Interior window wall | out-swing door | lake view
Inside lake view window wall with an operating out-swing door

Hope’s and Crittall have been around since the earliest parts of last century. They are household names that have dominated the market for years. They make excellent products, but are they the only option? Are they the best option, for that matter? Not necessarily.

2Fold®’s sashes are fully welded into strong frames with a visual sightline of only 1”. This is smaller than any of the alternative systems available today. Additionally, 2Fold®’s thermal performance is unmatched and has a more pleasing interior finish.

We’ll discuss how this is done, but first, let’s take a look at the history of Hope’s and Crittall.

The History and Competition of Hope’s & Crittall

During the 1990’s there was quite a squabble between Hope’s Architectural (predecessor to Hope’s Windows) of Jamestown, NY and Crittall of the UK. Hope’s claim “Since 1818” conflicted with the actual history. Their histories are intertwined and go back to the Henry Hope Company, in the early 19th century.  Crittall had the direct corporate history— dating back to Henry Hope.  “Hope’s” of NY— descended through International Windows. This was a sales arm of “Hope’s England”. The end result was that Hope’s had to stop making the claim.

Legal squabbling aside, the history of both companies dates back to the development of hot-rolled steel. This was developed as an alternative to cast iron used to make the train tracks needed to move coal. This was essential to the industrial revolution. Cast iron was very brittle and prone to cracking, while hot-rolled steel was more ductile and resistant to cracking.  Once this technology was discovered, the process of using progressive rolling dies (to form red-hot steel into intricate shapes) found its way to the making of window sash profiles.

The First Appearance of Hot-Rolled Steel Windows

Hot-rolled steel windows can be found throughout castles and estates of England and the US.  From the 1930s through the 1950s, steel windows were manufactured in both the US and England. The windows were then shipped in standard sizes to warehouses for fast delivery.  Rusting became a problem because the windows were either unpainted or sprayed with a simple primer. With no surface preparation rusting was inevitable.

These windows and doors can be found on many tract houses, high-rise apartment buildings, and commercial buildings all over both countries.  In their day, they were considered commodity windows.

Out with the Steel and In with the Thermally Broken

Starting in the 1960s, steel windows and doors were overtaken in the market by aluminum and wood. A further innovation came after in the form of thermally broken aluminum windows and doors. The hot-rolled steel window and door market faced extinction due to increased cost, poor thermal performance, and maintenance issues. In the late 1980s and 1990s, Crittall and Hope’s began to make significant headway in the modern architecture market. Because of their thin sightlines and technological improvements in their systems, they were no longer what had become prison or “factory windows”.

…Thermal What?

Weatherstripping, zinc based undercoating, snap-on glazing beads, and insulated glass became the way for modern steel windows to compete against other window systems. These two players kept forcing one another to continue innovating.  Up until the early 90s almost all hot-rolled steel window bars were made in low-tech factories in Birmingham, England. That is when Montanstahl of Switzerland entered the picture and began implementing processes developed by Wolfgang Stumm, the genius son of the founder.  The new profiles were rolled from rods rather than slabs and came out of the rolling mills straight and without most of the imperfections of the British steel. To this day they still dominate the market for hot-rolled steel bars.

In the late 1980s, Harry Framback of Skyline Windows developed a thermally broken aluminum window system called Designline 90. This system simulated the dimensions and “look” of historical hot-rolled steel windows.  During this development, I was the Director of Special Projects for Skyline. Harry was my partner and we spent countless hours brainstorming solutions to the design issues that came up.

This was a fun time and Skyline prospered from the development. This alternative is still being manufactured by Skyline and can be found throughout New York City where they are based. Other manufacturers have knocked off the design and many alternatives to the Designline alternative to real hot-rolled steel windows are available.

Soon after, a number of German, Swiss, and Italian cold-rollers began to make similar profiles out of very thin steel. These were about the thickness of Tonka toys (if you are old enough to remember) bent and folded while cold into intricate, tubular shapes. These products are still produced as lower cost alternatives to true, hot-rolled steel windows and doors.

The Drawbacks of Hot-Rolled Steel Windows and Doors

One of the biggest criticisms of hot-rolled steel windows and doors is thermal performance. Hope’s and Crittall always preached that steel does not conduct heat and cold as much as aluminum and consequently did not need thermal breaks.  The truth of the matter is, they had no idea how to thermally break the hot-rolled bars so that was a convenient truth to promote. The cold-rolled counterparts came up with double sections and plastic separators to solve the problem, but true hot-rolled profiles were left without a solution until the early 2010s.

Wolfgang Stumm of Montanstahl once again entered the picture. He developed a technology of laser welding receptor channels onto laser cut steel flats and joining them with stiff fiberglass insulators. This mimicked traditional hot-rolled steel bars.  I was very fortunate to have been invited into this development. The resulting product was called ThermalSteel, a term I coined.

While my joint venture with them came to an end, they still manufacture bars that use this technology. In fact, several US and European companies are producing windows and doors using this technology.

Hope’s in the last few years, having rejected the Montanstahl technology in the early 2010s, developed their own thermally broken system. They used plastic shapes to cover hot-rolled steel bars in order to have an offering in this category.  I could expound on this system for hours, needless to say, I am not fond of this approach.

Thermally responsible steel windows and doors are now available from many, many companies using hot-rolled or cold-rolled methods to produce their windows and doors.  Having been intimately involved with the development of both aluminum and hot-rolled thermally improved window and door systems, I set out to take a radical departure from both methods and created 2Fold® which is currently patent pending.

Why 2Fold® is the Best Alternative to Crittall and Hope’s

2Fold® utilizes hot-rolled steel sheet, laser cut and bent into structural shapes to form the basis of the system.  The sashes (moving door part) are fully welded into strong frames and have a visual sightline of only 1”. This is smaller than any of the alternative systems available today. Thermal performance and a more pleasing interior finish is provided through the use of Accoya® the most stable and responsibly grown wood in the world.

I am very proud of this development and hope that you and your colleagues soon discover the benefits of 2Fold®.