The majority of DWM readers are based in the United States, though we do have international subscribers from a variety of countries. (International readers can receive our magazine even easier now through our digital edition. CLICK HERE to learn more). So although our magazine is focused mainly on the manufacturing of doors and windows in the United States, we do cover international door and window news to keep readers abreast of trends and developments in other countries, as this is important to stay informed of what others are doing.

Although everyone might not be aware of all the intricacies of door and window manufacturing in other countries, most know that the European and U.S. markets differ greatly. So I thought it would be interesting to share some thoughts from a few exhibitors who traveled to Germany recently for the Fensterbau show that occurs every two years.

If you’re not familiar with the show it’s important to note that it is geared toward a European audience—and it attracts people from numerous countries. So while many exhibitors target U.S. markets as well as European, most exhibitors of this show, such as Sturtz and Renolit are based in Europe. I talked to Mike Biffl of Sturtz and Dave Harris of American Renolit following the event. I also talked to Michael Braeuel of Aquasurtech Coatings, who says his company was the only Canada-based company who exhibited at Fensterbau—and this is out of approximately 1,200 exhibiting companies.

While Renolit always exhibits at the show, it was the first time for Harris, who said his first impression was sheer awe at the size. “I talked to people from at least 25 countries,” he said. And the company alone had representation in its booth from 20 different countries.

A few European trends Harris commented on was the abundance of windows laminated with exterior films. “If you looked at the booths of companies who make windows they all had laminated windows. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in a booth.” Exterior lamination is much more common in the European countries. Depending on what country they range from 30% to 40% or more of the PVC windows that are exterior wrapped. He also noted that the “tilt-and-turn style is their mainstay.”

When it comes to window quality Harris commented on some major differences between the United States and Europe. “The European profile is so much more robust than the typical American profile—it’s a much stronger product that has better quality and is better insulated,” he said.

He also noted that in America, a prevalent view is that cheaper is better but that this should start to change. (In fact, this has already started. CLICK HERE to view Jim Plavecsky’s blog in which he talked about this very subject.). In fact, Harris said that many international attendees inquired as to why in the United States window market it is very much driven by price.

“Energy Star has strict changes coming up. That will drive people to invest in better technology,” said Harris, who also said that rising energy costs will drive the quality of windows up.

Biffl reiterated the differences between the two markets and pointed out that the equipment the company shows at a U. S event is very different than what it shows at a European event such as Fensterbau.

He also talked about the focus on tilt-and-turn windows. To serve that market he said the company introduced an automated machine at the show for installing tilt-and-turn hardware.

Regarding the attendance, Biffl said, “There was a very strong presence from Eastern Europe. There is a lot of potential there from countries such as Poland.”

Braeuel said the show was a good one for him to establish European distribution and see what the rest of the world is doing.

“The show was a way of getting a quick snapshot of the world market,” he said. “There were attendees here from all over Europe—not a lot of U.S visitors. The simple reason is that the European market is so different that there is very little one can extrapolate or learn from going to those shows other than sheer curiosity.”

And it’s not just European countries that make windows that are different from that of the United States. “The rest of the world has European products,” says Braeuel. “There are companies in Chile making German windows and doors.”

But just because there are noted differences does not mean the European market is superior.

“We are moons ahead of the Europeans in terms of our coating technology,” says Braeuel. “The American profiles are much lighter than those in Europe, and the sensitivity to heat gain is greater than a European profile. This has required us to address the heat gain challenge more effectively.”

But when it comes to the environment, in his opinion, the Europeans are “environmentally more aggressive,” at least when it comes to coatings technology. “There is a European wide standard for chemical products,” he says. There are also specific VOC levels, etc.”

Braeuel also had some interesting comments regarding the market share for wood and vinyl in Europe.

“The Europeans always had a strong wood window presence [some countries are overwhelmingly wood] and they seem to be using vinyl in increasing numbers,” he says.

He says his company has a coating that is of interest to countries such as Dubai and Saudi Arabia—places where vinyl is attacked by the sun very quickly. “The paint is a protection for the vinyl,” he says. “Our coatings are up to 20 times more resistant to the sun.”

So thanks to Harris, Sturtz and Braeuel for allowing DWM readers to get first-hand glimpses into the European show and into European trends without leaving their offices.

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