Window Film: An Alternative to Sandblasted and Patterned Glass

By Chris Collier

4455 Glass & Metal Inc. of Highland, N.Y., laid 600 square feet of 3M window film at a Spectrum store on New York City’s Sixth Avenue in February. Owner Brianna Surkis says using film is a service that presents clients with alternatives to traditional glass and glazing options and accounts for 10% of 4455’s overall sales.

Film and Family

“My father and his brothers took over for my grandfather, and they’ve been in the business for 50 years now,” says Surkis, whose company also provides screen installation, glass shower doors, plexi and lexan panes, and custom mirrors. “We learned how to do everything, including filming.”

Surkis’ company typically takes on film projects in-house, subcontracting support for expansive undertakings. Its installation team finished the Spectrum job in a single day, but Surkis says the benefits extend beyond speedy completions.

“The profit margin is pretty well-off on filming, and it’s usually in-and-out,” Surkis says. “The material doesn’t cost much—it’s more of our labor … Cleaning the glass and [ensuring] it’s spotless is one of the most important things. What takes longest is making sure the glass is pristine and clean before we apply the film.”

Security concerns occupy many minds amid a present period of societal unrest. 4455 Glass & Metal aims to provide customers with peace of mind by zeroing in on security films in the future.

“Landlords that own buildings in the city are spending thousands of dollars to replace glass [constantly],” Surkis adds. “I think a product like that is born out of necessity. Like a seatbelt or [bullet-resistant] vest, it’s an extra layer of security.”

Abe Asllani of Christopher Glass & Aluminum Inc. in Elmhurst, Ill., says film projects were primarily decorative in 2019, shifting to security in 2020 in alignment with current calamities. The service represents less than 1% of his company’s sales but offers a unique glass replacement method.

“On a tempered piece of glass that needs to be replaced, we’ll [usually] film it, break the glass so it’s adhered to the film, and then remove it,” Asllani adds. “It’s a little bit easier,” he says. “It stays together.”

But Wait, There’s More

MY Shower Door in Fort Myers, Fla., applies the product to less than 2% of glass installations. But president, founder, and co-owner Bill Daubmann says decorative film is a worthy substitute to sandblasted glass.

“Years ago, it used to peel, come off, and look terrible,” Daubmann says. “But these films have upgraded so much. They’re a better look than sandblasting, and they’re so much easier to clean.”

Window film comprises an estimated 10% of sales at Austin, Texas’, Austin Glass & Mirror Inc. The business, which has 50 field glaziers, typically operates with three local subcontractors during film installations. However, vice president Chris Bayer says outsourcing isn’t always the most fitting option.

“Maybe it’s a jailhouse,” Bayer says. “You have to go through a background check and a drug test. Maybe that’s $150 and your time to fill out the paperwork. [Perhaps] you’re only filming one or two windows where it isn’t $200 worth of film work. It doesn’t make sense to take time and effort to get another man through the process to do a couple lites of film.”

Better Together?

MY Shower Door has nine frameless shower door showrooms throughout the Sunshine State and currently subs its film work out. But that could shift as hospitality bids increase at the company’s Orlando location. Daubmann says he will provide in-house window film training if the trend continues. “For hospitality jobs, we offer a clear film to hold the glass in place in the event of breakage,” he says.

Featuring unique textures and designs, patterned glass ensures that the lites pop with signature style. Surkis frequently presents film as an alternative, and clients are often pleased with the eye-catching end result.

“Many customers want to update their kitchen cabinets,” adds Surkis, who says 95% of customers opt for film over patterned glass when given the option. “Instead of taking all of their glass out and replacing it with expensive patterned glass, we suggest film that looks almost the same. You can’t feel the ridges as in regular patterned glass, but it looks [nearly
identical]. One hundred percent of our customers that have gotten it have been happy with it.”

Daubmann’s bottom line doesn’t revolve around film, but he notes its value.

“It’s to enhance the work done; to give them that customization of something,” Daubmann says. “The best part of film is that it’s not permanent. If you did it in your home, had it customized, and want to sell, the next [owners] can remove it. That’s the beauty and difference between sandblasting and film. The film can be removed and the glass does not have to be trashed.”

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