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Southeast: Gimme shelter

BY Brae Canlen

One of the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina has been a rush of new building codes in southern Louisiana and Mississippi. Among other mandates, cities and counties are requiring that new housing built in “velocity zones” can withstand high winds.

But Gulf Coast home builders need only look east, to the state of Florida, where local authorities have laid down some of the most stringent hurricane-related codes. Window and door manufacturers have responded by making impact-resistant products, windows and patio doors that can withstand a brick flying at 35 mph.

“It might shatter the glass, but it won’t break through,” explained Mark Gallant, vp-marketing of Atrium Windows and Doors. “A hole creates pressure, and that’s what blows the roof off. The house goes from moderate damage to total destruction.”

Impact-resistant windows come in different DP ratings, which stands for “design pressure,” or the amount of pressure a window can take on a per foot basis. Atrium’s line, which comes in vinyl and aluminum, can meet the code requirements of Dade and Broward counties and the Greater Miami area—the most stringent in Florida.

Headquartered in Dallas, Atrium also makes impact-resistant glass patio doors as well as storm shutters.

Impact-resistant windows aren’t cheap—on average, they cost three times as much as windows with conventional glass—and many builders choose to use exterior shutters instead. In Florida, some builders will satisfy the code requirements by leaving behind pre-cut pieces of plywood that can be slotted into the windows before a hurricane comes.

But shutters also cut off natural light, adding a sense of foreboding to residents who already feel trapped.

“If you’re in the path of a hurricane, the last thing you want to do is sit in the dark,” said Brian Hedlund, product marketing manager for Jeld-Wen. That’s one reason why the Klamath Falls, Ore.-based manufacturer is selling into the window replacement as well as new construction market. Jeld-Wen’s wood, vinyl and aluminum impact-resistant windows are sold through home center channels in parts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Homeowners like the hassle-free aspect of impact-resistant windows, which don’t need to be installed every time a hurricane warning is issued.

“They’re tired of putting up shutters or nailing plywood to the windows, especially on the second story,” Hedlund said.

But Hedlund and other manufacturers concede that building codes drive most of the demand. Peachtree Doors and Windows, which makes an extensive line of impact-resistant products, is trying to stay ahead of the codes with an entry door that can withstand gale winds. The door, part of Peachtree’s StaySafe Line, is due out in February.

“It’s a gray area with inspectors,” said brand manager Jeff Kibler. While impact standards exist for glass, Kibler said, “We’re going to certify the entire system, the panel and the frame configuration. People are going to be requiring it, and we wanted to get out in front of that.”

Therma-Tru released a line of impact-resistant entry doors this year that are rated for “High Velocity Hurricane Zones.” The fiberglass doors contain a steel plate beneath their skins and come in a range of styles.

Silver Line’s “WeatherStopper” windows and patio doors use a special glass made by DuPont to withstand bomb blasts as well as hurricanes. DuPont also supplies tough plastic inner layers to a number of manufacturers of impact-resistant windows. And earlier this year, at the International Builders’ Show, DuPont exhibited its own hurricane-related product: a self-contained storm shelter that can be installed in a closet or garage. The StormRoom, its walls reinforced with Kevlar, is bolted to the foundation of an existing house or can be installed during new construction.

Consumers can purchase a StormRoom for $6,000 to $10,000, installed. But Dupont is also selling into the new construction market by tapping into hurricane-related building codes—in this case, requirements that homes provide a safe haven beyond impact-resistant windows.

“More and more high-density communities are requiring a ‘shelter in place,’ ” said Chris Anderson, a product manager for Dupont’s Building Innovations division. He pointed to Nocatee, Fla., outside of Jacksonville, where local authorities determined that egress roads couldn’t support a quick and orderly evacuation from a new Toll Brothers development.

The solution? Toll Brothers included a DuPont StormRoom in every home.

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Lumber Liquidators closes IPO

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Toano, Va.-based specialty hardwood flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators has closed its initial public offering.

The company offered 10 million shares of common stock at a price of $11 per share, including 3.8 million shares offered by the company and 6.2 million shares offered by selling stockholders.

The company intends to use the net proceeds of approximately $36.4 million from the offering to repay outstanding debt and support the growth of the business, which includes plans for 25 stores in 2007, followed by 30 to 40 new stores per year until 2011.

Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch acted as joint book-running managers with Lehman Brothers, Banc of America Securities and Piper Jaffray serving as co-managers for the offering.

Lumber Liquidators has seen same-store sales growth of 8.5 percent to 9 percent each quarter this year. According to the company’s S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, in 2006 Lumber Liquidators had sales of $332 million, up 35 percent from sales of $245 million in 2005.

The retailer currently operates 111 small-format stores in the United States. The company is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “LL.”

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NKT Holdings withdraws initial public offering

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Providence, R.I.-based HVAC company NTK Holdings has canceled its initial public offering according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this week.

The company said that the application was withdrawn “due to the unsettled market conditions.” The company had planned to use the IPO proceeds to repay debt.

The announcement was part of Nortek’s third-quarter earnings statement. Nortek, which reported a 4 percent increase in sales, is a subsidiary of NKT.

The company reported net earnings of $37.6 million for the period ended Sept. 29, down 44.9 percent from last year’s earnings of $67.7 million in the same period last year. Nortek also reported net sales of $602 million, up 4 percent from $579 million last year.

NTK Holdings manufactures air conditioning, heating ventilation and home environmental control technology products.

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