The forgotten product of fenestration is gaining strength. Customers are storming the doors at George Warren’s showrooms. “We’re busy, busy, busy; our growth projections are getting blown away,” says the president of family owned and operated Centennial Windows and Doors from his London, Ont., plant, referring to some of the strongest sales ever of storm doors at his 11 satellite showrooms across Western Ontario. Centennial sells almost exclusively to the residential market, focusing on the renovations sector.
Weather helped drive demand. “It was a brutal winter, the worst I recall in our 34 years of business,” notes Warren. People wanted that added layer of protection against the harsh elements. If they felt air leaks around their doors, they thought about adding storm doors.” And even though a door is a relatively small area as compared to an entire wall of a house, just one door can lose a significant amount of energy. “Saving money on energy costs is a big factor in the increasing popularity of storm doors,” he adds. “The quality of the storm door construction is important for a nice appearance, long life and security. And because it must withstand a lot of abuse, most consumers know they shouldn’t pick the cheapest one. Our most popular storm doors are up to $1,000 with all the bells and whistles.”
It’s also a style thing, notes Kevin Pelley, president of Kohltech, a leading windows and doors manufacturer in Atlantic Canada. His view is that a generation ago, homeowners were looking for just a solid wood front door with nice aesthetics. A storm door didn’t cut it then. But tastes have swung back. “Today’s storm doors come in all styles and sizes that complement the front door and a cost effective way to add curb appeal,” Pelley points out. “They’re no longer just a piece of glass inside a hunk of aluminum. They’ve become an integral part of the home’s exterior character.”
|Toronto fabricator Everlast has made a significant commitment to developing and supplying storm doors based on its market analysis.
Innovation is another market driver and it’s key to Kohltech’s business plan. Pelley is proud that from the start of the company’s founding 30 years ago through to today, the customer’s name is put on every product from order intake, to production line, to delivery. “Kohltech products are custom-made. We invest heavily in R&D to maintain a constant stream of product options and cutting-edge manufacturing processes. Continuous improvement and leadership in product innovation is in our lifeblood. Being abreast with the latest technology not only improves the quality of our products, it also improves production efficiencies, thereby keeping prices competitive.”
Warren echoes that theme. “We’re known for our craftsmanship and commitment to innovation,” he touts. “Inside and out, our storm doors combine the best qualities of durable vinyl and aluminum construction and exceptional fit and finish.”
Recognized for its pioneering work in developing and promoting energy efficient products, Centennial Windows and Doors has snared several Energy Star awards, including the Manufacturer and Retailer of the Year Awards.
As Warren explains, some doors have self-storing pockets for the glass in summer, and an insect screen for the winter. “Some storm windows have fixed, full-length screens and glass panels that slide out of the way for ventilation. People want to have the option of cross-ventilation in their homes. Others are half screen, some offering screens on top to avoid damage from pets, and half glass. Some are easily removed for cleaning, others are not. All of these features add some convenience and higher costs.”
But it’s what’s behind storm doors that really intrigues Mike Bruno, president of Toronto-based Everlast. Crafting doors since 1961, Everlast’s array of aluminum, vinyl and PVC and fibreglass storm doors (exclusive to dealers across Canada) has evolved from a sideline to a main component of its business model. “It’s 25 per cent of what we produce today,” says Bruno. “That’s reflected in our sales in storm doors, trending up about 10 per cent annually.” Each year, the 47,000-square-foot facility, which now houses its other divisions (Alumitex Windows and Doors, Inc., Air-Tite Insulating Glass, Inc., and Napa Valley Doors) produces about 16,000 aluminum storm doors; and about 1,200 vinyl storm doors. The company generated over $10 million in sales last year and is projected to exceed $11 million in 2014.
“You don’t stay in business this long without doing something right in building doors that homeowners want,” adds Vince Porcelli, Everlast’s vice-president of sales. In the high-tech world of mass manufacturing, Everlast has held true to the tried and tested methods of making quality window and door products.” He says that although some automation has been introduced into the manufacturing process at Everlast, “many of the functions used to produce our products, the art and touch of human hands still plays a significant role in the daily production of our doors.” Technology and the simple task of listening to what customers want and looking at the trends the marketplace presents is what drives the innovation of Everlast’s products, he continues.
One of the company’s latest offering is the Modern Storm door. “We realized that most storm doors have not seen a change in decades. And because today’s consumers are more discerning than ever before we needed to update the look of our storm doors – clean lines, simple elegance, energy efficiency and safety.” To that end, the Everlast team has come up with a design it calls “not your parents’ storm door,” engineered with simple, clean lines for modern tastes. The process started by simply removing the extrusion lines of the classic style creating a smooth face and then adding a bevel that will hide the sash and give the illusion of more glass. “The consumer with a high-end entry system can now add a layer of safety, and efficiency without hiding the beauty of the entrance door,” says Procelli. And we made it available in a nine-colour pallet from black to earth tones and down to white.”
Everlast’s push to contemporize its storm door line began with the selection of strong partners for the base materials starting with both the aluminum and vinyl extrusions. Companies were selected with a proven history and longevity to supply those essential parts. The aluminum extrusions used to manufacture Everlast’s modern storm door have a significant 0.055-inch wall thickness and the frame has a beefy overall thickness of 2-1/4 inches creating a substantial door unlike most now available on the mass market. The aluminum extrusions come in pre-painted in nine colours using a Duracron baked finish and arrive in massive quantities to help keep pricing competitive.
The vinyl extrusions come in a white base and then applied in-house with Everlast’s Euro Finish paint. “We aren’t afraid of colour,” boasts Bruno. “On occasion you will walk through our plant and be struck with a canary yellow vinyl storm door or rose-coloured vinyl windows.” The extrusions are then passed through the various assembly stations based on the individual customers’ specifications. The glass is also sourced from a reliable supplier and is cut in-house along with the sealed units that are produced for windows as well. Materials such as PVC and fibreglass offer the most corrosion resistance of all when used in a storm door. They can also be moulded in such a way as to realistically mimic wood grain to provide the appearance of a wooden storm door.
“Custom work tends to be the bulk of Everlast’s orders which is also another reason that the care and craftsmanship of human hands is an asset and keeps customers coming back over and over,” says Porcelli. “The definition of the process at Everlast could be defined as one of semi automation with the added care of human craftsmanship. One might say that the latest technologically advanced machines is what keeps a company at the forefront of its industry, but Everlast begs to differ,” argues Bruno. “It’s our belief that an atmosphere of continuous improvement and being able to come up with new and fresh ideas that customers want, and producing them with consistent quality and efficiency is what keeps a company at the forefront of its industry…and when it comes to storm doors and windows that is exactly where Everlast is today.”
Tomorrow, Everlast is set to penetrate the Maritimes. The company recently partnered with Kohltech to sell doors and storm doors in Atlantic Canada. “We’ve had customer ask specifically for it,” says Pelley. “These products are being well received in this region.”
Increasingly, homeowners view adding a storm door as a good investment. In addition to adding another layer of security to a home’s entryways, the biggest reason to install these doors is to save money, because they perform yeoman’s duty in trapping heat—or at least allowing less of it to escape. And the less often a home’s heating system has to work, the less money is spent to keep one’s home warm and comfortable.
What does Warren see as the main trends in storm doors? “Consumers want to reduce their home’s carbon footprint. When it comes to storm doors, that means quality components, proven technologies, and environmentally-friendly products offering longevity. Today’s storm doors answer those must-haves.”
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