D+AS MAGAZINE

FEATURES — Cover Story: Garage Door Screens Make the Scene

© 2003 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Fall 2003
Author: Tom Wadsworth
Pages 42-46


Cover Story
Garage Door Screens Make the Scene

by Tom Wadsworth

I’m always watching for new trends in the door and access systems business. But frankly, I never thought much about screen doors.

Then, last winter, Brian Lucas of F & L Doors in Hazleton, Pa., wrote a Letter to the Editor, mentioning that he is “patiently waiting (for a) bug screen for the residential garage door opening.” He also mentioned his interest in commercial applications of the same product.

Hmm.

Brian helped me realize that a screen garage door may be an ideal product for a garage door dealer to sell and install. After all, the product is practically installed in tandem with a “regular” solid garage door.

Then, this year at Expo, at least four companies attracted crowds to their exhibits of new screen garage door products. In our summer 2003 issue, Mark Talon of Overhead Door of Bangor (Maine) mentioned two of these screens as among the “hottest new products” at Expo 2003.

Double hmm.

Then, the summer issue of Door & Access Systems published press releases from three different companies, announcing their new screen door products. Three screen doors in one issue! When has that happened before?

OK. Now, you’ve got my attention. Then comes the kicker.

About the same time, I noticed a feature story in the Chicago Tribune (“Where an open-door policy is encouraged,” by Dan Rafter, March 7, 2003). The story begins, “Bob and Nancy Carlson own the most famous garage in their … neighborhood, not to mention the most unique.”

What was the attraction? Yep … A screen garage door.

“At night, they raise the garage door to reveal a fully functional screened-in room,” writes reporter Rafter, “where the Carlsons relax, read, eat dinner, or watch the evening news.”

Rafter then explains how the Carlsons’ garage is just another example of the growing trend of homeowners who are transforming their garages into useful, attractive space. Or, as we described it in our fall 2002 issue, “Garages: The Next American Fascination.”

Parallel Products

You could call these screened doors “parallel products” for our industry. They are parallel products, not only because they are physically installed “parallel” to our own products.

They are parallel, or comparable, because they also fill the same openings that our sectional and rolling doors fill. And they are available as commercial or residential doors, as sectional or rolling doors, and as motorized or manual doors. What other product is that similar to our products?

My guess is, if you can install a sectional or rolling door, you should be able to handle one of these doors.

The Scream for Screens

This new industry of screen garage doors appears to have started around 1992, but is now picking up some serious steam.

Rick Rochelle, president of FlexBarrier, maker of FlexScreen, says sales of their commercial screen door leaped 280 percent in 2001 and another 20 percent in 2002. Through half of 2003, sales were up another 60 percent.

Sales of Bug Blocker, Rasco Industries’ screen door product, have also been growing every year. “In years when the rest of the economy was relatively flat, we were seeing increases of 15 to 20 percent,” says Rick Brown, Rasco vice president of sales and marketing. And now, he says sales “are up about 45 percent over last year.”

They aren’t alone. Since Flexon introduced their screen door product in 1993, “There has been an exponential increase in sales of this product each year,” says Mike Boyle, president.

Regulation-Driven Sales

It appears that the commercial side of the screen door business is getting most of the spurt in sales. Rick Brown of Rasco says new government regulations are helping to drive demand.

About five years ago, he says, the organizations that regulate food plants began requiring all dock doors used for ventilation to have “tight-fitting screen doors to aid in pest control and to control airborne contaminants.” The regulations stem from the American Institute of Baking’s (AIB) standards for Food Contact Packaging Manufacturing Facilities.

Screen doors provide the advantage of ventilation for employee comfort, yet prevent rodents, bugs, and birds from entering an area where food, beverages, or pharmaceuticals are being packaged or prepared.

Rick Rochelle of FlexBarrier adds that the AIB specifies acceptable hole size for such screens. “Sometimes, wind load issues apply,” he adds. “You don't want the sides opening up, allowing bug entry.”

The Sept. 11 Effect

In addition to sanitation concerns, the new Department of Homeland Security is pressing for greater security to prevent anyone from tampering with food supply areas. Brown says the USDA is also involved in requiring lockable doors in such areas.

“In order to ventilate the plant via open doors, a secure screen door with locking mechanism became one of the best options,” says Brown.

“I think this is a product that is now catching on,” adds Rochelle.

West Nile Virus, Too

The West Nile Virus is contributing to a demand for screen doors in both commercial and residential settings, says Peter de la Porte, president of Gateway Industrial Products, makers of Bug Barrier. The deadly virus is spread by mosquitoes.

In 2002, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 40 U.S. states confirmed 4,156 human cases of the virus. Those cases resulted in 284 deaths, the worst in human history.

In August 2003, a U.S. health official warned that 2003 may surpass last year's record numbers. August, September, and October are generally the prime months for mosquitoes nationwide.

The Residential Trend

Another factor driving the residential market, besides health concerns, is the transformation of the American garage. De la Porte says, “There seems to be a trend forming as more homeowners convert their garage space into leisure activity areas.”

A screen garage door, he says, lets homeowners create a TV room or an area for social gatherings with food tables, such as anniversary and graduation parties.

“Garages are becoming living space,” says Brian Smidt of Secure Screen, a garage door dealer turned manufacturer. “Garages are the new front porch of our society.”

GDs, GDOs, and GDSs

Since most residential and commercial garage door screens are sold only through professional installers, this product could become a staple for garage door dealers.

But Smidt recognized that the product won’t sell itself. He adds that he has been busy this year developing advertising materials for his dealers. Nonetheless, he sees a bright future for this product.

“This is the other product we have all been looking for,” says Smidt. “I think this is going to be the wave of the future.”

“Besides GDs and GDOs, we now have GDSs.”


To respond to this story, send an E-mail to daseditor@dasma.com or send a fax to the editor at 815-285-2543.

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Product - Bug Barrier
Manufacturer - Gateway Industrial Products, Elyria, Ohio
Producing Since - ca. 1993
Sales Distribution - Nationwide; heavier in Central and Eastern states
Screen Materials - Fiberglass and nylon-reinforced vinyl screen mesh
Application - Commercial, and now, residential
Models - Commercial: Roll-up and sliding vinyl screen doors; colors
Other - Sold only through distributors; Custom sizes
Installation Time - Residential: 15-30 minutes; Commercial: 2-4 hours
Contact - www.bugbarrier.com, 800-701-4782

Product - Bug Blocker
Manufacturer - Rasco Industries, Hamel, Minn.
Producing Since - 1992
Sales Distribution - U.S. and Canada
Screen Materials - Stainless steel wire mesh in 30 mesh (30x30 lines per inch) or 12 mesh
Application - Commercial
Models - Bug Blocker Overhead Screen Door
Other - Uses stainless steel screen material for strength, corrosion protection, and easy cleaning
Installation Time - Two people, requiring 4 man-hours
Contact - www.bugblocker.com, 800-537-3802

Product - Executive by Phantom
Manufacturer - Phantom Screens, Abbotsford, British Columbia
Producing Since - 2001
Sales Distribution - U.S. and Canada; popular in Southeast and Southwest
Screen Materials - PVC-coated fiberglass mesh; 27 different mesh options
Application - Residential
Models - Three colors (white, brown, almond); custom colors available; motor options
Other - High-end target market
Installation Time - 2-1/2 to 3 hours
Contact - www.phantomscreens.com, 888-PHANTOM

Product - FlexScreen and FlexGuard, a chain mesh security screen for dock doors
Manufacturer - FlexBarrier, Norcross, Ga.
Producing Since - ca. 1995
Sales Distribution - U.S. and Canada
Screen Materials - AIB-approved PVC-coated polyester of 17x11 mesh
Application - Commercial
Models - Roll-up and sliders in motorized or manual
Other - Sold only through dealers, no direct sales
Installation Time - A 10x10 dock door takes less than four man-hours
Contact - www.flexbarrier.com, 800-277-3539

Product - Secure Screen
Manufacturer - Secure Screen Systems, Broken Arrow, Okla.
Producing Since - Jan. 1, 2003
Sales Distribution - Too early to tell
Screen Materials - PVC-coated fiberglass in 90% or 60% UV reflective
Application - Residential
Models - 3 colors
Other - Sold only through garage door professionals; ships complete in 48-pound 1'x2' box
Installation Time - 45 minutes
Contact www.secure-screen.com, 866-605-9498

Product - The “Original” Weather-Shield Automatic Roll-up Insect Control Barrier
Manufacturer - Flexon, Leetsdale, Pa.
Producing Since - 1993
Sales Distribution - U.S., in areas where summer temperatures are high and insect populations are increased
Screen Materials - Traditional PVC panel; Nylon mesh panel
Application - Commercial
Models - Automatic roll-up, manual roll-up, manual sliding
Features - Patented hinge design for Speed-Master series of high performance roll-up doors
Installation Time - 1 to 2 men about 2 hours
Contact - www.flexoninc.com, 800-365-3667

Other Manufacturers - www.freshairscreens.com, www.ruffindustries.com, www.screenamerica.com, www.screenex.com, www.williamsmfgcorp.com

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The 1960 Garage-Aire: Ahead of Its Time?

The idea of a screen garage door isn’t new. In 1960, Raynor launched Garage-Aire, an effort to convert the garage into livable floor space.

The Garage-Aire concept asked the homeowner to purchase sliding screen panels to enclose the garage in the front. The rear wall of the garage would be converted into a second Raynor garage door, adding a screened room to the back of the garage.

A full marketing blitz attempted to jump-start the concept with a sales contest, incentives, brochures, full-page ads in several magazines, and a handsome display at the 1960 National Association of Home Builders show in Chicago. At the show, American Builder magazine selected Garage-Aire as one of the 20 outstanding new products for 1960.

In spite of all the excitement, the consumer didn’t buy it. The product was dead within a year.

Caption: Garage as Dance Hall?