Ply Gem Inc. reported today its net loss for the fourth quarter improved to $15.2 million from a year-earlier $19.6 million on a 9.9% rise in net sales to $242.4 million.

Gross profit grew 8.8% to $49.9 million at the Cary, N.C.-based manufacturer of home building products, but selling, general, and administrative expenses increased 9.4% to $34.9 million. On the other hand, interest expenses shrank 14.2% to $24.9 million.

Ply Gem prefers to measure its performance in terms of adjusted EBITDA, which it defines as net income (loss) plus interest expense (net of interest income), provision (benefit) for income taxes, depreciation and amortization, non-cash foreign currency gain/(loss), customer inventory buybacks, restructuring and integration costs, write-off of previously capitalized offering costs, environmental remediation, and gain (loss) on modification or extinguishment of debt. By that count, adjusted EBITDA rose 7.3% in the fourth quarter to $23.7 million from $22.1 million in the year-earlier period.

For all 2011, Ply Gem swung to an $84.5 million net loss from 2010's $27.7 million net profit even as sales rose 3.9% to $1.03 billion. The major difference between the two years is that in 2010, Ply Gem recorded a $98.2 million gain on the modification or extinguishment of its debt, while in 2011 it had a $27.9 million loss in that category. Operating earnings for 2011 decreased to $44.9 million from 2010's $56.8 million, a change the company said reflects "increased commodity costs that were not fully offset within the year and higher selling, general and administrative expense"

Ply Gem president and CEO Gary Robinette noted the company increased sales despite weak home sales. 

"Our fourth-quarter 2011 sales were up 9.9% over the same period in 2010 and sales for the first two months of 2012 have been even stronger relative to the same period in 2011," Robinette said in a statement. "However it is still too early to tell how much of the positive performance may be attributable to the favorable weather conditions that have been experienced across much of the country. As such, we will continue our focus on maintaining a lean overall cost structure while striving to outperform the market across all of our product categories."

Ply Gem products a variety of exterior building products, including siding, windows, doors, and stone facing.