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The Talk, Page 2...

Survey Results for 03/12/2008:

Certification of side-hinged exterior doors should...

...allow for component substitution.


...come only with the testing of complete systems.


...allow for component substitution, except for applications with more severe requirements.


John Swanson,
associate publisher
of Window & Door

The American Architectural Manufacturers Association, the Association of Millwork Distributors, the Window & Door Manufacturers and others, no doubt, are trying to develop a plan to allow certification of side-hinged doors to AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101-I.S.2-A400 without requiring testing of the complete exterior door system. The idea is to create a program allowing the performance of different components to be tested and certified. These certified components could then be mixed and matched to create a side-hinged door unit that could be certified to offer the level of performance necessary for the job.

Those opposed to the idea say that it’s the interaction of the different components that’s key to the performance of a complete entry door system—not the performance offered by each component. They also ask why entry doors should be treated differently than windows and sliding glass doors.

This week’s survey results definitely reveal a difference of opinion within the industry. Over a third of our respondents last week said they were in favor of requiring complete systems testing for certification. Nearly half said certification of doors should allow for component substitution. About 18 percent were somewhere in the middle, suggesting component substitution should be allowed, but perhaps not in applications with severe requirements.

A number of reader responses this week came primarily from those involved in markets with more severe requirements—specifically in Florida and up the East Coast.

“I believe the component approvals will work with proper legwork up front from the manufacturers,” noted one reader. “Manufacturers will have to test their doors with various component options—say the top five door jambs used by pre-hang shops, including options like PVC jambs or Plastpro's ‘PF Frames,’ as we are using more of these every day. The manufacturers will have to list various brands/jamb options on the test reports—just like they do with glass types now.” He points then to PGT, which has multiple glass options for its French doors.

“Smaller manufacturers will have a problem with this, due primarily to cost, but also due to lack of knowledge in navigating the test report world,” he says, adding “bottom line, it can work.”

Sharing that sentiment, another reader noted, “End users require multiple combinations of door styles and materials, options on hinge finish, types of frames the doors are hung in and an unlimited number of glass combinations. Minimum system requirements can allow this to continue and give a level of standardization that meets the needs of the end users.”

Another reader, recalling how much things have changed since Andrew, is skeptical to say the least.

“What I have witnessed, as a sales professional and later as part of a management team leads me to conclude that several things will happen if a component-based approach is ratified.

“There will be mistakes. I have been involved with a number of the product lines that are available in the Southeast region of Florida. Each has had its issues in assembling their comprehensive system. Each has gone back to the drawing board and made significant changes after they had already released product on the market. Each went through the aggravation of the re-approval process when they made their changes. How can we expect that same sort of internal evaluation and upgrading to take place when we choose to select one from column ‘A’ and one from column ‘B?’ Who will be responsible to tell all the other manufacturers, ‘look you need to do it this way?’

“There will be misrepresentation. I can recall the time I walked into an entire development, which one of my co-workers had sold, looking at several items in one of the homes and discovering that the wrong product was in the openings. Of course, the wrong product was in openings throughout the development. My compatriot was simply ignorant of some of the issues in the development. This is probably why he got the job, but no one from the salesman to the contractor to the building inspectors has addressed the issue. That development is still there, today, and the wrong product is still there, too.

There will be abuse. One of the most insidious practices among those in our industry is actual abuse of the information. As a sales rep I lost more than one job to people who could represent themselves as having ‘the lowest price,’ which is always attractive to the one purchasing the product. A number of times, I was able to go back to my prospective client and demonstrate the differences in what was being quoted versus what I had quoted, but the individuals and companies involved continue to purvey their products in borderline deceptive fashion.

“These kinds of practices are not limited to our industry, but to think they would somehow not exist in our industry if we opened this kind of door is irresponsible. It is a wise statement that ‘those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.’ The end result of these three things will have a deleterious effect on our industry. Whether information is mishandled through ignorance or outright deception, the end result is the same. The consumer will be misled. The consumer will be lulled into some false sense of security. The consumer will pass the product on to others (through resale of the home) who will be unaware. The consumer will lose.”

I thought I would also offer you the perspective from one other reader—not on this issue, but on a comment I made the previous week related to the problem of false labeling of products. I concluded last week that false labeling could become a life-safety issue, not just a deceptive practice, imagining homeowners in Florida sitting in their living rooms during a hurricane, assured they are protected by impact-resistant windows and doors.

“That made me think,” this reader noted, “When we read the tragic story about these imaginary Florida homeowners lying dead in their wrecked home with pieces of their improperly labeled, actually non-hurricane resistant windows and doors sticking in their lifeless bodies, we will vote for even more regulation and the creation of a force of inspectors to ensure compliance (window cops). It will not work to make life any better for the average man, but it will empower, and enrich the few who wish to take freedom and responsibility from the average man. Allowing the government an ever-increasing role in the market may be what the majority decides they want, but I don't want to hear any of them bitch about it being anyone else’s fault other than their own when, at the end of it, we realize that paying any attention at all to those of us who can't resist the childish desire to use the government to solve such problems only ever makes the matter more complex.

“I would rather be solely responsible for making my own choice of what windows to buy, and run the risk of getting the wrong thing, than to be forced by the majority to buy one thing or another, run the same risk of getting the wrong thing, and be less free and responsible to boot. I think that is why that guy said ‘give me liberty or give me death.’ Each time I lose a freedom I lose that piece of my life. However, there is nothing to be done except to point it out. We have met the enemy, and shave him every morning.”

With my own libertarian streak, I can certainly sympathize with this point of view, but even those opposed to more government regulation often argue for laws requiring transparency and full disclosure. And most homeowners—and probably many builders and architects—cannot wisely choose a window or door just by looking at it.

E-mail John Swanson at jswanson@glass.org.

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