Product Review: Window Manufacturers Push the Boundaries of Design

Monday, Jun 9 2014
Posted by:
Nigel F. Maynard

Walk into the average home and you may get the impression that there’s only one kind of window on the market: a white, single or double-hung vinyl unit. It’s the contractor’s go-to choice.

According to numbers from the Chicago-based Window and Door Manufacturers Association, there were roughly 40 million window units shipped in 2012. Of that, 27.5 million were vinyl (7.3 million were wood, 3.2 million were aluminum and 1.2 million were fiberglass). Further, anecdotal evidence suggests that double- and single-hung windows make up the bulk of window sales — well over 50%.

“The builder for the most part drives the market,” said Mark Harger, general manager of vinyl products at Wausau, Wisconsin-based Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Co. “In new construction, the builder is making the choice for the homeowner.”

But it even goes further than that. Given the chance to make a change with replacement windows, consumers typically follow suit. “When consumers are replacing windows, they’re often putting back in the same operational type that was there before,” Harger explained.

The reality, however, is that there are tons of window styles on the market, and manufacturers are working hard to convince builders, remodelers and architects to expand their horizons.

For Zola Windows in Steamboat Springs, Colo., the focus has been on large windows that actually work. “Homeowners today are not satisfied with standard small windows and doors anymore, but want to capture their views with extremely large openings,” said Florian Speier, founder of the company. “The major challenge facing all window manufacturers right now is how to provide these large openings that homeowners are demanding without sacrificing performance or reliability.”

Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors in Klamath Falls, Oregon, also is working hard on product design. “With today’s style-conscious consumer, personalization and flexibility are essential,” said Elizabeth Souders, director of product management. “We’re always looking for ways to push the boundary on product design and performance.”

In addition to new colors, wood species and new features, Jeld-Wen is working on introducing new designs and non-traditional products. One such product is the tilt- and-turn window, a standard European-style product that offers “the functionality of a casement window (hinged on the side to swing outward) and the ventilation of a hopper window (hinged on the bottom to open inward at the top),” the company said.

The company is even updating its W-2500 casement and double-hung windows, with thicker wood components and a standard sash with a larger daylight opening for a contemporary look.

“With a little creativity, windows and doors do so much more than just improve performance; they can have a huge impact on personalizing the style of your home more than just about any other improvement you can make,” said Souders.

Warroad, Minnesota-based Marvin, a company known for innovative thinking, has re-engineered its Ultimate Glider for design flexibility with the new OXXO configuration. “O” refers to non-operating panels and “X” refers to operating panels. Fixed sash on either side of the unit flank the two center sashes. “The Ultimate Glider works in any number of applications,” said Christine Marvin, the company’s director of marketing. “It’s a perfect solution for not only contemporary design but for situations where the homeowner is looking for a pass-through application between the kitchen and an entertaining space outside.”

That’s not to say vinyl is dead, or in decline. The product’s price point is way too attractive for companies to abandon the material. Instead, companies are trying to shatter the myth the category is boring and spicing up their offerings with features and options seen only on higher-priced products.

Cary, North Carolina-based Ply Gem Windows have been updating its products’ features that make them easy to install, such as a common sash across all products, jamb alignment clips to help center the window in the opening and a meeting rail with a clip and anchor for drywall installations. Like other companies, Ply Gem also is expanding its colors and features.

For its part, Columbus, Ohio-based Simonton Windows is increasing the design features and options on its Decorum by Simonton products, including exterior colors and interior laminates that look like wood.

“Decorum by Simonton styling options allow builders and remodelers to offer their customers an abundance of decorative choices on our products,” said Mark Savan, president of Simonton Windows. "These customized upgrades offer impressive strength and color retention, while the woodgrain laminate interiors are both realistic and long- lasting."


1. Simonton Windows: The company said new upgrades to its Decorum window line allow builders and remodelers to offer their customers more decorative choices. Styling options include new exterior, interior woodgrain laminates and new hardware finishes.


2. Ply Gem Windows: The company has added four new exterior-painted color options to its Premium and Pro Replacement Series Windows, as well as all Great Lakes Window product line. Available in a Matte or Euro finish, the colors include Black, Shark- skin (shown), Evergreen and Royal Brown.


3. Jeld-Wen: The company’s new Tilt & Turn win- dow is hinged on the side so it functions like a casement window, but it’s hinged on the bottom to open inward at the top like a hop- per window.


4. Weather Shield Windows & Doors: The Signature Series aluminum-clad wood is a mid-priced product line for buyers who may be sensitive to higher-end op- tions. Available in various styles, including awning, picture and specialty shapes, the line features a TriCore frame for structural performance.


5. Marvin Windows and Doors: OXXO is the new configuration for the company’s Ultimate Glider. It features a fixed sash on either side of two operable center sashes that slide to each side for an unobstructed opening. Additional fea- tures include a concealed multi-point lock and an auto-lock system.

6. Pella Corp.: Available in single-hung, double-hung and sliding styles, the new 250 Series offers vinyl frames, full frame profile with edge detailing, simulated divided light and be- tween-the-glass grilles and color-matched hardware. Low-E insulating double-pane glass comes standard, but triple-pane glazing is optional.


7. Crystal Window & Door Systems: The Evolution Series 9000 tilt-and-turn aluminum window is similar to products that are common in Europe. The tilt-in feature provides a 4-in. opening at the top, and the swing-in casement provides easy access.

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