On the Outside and Liking It

Two years ago, we initiated a new section in the magazine devoted to the business information needs of people who own and manage companies specializing in exterior jobs — firms that sell and install windows, roofing, siding, decks and sunrooms. We called it Specialty Remodeling.

Well, I’m here to tell you that the name, Specialty Remodeling, was not our first choice. Accurate: Yes. Descriptive: Kind of. Catchy: No. Frankly, the title never quite captivated us. We liked a different one. It is a name that really told the story and had strong appeal among these professionals — Exterior Contractor. But there was a problem; that name was already taken (and trademarked) by a Florida-based magazine and its Web site: www.exteriorcontractor.com.

But that was then. And this is now.

Cygnus Business Media, the parent company that owns Qualified Remodeler, recently purchased Exterior Contractor magazine and its Web site as a new name for our 2-year-old section. This issue, we take the wraps off of the Exterior Contractor name for the first time within our pages. This special bonus section of Qualified Remodeler includes our third annual listing of the 200 largest exterior contracting firms. Appropriately, we have renamed the list, The Exterior 200.

For 32 years exterior contractors have come to the pages of Qualified Remodeler for new products, business ideas and best practices. The new section and new Web site (which we plan to unveil at the International Builders Show in February) is our commitment to them. We see big things for exterior contractors and for the exterior sector of the home improvement industry.

In the near term (2008), windows, roofing, siding, decking and sunroom contractors will likely fare the best of all the firms that make up the residential construction market. For one thing, these products dramatically increase a home’s energy efficiency. No doubt, people are prepared to spend money in order to save on heating and cooling costs. The payback is very real for a many of the homeowners (130 million strong) whose homes, on average, are now 33 yeas old and in need of repair.

Over the longer term, we see operational innovation within exterior contracting firms as having a profound effect on the market. Two companies come to mind. First, I am thinking of Exovations of Atlanta. This firm has moved away from a one-sit-close toward a consultative approach that typically nets not only a window job, but one that also includes new siding, trim and porches. Another innovator is Window World Inc. of North Wilksboro, N.C. On pg. 36 we profile the 12-year-old company that has grown to 195 dealers by offering value: quality windows at a low price. Last year Window World installed more windows than any other company in the United States — 850,000 on 89,874 jobs. This year they will cross the million-window mark. Just ask CEO Todd Whitworth. He’ll tell you the outside is a good place to be.