Image

Matus Windows operates two showrooms in suburban Philadelphia. The showrooms are in older bedroom communities where the homes often date back to the 1920s. And the customers who need to replace the wooden windows in those old houses are often convinced that nothing but wood will do. Anything else would spoil the ambiance, especially inside. "They have an appreciation for the character of the house," co-owner Alex Matus says.

Wood windows customers often hold firm when it comes time to replace. "They're in older homes in neighborhoods that have what we refer to as a 'showcase' quality," says Stan Stokes, president of K.C. Co., an 80-year-old window company in Baltimore that sells to both contractors and homeowners.

Sometimes, Stokes says, those homeowners have no choice. The rules of neighborhood associations forbid use of products such as vinyl windows. In some cases, he says, "they're not even allowed cladding."

Loyal Base

Aesthetics isn't all of it. Wood window manufacturers and sellers increasingly counter the inroads of vinyl, and now fiberglass, replacement products by stressing wood windows' technical enhancements designed to override the most compelling argument made by homeowners against replacing wood with wood: it's high maintenance. Clad wood, for instance, makes up 95% of Matus Windows' wood sales.

And with wood replacement windows now available in triple-pane glass, Bill Flanigan, owner of The Window Store, in Marquette, Mich., says that his sales of that particular line have doubled. Now wood not only looks great but offers nearly the same thermal efficiencies as vinyl or fiberglass. "Up here, if you're not selling triple-glazed, you're missing the boat," Flanigan says.

Some wood window companies offer repair options. Wooden Window, in Oakland, Calif., or K.C. Co. not only replace wood with wood but will take wood windows out and repair or remake them. K.C. Co. has a separate division called Window Pro for repair. "It does quite well," Stokes says, "and it also creates opportunities on the other side," i.e., for replacement.

Greenest of the Green

For wood window loyalists, the argument for a green product adds to wood's luster. Wooden Window's custom windows are milled from locally grown lumber or salvage. President Bill Essert maintains that in spite of being vastly outspent on marketing by vinyl dealers, wood windows are holding their own. It's a niche.

"Wood buyers stay loyal," says Joe Sandino, owner of Weathertite, a Sacramento, Calif., window company displaying eight brands ? wood, fiberglass, and vinyl ? in its 8,000-square-foot showroom. He estimates that 10% of his window sales are wood, about what they were five or 10 years ago. The look and feel of wood are the biggest reasons why his customers choose it; Sacramento's 43 historical districts are a help.

The homeowner who insists on wood ? usually in the context of a remodel ? is "a discriminating buyer," Flanigan says. "They're willing to pay the difference."

?Jim Cory, editor, REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR.