The entrance door market is a very different place from what it was when I joined the industry 17 years ago. Then composite doors exploded, and that changed everything.
Composite doors changed the game
I joined the industry when I was 16 years old, learning about the product and how to deal with clients. At the time, I remember there were really only three established colours at the time; White, Light Oak/Golden Oak and Rosewood. On the door front, there were either PVCu door panels or early versions of PVCu doors made from midrails and mullions – later to be coined “engineered doors” and that was about it.
Life was simpler, if not a bit dull. Three colours, two types of doors and some very mediocre glass designs. Then composite doors landed and everything changed.
Composite doors can be credited with the explosion in the popularity of colour. There wasn’t the range of colours in composite doors there is today, but in the early years, Black, Blue, Red, Green and a handful of others were a revelation. Then we had some alternative door designs based on their timber counterparts which meant suddenly we have something very different to talk about and designs that would finally begin to catch the eye of the homeowner.
Initially, the quality of early-generation composite doors was questionable. Fading skins and warping doors were commonplace. We fell victim to that at our place and quite a few slabs were changed in the process. I remember at the time thinking whether this was really the future of doors. But fast forwards a few years after their introduction into the market and the quality got better, the range of colours, designs, hardware and glass became much more expansive and out of nowhere there were dedicated composite door companies.
The marketing got better as well. Start-ups like Door-Stop International were the first to really professionalise their marketing. I remember us moving to them because of how good a job they did on the marketing side, as well as having the ability to order and price a door online. I believe that was an industry first and was one of the reasons Door-Stop quickly grew into one of the biggest composite door manufacturers in the country.
Demand from homeowners was growing exponentially. Before too long, composite doors became their own entire market and had permanently changed the entrance door market forever.
Chart: Google Trends data for “composite doors” searches from 2004 to present:
A sexy purchase
A lot of the changes that have happened in the entrance door market, indeed the wider fenestration market can be credited to the arrival of composite doors.
The explosion in colour can certainly be pinned to composite doors. Before their arrival into the market, the choices of colour in the PVCu world were very limited and massively uninspiring. The sheer amount of choice and varied designs now in the entrance door market again can be credited to composite doors. Before they became established, there was a very limited choice and indeed very little appetite to enhance the range of designs within the door sector.
I believe they have also played a role in the revitalisation of the aluminium entrance door market. The rise in popularity of aluminium has also played a big role in that, but if you look at where modern composite door offerings are going, for example with the launch of the Avantal range from Endurance Doors, there is lots of new energy in the aluminium entrance door market again.
Ultimately though, the biggest thing composite doors have done is to make door purchases a sexy one. I wrote not so long ago about how windows and doors were lifestyle products and not just construction products. Composite doors, through their evolution in design, colour, hardware and glass, have enthused the public. I remember a time when a door was just a door to most people. Now, with the aid of door designers, social media and just some really cool aesthetics, entrance doors are a sexy thing to buy!
The future for composite doors still looks strong in my eyes. But to keep its prime position, a number of things need to happen. Quality has to continue to improve. I still see frequently comments on forums and other social platforms calling into question composite doors. There are good suppliers out there and bad ones, but overall the market needs to make sure that quality continues to improve over time.
New innovations still need to be brought forward. I like the Avantal range from Endurance. They’re blending aluminium design into composite doors and I think that this is the natural way to go. I think more manufacturers will do the same going forwards. New colours, new glass designs and new hardware still need to keep coming through to ensure installers remain excited about selling them and homeowners are excited about buying them.
Price is the other area that needs to be watched. I appreciate that the entire market has been hit with hyperinflation over the last two years, for a variety of reasons. But if the market isn’t careful, it will soon be approaching the price point of aluminium entrance doors which will then pitch composite doors directly against them. There is a chance that if prices rise too far and too fast, other product options will suddenly look more convincing.
However, what we know and can be sure of is that the humble composite door has turned the entrance door market on its head, and had a profound impact on UK fenestration in general.
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