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July - August 2003

Open and Shut
 A Case for Better Screens
by George Fleming

Among all the decisions customers make in buying windows is the option of keeping them open as much as keeping them shut. Everyone likes a little fresh air. To meet that need, a screen for windows was developed. In those days, the screen was called a “fly screen” for obvious reasons. This interpretation of the need for a screen hasn’t changed much over the past 80 years, even though producing and providing window frames, sash and glazing have changed to a hi-tech automated industry.

Maybe it is due to a single-minded need to improve window making that we haven’t gone beyond the single-minded use for the window screen. In fact, I am sure that most window manufacturers would say screen production is more of a “window pain” than anything else—OK, bad pun, but it is true. If you look at the option packages of most companies, the screen is not part of the option package.

Screens may represent only 4 percent of the cost of a window package, but could account for 50 percent of all servicing costs of the window. And when you think about it, the screener has probably the toughest and most skilled job in the plant. Now if I were to tell you that you could take advantage of screen production to increase your marketability and have a positive effect on your bottom line, would you do it?

To succeed in making high-quality screens you have to be aware of two critical decisions:

A. That screen bar selection is appropriate to the task suited for your window (Is the material rigid enough for your size offering? Is the profile the right one to enhance your screens performance?) 

B. Spline selection is the proper material and size (to hold the screen cloth in place with no corner creeping).

The right decision on these two components will ensure you will pass all test requirements to comply with building codes.

You also have to be aware that new technologies offer new opportunities to make the screen a serious functional part of the window. 

Keep Dangers Outdoors: Insects
The “fly screen” was a good idea at the time. However, there are new dangers lurking outdoors, like the carriers of the West Nile Virus, which are smaller than flies but carry a bigger punch. A little attention paid to the construction of a window screen will be foolproof to keep them out. Most insects enter the home around the frame of the screen, not through it. A screen that is not tensioned properly will “bow” or “hour-glass” and will not perform effectively when installed. The frame’s defenses can be guaranteed, with the use of a proper screen-making center to ensure perfectly tensioned screens that are square and straight. Enhancing the screen frames with materials that create a perfect bug-resistant seal at the edges would be the ultimate.

Security: Home Invasions
Yes, screens can now be incorporated into security strategies to guard entry points into homes and buildings. Most people are familiar with strategies that have focused on windows and doors. Today, the window screen is part of that strategy. New developments in security screen mesh enable alarms to activate if the mesh is cut or tampered with. This type of screen mesh works much like the strategies embedded in windows and doors. Security systems can even detect when the screen frame has been disturbed. Imagine this option as part of your sales package. Open windows may not be a liability anymore.

Solar Control
Modern manufacturing of screen mesh starts with a simple polymerized thread that is woven and then coated in a second step. It wasn’t that long ago that the process was used to generate different colors in screening material. It was only a matter of time before someone came up with an opportunity to take advantage of the second stage and employ coatings that can control exposure to the sun. Now customers can leave their coated windows open for fresh air. The screen mesh will provide effective solar control. As the cost of energy continues to rise, this option will become more attractive.

Pet Problems
Pets can be a problem when the screen is the only thing between them and where they want to go. They can make short work of shredding a screen and make it useless as well as unattractive. New materials can be effective in withstanding the effects of a persistent pet. These materials are a little more difficult to handle in manufacturing. Offering them to customers is an easy sell and an excellent addition to your bottom line.

With the variety and availability of new screening mesh, there are new opportunities in marketing windows. Instead of, “How can I make it cheaper?” you should be asking yourself, “How can I increase profit?”

Use of new technologies such as inclusion of a screen-making center in your plant make the full range of meshes and frames available to you. It is a whole new way of looking at screen production. All you have to do is open your window, take a look outside and there it is ... a screen you can market. 

George Fleming is the president and chief executive officer of Screen Center Sales in London, Ontario.

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