COLUMBUS, OHIO — While the residential construction industry may be experiencing a general slowdown, vinyl windows are booming.
A number of window profile extrusion companies displaying their wares to fabricators at the Interglassmetal/Fenestration World '97 show, held Sept. 17-19 in Columbus, were upbeat about PVC's prospects in the market.
``We see a great outlook for vinyl,'' J.P. Braaten, sales and marketing manager of Engineered Profiles of Calgary, Canada, said at the show. ``The increase in market share has been steady across the board.''
Other exhibitors agreed.
``Vinyl continues to look real strong, and continues to penetrate the new residential construction market,'' Michael F. Maher, product manager of custom window extrusions of Rehau Inc., said in a telephone interview from his Leesburg, Va., office. ``Even what we would call the lower end of the vinyl window market — the single-hung or single-slider window — is appearing in middle- to upper-level new construction. That's a market that traditionally has been dominated by wood.''
But what helps one type of window manufacturer takes away from another.
``The vinyl growth has come from the aluminum side,'' said Tony Coorlim, marketing director for the Schaumburg, Ill.-based American Architectural Manufacturers Association. ``Wood seems to be holding its own.''
Vinyl windows traditionally have done well in the replacement market, but also are making inroads in new construction, AAMA technical director Rich Walker said in a telephone interview from his office in Medina, Ohio. AAMA is a window industry standards group that also publishes an annual market and forecast report.
``Based on all we hear from our members, vinyl continues to grow primarily in new construction,'' he said.
Part of that growth comes from traditional window players that are finding vinyl more attractive.
``Some of the big, heavy hitters are getting into [vinyl] with big, national distribution networks,'' Walker said.
``It's making it easier for builders and fabricators to get their hands on vinyl windows.''
While increased availability and market acceptance has helped vinyl window sales, some of the growth in market share can be attributed to new thermal efficiency ratings, Braaten said.
``Some of those issues are really going to help us,'' he said.
The National Fenestration Ratings Council's energy labeling has helped boost vinyl's appeal, Walker said.
``There has been a lot of interest in energy-saving windows,'' Walker said, noting that about 33-40 percent of the windows bearing NFRC's thermal seal are vinyl.
``Windows have become more of an appliance and less of a decoration,'' he said.
Recent resin data from the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. of Washington bolsters the view that vinyl windows are booming.
SPI, which breaks out its PVC resin statistics by end market, shows sales and captive use of resins used for window and door extrusions was up nearly 45 percent through July compared with the same seven months of 1996. Meanwhile, PVC resins for pipe and siding have dropped by 7.6 and 8.1 percent, respectively, according to SPI, although those markets still consume far more resin by weight than windows and doors.
Window industry reports indicate that vinyl's growth comes from increased market share, Maher said.
``In total, vinyl accounts for close to 40-45 percent of the residential window market, with between 20-24 million units per year, depending on the different reports coming out,'' he said. ``The reports vary, but the factual thing is the market is growing.''
SPI's consumption numbers for pipe and siding resin jibe with recent government statistics.
Housing starts have dropped off nearly 4 percent in 1997 from 1996, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The bureau reported Sept. 17 there were 972,500 housing starts in the first eight months of 1997 compared with 1,012,700 for the same period in 1996.