Do I Need A FENSA Certificate?
August 24, 2019
There have been alot of TV ads in our area recently promoting an organisation call Fensa. This is a trade body that runs a scheme installers can sign up to which allows them to self-certify their fenestration installation work. Scheme members, who pay a subscription, then issue – via their scheme administrator – a Building Regulations Certificate to their Clients.
The ad, in our opinion, gives the impression householders must choose a Fensa installer because this is the only choice. But Fensa are just one of several organisations that run such schemes.
BUILDING REGULATIONS CERTIFICATION
Since 2002 a Building Regulations Certificate is required by law for all replacement windows, doors, rooflights and roof windows installations. This is to ensure compliance with thermal, impact and fire escape regulations. Compliance is not only important to give yourself peace of mind, but is essential when you come to sell your home within a certain timescale (currently 5 years) following the replacement works. Your certificate, issued by the local authority, is one of the thing the buyer’s solicitor will ask for.
There are various ways in which a householder can get certification:
- Apply to your local authority’s Building Control department. For a fee, you make an application prior to the works being carried out. Once completed, an officer will inspect the works, sign it off and issue a certificate.
- Use an independent consultant. This operates as above, but he does all the work. He will do the paperwork, the inspection and get the certificate sent to you. Costs vary, but are not much more than going to your local authority. As long as you use a competent installer who knows what he’s doing, this method is usually, in my experience, easier and less hassle in comparison to option 1.
- Ensure your installer is registered on a self-certification scheme. According to information on the Competent Person Scheme on www.gov.uk there are several of these schemes, including Fensa, Certass, Blue Flame Certification, Certsure, NAPIT, ASSURE and Stroma. The most well-known is Fensa (fensa.org.uk), because they’re the largest and have been around a while. But others, such as Certass (certass.co.uk) are arguably just as good.
PROS & CONS: SELF-CERTIFICATION
Self-certification is the most common when it comes to replacement windows and doors. That’s fine, but whilst these schemes are run by companies who vet applicants before they are accepted, and they are supposed to carry out spot checks on their members’ work each year, the checks are not particularly onerous and a majority of their members’ work is not independently assessed. This is not an issue with some companies (like those we deal with) who are professional, efficient and conscientious. But with others, especially in the ‘sell it quick, sell it cheap’ side of the industry (which, unfortunately, seems to be most of it, and has given it a bad name), this can lead to laziness and shoddy standards.
PROS & CONS: LOCAL AUTHORITY or INDEPENDENT BUILDING CONTROL
Whilst a bit more hassle and/or more expensive, this is truly independent and any issues with your installation will be pointed out, whereas some self-certified companies might makes mistakes (such as installing glazing units the wrong way round) and not bother to put them right to save themselves time and money.
We all know that local authorities are overstretched, so their timescales may not fit in with your. Also, this has to be said, some building control officers are experienced and knowledgeable and some are simply….not. During our years in property development on refurbishments and new builds we had visits from officers in the same department contradicting each other and demanding different things.
Our recommendation would be to use an independent company such as ASK Building Control Ltd in Harrogate (askbuildingcontrol.co.uk). They are professional, reasonably priced and will try to be there when needed.
So what’s the best course of action? Swings and roundabouts really. Our preferred timber manufacturer is Certass registered, our preferred aluminium structure manufacturer is Fensa registered, and we know from experience they do an excellent job. Equally, we have seen seriously poor installation works by well-known certified members. Some of the worst work we have ever seen was by a household name associated with the founding of one of the leading schemes!
What is essential is that if you are spending what you consider to be a lot of money, if your installer is not certified, make sure that you agree in advance (once they have quoted for your installation) that you hold back part of their payment until you have had the works independently inspected and you have received your certification.
Robert has been developing and building period & contemporary homes since 1995, and has installed all types of external home improvement products.