Volume 16, Issue 6 - August/September 2015


Way More Than “Standard”

Today’s Mid-Range Patio Doors Exceed Expectations

by Trey Barrineau

If you’ve been to a major industry trade show during the past few years, you’ve seen the big, beautiful sliding doors that offer breathtaking views—and price tags to match.

DWM has covered those products extensively in the past, most recently in May (“Can’t Let That One Slide”). But what about the smaller, more utilitarian sliding doors—the ones most of your customers are actually going to buy?

They’re certainly big business. Research from the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) found that sliding patio doors represent about 11.4 percent of all entry doors in the U.S. market in 2013.

Additionally, an April 2014 study commissioned by the American Architectural Manufacturers Associa-tion (AAMA) reports that the market for residential patio doors of all kinds grew 15 percent from 2011 to 2013. It’s expected to keep growing into 2016.

So what are the trends in these popular products? DWM reached out to members of the industry to see what they had to say.

Outdoor/Indoor Living

A February 2014 “House Crush” poll from Realtor.com found that 54 percent of women and 46 percent of men think outdoor living spaces make them “fall in real estate love.” That trend isn’t slowing down, says Mark Montgomery, the vice president of marketing for Ply Gem Windows.

“The trend in outdoor living has created a need for patio doors to fit all budgets,” he says. “Homeowners want to move easily from inside their home to their outdoor rooms, which may include an area for family gatherings, cooking, eating and playing. A sliding patio door is an attractive way to bring the outdoors in. Contractors and homeowners want a sliding patio door that is energy efficient, strong, secure and beautiful. Replacing a worn, outdated, inefficient patio door with a new, sleek, on-trend sliding patio door will create a more comfortable living space and increase the perceived value of the home. A door that works smoothly and effortlessly helps creates a more pleasurable outdoor living area that brings families together.”

Sliding doors in particular are a great option for smaller homes, Montgomery says.

“Sliding patio doors are the perfect solution for rooms that lack the space for a swinging patio door or bifold doors, yet are elegant, attractive and offer a more spacious feel because of the beautiful views and the opportunity to use more of the outdoor space, whether it’s a balcony, terrace, garden or a backyard,” he says. “Homeowners want sliding patio doors that are energy efficient, function seamlessly for years and enhance the exterior of their home. They want their homes to be cozy and comfortable year round, no matter what Mother Nature has going on outside. Safety and security are high on their list, yet they want the beautiful views of their outdoor living areas.”

Affordability +Performance=Success

Beyond indoor-outdoor living, perhaps the biggest trend in the mid-range patio door segment is a greater emphasis on quality, both in thermal efficiency and overall performance. That’s important, because these doors are often the most active entryway in the home and are usually located in the main living space.

“These more-affordable doors are really becoming feature-rich,” says Greg Koch, director of national fenestration sales for Deceuninck North America. “Back in the day, the vanilla sliding patio door was a pretty basic door with low performance, not many options and very basic hardware. It was just filling a hole. Now, there are almost as many options on the low-end doors as you can get with the high-end doors. Sizes are larger, and they’re also available in various colors—not just white. They also have laminated color options. The performance used to be a design pressure of 25 on a sliding patio door. That quickly went to 35, 45, then 50 with missile impact, then 65 with missile impact. The performance demands for these very basic doors are skyrocketing. Hardware used to be a single-point latch and a basic roller. Now tandem rollers and multi-point hardware are more and more in the market. The hardware is increasing as well to support these higher performance numbers.

“It’s not your typical low-end door anymore.”

Mark Davis, the executive director of the Earthwise Group LLC, says less-expensive sliding doors satisfy most consumer needs for views, price, performance and energy efficiency.

“While owners of high-end homes in coastal markets are often willing to pay a significant premium for the huge, unobstructed viewing areas that can only be achieved with the use of high-end, multi-panel patio doors, most homeowners are more than happy with the durability, energy efficiency, and ease of operation that are offered by standard patio doors,” he says. “Over time, standard vinyl patio doors have evolved into very reliable, durable, and energy-efficient products.”

Make it Easy Ease of use is another critical

consideration for sliding patio doors, says Laura Weil, the sales manager for Euro Vinyl Windows in Woodbridge, Ontario.

“When I started with the company, we didn’t offer a sliding door,” she says. “We manufactured tilt & turn doors. However, when you walk up to a tilt & turn door, the lever-style handle is in a downward-facing position (locked). To make the door swing in, you lift the handle so it is horizontal (turn) or bring it all the way up to tilt the door in at the top (tilt). It’s great— except not many homeowners in North America are familiar with this style of operation. They want to walk up to the door, slide it to the side, walk through, and close a sliding screen behind them. They also want to have company over without having a ‘this is how you open my door’ tutorial.”

Sliding products are much more user-friendly than they were in the past, says Koch. That affects both homeowners and installers.

“The functional options have really grown,” he says. “You used to have a fixed sash and an operable sash. Now you have larger units with operable panels to fill much larger openings. As far as exterior profiles, the demands have been to integrate those design features into the frames themselves so you have an integrated J-channel, stucco flange, or Florida flange or nailing fin. All those things that used to snap on are a thing of the past, even snap-on interlocks at the meeting rails. All of that is being integrated. It makes life easier for fabricators and installers.”

Not Your Father’s Screen Doors, Either

The typical mid-range sliding patio door has come a long way from the one you might remember on your dad’s 1960 suburban ranch house.

So have the sliding screen doors that typically are paired with these products. “There have been significant advances in screen door technology,” says Darrell Bedford of Wizard Industries, a manufacturer of screen doors. “What started as basic wood frames and repurposed wire mesh in 1887 has certainly evolved. Frames now are made with aluminum, and the meshing is specialized. The availability of specialty meshes like solar weaves and pet-resistant mesh means each screen application has unique requirements.”

Bedford says consumer demand is driving a lot of those changes.

“Customers today want their sliding screens to offer more than just protection from insects,” he says. “They want screens that offer a level of protection from home invaders as well. A simple locking latch doesn’t really provide any level of safety as most screens can simply be walked through.”

Retractable screens are gaining market share, too.

“We’ve seen people move away from classic sliding patio doors toward French doors and large openings such as lift and slide systems,” he says. “Due to their design, these require retractable screen solutions.”

Bedford also urges customers to purchase high-quality screens.

“You have to be careful to avoid the plethora of cheaply made screens,” he says.

“Look for screens that are made with extruded aluminum and have polyurethane wheels. Often it’s best to go with a custom-made screen solution.”

Trey Barrineau is the editor of DWM magazine.

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