Jim Moody, Managing Director of leading fabricator Tradelink Direct, talks to Glass News about the snowballing trend for high-end products and what this means for manufacturers and installers and the all-important bottom line.

Who would have thought 15 months ago that the window, door, and conservatory sectors would be booming in the way that they are today? The success of the industry coming out of the pandemic has been well documented, but what hasn’t been talked about quite as much are the products that are bucking the trend. Consumers aren’t just choosing any home improvement products, they’re opting for high-end, added value items. Timber alternatives are among the star performers.

The increased demand for timber style windows is likely in part to be thanks to the innovations that have been made in this field in recent years. It takes time to win over the hearts and minds of the public and our collective efforts to prove the value of PVC-U alternatives to timber are now coming to fruition. There is also a clear trend for country style living. Many of us are leaving city life to move to the countryside for the ultimate rural experience, but many more of us are recreating an authentic country look by updating and improving our existing homes. We want traditional looking windows in the typical countryside colour palette.

Outstanding opportunities

The trend for high-end products may seem like outright good news for the industry, and it is certainly an opportunity to grow turnover without adding a lot more projects to the books. But delivering to this market requires careful consideration. These products must consistently be of outstanding quality. If you think about the kind of consumer that buys high value windows and doors, they expect the best. There is no room for error. For installers to deliver to this demographic and maximise on the opportunities ahead, they need to work with fabricators that understand the intricacies of the market.

Flush casement windows are a good example of a high-end option in high demand in 2021. A recent study highlighted in the trade press shows that 62% of the consumers interviewed would choose flush over standard casements. However, different fabricators offer different solutions, which could impact on profitability.

Understanding the challenges

Certain installers selling PVC-U flush casement windows are fitting the traditional mechanically jointed version, but it’s a version that comes with a unique set of challenges. Mechanical joints typically offer only 60% of the strength of a welded corner. One of the ways to increase the integrity of a mechanically jointed window, is to glass bond the unit to the frame. Whilst this addresses the issue of structural strength mid-term, glass bonding creates an immediate challenge for installers who have to handle these extremely heavy products on site, often over two floors. There are long-term concerns too, in the latent liability of a sealed unit breaking down. Simply removing beads and exchanging the glass unit for a new one, is not an option when the unit is bonded to the frame.

A better way

While a lot of manufacturers make mechanically jointed flush casements and the product continues to be popular, the forward thinking among us have worked hard to deliver a better solution. Seamless welded flush casement windows offer superior corner weld strength, which immediately negates the need for factory glass bonding and therefore the need to replace the entire window should the unit fail. The advanced milling and seamless welding techniques result in 100% square frames and sashes and perfectly fitting mechanical transoms and mullions. The aesthetics alone offer an outstanding sales proposition for installers selling to the discerning homeowner.   

The seamless alternative comes with its own set of challenges in manufacture which is why it is not as commonplace as its mechanical counterpart. It requires significant investment in the right people, equipment, and quality control checks. However, once made, it is a much easier option for the installer to handle and potentially a much more profitable one too.

Installers prefer seamless

Tradelink has taken its responsibility to meet demand in this sector on behalf of its installers, very seriously from the beginning. In 2017 we introduced a flush casement window and door suite into our existing range and in 2018 we committed to the delivery of this suite with a new and dedicated manufacturing plant. In 2019 we once again invested significantly by adding a seamless welding machine to our operation.

We now offer a complete range of seamless products with our Rehau Ri0s and our Residence R7s, R9s and R2s window systems as well as our Flush Door range RDs. We offer all our customers the option of mechanically jointed and seamless, but we are honest about the pros and cons of each. When presented with the facts, most are opting for the seamless option. To put that in real terms, analysing our order intake in recent months, there is an 98.1% preference for our seamless products over mechanical.

Consumers want first class windows with no compromise and are prepared to pay for them. To make the most of this opportunity, installers need to work with a fabricator that truly understands the sector and has made the necessary investment to deliver precisely the products it needs.      

For more information visit www.tradelinkdirect.com


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