I started in this industry when I was 16, 14 years ago now. At that point, the choice available to homeowners was fairly basic. Windows and doors came in White, Light Oak/Golden Oak and Mahogany/Rosewood. Mahogany would later be killed off as no one was buying it. One product, three colour choices.
In the world of doors, the range of choice was similarly simple. Same three colours, then a choice between a range of PVCu panels or what we have termed PVCu engineered doors which were doors designed using midrails and mullions in different formats.
Since then, diversification has blown the sector-wide open, with the industry now offering almost limitless possibilities. Yes, it means things have inevitably become more complicated, but ultimately more choice is better for the industry and the homeowner.
A lot of that diversification can be attributed to the composite door. This is how this singular yet massively influential product has changed our industry.
Composite Door: The start of the colour revolution
As I mentioned at the start, there was a time when you could count the number of colours available on one hand. But then composite doors arrived on the market, bringing with them a few extra colours like Black, Red, Green and other bold colours. Composite doors first arrived in the UK in the late ’90s. Rockdoor say on their website that they have been producing composite doors since 1996.
However, as with most things in our industry, change takes time to root, and I would say that it wasn’t until the Great Recession that composite doors really started to explode. This was a time in our industry in which we were forced to look for new and exciting products to offer to homeowners to give them a new reason to buy new windows and doors. Composite doors provided the answer.
Even though the early colour offerings were limited compared to what we have today, just the chance for a homeowner to buy a Black, Red or Blue door instead of White began to grab homeowners’ attention.
From there, the number of colour choices available began to grow as homeowners really began to tune in to composite doors as a product and it became a household recognised product. Solidor for example now has over 20 colours for homeowners to choose from. I am sure in the next five years that will continue to grow, perhaps going past the 30 mark.
There are a number of USPs unique to composite doors that other doors didn’t have at the time. But for me, it was the introduction of colour into what was a dire entrance door market that ultimately not only led to the explosion in popularity of the product but began the colour revolution across the entire sector.
Who would have thought ten years ago we would be selling as many Anthracite Grey windows into homes as we are now? Who would have thought colours like Agate Grey, Chartwell Green and even Cream wood grain would be as popular as they are now? Very few of us I suspect. For me, you can pin the success of those colours back to composite doors. Had they not become popular, can we really say we would have the vast volume of choice we do now?
A new focus on design
Composite doors not only came with new colours but with new designs too. Perhaps not the early versions, where early generation composite doors tended to copy the same designs as existing PVCu panel doors. But as sales of composite doors grew, manufacturers began to feel braver and started to introduce more modern and contemporary designs to help build excitement from homeowners. And as that particular path proved successful, we began to see very old timber designs being replicated in the composite door format. Take Solidor’s London and Flint designs:
Credit: Oak Lodge Doors
Credit: B&P Windows Ltd
In a way, we have come full circle. We have in composite doors a modern material copying traditional timber door designs, minus the maintenance issues that come with timber.
Like colour, this focus on design has filtered its way into other parts of the industry. Take a look at the hardware on the Flint Diamond door design for example. We now see door and window hardware grouped into specific ranges, be it modern, traditional etc. There are now dedicated high-end hardware companies like From The Anvil and Traditional Window Fittings who make solely make designer hardware for windows and doors. They’re not cheap, but they are very well made and highly designed, and homeowners are more than willing to pay for them. To the point where even just a handle, letterbox and door pull can add hundreds of pounds to the cost of a door.
That focus on design that started with composite doors I believe has filtered into other areas of the industry, including PVCu windows, PVCu doors and aluminium. Without composite doors introducing these new focuses, I don’t think we’d be as advanced as we are today.
Reduced lead times
Most composite doors on the market right now can be made and delivered within a couple of working weeks, many in 3-5 days. It didn’t use to be like that of course. Just like every other product, when composite doors were first introduced you would have to wait a good number of weeks before it would be delivered to you. As the composite door became more popular, companies invested and scaled up, innovating hard to bring lead times down to what they are today.
That idea of such short lead times were a revolution in an industry that worked on time scales of weeks, not days. It meant a homeowner with Christmas just around the corner could now have their dream front door ordered, delivered and fitted before Christmas even if they started the buying process at the start of the month.
Lead times for manufacturing in our industry have since been grinding lower and lower. Companies like Origin even offer their hi-spec aluminium products within a number of days thanks to their pioneering manufacturing processes. Could this have been possible without the composite door market playing its part? Maybe not. I think we have headed in that direction anyway, but this certainly would have helped speed the process along somewhat.
I believe the composite door has also played its part in advancing the technological capabilities of our industry. Certainly, when it comes to manufacturing facilities, where much of the process is automated and run online. But also from a design point of view.
Many composite door suppliers now have specifically designed door builders which allow homeowners to design their brand new door online and see a live image of their creation as they go. Its been a revolution not only in how homeowners can visualise their potential new purchase but also in the way suppliers have been able to create lead generation engines from that software.
They have been able to capture the imagination of the homeowner and turn it into a lead for their installers, who in turn go on to sell their product. A genius, neat little way of increasing sales.
The online designer platform has since spread to other parts of the industry and is now firmly taking root within the window sector, with a number of suppliers now having their own online window designers.
There are many other ways in which the composite door has changed the way our industry works, but these are just a few of the main points which came to mind whilst writing this. Of course, any of your own suggestions are more than welcome via the comments section below.
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But we still have fading/bowing and the composite door has been around I would say 20 years so why have they not sorted? We fit 4-5 a week and have locking compression and alignment problems.