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Looking into window trends

Replacement windows, unlike many other remodeling materials -- faucets, paint colors, decorative hardware and appliances -- tend not to be as unabashedly trendy. But as vinyl has continued to eclipse other materials for windows, and regional differences between window preferences have become more pronounced, even this sometimes-staid long-term homeowner investment has shown signs of trendiness.

“What we are seeing more trend-wise is vinyl,” said Christopher Burk, product manager for Simonton Windows. “As it becomes more mature in the market, a nice-looking vinyl window that has some exterior facades is a trend, especially in the New England area.”

Windows offering a facade that is traditional in its appearance are most popular, he said, including “angled brick molds” and colonial styles with more trim along the sides. Adding sills that have the appearance of real wood also have been popular, he noted.

For remodelers, vinyl windows have become the third most often purchased building material item, following entry doors and molding, according to a study by the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI). 

Of general remodelers, 77 percent said they purchased vinyl windows in 2006, up from 69 percent in 1998, the only kind of window that saw an uptick in remodeler purchases, according to the study. Those who said they purchased vinyl or aluminum clad wood windows fell to 63 percent, from 71 percent in 1998. Those who purchased wood windows fell from 47 percent to 41 percent, and aluminum windows fell 28 percent to 21 percent.

At W.I.T (Whatever it Takes) Windows and Doors in Redlands, Calif., vinyl windows with faux flourishes have not only been popular with remodelers, but with the retailer as well.

“At our store, we’re in a church that was built in 1925, [and] we’re in a town that is really big on historic renovation,” said Claudia Mitchell, a manager at W.I.T. The one-location dealer redid the church with vinyl windows that included some retro architectural touches, she said.

Specialty stores and LBM dealers still hold a significant portion of the window sales marketplace. According to another HIRI study on consumer spending practices for windows, doors and millwork, LBM dealers and specialty supply houses account for 40.1 percent of total consumer sales for those products. Home Depot accounted for 30.2 percent of sales, Lowe’s for 23.2 percent and Menards for 5.9 percent.

One trend that has taken over nationwide, but particularly in the West, has been a propensity for consumers to want more windows overall.

“We do notice that people want more windows and more natural light in their homes,” said Kim Flanary, an engineer at Tacoma, Wash.-based Milgard Windows. “I know there was a time in the '70s and '80s when 10 to 15 windows per home was the norm. Now, it’s not unusual to see 30 or 40 windows per home.”

Mitchell, in fact, said her store recently sold 60 windows for a large home project. Some of those larger homes, in spite of their size, imitate a “bungalow” style that has led to further changes in the windows consumers are seeking.

“We have a lot of building of what we call ‘McMansions’ around here. And, there hasn’t been much of a slowdown in people remodeling,” Mitchell said. “I think having a good selection and priding ourselves on good service is the most important thing.”

To read the full story, check out the Sept. 24 issue of Home Channel News magazine. For subscription information, click here.

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