By Theresa Coleman
Decorative door hardware upgrades are getting a handle on the housing market. Selling deadbolts and multi-lock systems has long been a natural way to upgrade hardware, especially when one out of 10 homes is burglarized each year, according to the National Crime Prevention Council in Washington, D.C.
But these days, your customers are looking for a whole lot more than protection. "Hardware seems to be going from functional to more decorative, and the extra money does not seem to be a problem," says Bob Swan, assistant manager of Millard Lumber in Omaha, Neb. Adds Don Smyth Jr. of Smyth Lumber in Orlando, Fla.: "Many homeowners want something a little different, something that no one else on their block has."
So, boosting hardware options is an easy way for contractors to increase sales and profits. Possibilities abound throughout the house. The average new 2,000-square-foot home has about two dozen doors, which translates into plenty of hardware upgrade opportunities. Offering lots of options has worked well for Alton, N.H.-based JP Builders. Almost a third of the firm's clients request fancy hardware, says president Jim Parandes. Adds dealer Smyth: "When customers are offered more selections, they tend to upgrade their hardware, mainly on the front door."
These days, higher-priced hardware is a standard feature for some builders. "A few years ago, we began specifying the tarnish-resistant finish on all exterior locks, and the customer response was very positive," says David C. Nelson, director of national purchasing for Denver-based Richmond American Homes.
In terms of finishes, tarnish-resistant hardware is taking over the metal market. When Building Products reviewed door hardware in 1998, the magazine found just three manufacturers making products with guaranteed lifetime finishes. Now it's difficult to find a company that doesn't make such a product. About 50 percent of the brass locks Smyth Lumber installs sport a lifetime finish. Brass, in fact, is the dealer's best seller. Without protection, Smyth says, "we guarantee brass to tarnish. Due to the extreme temperatures and humidity, it just does not last long at all."
Even though brass is popular, not all customers are excited about it. "If we could have an option that would totally eliminate brass from the home, many of our buyers would take it," says interior designer Kimberly Castro of Houston-based David Weekley Homes. David Weekley sells lots of hardware upgrades, with nickel being the most popular, Castro says.
Smyth is seeing a change in Orlando's finish preferences, too. "We are beginning to sell more rustic hardware and Old World iron hardware," he says, adding that nickel also is a big hit.
[This article is a reprint from BUILDING PRODUCTS Magazine, March/April 2001.]