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Vinyl windows gain share.

Ask builders why vinyl has caught on in so many markets, and you'll hear them talk about low cost, low maintenance, and energy efficiency. New Jersey builder Bill Scopetto, who switched to vinyl from wood and aluminum, sums it up: "Vinyl is as vinyl does.

"Vinyl outperforms aluminum in energy efficiency and has all the attributes of wood at a cheaper cost," says Scopetto, who builds entry-level and move-up single-family houses. "It's a quality product that performs well. I don't have to worry about going back to one of my projects after installing it."

Builder John Riemer of Heartland Development Corp. in Wisconsin switched to vinyl after examining his construction costs. "By switching to vinyl windows I saved 40 percent over wood," says Riemer. "Switching to vinyl made good business sense."

Bill Lane also switched for cost reasons. The North Carolina custom builder specializes in oceanfront houses in the $250,000 to $300,000 range; they require windows that can withstand exposure to salt water. "I used to spec a wood product, but I got tired of having to paint and repaint the windows," says Lane. "Vinyl holds up well against salt water and it has the same R-value as wood."

Window manufacturers add to the list of benefits that vinyl's price stays stable as lumber costs rise and that vinyl meets or exceeds new energy codes.

New in Vinyl

Owens Corning recently expanded its vinyl window line in response to requests from builders and distributors in the West. The company's West Coast Luminess line includes specialty shaped windows popular in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and northern California.

"The Luminess line got an overwhelming response in the mid-Atlantic and North Central regions," says Owens Coming marketing manager Roger Warren. "Builders want it because homeowners are demanding it."

And wood window manufacturer Hurd Millwork jumped into vinyl. "We added the vinyl line because our distributors said their clients were asking for it," says product manager Tim Thompson. Hurd's Monument line comes with high-performance glass and glazing options, including Hurd's energy-saving Heat Mirror TC-88 and Heat Mirror SC-75 glazing, which outperform standard low-E windows, the company claims.

Weather Shield, known for its wood windows, manufactures a vinyl line called Visions 2000. Available in several architectural styles, the line offers the same insulated true divided light with 7/8-inch muntin bars and grilles as the company's wood line. The line also includes a value R-10 glazing option and optional low-E and low-E with argon gas.

As Good as Wood?

Wood still has a loyal following, particularly among the move-up set.

"Wood is more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly than other framing materials are," says Alan Campbell of the National Wood Window and Door Association. "Wood adds warmth and ambiance to a home's exterior and interior, and it's still the traditional choice for many builders and homeowners."

As more people become educated about vinyl's benefits, they will use it, according to Hurd's Thompson. "I think that most builders who work with one product instead of another do so mostly by habit," adds Riemer. "They haven't taken the time to look at another product."

Builders also avoid vinyl because it can't be painted or primed to match a house's decor. Currently, window manufacturers offer vinyl only in white or almond.

"Consumers are asking for more color preferences," says Thompson. "Window manufacturers are working on perfecting the technology that will expand vinyl's coloring offering."

And the notion that vinyl windows are inferior is changing, says Amy Powell of Weather Shield. "We're seeing lots of vinyl used in upscale, high-end projects. It's starting to lose its image of being a 'less than' product."

What's next for vinyl windows? The American Architectural Manufacturers Association expects vinyl to continue gaining market share against wood and aluminum products in new construction [ILLUSTRATION FOR CHART OMITTED]. Look for more wood window manufacturers to introduce vinyl lines. Expect window manufacturers to improve the basic white compound used in 85 percent of all vinyl windows, expand color choices, and develop innovative techniques to produce new shapes and designs.


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Author:Patel, Nina; Lowe, Linda
Date:Feb 1, 1997
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