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In Search of the Ideal Large-Format Frame

Manufacturers should include vinyl in considerations

Large-format windows and doors for residential spaces have been an area of opportunity for a little while now. Blending the outdoors with home interiors is an attractive new frontier for higher-end homeowners. It is also one area where forward-thinking window and door fabricators can differentiate.

As with any completed window or door product, it’s up to product designers and engineers to select the ideal components and materials for their desired performance and aesthetics. Large format presents some challenges—framing must provide the right structural strength to support large panes, since the bigger glass is heavier, and it all must work together to deliver various thermal and structural performance demands prevalent in today’s forward-thinking applications.

For example, a recent piece in Window + Door examined some material choices used in large multi-panel doors today. Some common refrains emerged: Aluminum offers the right structural strength, offers good weather resistance and low maintenance for homeowners, but overall thermal performance can suffer. Wood delivers the aesthetics and good efficiency but is heavier and requires regular maintenance. And, though vinyl offers the best thermal performance, some suggest that the right sightlines and structural performance can’t be achieved to maximize the views people are after in large glass openings.

These are all widely accepted industry stereotypes—but none of them are absolute.

While it’s true that some high structural performance vinyl extrusion options aren’t available with very trim sightlines, there are options available with as little as one-half inch reduction in daylight openings when compared to equivalent aluminum options. Combined with the inherent thermal benefits, it’s a hard option to ignore for these striking large-format applications. Manufacturers who want to break into the large-format space should certainly include vinyl in their considerations.

This also got me thinking about the bigger picture when it comes to vinyl and its benefits in the residential marketplace today. In a variety of applications, vinyl has gone from a material that was once viewed quite skeptically to the undisputed market leader. It may have first gained traction as a bargain option, but modern vinyl provides plenty of in-demand benefits.

It’s not just thermal performance either—today’s high-performance vinyl can do just about anything you need it to do. Color options are a good way to stay on-trend with today’s consumers, and a sleek black option could do nicely in those large-format applications. Additionally, the fact that vinyl framing is beginning to thrive in certain commercial applications should answer any questions about the material’s structural capabilities.

Put simply, there’s no window or door application where vinyl shouldn’t at least be considered. Large-format windows and doors are just one example. High-performance extrusions available today can deliver the right performance mix for just about every performance need.


Eric Thompson

Eric Thompson

Eric Thompson is the national account manager for Quanex. Email him at