Firms push use of fiberglass lineals

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Diversified Lineal Systems Diversified Lineal Systems' pultruded fiberglass profiles

Diversified Lineal Systems is making it easy for window and door assemblers to adopt pultruded fiberglass profiles as the supporting material.

Diversified Lineal is qualified as a supplier of fiberglass lineals by the American Architectural Manufacturers Association of Schaumburg, Ill. This means window and door firms can expect their products to meet building standards when they source fiberglass profiles from Diversified Lineal, Mark Back, the firm's director of operations, said in a telephone interview.

Since 1936, AAMA has been an advocacy agency for the fenestration industry and offers product certification, training and other services. Diversified Lineal's fiberglass profiles also are rated by the National Fenestration Rating Council of Greenbelt, Md.

Back said his company in Erlanger, Ky., provides technical support, training and marketing assistance to companies wanting to used fiberglass lineals in their products.

"Companies can go to us to get the whole system," Back explained. "We design production using tested and certified lineals."

Back said it is costly for an entrant in the fiberglass fenestration market to pay for product development, pultrusion dies and tests for certification.

One of the first companies to sign up with Diversified Lineal's turnkey package is Gilkey Window Co.

Gilkey Window is ramping up fiberglass window production and expects to have a good idea of market acceptance in September. In the early going it seems "to be working pretty good," owner Mike Gilkey said in a telephone interview.

"Basically fiberglass is a great fenestration material and this helps us with both the product's design and its performance," Gilkey said.

"The big advantages are strength and stability," he said.

Strength means the window frame can be slimmer, letting in more daylight. The slim look also mimics the originally installed windows.

"This is very important in a residential replacement window installation, where the homeowner may not want to advertise that he has 'replacement' windows," Gilkey said.

Stability is important because the more a material expands and contracts, the more the sealants will crack and leak, he added.

"We will strategically use fiberglass, where people will pay for a better-looking window," Gilkey said.

The extra retail price, about $700 for a fiberglass window vs. about $600 for vinyl, might not suit everyone's budget. Gilkey Window also offers vinyl, aluminum and wood windows.

With Diversified's support, Gilkey Window can be certified by AAMA. Gilkey Window pays Diversified Lineal a fee to have the test results put in its name.

Back said his company is investing multimillion dollars in expansion for its push in fiberglass window and door lineals.

"We have added more pultrusion machines for this [fenestration] market," Back said.

The expansion also involved adding a new paint line.

Diversified Lineal publicly announced its new turnkey service at the International Bulders' Show, held Jan. 22-24 in Las Vegas. The company began talks with Gilkey Window about a month earlier, Back recalled.

Diversified Lineal is a division of Diversified Structural Composites Inc. The parent company has been providing fiberglass lineals for years but the launch of the new division is a strategic move into the fenestration market.

Back said the window and door production market is highly fragmented. Large companies such as Andersen Corp. of Bayport, Minn., and Marwin Windows and Doors of Warroad, Minn., only hold 20-25 percent of the U.S. market, he estimated.

Such fragmentation makes it hard for a fenestration producer to get into a new raw material like fiberglass and Diversified Lineal saw an opportunity to meet market needs.

Diversified Structural's predecessor company, Diversified Fabricators, was established in 1978. In early days it focused on technical carbon/epoxy products. The firm still works with carbon- fiber-reinforced resins and other systems in pultrusion and other processes. It can choose other specialty reinforcements — aramid, quartz, S-glass — for unusual applications. It has the capability to selectively place reinforcement in the pultrusion, as it does with braided reinforcements.

Diversified Structural works with polyester thermosets, vinyl ester, epoxy, urethanes and other resin systems. It can make rods as thin as 0.011 inch and panels of up to 250 pounds. Its value-added services include machining, thermoplastic coating, assembly and painting.

Mainstay jobs include spars, ski poles and hobby components. New from Diversified Structural is a sound wall for highways that allows longer spans with lower weight, high strength, corrosion resistance and a lower per-job cost.

Back said pultruded fiberglass has advantages in windows and doors, combining desirable properties of vinyl and aluminum. It has structural strength approaches aluminum and it can take dark colors like metal. Its thermal properties are close to vinyl and its coefficient of expansion is equal to that of glass, a boon to structural integrity.

Back said Diversified Lineal will launch a product line in September targeting production of a full fiberglass sliding patio door system. The company plans to exhibit at the GlassBuild America trade show, scheduled for Sept. 10-12 in Atlanta.

Fiberglass windows are a small part of the market but are gaining traction. They once held about 2 percent of the U.S. window market but have grown to a 3.2 percent share recently, according to a study by AAMA and the Window and Door Manufacturers Association of Washington.

One observer feels commercial buildings could be a good growth area for fiberglass windows because the material's insulative ability, like vinyl, surpasses aluminum.

"Energy efficiency is more important in the commercial market, where engineers look to every part of a building for savings," according to Steve Van Kouteren, business director of reports for research firm Principia Partners LLC of New York.

Fiberglass windows might gain wider acceptance with the entry into the U.S. market by international building materials conglomerate James Hardie Industries plc. In April 2012 James Hardie bought the profile pultrusion business of Teel Plastics Inc. James Hardie renamed the pultrusion business in Baraboo, Wis., Razor Composites LLC. James Hardie, big in cement/fiber building materials made the move to diversify. James Hardie is based in Dublin and has management offices in Sydney. Its North American base is in Mission Viejo, Calif.

Diversified Structural is a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Teijiin Ltd. of Tokyo. Overall Diversified Structural runs more than 20 pultrusion lines.