When building a new home for themselves in 1991, Tony and Edith Paarhammer encountered a problem. They couldn’t find a local supplier of energy efficient windows.

Their solution? Make their own.

Whipping up a set of double-glazed windows isn’t for everybody, but as a cabinet maker with experience of the European window market, Tony had a head start.

No more kitchens

Figuring that they weren’t the only people interested in double and triple glazed windows and doors, the Paarhammers commenced production at their joinery factory in Ballan, 80 km west of Melbourne. “We started the windows in a small way,” Edith explains. “Kitchens were the main part of the business, but about five years ago the situation reversed and we decided to concentrate on windows alone.”

To begin with, the Paarhammers needed to educate a market that was unfamiliar with double glazing. That’s changed. Now it is energy-conscious customers asking about U values and triple glazing. And it isn’t just home builders who are interested. Paarhammer services both the residential and commercial markets.

Happy employees

The company currently has 18 employees, and over the years the Paarhammers have trained more than 20 apprentices. “Our employees are our greatest asset, and we look after them with great facilities, paid outings and other benefits,” says Edith. “All of them are justifiably proud when the business receives awards or achieves industry firsts. It is only by working together that we manage to achieve those things.”

At one point the growing workforce came up against the constraint of a factory that wasn’t big enough. Financing expansion is always an issue for small businesses, but the Paarhammers overcame this hurdle and built a new 2,500 square metre factory. They moved into it in 2010 and from Ballan they service all the south-eastern states.

Sustainable core

Energy efficiency and sustainability have always been very important to Tony and Edith. In something of a rarity, the new factory and showroom is double glazed and extremely well insulated. The business has established a waste and landfill reduction system that sees all offcuts and sawdust turned into wood briquettes that are used to fire the boiler and heat the factory. Surplus briquettes are sold to the local community.

Timber is obtained from certified plantation and Forest Stewardship Council certified sources.

In the wake of Victoria’s devastating 2009 bushfires, the Paarhammers commenced self-funded research on fire-resistant windows. In recent testing, a Paarhammer window, without additional shutters or fire screens, exceeded the requirements of the new standard for buildings in the highest Bushfire Attack Level – Flame Zone. With red ironbark timber frames, special double glazing and seals, the windows survived temperatures in excess of 850oC for more than 30 minutes.

More growth ahead

The decision to invest in the larger factory has been well and truly justified. Sales are undergoing strong growth and Tony and Edith plan to double the size of the business within the next ten years.

With energy prices rising rapidly, a carbon tax looming and energy efficiency standards for new housing being tightened, that’s a growth target the Paarhammers may well exceed.


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