Las Vegas — Forty-four percent of homeowners are more concerned about a storm damaging their house than they were five years ago, according to a survey conducted by Harris Poll for Ply Gem Industries Inc. in Cary, N.C.
The superstorms, stronger hurricanes and active tornado seasons of recent years have people wondering how their biggest investments will hold up, particularly if they need to shelter in place at home.
Window and door manufacturers are responding with impact-resistant products to help protect people and their property. Ply Gem had some of its latest developments on display at the International Builders' Show from Jan. 19-21.
By the end of March, the company will be out with a vinyl double-hung window that Mark Montgomery, vice president of marketing for the window division, describes as “passive protection.
“You don't have to put up storm shutters. You don't have to put up 3/4 inch pre-drilled ply wood,” Montgomery said of the new addition to the Pro Series Classic collection.
At the company's “perform in the storm” exhibit, Montgomery said the window can withstand the force of a nine-pound 2-by-4 board striking it at 35 mph. Although the glass cracks, he said it stays in place thanks to an inner layer of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) The resin is used for laminated safety glass in car windshields because of its binding qualities, optical clarity and toughness.
In Ply Gem's new residential window, PVB can take the pressure of a passing hurricane based on how it fared during testing, Montgomery said.
“We fire a 2-by-4 at this and then once it has been impacted and it breaks, we cycle it and put it under positive and negative pressure because that's what happens as the eye of the hurricane moves over you,” he said. “For positive pressure, it's like the hurricane is pushing in. For negative pressure, it is trying to pull it.
“The real critical thing with any storm protection is protecting the exterior envelope,” he continued. “Once the envelope is breached and that air pressure gets inside the house, it literally tears the roof off, the walls come down and that's what destroys the house. If you can maintain the integrity of the exterior envelope you protect the house.”
Ply Gem's new window is designed to take a category 2 hurricane with winds up to 130 mph. Montgomery expects it to be popular with homeowners who have two- to three-story residences and with multi-family housing builders.
“This allows you to have passive protection,” he said. “You don't have to get up and put that plywood on the third story.”
Ply Gem builds about 4.5 million windows a year, Montgomery said. The building product manufacturer did some window shopping of its own in 2013 and 2014, acquiring three companies and switching up its sales from 80 percent new construction and 20 percent remodeling to about a 50-50 mix.
The product offerings vary by region. In addition to its latest impact-resistant window for hurricane-prone areas, Ply Gem has new vinyl products for the West Coast that can put a lot of window in small spaces. The company showed side-by-side sliding windows over a fixed picture unit for one configuration.
“We can build that 6-foot wide by 8-foot tall,” Montgomery said. “We've gotten a light commercial rating on it so that allows us to go into multi-family, mixed-use projects where we've got retail on the bottom and then residential on top.”
It's a growing trend in Western states.
“It gives you a lot of glass in a relatively small area,” Montgomery said. “If you're in California or the Pacific Northwest this type of combination is huge. We're also seeing them use six units in combination to create very large glass windows.”
A joining piece called the integral mull allows builders to have a continuous frame around the combined window units that prevents leaks.
Ply Gem also is out with a new vinyl patio door called Inovo, which is part of the Simonton Doors & Windows brand it acquired in 2014 for $130 million.
“People are using the outdoor space a lot more and a patio door is a transition element. One of the important things is having a strong, sturdy and durable door,” said John Castelino, vice president of marketing and sales operation for Simonton.
The Inovo door rides on an improved monorail system that has a fiberglass sill, which he said makes the door glide smoothly. It also has a double-point locking system and there are options for blinds between the glass and different colors. On the exterior, buyers can choose from seven colors of paint or they can get a capstock, which is a thin profile of vinyl in either chocolate or bronze that is put over the structural vinyl. On the interior, they have a choice of laminates in five colors.
“This year we're focused on entry to the patio with a sliding door,” Castelino said. “It's about a $600 million market and we think this is a good opportunity to take a good deal of market share.”
About 80 percent of the unit's sales are for remodeling jobs, he added, so Simonton has a quick go-to-market strategy for the doors, which come fully assembled for quick installation.
“Our goal is to get product from the time it is ordered to ship out the factory in five days for a custom product,” Castelino said.