Swap Out the Glass: Retrofit and Renovation on the Rise for Contract Glaziers and Retailers

By Nick St. Denis

Many key trends in the building and construction space would have one
believe that the U.S. is witnessing an increase in retrofit and renovation activity.

Changing dynamics in the purpose of existing buildings (e.g. retrofitting office and warehouse spaces into multifamily), a need to upgrade an aging building stock for energy performance, and the reconfiguration of commercial and institutional spaces for safety or productivity are just several examples. Anecdotally, this sounds like a prime opportunity for glazing contractors. But is there evidence that firms in the glass and glazing
industry are collectively taking on an uptick of these types of jobs?

At least one key metric from Key Media & Research (KMR), parent company of USGlass magazine, suggests this is in fact the case.

As part of its annual industry outlook research, KMR tracks the percentage of glazing contractors that anticipate an increase or decrease in retrofit/renovation work.

Over the past half-dozen years, this figure has typically fluctuated between a majority (over 50%) and a minority (below 50%) of contract glaziers that will see an uptick in this type of activity. The past two-year period broke that trend, as this was the first time (since tracking the metric in 2017) KMR has witnessed consecutive years that a majority of glazing contractors expected an increase in retrofit/renovation work. What’s more, 2023 is by far the highest percentage at over 71%. There is also evidence to suggest that small
glass-focused contractors and retailers that primarily work in consumer and residential spaces are seeing similar growth in demand in renovation.

According to the latest data from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, bath remodels and additions accounted for 31% of all discretionary professional home improvement expenditures in 2021. This is up from a 20% share during the last peak of remodeling activity in 2007, and glass shower enclosure installation businesses are undoubtedly reaping the benefits of growth in that market.

It appears the retrofit/renovation market is a fruitful one for the glass and glazing industry, regardless of whether you’re a glazing contractor working on large-scale commercial projects or a small glass shop installing shower doors.

Nick St. Denis is the director of research for Key Media & Research (KMR), parent company of USGlass magazine. To subscribe to his free Glass and Glazing Quarterly Review report, or for any other research-related inquiries, email nstdenis@glass.com.

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