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Battle Of The Hybrids

Hybrid windows and doors aren’t going away. In fact, after visiting the FIT Show at the end of May, it became even more apparent that they’re going to play a bigger part in our industry as we move forward. There was quite a few timber/ali systems on show this year, both existing and new. All of them looked the part.

But even within the niche that is hybrids, there are two halves to this mini-industry: timber/ali and ali/PVCu. A sign of just how fierce the competition has become in our industry. Even before a niche has been allowed to turn into a full blown sub-sector of fenestration it’s already splitting off into different directions.

Hybrids are here to stay, and you’re going to want to pick a side sooner rather than later.

Synseal expands the WarmCore range

Whilst at the FIT Show I was invited to the launch of a new range of products being announced by Synseal. That was a brand new WarmCore patio slider, a range of foiled wood grains on aluminium profile, and an expansion of their Stratus roof range.

For me, the patio slider was the stand out product, along with the foiled wood grain finishes. Patio sliders were already a clear theme of the show by this point, with many higher end companies showing off crazy sized patio sliders that in reality no typical installer would even get the chance to sell. But, I wanted to see if their new patio slider would match the high quality of the existing WarmCore bi-folds and windows. It does.

We already know what makes the product, aluminium outside, PVCu inside. Synseal aims this directly at the aluminium market, designed to be at a price point above PVCu but below full blown aluminium. This is where the WarmCore slider will sit at. And it’s a smart move by the company too. They have spotted the very clear rise in popularity of patio sliders with home owners, so wish to capitalise on this revived trend.

The product has a couple of nifty premium features to sit alongside it’s other USPs. It has a soft-close mechanism. This stuff has been around forever on kitchen drawers and household furniture, but everyone still loves that novelty. It was the same for the WarmCore slider. They had on display quite a big example of the product, but it’s movement and then the soft-close for such a big unit felt high quality. Also, the handle also incorporates the locking function. Not separately. It’s a nifty little thing. I’m not doing it justice really, you’ll have to see it for yourself.

Although it takes aim at the aluminium sector and targets the price point below it, for many it will remain a hybrid and not a full aluminium product. But that is OK. There is a flourishing hybrid market taking place, and this is one of the leading products in this new and expanding niche. For the home owner, they get the best looks of aluminium, the best thermal performance PVCu brings, whilst paying a bit more than PVCu but less than aluminium. This is where hybrids could carve out a decent chunk of market space.

The timber/ali factor

If you went to the FIT Show, did you see the Prefix Systems stand? The amount of products these guys do now is staggering. No longer can they be called “just a roof fabricator”. This is a company set up for the long hall and out-diversifying everyone.

Specifically for me though, and the focus of this post, it was their OPUS range which pointed the hybrid market in another direction.

For those who are not aware, OPUS is a timber/ali hybrid range, where Smarts aluminium is used externally, and rich hardwood is used internally and is available in three different finished. The aluminium externally can be done in any of the finishes Smarts do. It really does look superb, and bridges the gap nicely for home owners who want a traditional look, feel and even smell internally, but something a bit more striking externally. OPUS is available as windows, doors, lanterns, glazed roofs, French doors and probably even more now too. It’s the full suite, and for me is one of the leading hybrid systems out there, of any configuration.

This for me is where I think the hybrid market is going to progress the most and quickest. I was shown an offering from Kommerling on the Thursday of the show which looked very cool also. These new innovations are coming from the top down. They will bed in, and sales of hybrid products will rise too.

There seems to be lots of room to expand and innovate on the timber/ali side of the coin. I believe that this part of the hybrid market will see the most new entrants to the sector as more and more fabricators look to see what they can garner from this lucrative niche.

The battle of the hybrids has already started however. Suppliers will not be clambering onto the bandwagon in an attempt to catch up on the likes of Prefix and Synseal before a large proportion of the new market share is snapped up. The question is, which way will home owners swing? Will they prefer a mix of timber and aluminium? Or would they prefer an all aluminium look with the benefits that PVCu brings internally? And from an installers perspective, would it just be easier to supply both types of products and then all bases are covered?

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