Building ProductsNational Housing Market Outlook

Some Visibility on the Window Shortage (Pun Intended)

Christian Beard

Chris Beard

Kylie Raposa

October 21, 2021

It is time to order next year’s windows. We both joined John Burns Real Estate Consulting from window and door manufacturers, so we know a bit about this.

Home builders in a recent survey we conducted cited windows as the biggest material shortage right now. Average lead times for windows currently range from 4–15 weeks with some window lead times extending 20–45 weeks. Prior to COVID-19, lead times were typically 2–3 weeks.

Window manufacturing—even in the most automated facilities—is very labor intensive, which makes the industry even more susceptible to labor shortages and COVID precaution challenges and breakouts. Most window manufacturing facilities rely more on labor and less on capital than other building material manufacturers. Cornerstone and PGTI both cited labor constraints on their most recent earning calls, with hiring of manufacturing labor being a focus area for them near term.

Also, glass, resin, and vinyl are all having big issues:

  • Storms: Winter Storm Uri in Texas disrupted production of resins, and as the recovery from this storm was beginning, Hurricane Ida damaged refineries and chemical plants along the Gulf Coast. These delays are impacting an array of industries, but the window industry has taken the brunt of it.
  • Capacity: Most of the industry is supplied by just a few insulated glass manufacturers, all of which are running at capacity. These insulated glass plants are located near major window manufacturer locations throughout the United States, but strong demand as well as labor shortages at these facilities prevent manufacturers from running at full capacity. Several major glass manufacturers put customers on allocation earlier this year due to material shortages.
  • Material Shortage: Resin used in the production of vinyl is extending vinyl lead times upwards of 4–15 weeks, with some window manufacturers averaging 20–45 weeks.

Looking Ahead to 2022

Supply chain normalization will take a long time unless demand slows substantially, which is not what we forecast in our Building Product Industry Analysis and Forecast Report. A mild winter could help prevent shortages from compounding further. Alternative materials such as wood clad and fiberglass/composite windows currently have shorter lead times, but composite and wood windows are also experiencing delays due to resin and aluminum shortages.

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About The Author

Christian Beard
Chris Beard
Vice President, Building Products Research
Chris manages JBREC’s monthly Dealer Survey and quarterly Prefab Components Index as well as public building products earnings. He leverages his relationships with distribution and manufacturers to help form JBREC’s forecast theses.
Kylie Raposa
Senior Manager, Client Relations | Building Products
Kylie leads JBREC’s quarterly Kitchen and Bath Market Index, produced in partnership with the National Kitchen and Bath Association. She also manages operations within the building products research group.

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