On the Threshold
Entering a New Era in Exterior Doors
by Jim Meeks and John Westfall
Doors and windows always seem to be categorized together.
They share trade magazines, trade shows and even showroom floors at times.
From an outside view the industries seem to go hand-in-hand, but they
actually diverged years ago when the North American Fenestration Standard
(NAFS) was enforced for windows, but not doors.
Over the years, regulations have driven innovations in the window industry
as companies have been forced to design and build better, longer-lasting
products. On the other hand, the exterior door industry has gone off in
a completely different direction. After all, why build high-performance
products when no one is forcing us?
Currently, exterior door technologies that block air and water infiltration
and promote energy efficiency are considered nice to have, but the lack
of regulations has created an industry that is driven more by reducing
costs than increasing performance. In today’s current market, the prevailing
attitude is that door components are interchangeable, therefore, design
decisions often are made by a purchasing agent rather than a design engineer.
All of this might sound a bit harsh because there are producers building
high-quality exterior door products out there; there has just been little
incentive for the entire industry to make the shift. In many ways, the
industry has been driven backward instead of forward. That is about to
No Longer Exempt
In 2012, pre-hung door manufacturers selling into the Canadian market
will encounter a game- changer that will likely impact the entire industry
Canadian building codes will require that any fabricator selling into
the Canadian market adhere to marking specifications and have all exterior
door products third-party tested to meet minimum performance levels outlined
in NAFS-08. These test areas will include: positive and negative design
pressure, water penetration resistance, Canadian air infiltration/exfiltration
and forced-entry resistance.
To comply, a shift in the way pre-hung exterior doors are designed will
be necessary. No longer will the industry be componentized with products
pieced together based on price. Rather, fabricators will need to look
at the entire door system, including all materials and components, and
the way they work together to meet performance requirements.
In the window industry, certification requirements permanently changed
the market landscape. Those lumberyards and mom-and-pop shops that built
windows as a side business had a tough decision to make—go through the
time and expense of upgrading designs and certifying, or outsource window
fabrication. Most opted to leave window making to the window-making experts.
Immediately in the Canadian market, these small, “one-stepper” shops will
be faced with the same decision when it comes to exterior doors. Will
the door market go the same way as windows with smaller shops outsourcing
to larger regional and national door specialists?
That remains to be seen, but there is one thing for sure. Now that the
ball has started rolling in Canada, the entire exterior door industry
in North America will be affected eventually. The industry will become
more “windowized,” forcing fabricators to improve their designs and create
better performing, longer-lasting products. So why not start now?
Jim Meeks (pictured above) and John Westfall serve as engineering
manager and business development manager, door and window components,
respectively, for Quanex Building Products.
© Copyright 2011 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.