Making its Mark in Canada’s Window and Door Industry
Landmark Home Solutions
Landmark Home Solutions has been a family-owned business for more than twenty-five years. At first, the company catered to the Niagara area but has since expanded its reach to serve all of Ontario from its base in St. Catharines…
The company installs energy efficient, Canadian-made windows and doors that are backed by a strong warranty. We spoke to Owner Brian Mason and Marketing Manager Emily Mason to learn more.
Brian’s brother, along with a partner, started the company in 1987 in the St. Catharines area. At that time, the main part of the business was new construction, with some renovation work. The Niagara area of 1987 saw a huge boom in new construction, and business was coming in at a steady pace, however, the recession of 1992 drove prices very low, and it was hard to sell a quality product.
“That was not what the builders wanted, so a decision was made to move away from new construction and concentrate on the renovation business by going to existing homes,” says Brian.
Brian began the company in 1987 while at university and did everything from deliveries to helping in the showroom and sales. In 1993, the other partner left. The brothers have taken this business from being strictly a local entity to covering the province from Windsor to Ottawa and everywhere in between.
The quality windows provided by Landmark Home Solutions are differentiated by improved energy efficiency, although options such as paint colours and wood finishes are also available.
“We have a wide variety of glass offerings. We test in excess of fifty types of windows. Although we do consider ourselves a high-end window company, we do have something for everybody. Our main concentration now is on homeowners doing renovation projects, with very little reconstruction. Our customer is somebody that sees a benefit to having a value-added product like ours, where we can offer extensive options for their glass to make it extremely energy efficient,” explains Brian. All of the products used by Landmark are CSA tested and Energy Star program accredited.
Brian says that energy-efficient windows can be a confusing concept for homeowners. There are two ways that the government categorizes energy efficiency. One has to do with a high Energy Rating (ER) number which how it classifies the solar heat gains of a window. Windows with a high solar heat gain coefficient can contribute to passive solar heating in cooler climates. However, in the warmer months, these windows need effective shading to prevent overheating the building interior.
There is also a measurement known as the U-value or U-factor that indicates a window’s resistance to heat flow. A window with a lower U-factor has better insulating properties and prevents heat loss in cool weather.
“They try to block as much heat entry into your home as possible. It’s confusing to people because basically both government definitions of energy efficiency work in totally opposite ways, but they are both recognized to be good indicators,” says Brian.
Using these guidelines, Landmark made sure to test enough products to cover both sides of the spectrum. If people want a high ER number or a low U number, Landmark can provide either. According to Natural Resources Canada, energy-efficient windows can reduce energy bills by an average of eight percent when compared to a standard window. Brian finds that, particularly in Southern Ontario, more money is spent on energy in the summer than the winter, and there are a great deal of savings to be had.
The company also applies its products and skills to care for those in need. Landmark started working with Habitat for Humanity about two years ago. Last year in the Niagara region, seven builds were accomplished, and negotiations are underway to finish a few more depending on demand.
“We did seven of their buildings last year in which we donated all of the products and the labour for installations on all their new construction jobs. It’s a great help. A lot of companies will only discount their products, but we donated one hundred percent. We were recognized for that last year, winning the Foundation Builder Award for donating and being such a big sponsor,” says Brian. On top of donating products, Landmark even donated a whole day as a women’s build. A team of women from the head office worked to paint and install windows.
Landmark has also helped in Haiti. A client in Ajax asked Landmark if the company could donate any old doors and windows to those in need in Haiti. Recently a hurricane tore through the island, and Haiti has been hit with severe earthquakes as well, so there is a constant need for aid, in all its forms.
“We kind of fell into this, through a customer of ours. I am really excited about it. We are now on our second container of products being shipped to Haiti. I think we are going to build on this next year because it is such a great cause. We are recycling used and damaged doors and windows. I plan on doing two to four next year,” says Brian. He says this is an important project not only for the Haitians but also for Ontario. A lot of these items would just end up in landfill sites.
I Wrecked My House is a Canadian home renovation reality series that helps homeowners with poor home renovation skills. Landmark was approached by the show about being on the HGTV series. “We had never had an experience like that before, and it was a lot of fun. It was a quirky show, with a funny host that ran us ragged! We had to be prepared to be on set and have our products ready at the blink of an eye. We got lots of calls from people who watched, and in fact a lot of business as well,” explains Emily.
Competition in the sector doesn’t bother Landmark too much. The primary issue has more to do with the ease of entry into this industry. The regulations are insufficient and there is very little licensing.
“What happens, unfortunately, is that people come and go at will. This hurts the business and the industry, because it garners a bad name. It’s not about the amount of competition we are dealing with; it has more to do with the fact that newer companies do not have to adhere to any stringent regulations or testing. It makes for an uneven playing field,” explains Brian.
Brian feels that the voluntary nature of testing is not working. New companies are not participating in it, allowing them to offer lower prices. Prices vary widely, and Landmark ends up getting underbid on a frequent basis. However, the quality of work from some of these companies can be horrendous. People want low prices but do not realize that there is no follow-up service, and the installation can be subpar.
“I feel for the customers sometimes. It is a serious problem out there. We do have a Siding and Window Dealers Association (SAWDA) that is trying to effect change but I don’t see anything on the horizon that will help soon,” says Brian.
Plans for the company’s growth are twofold. Landmark already covers a large portion of the province and is now going expand its product range. Windows, doors, and gutters make up the majority of work, but some siding projects are also being done.
“We are doing more and more of that because there have been some great changes in the product. It was stale for a while as people were more into stucco, but we are starting to see that there are some really exciting siding products coming back onto the market. That is where the growth is coming from,” explains Brian.
Landmark has been expanding into the US market. It has customers there and hopes to double its business there in the next year or so. The foray into the US market began about two years ago. However, the brothers also have their own renovation company in Florida which started about ten years ago. That company does renovations, some home makeovers and sells some houses. “I think we are going to see some more of that, especially with the dollar where it is at presently.”