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What Specifiers Look for in Windows and Doors

Product quality, energy efficiency, and durability are the most important window and door attributes, according to an exclusive survey of BD&C readers. Of course, lower prices are also welcome.

August 01, 2006 |

Confirming that there's still no substitute for quality, 323 Building Design & Construction subscribers who regularly purchase, specify, or recommend window and door products said that quality is their main concern when selecting door products. In window selection, quality ranked second, just behind energy efficiency.

Wood is the preferred door material, rated highest in all market segments. Steel, which was rated the second most popular material, proved most favorable with the education market. Fiber glass doors have a small following, but aluminum doors are only cited by those working in the multifamily and church market segments.

The survey was conducted by BD&C's sister company, Reed Research Group, and included a diverse group of designers, contractors, and building owners/developers who work in several markets: office (69.2% of respondents), multifamily (58.4%), education (30.5%), hospitality (16.7%), and churches (16.4%). More than 98% of those surveyed are involved in projects ranging in height from one to five stories; 34.2% work on six- to seven-story buildings; 23.2% deal with eight- to 10-story buildings; and another 22.3% work on buildings with 11 or more stories.

In terms of door selection, more than 78% of respondents rated quality the most important selection criteria, followed closely by durability (75%), then cost (67%) and aesthetics (64%).

As for window selection, more than 74% said energy efficiency was their main concern, with quality just behind at 73%. Cost figured into window selection slightly more than it did door selection, with 70% of respondents rating it critical.

Manufacturers promoting the environmental at-tributes of their products will be surprised to learn those features ranked at or near the bottom for both windows and doors. Only 25% of respondents said those attributes were an important factor in door selection; just under 25% said they were important in window selection.

Respondents rated wood the highest among materials for doors, with an overwhelming 71% preferring wood exterior doors to steel (52%), fiber glass (22%), or aluminum (1%). In the education market, however, steel was rated as the preferred door material by 62% of respondents. Steel doors were least popular (46%) with those in the multifamily markets.

Aluminum proved to be a popular window framing material, with 62% of those surveyed naming it to the top spot. Wood was the second most popular window framing material (57%), followed by vinyl (17%) and fiber glass (8%). However, the taller the building, the less popular wood becomes—only 50% of those with projects of 11 or more stories prefer wood—and the more popular aluminum becomes: 72.7% of those with projects of 11 or more stories prefer aluminum.

Vinyl windows seemed to polarize respondents. When asked their opinions of vinyl windows, 41% of respondents viewed them favorably, 37% unfavorably. The taller the building, the less favorably vinyl windows were viewed; for those working on projects with 11 or more stories, only 30% viewed vinyl windows favorably. Within the last year, 44% of respondents reported specifying vinyl windows, with a majority installed in multifamily (57%) and hospitality (51%) projects. Energy efficiency was stated as the main reason (86%) for selecting vinyl windows, along with durability/warranty (85%). While the cost of vinyl ranked third (73%) among all respondents, it was the most significant factor (84%) for those specifying vinyl windows for the hospitality sector.

As for storms windows, only 35% of respondents said they would consider using secondary glazing/storm windows. Surprisingly, one area of interest in storm windows was the hospitality segment, where 51% said they would consider glazing/storm windows, but only on low- to mid-rise projects. Respondents who were willing to consider using glazing/storm windows said the main reason (48%) was energy efficiency. Other considerations, such as aesthetics (17%) and cost (16%), ranked much lower.

When it comes to product information, manufactures better have their Web sites up to date because 69% of respondents say that's their main information source. Other top sources: manufacturers' product literature (53%) and sales representatives (46%).

When asked about problems with windows and doors, respondents listed many areas in which improvements could be made, but no single problem area stood out. Product failure, leaks, moisture infiltration, and bad seals ranked highest among user complaints, with 16% of respondents citing those problems. Installation problems were close behind, at 14%. Lack of flexibility in design, sizes, and finishes ranked third, at 13%.

Respondents said their businesses could be improved—at least where it relates to windows and doors—by having manufacturers improve quality (19%) and offering more designs, sizes, and finishes (12%). Almost 10% say that increasing customer support is most important to them. Price was cited by only 9% of respondents, who want manufacturers to keep costs down and, while they're at it, lower the prices.

What criteria are important when selecting doors?

Total Multifamily Education Office Hospitality Church
Quality 78.2% 75.9% 85.9% 79.8% 85.7% 89.6%
Durability 75.1% 69.5% 75% 77.9% 67.3% 75%
Cost 66.9% 66.1% 70.7% 68.8% 71.4% 79.2%
Aesthetics 63.7% 63.8% 71.7% 65.4% 69.4% 81.3%
Maintenance 56.2% 51.7% 65.2% 57.2% 55.1% 70.8%
Energy efficiency 53% 54% 65.2% 54.8% 53.1% 70.8%
Brand reputation 31.9% 30.5% 41.3% 33.2% 38.8% 47.9%
Environmental attributes 25.2% 18.4% 32.6% 26.9% 30.6% 37.5%
Other 2.8% 3.4% 1.1% 2.4% 2% 6.3%

What criteria is important when selecting windows?

Total Multifamily Education Office Hospitality Church
Energy efficiency 74.7% 72.2% 75% 74.4% 65.3% 82%
Quality 73.1% 69.9% 82.6% 72.9% 75.5% 80%
Cost 69.6% 71.6% 70.7% 68.5% 71.4% 74%
Durability 69.6% 68.8% 76.1% 67.5% 77.6% 80%
Aesthetics 64.7% 63.1% 73.9% 67.5% 65.3% 72%
Maintenance 55.1% 55.7% 59.8% 55.2% 49% 62%
Brand reputation 31.7% 26.7% 43.5% 31.5% 30.6% 54%
Environmental attributes 24.7% 17% 33.7% 23.6% 28.6% 34%
Other 1.2% 1.2% 0% 2% 0% 0%

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