Glass and Glazing Work

SIC 1793

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category is comprised of establishments primarily engaged in cutting, coating, tinting, and installing glass. Companies that install automotive glass are described in SIC 7536: Automotive Glass Replacement Shops.

This $6.2 billion industry consists of thousands of contractors employing fewer than 10 workers and a few companies offering a range of services. Common industry activities include installing plate glass in storefronts and other commercial buildings, cutting and installing windowpanes for homes, and tinting windows. Other niche markets exist for firms that install revolving glass doors; cut and install mirrors and safety glass; create custom glass doors, signs, shelves, and glass tabletops; or cut and install architectural and ornamental custom glass work.

According to Dun and Bradstreet, the U.S. glass and glazing work industry included 5,902 establishments employing 50,498 workers in 2010. Seventy-five percent of firms employed fewer than 10 workers. Almost two-thirds of glaziers worked for contractors on new construction, alteration, and repair projects. About 10 percent of glaziers worked in retail glass shops that install or replace glass and for wholesale distributors of products containing glass.

Glaziers held 54,100 jobs in 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and employment opportunities were expected to increase eight percent between 2008 and 2018. Reasons for the increase included the projected growth of residential and nonresidential construction that emphasizes glass exteriors, as well as continued demand for modernizing and repairing existing structures, which often involves installing new windows. Installations of specialized safety glass and glass coated with protective laminates were also expected to increase on commercial and government buildings, for security and to withstand inclement weather.

Residential projects include installing and replacing glass in home windows and home interiors. Commercial projects can involve installing or replacing room dividers, security windows, storefront windows, and major construction of commercial buildings where glaziers build metal frameworks and install glass panels or curtain walls.

Although glass was invented in about 4000 B.C., it was not until the early twentieth century that advancements in manufacturing technology made it inexpensive and widely available. In 1900, the use of glass was primarily limited to windows, mirrors, optical lenses, and containers. During the early and mid-1900s, however, glass applications proliferated. As the U.S. economy boomed after World War II, the demand for glass by commercial, institutional, and residential sectors ballooned, spurring growth in the glass installation and glazing industry.

By the mid-1980s, the United States was consuming about $2 billion worth of nonautomotive flat glass, much of which was installed by contractors in the glass and glazing industry. Approximately 80 percent of that glass was used by construction industries, with the remainder used to make signs, mirrors, solar panels, and other specialty products.

A recession in commercial and residential building markets in the early 1990s curtailed glass shipments and cut the need for glass installation contractors. U.S. glass demand plummeted eight percent per year between 1990 and 1992, to less than $1.5 billion, as building contractors faced a major economic setback. Glass contractors also suffered as trends in architectural design moved away from the expensive glass office enclosures and glass buildings so popular the decade before.

However, the sustained economic recovery in residential housing that began in 1992 continued past the middle part of the decade, spurring renewed demand for glass contractors. The economic recession of the early 2000s prompted a slowdown in commercial and industrial construction, undercutting the performance of the glass industry as a whole. Nonresidential construction spending dropped by six percent in 2003 as even the strongest sectors, such as healthcare construction, began to see previously rapid growth rates slow. Spending on office building construction slowed considerably, to roughly $43 billion in 2002 and $39 billion in 2003. Spending on industrial buildings in the United States had declined 13.8 percent in 1999 to $32.6 billion, then continued to deteriorate at a slower pace, falling 1.7 percent in 2000 and another 3.2 percent in 2001 to $31.1 billion. However, strong residential construction, spurred by record low interest rates, helped offset this decline somewhat for glass manufacturers.

The slump in nonresidential construction appeared to end in 2005, following a combined new construction and replacement gain of about 10 percent over 2003. According to research from the Freedonia Group, this gain was made up of 32.4 percent from storefront systems, 30.4 percent from site-fabricated windows, 21.0 percent from shop-fabricated windows, and 16.2 percent curtain wall.

In addition to installations of specialized safety glass and glass coated with protective laminates for improved security and strength against inclement weather, industry trends in the first decade of the 2000s included greater use of skylights and windows in residences and increasing demand for energy-saving glass, safety glass, and protective glazing on glass used in government buildings.

In 2008, the United States began to show signs of serious economic distress, and by 2009, the country was in the midst of the worst economic recession since the 1930s. The U.S. credit market froze, the banking industry floundered, and, as a result, the housing market plummeted. In 2009, new housing starts reached their lowest level in 50 years. Construction and construction-related industries were severely impacted. For example, window and door shipments in 2009 declined by 20 percent, according a report by the American Architectural Manufacturers Association and the Window & Door Manufacturers Association (AAMA/WDMA).

According to the 2009-2010 AAMA/WDMA U.S. Industry Statistical Review and Forecast, window and door products declined nearly 45 percent over a five-year period. The windows for new construction segment was off by 67 percent, and remodeling and replacement business declined by 24.4 percent. Among the top 50 glazier companies in 2009, 55 percent reported a loss in 2009 compared to 2008. The average decline in revenues was 19.4 percent, according to the annual list compiled by Glass Magazine. Among the top 10 companies, only one reported an increase in sales in 2009, and among the other nine, the reported losses averaged 11.3 percent compared to 2008.

Although the economy had begun to show signs of recovery by mid-2010, according to a report in Glass Magazine, project delays and cancellations remained abnormally high. Normally running around five percent, project delays and cancellations for the second quarter of 2010 were still an estimated 18 percent. Nonetheless, industry insiders pointed to positive growth in new housing starts during 2010, albeit starting from rock-bottom numbers. New housing starts were expected to more than double between 2009 and 2013, from 600,000 to more than 1.6 million (although still below the two million mark reached in 2004 and 2005). The home repair/improvement market moved downward in 2009 but trended upward during the first half of 2010. Although slower to show improvement in 2010, the home repair/improvement sector was expected to grow more rapidly than the new housing segment through 2013.

Several thousand small contractors perform the bulk of work in this industry, and several large firms handle more large-scale projects. According to Glass Magazine, the four largest glaziers in the United States in 2009 were Permasteelisa North America, headquartered in Windsor, Connecticut, with 1,000 employees; Enclos Corp., headquartered in Eagan, Minnesota, with 225 employees; Benson Industries LLC, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, with 621 employees; and Harmon Inc, headquartered in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, with 540 employees. These top tier companies have revenues between $200 million and $300 million annually. Glaziers with revenues between $100 million and $200 million include Walters & Wolf (Fremont, California), Trainor Glass (Alsip, Illinois), W & W Glass (Nanuet, New York), and Haley-Greer, Inc. (Dallas).

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