As part of our conversations with Canadian wood products manufacturers, installation has regularly been raised as a concern. This was also evident when The Conference Board of Canada interviewed and surveyed companies for our most recent labor market study.
In the report they noted “businesses that produce high-end products often express concern about using third parties to install their products. Employers have noted that sub-standard installations not only reduce the quality of final products but they also detract from the reputation of their brand. Furthermore poor installations can reduce the useful life of an advanced wood product, which then could require frequent and costly replacement of products that are often under warranty. However, business owners also indicated that it is very difficult to hire enough installation staff, making third-party installations a necessity. This partly explains the perception of a growing skills gap for installers. To manage the risks of third party installations, business expressed a growing desire to use their own staff wherever possible.”
As one approach, window industry stakeholders have developed, under the leadership of Fenestration Canada, the Fenestration Canada Installer Certification Program, to provide assurance that an individual possesses the competencies necessary to perform the job function of a Fenestration Canada Installer. It was officially launched on January 12, 2019. Fenestration Canada, the national trade association for the fenestration industry (formerly Canadian Window and Door Manufacturers Association) supports its members by providing education, networking and technical resources. They also connect industry stakeholders and address regulatory issues that affect their members. With both building and energy codes and requirements to deal with across many jurisdictions, they keep busy on this front.
The installer certification is designed to complement specifier requirements (specifiers/homeowners wishing to add certification as an installation requirement or companies wishing to add certification as a job pre-requisite) and other accreditation programs offered by other regional or national verification bodies. The association has partnered with Building Professionals from Winnipeg to administer this program to installers across Canada. Passing the installer certification exam will show that a candidate has the knowledge, skills and decision-making abilities necessary to install, service and replace factory assembled windows, exterior doors and skylights that are intended for installation in low-rise buildings and buildings used primarily for residential occupancy (up to three stories).
The exam will also confirm candidates have the appropriate knowledge and skill to assure the installation meets all the manufacturer and standards requirements. Their qualifications show that an installer, without assistance, can read, understand and apply codes and standards; the latest construction and building technologies; construction documentation, including drawings and written specifications; manufacturers’ instructions and requirements; the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) A440.4 Window Installation standard, along with industry best practices and building science concepts; as well as local and regional climactic requirements.
Certified installers will be periodically reassessed to ensure they remain up to date on technical developments and industry changes. Successful candidates can utilize the appropriate materials, installation methods and maintenance tools required for the proper installation of factory assembled exterior doors, windows and unit skylights in residential settings three-stories or less. They also show they have a basic knowledge of math and geometry, and show competency in basic work site Occupational Health and Safety Requirements. There
are a couple of prerequisites for certification – that candidates have 1,000 hours of hands-on work experience within the past three years and successful completion of the certification exam, which has a pass rate of 70 per cent. A number of manufacturers and training organizations throughout Canada offer training courses
for those interested in becoming a certified installer.
Installer certification was originally a CSA initiative, but was moved to the association, which revamped the program. It is voluntary, not mandatory. There is no formal regulatory “push,” however, some home builders who were not satisfied in the past with the quality of some of the installations they were getting, and were experiencing issues like water leakage, have taken notice. They want and value trained installers, and some are willing to treat installation like another trade on the building site. Even if it might cost more to get certified installers, the possibility of reduced callbacks and risk is attractive. There are (and have been) some builders who insist on a “sell and install” combination from those who they are sourcing their windows, and some window producers have been doing their own training and certification for a while now. There are also some consumers in the replacement window market that are helping to drive the demand for the program.
Fenestration Canada also developed a product certification program several years back. It was a program that allowed companies to get independent third-party verification of their claims on air, water and structural performance. Interestingly, this program moved in the opposite direction, from the association to CSA, as it was in large part a marketing program. It proved to consumers that businesses were willing to let an independent third party confirm that they had met their stated performance claims. It was decided that consumers would much more easily recognize a CSA certification as opposed to an industry association certification, so the program was moved to CSA. This program too is a voluntary program. CSA currently provides testing and certification and energy efficiency verification services against AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440 – North American Fenestration Standard/Specification (NAFS) standards for windows, doors, and skylights; CSA A440S1 – The Canadian supplement to North American Fenestration Standard, CSA A440.2 – Fenestration Energy Performance. They also house the CAN/CSA A440.4-2018: Window, Door, and Skylight Installation.
Natural Resources Canada offers the ENERGY STAR program. They tell consumers that windows, doors and skylights can be a significant source of energy loss in the home - up to 35 per cent - which in Canada’s climate, means higher energy bills. Choosing highly efficient models can help. Replacing all of one’s windows with ENERGY STAR certified models could save an average of eight per cent on energy bill. Doors, windows, and skylights when installed properly, can keep a residence from losing heat or having to deal with leaks. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “heat gain and heat loss through windows are responsible for 25 to 30 per cent of residential heating and cooling energy use.”
Natural Resources Canada says ENERGY STAR Most Efficient models are the “best of the best” – up to 40 per cent more efficient than standard windows. Buying ENERGY STAR certified doors and skylights will complement a consumer’s windows purchase and help you save even more energy. The familiar ENERGY STAR symbol makes it easy to identify the best energy performers on the market and their certified products meet strict technical specifications for energy performance – tested and certified.
Energy issues are on the minds of both regulators and consumers. The ENERGY STAR program aims to allow manufacturers that have the top performers in window energy efficiency to use their mark. However, because consumers are so interested in energy efficiency, and often equate ENERGY STAR windows with the “best” windows, they are driving most companies to reach similar performance levels. The result is that Energy Star has to make their requirements even more stringent at the end of a 5-year cycle. ENERGY STAR reminds consumers not to forget about the installation and to choose, if possible, a company that is in the Window Wise certification program. They say that a poorly installed window, door or skylight may cause condensation; cold drafts or even allow water to leak into your home. And the damage water causes is usually invisible until it is very costly to fix.
Window Wise is a quality assurance program, offered by the Siding and Window Dealers Association of Canada (SAWDAC). It trains installers to install windows and doors correctly and is designed to give Canadian homeowners peace of mind that the products they’re buying, and the tradespeople installing them, are of the highest quality, knowing that no matter what happens to the window manufacturer or the contractor they are protected by an industry-backed guarantee. The Window Wise certification program is for replacement window manufacturers and installations contractors. Window Wise independently audits and certifies contractors and window manufacturers and conducts comprehensive window installation training seminars for installers.
SAWDAC notes that in the window replacement industry, there are some poorly trained installers, poor quality products, and companies that don’t service what they sell. A Window Wise quality assured and energy efficient window installation offers a level of confidence not available anywhere else. It includes amongst other things a full five-year transferable guarantee; a trained, certified window dealer and window installation contractor; random job inspections to ensure contractor workmanship and customer service; high quality, energy star efficient windows along with registration of your window replacement job ensuring all product and installation criteria have been met.
There are some interesting approaches out there to address critical issues for the window and door industry.