As we see the busy season wind down and our industry heads toward 2018, everyone is asking, “what’s in store for 2018?” While last year’s predictions for 2017 were heavily influenced by the political landscape (the presidential election), this year’s outlook will likely be influenced by strong construction and remodeling activity but possibly tempered in some areas of the country by harsh weather conditions.

Coming off what seems like one of the worst years for natural disasters, we are now headed into a winter that is predicted to be influenced by those two infamous words, “La Nina.” These are Spanish words which translate to “Little Girl” and as far as weather forecasters are concerned, they translate to “cold and wet” for some areas of the country.

Of course, housing demand will also be a major factor, but the pattern of how housing activity will actually materialize may be influenced somewhat on a regional level by the “Little Girl.” So, check out the temperature and precipitation maps issued by the weather experts. You can see that the southern areas are predicted to be drier and warmer, whereas the Northwest and Great Lakes regions are forecast to be colder and wetter. There may be some heavy snow storms coming in those areas. See the complete USA Today winter weather forecast.

Now what about housing activity? Well, September was a great month for single-family starts, whereas multifamily starts were significantly down. Overall, starts were down in totality. Indeed, many of my customers are reporting far fewer orders related to multifamily contract work.

So, what does the imminent future hold here? Well, the good news is that multifamily starts are expected to rebound because demand for rental units is rising at its fastest pace in ten years. Single-family activity is expected to keep churning along as well because of higher wage rates that are due to strong labor demands coupled with low interest rates and a shortage of existing housing.  See the latest report published by Reuters on September housing starts

What about remodeling activity? The latest report I saw was the DWM story on remodeling activity, and once again the news is good. So, after the “Little Girl” meets Old Man Winter and we get a whole lot of snow and a whole lot of cold, especially in the Northwest and Great Lakes regions, both housing and remodeling activity will resume at very strong levels, especially as it relates to the most energy-efficient windows and doors that offer the greatest energy savings and creature comforts. This is because homeowners will have the fresh experience of a brutal winter.

So, what it looks like we will see in the fenestration industry is a steady increase in demand for doors and windows. In the southern areas of the country, which are predicted to have a relatively mild and warm winter, we will see this play out smoothly as the demand for fenestration products grows congruently with new housing and remodeling activity. However, in the northern half of the country, and especially in the Northwest and Great Lakes regions, we may see unusually cold and wet winter days and possibly some strong snow storms. This could potentially stall new housing and remodeling activity and consequently have a stifling effect on the immediate demand for windows and doors.

However, demand is demand, and after the “Little Girl” and Old Man Winter retreat, we will likely see pent-up demand unleashed in those areas with a strong surge of activity once spring returns. This may add stress to the lives of window manufacturers in those areas as they usually see slow activity during the winter and then are super busy once spring returns. This tends to have a deleterious effect on cash flow and complicates human resource issues as layoffs take place only to be followed by a need to rehire and train capable workers months later when activity resumes. (By the way, this is a good argument for investing in automation as the payments are steady, there are fewer layoffs and the automated equipment can handle as little or as much demand as the business experiences.)

So there you have it… there may be some bumps along the way due to a winter that is forecast to be harsh in some areas of the country, but overall the outlook is bright for continued growth in the door and window industry.

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