FiberThane began with a good idea. As a manufacturer of both carved-wood products and urethane millwork, Ekena was in an expert position to enter the balustrade market with a product unlike any other out there—a hybrid material that highlighted the advantages of both polyurethane and fiberglass. Urethane systems offer crisp architectural detail but are susceptible to damage; you can dent the foam with your fingernail. And while urethane’s lightweight density allows for delicate applications, like on balconies or rooftops, its PVC core only provides an eight-foot span. Traditional fiberglass-reinforced polymer [FRP] systems look great and feel great, but the material’s weight—more than 100 pounds per foot—limits its usefulness to ground-floor applications. FiberThane combines the two: rails and posts are constructed from pultruded fiberglass, providing durability; aluminum-and-urethane spindles are lightweight and elegant.
Our sales associates pitched the idea to management. Then Ekena used its industry connections to determine the concept’s feasibility, and the product went into private testing. Research and development took about a year and a half overall. Ekena also completed extensive market and industry research to determine the best method of installation. In the end, we developed our own QuickInstall brackets, which are stronger, easier to install, and less noticeable than traditional L-brackets. QuickInstall brackets are concealed inside the rails and almost completely hidden from sight. You don’t see them unless you know where to look.
FiberThane ships within three days—or faster. We expanded our facilities in Clarksville, Texas, to accommodate deep inventory, as is standard with all of our products. Our additional space allows for customization, too. Popular urethane systems are only available for purchase in 8-foot, 10-foot, and 12-foot sections, which can lead to significant rail waste. Ekena can trim rail lengths to exact sizes within an eighth of an inch, and we sell rails in one-foot increments. We can also predrill holes or preassemble entire full-length sections for clients.
We have no direct competition. Ekena’s balustrade product, which weighs between 14 and 22 pounds per lineal foot but can withstand the toughest commercial applications, is superior in terms of strength, durability, and utility. We also offer more [design] flexibility. Using fiberglass rails allows us to span 16-foot sections while competing urethane systems can only span eight feet before requiring a newel post or column. FiberThane provides seven custom spindle designs in 14 combinations of size, height, and style—and an additional square spindle in six combinations. In total, that’s 104 spindle options—nearly double that of the closest competitor.
FiberThane is the best balustrade system that exists in the marketplace. At a cost between $110 and $150 per lineal foot, our system is also less expensive than competing FRP or polyurethane options. We expect to break $1 million in sales the first year, [Fiberthane] growing steadily into a multimillion-dollar product for Ekena in terms of annual sales. Technically, FiberThane came onto the market at the beginning of September 2011, but we didn’t expect to sell anything until we got printed materials in the hands of our customers. In fewer than two months, without a catalog, we’d sold more than 1,000 lineal feet. ABQ