Asmaller pool of suppliers is competing for a share in the rising demand for timber doors and windows as work that can no longer be put off finds its way onto the market. Several manufacturers have reported business back to almost pre-recession levels and the trend in choice is also retro, with traditional leading the way.

"A lot of people want traditional at the moment and our products have been aimed at trying to blend that with modern performance in one product," said Cliff Thrumble, managing director of Boyland Joinery. "Dual coating finish has been popular, and creams and whites, which is a change from grey: last year it was all shades of grey, which I suppose is more apt for the moment."

Boyland has invested £250,000 in CNC equipment and gaining product certification during the recent quiet years. Mr Thrumble said interest in Secured by Design and U-values had prompted the company to develop a new product to meet both areas and it aimed to launch the idea before the end of the year.

Alan Shearer, general manager of Howarth Timber Windows & Doors, said its latest window product was aimed at both appearance and future-proofing for the Code for Sustainable Homes, including Code 6, due in 2016.

"Storvik is a replacement for our traditional flush fit range," he said. "One of the reasons for the change was that the furniture was visible, so by making changes internally and externally, rebating the sash into the frame, we have masked the hardware. Also they now look the same whether they are double glazed or triple glazed, only the beading externally is thicker.

"It’s a personal opinion, but in this country I don’t really see the need for triple glazing in volume – we don’t have those extremes of temperature," he continued. "Without the high volumes, you use 50% more glass but the cost is 220% more, so the energy saving payback is more than 20 years. What we have done is made it possible to triple glaze the north elevation, but double glaze in the south with the same window, which may be more palatable and gives us a product suitable for what may happen with legislation in the future."

Raw material trends

Tradition is also dictating materials, with engineered redwood remaining the staple. Performance Window Group (PWG), along with other manufacturers, have used both modified woods and new varieties such as Red Grandis for performance and sustainability. However, with cost paramount, laminated Nordic redwood available at £400/m3 was easier to justify than modified woods at £1,000/m3, one supplier said.

PWG, the parent company of Mumford & Wood (M&W), Timber Windows, Clearwood and Dale Windows, the trade, merchant and medium builder supplier, also said it had seen most activity in added-value work. Sales and marketing director Christopher Brunsdon said M&W would be launching several new products next year, while Timber Windows has recently introduced the Hidden Spring sash window, which reproduces traditional sashes with modern spring balances. These are concealed within the box frame without compromising its operation and are aimed at modern buildings that don’t have sufficient rebate to house a full box sash.

It has also developed the Deco Flush casement window with sections added to the front face to allow the opening sashes to appear recessed within the frame. This stepping back emulates a degree of modelling common in urban homes in the inter-war period. The new Sash & Case design allows sashes hung on pre-tensioned sash cords to be released and tilted into the room, making for ease of cleaning.

Scotts of Thrapston does a standard box sliding sash window that fits in with the requirements for Grade 1 and 2 buildings. Most notable, according to chairman David Scott, are lead weight and pulled vertical sliding sashes, some 2.5m in width and 4m in height.

In doors, Ian Purkis, technical director of JELD-WEN, said continued improvement in thermal performance of doorsets is driving new designs, incorporating new technology in materials and manufacturing in doors and frames. Its next generation of moulded doors is becoming increasingly popular. "Moulded doors have been used to replicate panel doors, but a new way of manufacturing and some contemporary designs are proving to be a hit with consumers," said product manager Chris Miller. Oak is also an ongoing trend for a more luxurious finish, both in traditional and contemporary designs.

New to JELD-WEN’s product line-up is the Advance-line range which includes the Croft for country style, Colonial and Woodhouse for traditional and the Cube for contemporary. Advance-line entrance doors include the minimalist styling of the Lexington and the contemporary design of the Pablo. "The new Advance-line range really does capture everything that is great about oak doors," said Mr Miller. "They give housebuilders the chance to make new homes more distinctive, with a fantastic choice of doors which is matched only by the quality of their manufacture."

Innovation is the key for a new company formed to market a patented adjustable doorlining made from oak and walnut veneered MDF for expensive hardwood doors that can be fitted in 20 minutes. The components are made by SAM Mouldings in Antrim, Northern Ireland, and marketed by the developer, Ultimate Doorlinings, based in Marlow, Bucks.

"It’s been tried before but the end product has always been fiddly or very timeconsuming," said Ultimate Doorlinings’ director Tony Longstaff. "It looks like real oak and it adjusts to the height and width and depth of the wall – it’s a three-way adjustable doorlining that doesn’t require any sawing or making good. It clips together and has invisible fixings."

The result was launched in November and, said Mr Longstaff, has been well received by merchants and chains. "Builders and homeowners want to upgrade and this is an easy and cheap way to get away from white-painted softwood to complement an expensive oak door," he said.

Reaching the consumer and meeting demand for added value has driven strategy at stair specialist Clive Durose Woodturners. "Where in the past, homeowners and home buyers tended to focus predominantly on high-spec kitchens and bathrooms, they are increasingly looking to add value in other areas, and staircase renovation is very much a part of that," said marketing specialist Chris Kidney. "In particular, we have noticed a rise in the number of people looking for alternatives to simple, square or stop chamfer timber balustrades and actually taking the time to look for something with added design value.

"We launched id modern stairparts around 12 months ago to fill a gap in the stairparts market that we had noticed between traditional turned-style spindles and contemporary glass and metal balustrades," he added. "The Grand Designs show 2012 at the NEC was our first real opportunity to exhibit directly to the end user. Many people looking for inspiration for a contemporary staircase hadn’t even considered timber balustrade as an option, until they saw id on display."

Distribution developments

While suppliers are looking to tailor their products, many are also developing their distribution channels. Window and door manufacturer NorDan has launched its inaugural distributor network aimed at consumers, self-builders, small regional builders and architects with one-off or special projects. CG Facades of Exeter, and Marches Building Supplies, a division of Taylor Lane Timber Frame, have signed up and will be allocated enquiries received centrally.

Dale Windows, the PWG trade operation, has upgraded its sales service with a quoteand- order system for merchants’ counter staff to input and build bespoke quotations without the delay of traditional quoting and estimating systems.

Ultimate Doorlinings said one of the attractions of selling its adjustable veneered doorlinings was the opportunity for the merchant to build add-on sales of added-value skirting and architrave. Door distributor JB Kind also has a new sales initiative, Merchant Partners, a joint marketing scheme to boost sales and support with point of sale material and product training. More than 90 branches from 25 retailers have signed up.