Building and Construction, Feature, Operations, V8I2

Q&A: Doors and Windows for Sheds

Doors and windows are often seen as practical parts of a shed or other portable outdoor structure.

While they are practical, the wrong doors and windows can make a customer shy away from purchasing a structure.

How can builders help customers choose the right doors and windows, better work with suppliers, and be sure they are properly installed?

Shed Builder Magazine talked about these questions and more with Willis Miller from Kevmar Mfg. in Arthur, Illinois; Thomas Slack, Shed Windows and More, Longs, South Carolina; Justin Burnett, Midco Products, Mayfield, Kentucky; Brad Cordell, Cordell Doors, Ocala, Florida; and Chris O’Hearn, Trac-Rite Door, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.

Tell us about your business and your experience with doors and windows relating to sheds and portable structures.

MILLER: Kevmar has been producing garage door components and garage doors since 1996. We have fairly recently started producing a series geared toward the shed industry.

SLACK: Shed Windows and More is a family-run business that is dedicated to providing the best service and quality to the shed and portable building market. 

When it comes to windows, our main experience and development come from our customer’s feedback. When we started manufacturing our windows, we listened to all the challenges and complaints customers had with what they currently were using. 

With that information, we made design and material changes to improve the quality and eliminate the problems they had with other window manufacturers. This was a good business decision and the hallmark of how our company works. 

It was a natural progression for our company to start manufacturing doors since we were educated and taught by people that had 40 years in the door industry. This allowed us to know all the ins and outs of doors made in the U.S., as well as doors made overseas. This information gave us a great starting point to tackle all the door issues builders were having with other manufacturing companies. 

Now our door shop is producing doors and door systems (doors with sidelights and transoms) for the shed and portable building industry as well as building supply centers nationwide for sheds and residential housing. 

BURNETT: After growing up on a dairy farm, my brother Carrey and I went into construction at a young age. We built garages, houses, barns, and about anything else that we could nail together. So between the two of us, the number of doors and windows that we have installed would probably be in the thousands. 

He eventually got into building sheds and trusses. He even built the first hydraulic truss presses that anyone in the shed industry had seen in Western Kentucky. 

I, on the other hand, landed a job delivering sheds. For the next nine years and nearly a million miles later, I can safely say that I have literally adjusted hundreds of doors while being armed with just a handful of shims and a handyman jack. 

In 2008, having nothing but a dream and a wealth of experience, Carry decided to venture on his own and start a door manufacturing shop and that is how Midco was born. 

After four years of hard work and a lot of sweat and tears, Midco had grown to the point where Carrey decided to hire me to manage sales. Between the two of us, there isn’t much about a door or window that we do not understand.

CORDELL: We are a family-owned door and window supplier/manufacturer located in Ocala, Florida. We have been selling doors and windows in the mobile home, modular, and portable building industries all over the world for over 10 years. 

With us being family owned, our customers are able to get a lot of one-on-one attention to ensure we are selling them the best options for where they currently are and where they see the business going.

O’HEARN: Trac-Rite Door is a leading provider of roll-up doors in the shed business. We have been manufacturing doors since 1981, with two manufacturing facilities in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, and Vernon, Alabama.  

Trac-Rite Door has grown with the shed business and has the staff that is educated in what type of doors are needed and can assist the shed builder with all sales and customer service questions.   

I have been with Trac-Rite Door since 2002, holding positions in manufacturing, inside sales/customer service, and regional sales manager. I have worked with shed builders for 15 years and I am very knowledgeable in what shed builders need when looking at roll up doors for their shed business. 

What types of products do you most often provide for shed builders?

MILLER: Sectional stamped steel and woodgrain embossed Kevmar doors in either conventional raised panel or carriage house designs with five color options and 18 window options. 

SLACK: Our most popular products are our single-pane and double-pane aluminum windows. Also, over the past few years, our double-pane tempered with low E vinyl windows, pre-hung fiberglass doors, and our variety of hardware have become increasingly popular. 

BURNETT: Doors are the staple product at Midco but we also manufacture our own drip edge and z-bar. Truss plates and rollups were some of our earliest products as well. However, over the past few years, hardware and windows have become some of our most popular items. 

CORDELL: We most commonly sell aluminum windows and steel out-swing doors. Although we can offer a wide range of products, the doors and windows are our sweet spot.

O’HEARN: We offer our customers a variety of products. The main product we off is a rollup door. 

Beyond that, we offer accessories based on our customers’ needs such as header draft stops to seal the space between the door and header, jamb brush seals to seal the corrugations on the side of the door, and sill plates to offer a buffer between the door and interior of the shed. 

We also provide chain hoists and motor operators if requested.

What should builders look for when selecting windows for sheds?

MILLER: Choose a window design that complements the overall appearance of the shed. Kevmar has many window designs inserts available. All short panel designs are the same price as are all long panel designs.

SLACK: This is always a hard question to answer. I’ve had many conversations with several builders about this question. After many discussions, it comes down to the building size, design, and functionality. 

The next question to ask their customers is are you going to use the building to keep lawn equipment dry or are you going to turn it into a specialty building?  This is where things change. Depending on building size and functionality is where I would guide them to window sizes and material.  

It has become a norm that everyone puts a 24 by 36-inch window in all their buildings because the price of that window has been driven down low, so it makes sense to put that in every building. However, we believe this is not always the correct answer. Depending on the building and functionality is what I feel should drive which windows are chosen for the building. 

For example, if they are using it to be a workshop or for a storage building, they may want a smaller window to have more access to wall space. Whereas in an art studio you will want larger windows with double-pane glass to allow more natural light to come into the building. 

BURNETT: I think most importantly is to look for a brand that is proven. There are a lot of people out there now trying to import cheap products because of inflated pricing but consumers are running into some horrible situations by taking those chances. 

CORDELL: Builders should make sure the window is the correct application for their type of shed. I would also recommend that the shed builder base their rough opening on common sizes. 

We have seen this in the mobile and modular industries where companies wanted to be different and have their own special size offerings. Now, there are hundreds of options and that can be overwhelming for the owner when replacement is needed down the road.

What should builders look for when selecting doors for sheds?

MILLER: Look for garage doors that are easy to install with springs that are properly balanced, a long-lasting paint finish, and a manufacturer that delivers on time. Specify torsion springs vs. extension springs.

SLACK: This goes back to the same concept as with choosing windows. The building design and functionality should determine the type of door to be used. 

We carry wood doors, pre-hung single and double steel and fiberglass doors, steel and fiberglass door slabs,  fiberglass doors with aluminum frames, corrugated roll-up doors, corrugated swing doors, and overhead sectional garage doors. With these options, we can work with any builder and guide them to what is right for their building. 

We’ve spent a lot of time creating our door program, which has some key factors that affect what kind of door you would use. The first factor that we must take into consideration is the demographics and geographic area. Another factor to consider is budget—low-income areas have a tight budget, which presents different choices and challenges than decisions being made in a higher budget-based area. 

Your material factors matter as well when choosing the right window or door, which includes siding and trim materials. Most people doing corrugated metal or vinyl sided buildings are not going to add a wood door to the building as it will not have the right aesthetic. 

Lastly, functionality. Someone who is creating a dwelling or office is not going to want to use a corrugated door on their building. 

BURNETT: Once again, a legitimate reputation is critical. Make sure that the door has a good, solidly insulated panel with composite edges. The wood edge doors will weather and rot out much faster unless you keep a good coat of paint on them. 

Our fiberglass doors all have a composite edge. Steel doors normally run a bit cheaper but they have wooden edges. 

Another thing that you want to consider is the frame of the door. A wood frame will be cheaper but once again can rot out with years of unmaintained use. Our PVC frames will never rot and also give the door a cleaner look. 

CORDELL: Mostly the same things as the windows; however, there are a few more things to add to the doors. 

The issue we see the most is builders using residential doors. Don’t get me wrong, we love selling high-end doors with high-end inserts for auxiliary dwellings, but there are often times a lot of issues that can arise from using a residential inswing door. The main issue we see is certainly with rain and water. If there is not a covering over the door area, such as a porch, the door is going to allow water inside. 

A lot of builders like the residential doors so they can provide more window options; we offer a specially designed steel out-swing door to allow for higher-end inserts. Our out-swing doors are designed to take internal mini blinds both in 36 and 64 inches at this point with the demand.  The out-swing also allows for better usage of space inside the building.

Finally, not all doors will install the same. These are not homes, and they should not be treated like one when a door is being installed. Most rough openings, although the same size, may differ due to the wood being used. A slight bow on one side of the wood may require a screw to be a little tighter on one side of the door. Whoever a builder is getting their doors from should have clear installation instructions from the manufacturer.

O’HEARN: When a shed builder is looking for a roll-up door provider, they should look for one that can provide the door and all the accessories needed from the same supplier. They should also look for a provider that has a large range of color options available to them to meet their customers’ needs.  

I would also recommend a supplier that has a good inside sales and customer service departments readily available to answer and questions regarding orders, parts, shipping, and installation questions.

What are some common mistakes made when selecting and installing doors and windows in sheds?

MILLER: Not allowing room for the track and hardware above the door. We have various track systems to allow doors to be installed with as little as 3 inches from the top of the door to the ceiling.

SLACK: There are only a few common mistakes I see in the shed industry when it comes to the installation of products. The most common mistake comes from not understanding how doors are sized and hung. There are times I have walked through factories and facilities where a door is hung backward, or they have not left enough room to square up a door. 

Come to think about it, placing a door and knowing how to do it is probably the biggest installation problem. Most people just put a door in a hole and make sure it is level and put trim on it. Very few builders I have seen shim and square a door properly. 

Understanding proper installation techniques would end up solving a lot of problems builders have with doors. 

BURNETT: The most common mistake made is selecting what size door they need. We offer multiple door heights and you want to go as tall as possible while still being able to fit in the wall. Make sure that you know your overall frame size so that you do not end up with a pallet of doors that will not work for your application. 

I have also seen builders install doors by simply nailing through the trim or they will only use a minimal amount of fasteners. That is just not good enough. It should be secured through the frame into the wall with sufficient length screws. 

CORDELL: As I mentioned earlier, I think just not being able to determine the correct door for the building’s application. There are really a lot of options out there and it can be hard to determine which one is going to work the best. 

Although low in cost, the $99 in-swing from a big box store may deteriorate much quicker. The craftsmanship on these sheds and buildings should not be negated by the doors and windows being used. Unfortunately, end-users do see the doors and windows as part of the overall shed quality.

O’HEARN: The two most common mistakes made when installing a roll-up door in a shed are ordering the incorrect size door and not having enough head or side room for the door. 

How can a builder help a customer select the best/right doors and windows for a shed? How can a supplier help with that process?

MILLER: Recommend door brands that are known to have a good reputation for service, competitive pricing, engineering, and design.

SLACK: This boils down to one of my favorite topics: education! There are too many people out there that know the basics and that’s all they know. This market has so much potential to go so many different directions and education can help the industry grow. 

You want to work with a supplier that specializes in taking the time to educate people on options, products, capabilities, and pros and cons of different products. This is something we strive to teach every employee that answers our phones. If there is something they can’t answer, they are going to get you to someone who can. 

BURNETT: The builder can help the customer visualize which way the door will swing. For instance, maybe you are dealing with limited space and an outswing door would be a better option. 

The builder can also use their experience in advising on the size of the windows in relation to the building size so that the building maintains an aesthetic look. We often get calls from builders who are with a customer looking for ideas. We always have guys by the phone ready to help however we can. 

CORDELL: Again, I will go back to the application of the building. What is this building being used for? Storage? Let’s maximize your space. A hunting cabin? We can offer an out-swing to run cabinets right up to the jamb and make it harder to access entry when you are not there. Auxiliary dwelling for Grandma? Here are some decorative options to make it feel like home. It’s just really understanding what the customer wants and needs.

If a builder cannot order a quantity high enough to reach minimums from manufacturers, they can at least find local suppliers who can always order for them from the factories. 

Suppliers can help this process by working with the shed companies to make sure they are setting themselves up for a successful build. Sometimes that means selling a lower-cost item to ensure the best results.

O’HEARN: By providing their customer with specification sheets on each of the door types they offer. Also, having a working display on site so the end customer can try the door to see if it meets their needs. 

From the supplier’s standpoint, conducting a training session onsite and providing the shed builder with door specification sheets, color charts, and color samples.

What are the benefits for shed builders to work with door and window professionals like yourself?

MILLER: As much as possible, work directly with the manufacturer. This can make it easier to resolve any issues in a timely manner. Orders are more likely to be accurate when communication is direct from the builder to the manufacturer.

SLACK: It comes down to using manufacturers with experience that are educated in the building industry. We need to be able to guide and get our builders the right product to install for their customer. There are many times that builders will call with their customer or have their customer call us to get questions answered as well as get guidance. 

There are many services that we provide for our customers to help them improve their business. We offer marketing seminars, graphic services including catalogs, flyers, business cards, logos and more, consulting, web services, and marketing. These services we provide help curb costs for builders and help them succeed. 

BURNETT: Product knowledge is key, our sales guys have all worked at our facility, built doors, and have been educated on the products they sell. Often when visiting customers they end up lending a hand or offering advice, if they can. If a salesman travels for Midco, he is trustworthy.

CORDELL: We can offer a wide array of door sizes and window options to make sure a builder has exactly what they want and need. We are always looking to improve our products and work directly with our customers to do so.

O’HEARN: The main benefits for a shed builder to work directly with a door supplier is the door supplier has the knowledge of their product line and can ensure the correct door size is ordered.  

The supplier is also knowledgeable on the installation process for the door and can give recommendations on the best accessories to provide with the door being ordered.

What should a shed builder know or ask before working with a door and window supplier?

 MILLER: Ask about the door warranty, lead times, options, delivery methods, and pricing.

If they say America, Canada and Mexico are in North America—don’t be fooled. I make this statement because the builder is always in serious jeopardy of losing its supply chain if the core of the business of the manufacturer is not the shed industry. It is very, very dangerous to walk down this path as can be recently felt by the recent pandemic. 

SLACK: When working with any supplier, you should find out if they are the manufacturer or if they’re just a distributor. 

Also, one of the most important things is understanding the supplier’s policies as to damage, returns, warranty, and privacy. Knowing how a company operates and the type of customer service they provide is important. This is one thing we try to focus on and be transparent about. 

BURNETT: I would say ask for references. Make sure that someone you trust buys products from a supplier that you reach out to. Check on the warranty of the supplies that you want to buy. Do not be afraid to ask questions. After all, it’s your money being spent. 

There is a good chance that you are throwing your money away if the supplier can’t give you a good and honest answer.

CORDELL: Experience. They should work with a company that understands the shed industry and what trends currently are and where they are expected to go. 

There really are a lot of door and window companies out there. It is all about finding the best fit for their buildings. 

O’HEARN: The biggest questions a shed builder should ask of a prospective roll-up door supplier is how long they have been providing doors to the shed industry and how knowledgeable the sales and customer service team is with the shed industry.

Any final thoughts when it comes to door and window suppliers for the shed industry?

MILLER: One subject that may seldom come up when evaluating a garage door supplier is delivery methods. 

Although the builder can order any amount, Kevmar typically delivers doors five per pack. The packs are forklift unloadable off of curtain side trucks and can be stacked in the builder’s shop.

SLACK: Stop trying to race to the bottom and stop pushing suppliers to race to the bottom on pricing. As an industry, we should be focusing on the overall picture which is quality. 

As a business, we focus on quality, and the one thing I never want to hear is that there are issues with the product. The last thing you need as a builder or contractor is to get a call back about your final product. Callbacks or warranty work are expensive and cost you more than the margin you made on the building.

BURNETT: At the end of the day, I think we are all doing the best we can with the hand that we have been dealt. The past couple of years have been some of the most difficult that I have seen as a supplier and I am sure most suppliers would agree. It is beginning to feel like the product flow is returning to normal and I am excited to see what the next year holds. 

CORDELL: Over the last few years, we have really seen the industry explode. I think when people were sitting at home during 2020 a lot of people realized a few major things: 

We have too much stuff and we need a place to store it. 

We need a space for an office, man cave, she shed to keep our sanity.

This boom has put a strain on the supply chain; we get calls all the time from people wanting to change to us as a door supplier. With us being a family business, we do make sure that they are aware of these supply-chain problems and that switching their business from a long-time partner, while appreciated, may not be the best option. 

That is the thing I have always enjoyed most about being in the mobile, modular, and portable industries: most of the people we deal with are family businesses as well. A lot of suppliers are multigenerational family-owned businesses. We work with a lot of these other suppliers to make sure we all keep our doors open.

My final thought is more of a suggestion: be patient. With your suppliers, with your customers. Supplies continue to be on the rise and in demand. Give your buyers realistic lead times, no matter how long it may be. 

The shed industry is booming, we hope you all enjoy the success we have seen our current customers have, and we are happy to help point anyone in the right direction on doors and windows. My name is literally on every door that goes out of this place and I take a lot of pride in that. 

Even if you don’t use a Cordell door, we would be happy to help point you in the right direction because as the shed builder, it’s your name going out on the buildings.

O’HEARN: With all the different options available in the marketplace, talk with all the different providers and work with the provider you feel most confident in building a long-term working relationship with.

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