Not all composite doors are born equal
Despite the generic term, composite door construction and performance can vary wildly. Pioneer’s Danny Williams suggests that it’s about time we distinguished between them.
Danny Williams likes to jar people. So much does he enjoy winding people up, he has written columns in three industry magazines, including this one, having churned out an estimated 250 such pieces over a period of more than a dozen years; he is well practiced at airing his views.
He does speak with authority, having spent more than 35 years in window and door sales, manufacturing windows, doors and insulated glass units, and installing residential and commercial contracts. Love him or hate him, he is disappointed to have received just one complaint about his scribblings, bizarrely from someone outside of the industry.
Refreshingly, Danny tends not to use his regular columns to sell his own products, which is a strong reason for his popularity with editors. And when he does, he uses his own example essentially to make a wider point, such as when he feels something is out of step commercially.
A very good example of this was his decision to challenge the composite door market that he believes to be dominated by a handful of brands that are not only poor in manufactured quality and performance, but which also then equally let customers down with poor back up service. So enraged did Danny become by this, he decided to source his own range of composite doors, by Polish manufacturer Gerda.
Having done so, Danny believes that the differences between how composite doors are manufactured, is equally as important as their tested performance and that not enough is done to make such differentials clear, especially to homeowners: “The term ‘composite door’ is a catch all and I wonder how many installers, let alone homeowners, ever look further: here is a door, it looks right, delivery is reasonable and, oh it’s cheap,” expresses Danny. “It’s the ‘pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap’ mentality first used in supermarkets, except even a cheap resi-door will be costing the homeowner £1500 installed.
“And the homeowner has no idea if this is good value or a good door….there is so little information out there.
“Entrance doors are no longer an add on to a houseful of windows,” he continues. “It is a market in its own right, with a huge number of brands and with many different types of construction, different materials, price points and so forth.
“In fact, the entrance door market is now more diverse than windows, which in essence can be pinned down to three different materials and which homeowners generally have a better understanding of. Installers need to understand and better communicate not just the differences in price, but how the products they sell differ structurally.”
Installer internet forums – and there are many – are full of complaints about the quality of entrance doors, discolouration and especially distortion. This is nothing new, says Danny: “Some of the major brands have done very well with their marketing, which means they sell more.
“But in the process, the manufactured quality of some is, to say the least, variable. As a supplier of trade frames to installers, we are also asked to supply residential doors from these better-known brands and frequently, the quality is poor, sizing is out, there’s a problem with the outer frame…you name it.
“The installer expects us to fix the problem even though we didn’t want to supply the door in the first place, which then puts us into the hands of the customer service department of the door supplier,” explains Danny. “And it’s a spiral: the products are poor and customer service seems to be designed to obstruct rather than support. It’s all got out of hand.”
The solution, says Danny, is in the hands of installers: “My response to the installers complaining about warping is simple: if doors are manufactured using timber, what do you expect? The timber cores and sub frames of these products become damp due to poor quality control around the banding or cassette, and they warp. Learn about the products you sell and choose products that don’t use timber.”
Which brings us to the elephant in the room: Danny would say that wouldn’t he? “Since January 2022 we have been distributing Gerda residential doors,” responds Danny. “But the driver for me going out and finding Gerda, was my intense dissatisfaction with many of the products available in the UK. As I did previously with casement windows, I have put my money where my mouth is and found a range of doors that are superior in every way, in my view, to the majority of alternatives out there.”
The specification of Gerda doors is impressive, with the products pitched at the high-medium sector. The considerable range of designs includes 60mm to 88mm front-to-back dimensions, with thermal efficiency between 0.79 W/m2K to 1.3 W/m2K and a three-chamber reinforced aluminium internal construction insulated with PU cores, throughout.
Whether you agree with Danny or not, you can check out Gerda doors for yourself at: www.gerdadoors.co.uk