The International Builders’ Show was preceded by a positive note Wednesday, amid an early morning awards ceremony hosted by World Vision. The organization doled out awards, while celebrating contributions from building products and other construction-related companies toward its mission of serving underprivileged homeowners and communities.
“It’s great for the culture,” suggested Suzie Wilford, executive vice president for the National Kitchen and Bath Association, regarding industry participation. “We do something that makes a real difference for those who are less fortunate,” she added.
The concept of displacement hit home recently, Wilford said, when one of NKBA’s past chairpersons was displaced by Hurricane Harvey, finally returning home after 15 months of restoration. The story set an effective tone for the keynote address by construction supply expert Craig Webb. Building products and housing-related industries, Webb said, will need to address those instances going forward, as communities move toward more resilient construction. That’s just one of the trends he suggested building product suppliers focus on going forward, while facing more volatile demand cycles. “This is the year to sweat the details,” Webb explained, while leading into his predictions for the next 18-month period. Housing starts are expected to rise somewhat in the months ahead, eventually settling into a slow but steady pattern of decline, he said. As a result, “You’ve got to moderate your speed a bit,” Webb advised. “We May have a downturn, but it’s not a collapse, or a ‘hit the breaks’ type of moment.” Instead, “You’ve got to be as efficient as you can,” he suggested.
Webb is just one of many pointing to more efficient processes across residential building—including via modular construction. And already, some companies see those changes occurring.
“Interesting you ask,” said Lee Roberts, installation manager for NanaWall. “We just finished a project in Missouri where we installed 30 units—half into modularly built walls and half into site-built.”
And while his company experienced no snags installing its doors into modular walls, Roberts said, many of the industry’s latest trends aren’t compatible with the concept of pre-fitting walls with doors and windows, before craning them into place—including the latest sliding and pivoting doors. But, so long as those systems are added after wall placement and modular walls are built to the same specs as site-built methods, “We can place our products with no problem,” Roberts suggested.
That’s not to say that companies aren’t looking to make large, sliding doors easier for builders to accommodate. Ply Gem, for instance, unveiled an automated, sliding door at this year’s show that relies on a belt-driven system that tucks into standard 3-1/2-inch-thick walls. As a result, builders need only to frame out the door’s opening with headers made of steel or laminated veneer lumber (LVL), while providing a small hole for its belt and a single, 120-volt electrical connection for the motor. Those are more or less the only special requirements, said Mark Montgomery, Ply Gem’s vice president of marketing.
Other manufacturers are looking to get out ahead of the next fluctuation, by pitching products designed for the remodeling market, where demand is expected to remain strong in the years ahead. Masonite, for instance, unveiled a new door, featuring a plug-less frame around its glass, allowing homeowners to swap out panels by simply clipping them in.
“You actually break the frame in order to remove the existing panels,” said Tim Johnson, Masonite’s director of product management. “Then you just clip in whatever new, decorative glass you want to trade out with.”
Masonite is one of several manufacturers also promoting a wider variety of colors for interior doors—a concept that’s seemed out of place in the past, Johnson suggested. Convincing homeowners to replace all of their interior doors with a new color scheme is a tall suggestion, he said, but the company’s latest marketing angle includes providing more options, so homeowners will feel inspired to replace one or two doors, in order to add accent colors in key areas.
“That’s one of the things we’ve been working on,” Johnson said, “Changing the conversation around interior doors.”
Representatives for other companies say that as the market twists and turns between new construction and remodeling, the industry is fortunate that its latest products are suited to both sectors. In past years, for instance, manufacturers focused on pocket-style windows, designed to slot into existing frames for replacement. But, “These days, all of our windows are available with or without a nailing fin,” said Chris Stubbs, territory sales manager for Boral. This marks the first year that Boral has shown up with doors and windows in its lineup, he said, after acquiring Headwaters Inc. in 2016. Those products are now, “a huge part of our company’s focus,” explained Rick McBryde, an independent representative for the company’s doors and windows division, and one it can now afford to bolster, he added.