The new and replacement window market for housing is currently in shambles as COVID-19 labor manufacturing constraints persist, material shortages continue, and accelerating demand pushes the limits of supply. Builders and homeowners are very frustrated as projects are delayed, and costs seem to rise unabated. It is a very tough market situation which requires a lot of patience.
As with other supply issues, the main question asked, “is this for real or just a ploy to raise pricing?” The answer is yes- it is very real. Window manufacturers are having their reputations and brands destroyed while long-term dealer relationships are also badly damaged. No one in the window industry is happy about the current situation and these problems are creating a huge extra expense at a time when these companies should be free flowing merchandise.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created massive absenteeism issues as well as reduced production due to social distancing requirements. The pandemic has resulted in a massive slowdown of foreign supply lines which support the raw materials needed to build windows. Additionally, after nearly a year and a half, the United States housing market as well as commercial markets, are cranking up the pressure on all scopes in construction. There is a tsunami of construction projects approaching in the third and fourth quarter of 2021.
To understand the ferocity of the current market, consider what has happened to window costs and lead times since the pandemic began in February of 2020. Each month, the RoMac Building Supply Whole House Commodity Index charts the costs of a 3050 white vinyl Low-E insulated window with colonial grids, and a 6068 white vinyl Low-E insulation sliding glass door. Before the pandemic the order lead time for the window was 4 weeks with the sliding glass door taking 6 weeks. Today, the current lead time on that window is 24 weeks and to get the sliding glass door you will wait 27 weeks. The pricing over the same period reflects increased demand as the price of the window has increased 31.6 percent, and the price for the sliding glass door has jumped a whopping 73.6 percent as the manufacturer has changed specifications to narrow offerings.
Long-lead times, increased pricing, and reduced options are the leading problems facing the window industry, but there is an assortment of other aggravations. The high demand and stressed labor issues in the plants are creating an avalanche of mistakes from wrong sizes to incorrect specs, as well as lost orders. There are also issues with glass shortages, especially among high-tempered and impact glass, and having screens manufactured correctly has even become a challenge.
What are homeowners and builders to do other than stop their projects? Delaying or stopping projects are not options because delays can cost more money in scopes and labor. Here are some tips for navigating through the current window shortage situation.
First, avoid special orders and try to make stock windows work in your project. Modifying a window opening by two inches to save 20 weeks of wait time is a good deal. Many suppliers have increased their stock in basic windows, and you should consider buying what is in your local dealer’s stock.
Next, homeowners and builders need to plan ahead and order windows early for projects. Double and triple check sizes, colors, grid patterns, and all other details before ordering because a mistake can cost additional money and time. Once the details are confirmed, order windows immediately, even if the first shovel of dirt has not been turned.
Finally, be very patient. These window manufacturers are overwhelmed with problems and therefore, making a phone call to move your order to the front of the line will be unsuccessful. Unfortunately, every day all day, manufacturers are dealing with angry customers waiting on windows which are causing jobsite delays.
With the current long lead times, a raging pandemic, broken supply chains, and tsunami of new housing coming, there will be little relief in sight for the window market. Your best course of action is to plan early and be patient!