‘Intelligent timber’ composites

Steve Mines, sales director at Sliders UK, argues that USPs in the composite door sector have been thin on the ground, until now.

According, to ‘The Market for Domestic Entrance Doors’ by Palmer Market Research, composite doors now account for 50% of the market, the share rising to 54% by installed value with the inclusion of PVC/ABS faced doors.

Composites are forecast to see a 22% increase in sales through to 2020. The challenge is less about appeal and more about differentiation and price point, because without differentiation prices invariably go south.

This is where we see the key challenge for retailers: how do you persuade homeowners to select your product over that of a competitor without sacrificing margin in a, if not quite saturated, highly competitive sector?

Sliders UK entered the composite door market in 2013. This made us by comparison to others a relative newcomer, so we knew we had to approach things differently.

We combined a carefully selected range of styles, glass options and the Nan Ya slab with five-day lead times and underpinned it as a door specialist with the commitment to on-time in-full that we offer across our door range.

And it’s worked. The commitment we made to service and reliability in supply has come at a time when composite door supply more generally has been a little hit and miss, and we have won business on the reliability of our service.

But when we sat down and reviewed how it was working for our customers at the increasingly sharp end of retail, we asked: was our offer giving them USPs in a retail environment that they needed? Was it supporting them in maintaining margin? We recognised a need for change.

We took the decision to redraw our composite door offer at the start of this year and to launch a completely new composite door range – The Ultimate Composite Door. This started with a review of leaf options.

Part Q has clearly redefined door supply into new build and we see it having a similar impact in time in retail and replacement. This is what first sparked our interest in the Capstone leaf that features 15mm-thick LVL timber inserts.

Intelligently encased inside a foam core and durable GRP skin, these provide additional core strength without impacting on thermal efficiency. This combination means that it not only achieves U-values of as low as 1.0W/m2K, but has also been independently tested to PAS24:2016 – including cut-through testing.

Straight away, we could see a potential win for retailers – enhanced security in a still massively energy efficient door.

Capstone’s patented three stage glazing cassette system, which supports easy replacement of glass but maximises security, offered another strong point of sale message. Installed from the inside, screws are hidden by a special tri-part cover that matches the internal finish and detailing.

The use of 15mm timber inserts also delivered another advantage: there have been a number of social media posts and threads about bowing in composite doors – foam and timber.

The average leaf on the market is supplied on the basis that bowing tolerances are up to either 5mm or 7mm. That may be acceptable if you’re a leaf manufacturer or importer – even a fabricator – but the potential impact on retail customers is far greater.

Bowed doors can mean weather sealing and locks fail, and installers get call backs. The Capstone leaf by comparison has a bowing tolerance of just 3mm. If it’s more, there’s a fault.

For us this made the Capstone leaf the logical choice for the Ultimate Composite Door. As a hybrid product we saw that we could control manufacturing costs, supply it a sensible price point but deliver opportunities and the technical performance that would allow our customers to upsell and win business.

We have combined this solid foundation with a range of carefully selected styles. Standard colours are black, red, blue, green, gold oak and rosewood, with doors available in lead times of five days or under. A custom range of 36 premium finishes is also available.

This is combined with a choice of standard or colour matched, fully reinforced Duraflex and Eurocell 70mm PVCU outer frames and slim, low line aluminium thresholds with twin seals. Both Duraflex and Eurocell framed doors have been tested to PAS24:2016.

Door furniture and hardware is Trojan, while standard hinges and locks are manufactured by Ingenious, with heritage and auto-locking options from Winkhaus. Door cylinders are six-pin anti-drill and pick as standard with the Ukas-accredited 3-Star BSI TS007 tested Ingenious cylinder, also available as an upgrade option.

Glass options include a choice of double or triple-glazed options, achieving U-values as low as 1.0W/m2K including laminated and toughened options.

We’re not unique in offering the Capstone slab but we have worked very hard to add-value to it through the combination of glass, hardware and furniture together with our wider service offer.

The range of colours have been selected to maximise end-user appeal; chartwell green, anthracite grey, duck egg, olive yellow allow the end-user to make the perfect choice to complement their home.

Sliders UK has also given colours a BS or RAL number to help identification and introduced the option of matching coloured trims. This includes a range of foiled and painted cellular foams trims in exactly the same paint and colour.

Composite doors are an increasingly important part of the product mix, enjoy end-user appeal, and are forecast to grow through to 2020. The challenge is that while the market is there, it’s being flooded with products.

We believe in the Ultimate Composite Door we have an offer which supports installers in accessing opportunities but which also gives them the USPs to sell effectively against competitors.