Making a Splash in the Bath: Consumer
Spending Slated to Rise
Fred Daues blames the recession for stunting what had been
a growing demand for doorless glass block showers. Daues, the owner of
Masonry & Glass Systems Inc. of St. Louis, says his company was doing
anywhere from 10 to 15 such projects per week prior to the start of the
economic tsunami that drove the U.S. economy to the brink of collapse
“Before the recession, it was a very, very strong trend,” Daues says.
“It was tremendous, but the recession took a big bite out of the business.”
The housing market is, at last, rebounding, with residential architects
reporting households now placing more emphasis on kitchens and baths,
according to a recent survey by the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
According to the survey, households are placing greater emphasis on kitchens
and baths and a sizeable share of residential architects report both the
number and size of kitchens and baths are increasing. Even more indicative
of an improving market, is that upscale features and products used in
these areas of the home are growing in popularity.
The AIA noted that residential architects are reporting much stronger
market conditions. Design billings at residential architecture firms,
as well as inquiries for new design projects, have steadily improved over
the past two years. Likewise, the level of project backlogs–the amount
of work currently in-house for these firms–has increased.
“Now that home prices have hit bottom and are beginning to recover, households
are more willing to invest in their homes, looking for more features in
new homes that they are purchasing, and willing to undertake higher-end
home improvement projects,” says AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, PhD,
Hon. AIA. “Kitchens and baths tend to be the areas that households first
look to when they want to upscale their home as markets improve, just
as they remained a high priority even during the depths of the downturn.”
But for some glass businesses focused on bathroom glazing projects, there
is still a ways to go to get back to pre-recession levels. Daues, for
example, estimates that his company and its satellite offices in Houston
and San Antonio combined now do just three to five doorless shower projects
He’s not alone. A number of glass companies are reporting they also have
seen little demand for such pleasures in the wake of the recession.
Glass experts say the doorless showers are a better fit for large homes
with the kind of large space needed to really jazz up a room and make
them more effective. Smaller bathrooms mean that water will be an issue.
“We’ve done a couple, but it’s not something I would consider a trend
right now,” says Steven Burkhart, president of Atlanta-based MG Glass
Inc. “I just don’t think it’s practical for most Americans. Water is going
to splash everywhere.”
Mike Werner, the vice president of AC Glass Co. in Glen Allen, Va., offers
a similar assessment, saying, “I don’t know if I would call it a trend.
We’re definitely still doing more traditional showers with glass doors.”
Nathan Williams, the shower and door manager for Vienna Glass Co. Inc.
in Manassas, Va., isn’t so sure that people always really know what they’re
getting when they ask for doorless showers, so he has his field people
take door measurements, just in case, on the “six or seven” occasions
a year customers look to him with such thoughts.
He’s had to later go back and add doors on several occasions, he says.
“I just think people like to try something different,” Williams says.
“I think they see it on the Internet or somebody tells them that they
need to get it. It looks neat and it’s kind of trendy, but it will leak
like a sieve. Like anything else, they only work in certain situations.”
But Daues continues to sing the praises for glass block doorless showers
in particular, noting the added design flexibility and graceful curves
they offer knowledgeable homeowners seeking to spice up the look of their
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