Patio & Hearth Blog

from Patio and Hearth Products Report

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NorthCape Feeds Momentum with Avant and Richmond Collections

The Avant collection.

The Avant collection.

The new year is young, but NorthCape International is keeping up its considerable momentum with several offerings, including the transitional Avant Collection that offers a luxurious resort feel and comfort for the outdoor retreat. Customers will appreciate the collection’s versatility that fits anyone’s living space and budget.

Avant features a popular high-back design accented by trend-forward 14 mm. Aspen resin which simulates the look of wicker, yet resists the fading, staining and cracking associated with natural materials. Available in seating, dining, chat, sectional and curved sectional configurations, the clean design gives the Avant Collection a timeless quality which is sure to remain in fashion for years to come.

The Avant Collection offers a choice of alternative tabletop options including Durawood, as well as a coordinating rectangular fire table with Durawood top and wind screen that is stocked in the warehouse, ready for quick shipment. The Avant Collection features a lightweight, yet sturdy commercial-grade aluminum frame, durable UV protected HDPE woven resin and welted, headrest-style cushioning for added comfort. Dealers may also take confidence that cushions contain premium fill for superior bounce-back, and that all seams are sewn with virtually indestructible Gore® Tenara thread, further adding to the longevity of the investment.

The Richmond collection.

The Richmond collection.

Yet another collection called the Richmond creates a gracious look in any backyard with NorthCape’s new Richmond Deep Seating Collection. The Richmond Collection features elegant curves accented by a deliciously dark Truffle resin finish which simulates the look of wicker, yet resists the fading, staining and cracking associated with natural materials.

The contrasting resin width and thickness on the arms, back and skirt of each piece adds an air of sophistication while communicating comfort and hospitality, ultimately creating a collection designed for lasting enjoyment throughout the summer. The Richmond Collection features a lightweight, yet sturdy commercial-grade aluminum frame, durable UV protected HDPE woven resin and plush cushioning for added comfort.

The collection’s Truffle finish is stunning when complemented by comfortable cushions in bolstered headrest or single button style, both offered with self welt or contrasting welt. Dealers may also take confidence that cushions contain premium fill for superior bounce-back, and that all seams are sewn with virtually indestructible Gore® Tenara thread, further adding to the longevity of the investment.

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Vermont Castings Group Benefits From Acquisition

HHT_Logo_TagFour months after HNI Corp. and its Hearth & Home Technologies (HHT) business acquired Vermont Castings Group (VCG), capital is flowing into VCG as its operations become more efficient. The efficiency is part of the HHT way, and Brad Determan, president of the HHT Group (Lakeville, Minnesota) and executive vice president of HNI (Muscatine, Iowa), believes that the culture change can help VCG realize its considerable potential.

By all accounts, the headline-making acquisition came at a crucial time for VCG, a company with annual revenue of approximately $100 million that was just emerging from several years of downward-trending numbers. Ricardo Leon, previous owner of VCG, now serves as president of the company. “VCG was in a steady decline from 2006 to 2013. In 2014, we saw that decline stop—and actually go up,” Leon says.

Brad Determan

Brad Determan

The uptick caught the attention of Determan, who ultimately pulled the trigger on the acquisition. “The last years of VCG’s existence, prior to our acquisition, were pretty tumultuous,” he says. “We think it is now headed in the right direction. What Ricardo has been doing is correct and aligned with what we believe in doing. VCG is now a stand-alone company, and it will remain that way for the foreseeable future.”

No employees have lost jobs as a result of the deal, and while Leon and Determan hope to keep it that way, they are committed to streamlining operations, particularly when it comes to VCG’s two Vermont sites. VCG has three locations: a 300,000–square-foot facility in Paris, Kentucky; a foundry in Randolph, Vermont; and an assembly/enamel facility in Bethel, Vermont.

“The two Vermont facilities are 10 miles apart,” Leon explains. “The plan there has been to consolidate those facilities into the foundry in Randolph. Right now, however, the focus is on keeping the businesses running, making them more efficient, and (ultimately) consolidating that footprint. In the meantime, the course for 2015 and 2016 is to keep doing what we’re doing.”

As both parties attempt to keep what works and improve elsewhere, executives at HHT have taken a hard look at their new brands—and they love what they see. “It’s not so much that VCG’s Majestic and Monessen brands strengthen our core brands; it’s more that they complement our product suite very well,” Determan says. “The VCG brand has a deep heritage in wood stoves. Majestic still maintains the number-three position among builders, and that complements our Heatilator and Heat & Glo brands, which are number one and number two.”

The overall infusion of human resources and money into the VCG brand gives HHT the valuable opportunity to serve more customers with more brands. As HHT is a publicly traded company with a core growth strategy, the acquisition came at the right time for it (and for the market).

“HHT was also a customer of VCG, which provided for some of its cast-iron needs through our foundry in Randolph,” Leon says. “In 2013, HHT could see our focus. It saw the progress, the commitment, and the fact that we were rededicating ourselves. Meanwhile, the housing market is recovering, unemployment is dropping, and consumer confidence is increasing. These broader macroeconomic indicators are positive factors that we can capitalize on through HHT’s help in improving our manufacturing, supply chain, and overall execution.”

Ricardo Leon

Ricardo Leon

He continues, “Maybe the best things have been the new leadership and our change of focus from cash, cost, and customer to quality, delivery, cost, and safety. We are also improving our safety procedures with more formality. Add to all that the capital investments in the foundry for new equipment and focusing on getting organized, sequenced, and scheduled. Ultimately, it’s great to have a partner like HHT.”

Marketing at HPBExpo
Specialty retailers and builders are still digesting the acquisition, but the initial reaction has been “better than expected,” Determan says. He attributes the feedback to HHT’s previous acquisitions, which have gone smoothly. “There is always nervousness and apprehension around these kinds of transactions,” he says. “One of the reasons it has been good is our track record. We say what we intend to do, and we do what we say. We are a collection of brands that has been built partially by acquisition and partially by organic growth. We take pride in being a successful family of brands with ex-owners running around, having fun.”

Leon adds, “We announced this to our customers by hosting a conference call. There was some apprehension: Are they going to dump brands? Now, there is an expectation that we are going to become stronger and better. We’re now playing in the big leagues, and we expect the game to get better. I’ll learn a lot more when I’m at HPBExpo in Nashville, Tennessee, because I’ll spend a lot of time talking with customers.”

Beyond the brands and their facilities, Determan is most excited about VCG’s capable employees, all of whom are now part of HHT and its HNI parent corporation. He says, “With a bit of support and some lean methodologies, I am excited to see the talent emerge and to watch them grow. These people are great. It’s true that there is a significant amount of change underway. Our business philosophy centers around lean principles; the VCG people are sort of drinking from a fire hose right now, but they are doing well and moving quickly in the right direction.”

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Understanding BTUs

by Paul Nigon, western US Sales Manager, The Outdoor Great Room Company

Let’s get technical. Today we’re talking BTUs and what that really means when it comes to your gas fire pit. British Thermal Units (or BTUs) are described as a unit of energy required to heat or cool one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

But perhaps a more relevant description of BTU’s for a fire pit or outdoor decorative appliance is that the greater the BTU the more flame and the more heat the fire pit or appliance will generate.  BTU output will generally range from 30,000 to 100,000 on a fire pit or outdoor decorative appliance.  Therefore, the higher the BTU, the more warmth you will feel from the fire.

Glass_Burn2The flame appearance and height on a burner is affected by a number of things besides the BTU:
1) The amount of primary air mixed with the gas before it is burned will affect the overall color and flame height. The more primary air the bluer the flame color will become and the shorter the flame will be. It will also be a cleaner and higher temperature flame. More primary air is added by opening the air shutter more at the orifice location. Less primary air is done by closing the air shutter. This causes a brighter yellow flame and  a taller flame. But closed too much and you will have a sooty dirty flame. While cleaner than a wood fire it still can be dangerous due to CO2 generated.
2) Larger orifice hole means more BTUs to the burner, assuming all else is the same.
3) Higher gas pressure means more BTUs to the burner, again assuming all else is the same.
4) Natural gas (1000 BTU/ft3) has less BTUs per cubic foot than LP (liquid propane)(2500 btu/ft3)
5) Natural gas typically is used at 3.5 to 7 inches of water column
6) LP is used typically at 10-11 inches of water column.

Natural gas and LP are sold by the BTU, so the more BTUs a burner uses per hour the more it will cost to burn the appliance. So all in all, while you generally want a high BTU measure for your gas fire pit or fireplace, other factors are also important to consider when purchasing the right fire pit for you!

Paul Nigon is Western US Sales Manager, The Outdoor Great Room Company. This blog originally appeared HERE on the Outdoor Great Room Company Website.

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BestHeating Offers BTU Calculator

Picture 1The folks at have created a simple heat output (BTU) calculator. The BTU Radiator Heat Output Calculator adds up those “British Thermal Units” — the unit in which radiator efficiency is measured. Factors such as room dimensions, window size and wall material are used to calculate the required outputs of radiators, to adequately heat a room.

The best way to get an accurate calculation is to enlist the services of a plumber. However, Best Heating’s BTU Calculator is an accurate guide as to what level of BTU and Watt output will efficiently heat a room. Note: the calculated figure is for the combined heat output of all radiators and/or towel rails in the room (larger rooms may require more than one).

Click Here to access the calculator.