First-quarter net income at Georgia Gulf nearly tripled from the year ago period to $35.3 million, the company announced today. Net sales also rose 9% to $859.9 million for the quarter ended March 31.

The net income growth was aided by a pre-tax $12.4 million net benefit from gain on sale of assets, restructuring and other. A $2 million drop in income expenses for the quarter also helped the bottom line.

“These operating results were the best Georgia Gulf has reported for the first quarter in the past six years and demonstrate the company’s improvement in generating shareholder value despite marginal economic conditions and a sluggish housing market,” said Paul Carrico, the Atlanta-based company’s president and CEO.

Georgia Gulf’s building products segment, under which it products vinyl-based building and home improvement products, nearly halved its operating loss to $6.4 million. Last year’s first-quarter results included $2.4 million of transaction costs and inventory purchase accounting adjustments due to the company’s acquisition of Exterior Portfolio in February 2011. Those numbers were offset by $3.6 million reversal of non-income tax reserve. The segment also revealed a 19% improvement in sales to $187.2 million.

The manufacturer said the unit’s first-quarter operating loss was improved by higher gross margins, which was the result of higher sales volumes, better conversion costs, and the addition of Exterior Portfolio.

The company’s chlorovinyl segment posted an operating income of $51.9 million, a 38% increase over the same period last year, as net sales grew only 1% to $329.5 million. The aromatics segment saw sales rise 13% to $343.2 million as its operating loss widened to $14.8 million from $8.8 million a year ago.

“Looking at the remainder of 2012 and slightly beyond, we are cautiously optimistic that the North American housing market has started to recover after record low levels the past few years,” Carrico said.