munin adds, “Lately, we have seen a lot more window companies starting up casement lines in places like Florida and Texas due to the vast hurricane damage and the fact that casement windows are better suited for holding up in extreme conditions like air and water infiltration.” Munin explains that the windows are better protected because there is no meeting rail in casements like is found in double-hung windows.
In addition to the perceived regionality of the product, casement windows are also considered to be most popular in contemporary, residential buildings.
“Basically casement windows are driven by the architectural style of the home,” says Dallmann.
And according to Munin, “We see this segment of the business growing in the vinyl and aluminum sectors. In addition, many customers that we work with see casement windows being used more and more for the replacement market.”
Market and Size
Rather than play second fiddle to sliders, the casement window market has begun to find ways to expand, and hardware manufacturers are playing a part in that. In particular, casement windows have grown in size, since their smaller size, as compared to double-hungs, was seen as one major disadvantage.
“It is true that the market in general is looking to transition to larger window sizes, no doubt about that, and in doing so obviously the hardware is needed to support heavier weight,” Imbriale says. “When we developed a crank casement system ... our sash limitation was 120 pounds. Manufacturers would easily like to go larger than that to make bigger windows, but our hardware was not capable of supporting it.”
“Window size has been limited because of the hardware,” agrees Dallmann.
Imbriale explains, “When you have swing out-type casement, and the window swings out, a large sash puts a lot of stress on the casement operator itself and the arms that hold it to the frame, where with a double-hung it’s a matter of using a larger counter balance.”
However, as homeowners seek bigger windows, casement hardware manufacturers have worked to accommodate this trend by producing heavier hardware. According to Munin, casement windows can now be manufactured up to 40 by 84 inches.
“They are getting pretty crazy with some of the casement sizes, they’re getting to be the same size as doors,” says Gilson. He adds that while the largest volume of casements isn’t up to this size, the demand does exist.
New Options for Style
As hardware manufacturers produce the support for larger windows, new styles have also been introduced into the casement market.
“New hardware styles will complement the overall window systems and should drive consumer demand,” says Munin.
According to Dallmann, in the last few years technology has made it possible to add spacer bars or grilles onto casement windows, making them look more like double-hungs, which better matches traditional colonial-style homes.
Other changes are being made to make the hardware needed by a casement less noticeable.
“One of the things about casements, where it does not have an equal footing with a double-hung type window, is that with the crank at the bottom it’s sometimes very difficult to outfit the window with a blind or window treatment. A lot of manufacturers are using little handles that fold so that they’re not as intrusive into the home, and not as obstructive to the window treatment,” says Imbriale.
“Ultra Hardware is working on making the casement window hardware more integrated into the window itself. This evolution yields two key benefits: 1) more pleasing design and 2) simplified operation,” says Munin.
Gilson adds that while there are certain trends in the market, the goal of each manufacturer is to create an option that will make its product unique to the market.
“Everyone wants to be different ... the ability to be able to offer different styles or options with the casement hardware,” says Gilson.
And why could casement windows take a bigger part of the market? They offer several advantages to homeowners—and manufacturers too.
“One of the really nice things about crank-operated casements, that put it on the same footing as a double-hung, is that they crank out, so it’s not intrusive to the space of the home like a typical pull-in type casement,” says Imbriale.
“Besides the impact and wear benefits, casement windows offer consumers a more aesthetic vantage than double-hung windows,” says Munin.
Another benefit is their energy efficiency.
“Typically, consumers get a better value for the money with casement windows, and they are usually more energy efficient than other window types,” says Munin. That’s because, according to Munin, “Generally speaking, having one pane of glass and fewer seams in a casement window will minimize the opportunity for air to seep in and energy to seep out.”
According to Dallman, there is another benefit casement windows could have going for them: they are typically cheaper to manufacture than double-hungs. For starters, there are fewer lineal feet per casement window to manufacture than for other window styles, Dallmann says. He adds that double-hung require more complex manufacture and assembly, as well as more components overall.
Casement hardware manufacturers explain that the casement hardware makes the window a more expensive option, since there is more of it.
“As far as manufacturing, the only way I would see that as true [that casements are less expensive than double-hungs] is that you’re building one sash instead of two. The hardware itself is certainly more expensive than a hung window,” says Gilson.
Imbriale suspects that the favorable market position of double-hungs is related to its lower price.
“The [double-hung] hardware is very simple and very inexpensive, there’s not a lot of mechanical pieces to it—the less mechanical it is, the less there is to go wrong with it. That’s why they have such a strong position not only with new construction but also replacement,” says Imbriale.
With casement windows, on the other hand, “There’s more hardware involved, more mechanical-type things, but it’s a little bit higher cost—that translates to a higher cost of window,” he says.
However it is perhaps because there is more hardware involved in the manufacture of a casement window than sliders that the hardware manufacturers are so important in the expansion of the market for casement windows.
Megan Headley is an assistant editor of DWM magazine.
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