Making a Choice – Timber Windows & Doors
February 9, 2019
Seeing the Wood from the Trees
Having formerly been at the consumer side of things, I understand just how difficult it must be to see the wood for the trees when choosing timber windows and doors.
The market is full of sub-standard products. All of them may look fine when first installed, but can soon look tatty and require redecoration within a few years. The worst of them will start rotting well before their guarantees run out, in an industry with a terrible after-sales reputation.
However, if you ask all the questions in my previous blog ‘What Are The Elements Of Quality In Timber Windows And Doors?’ and take your time to delve into the detail of each product, you are more likely to make the right choice.
‘Like for Like’ Quotations
I have been to see potential Clients who have taken the time to listen to me, look at samples in detail, visit the workshop and showroom, then upon receiving their quote say “we’re getting other quotes”. This is usually because the products I recommend are higher than their intended budget.
Some then tell me they are going elsewhere because they have had a cheaper quote, and they often do this without even seeing the competitor’s product – they’ve seen mine, so surely the other company’s product is about the same, right?
Sometimes they tell me they have had a ‘like for like’ quote, i.e. for a product which they consider to have the same specification. Of these quotations NOT ONE has ever been truly like-for-like.
Case Study 1 – Large Renovation Project
My preferred manufacturer quoted for a large renovation project. It came to £48,000. This was higher than the Client’s budget, who then got another quotation for £40,000, which they maintained was ‘like-for-like’. But having been to both workshops and showrooms they preferred our products and wanted to see what we could do with the pricing.
We requested, and they kindly sent us, the competitor’s quotation. It was for a cheaper, and in our view, less durable hardwood. Re-pricing the job in the competitor’s timber alone brought the price down by £4,000. Then there were the different quality glazing units, hardware etc. The Client contracted with us.
COMMON TIMBER TYPES: Class 1-4; solid & engineered; softwood & hardwood; engineered hardwood examples: Red Grandis wt 500kg +/- 20% pcm (poor consistency & durability), Sapele mahogany wt 590kg pcm (excellent consistency & durability)
Case Study 2 – Sliding Sash Windows
An even bigger project required a large number of sliding sash windows in our best (and most costly) timber, Accoya wood. The Client had seen our products, visited the workshop and showroom and wanted the best he could afford, but this was hard for him to swallow because he’d received another ‘like-for-like’ quotation from another supplier – whose product he had not seen – for almost half the cost!
The irate Client questioned why there was such a massive difference.
Naturally bewildered, and we requested sight of the other quotation. The Client was happy to do so, perhaps in an attempt to show us how unreasonable our product prices were.
Not only was the other quotation for a cheap softwood, but also for a ‘mock’ sliding sash – a casement designed to look like a sliding sash.
So, on a true ‘like-for-like’ basis, we were able to offer the Client the same type of product and similar specification as in his other quotation for the same price. He came to us and got the product he wanted. Accoya wood sliding sash at the original price.
1: A cheap ‘mock sash’ – a chunky casement window with a top hung opener (does not comply with fire escape regulations)
2: A sophisticated authentic style sliding sash, with traditional weights, profiles and decorative horns.
Case Study 3 – Window & Door Replacement
I recently visited a potential Client who was planning to replace 73 windows and doors – a large number of units and not a straightforward installation, requiring a lot of skill and attention to detail – not your average project!
Our quotations were within his budget, and he said he was awaiting another quotation from a local joiner, but that he was planning to visit our workshop and showroom to see first-hand the quality of the products I had quoted for.
Several weeks later, after numerous failed attempts to contact him, we finally spoke and he told me that he had decided to go with a different company because their quotation was several thousand pounds cheaper. Very complimentary, he said he had been very impressed by our professionalism and the samples he had seen.
But, I was astonished that, other than maintaining the other quotation was for hardwood, he couldn’t answer some basic questions I put to him about our ‘rivals’ specifications. Also, he hadn’t visited either of our respective workshops or showrooms, or seen all the products!
I reminded him of our price match promise and we would welcome the opportunity of comparing his preferred quotation specification to ours. Unfortunately he had already put down a deposit with the other company.
So, he had decided to spend in the region of £45,000 without fully investigating what he was buying and how it compared to our product, which was more expensive, but the price difference was less than what it will cost him to redecorate 73 windows and doors from his local joiner in less than 10 years. Forgive me for saying so, but I think that’s just plain crazy.
Would you spend £45,000 on a new car without fully checking its specification?
(Ironically, at the end of the conversation, he said he hoped he hadn’t made a mistake.)
You Get What You Pay For
To add further complication to the mix, I used to believe the common adage “you get what you pay for”. Until recently.
I visited a Client whose home had a large number of new windows fitted by a company with a household name. He wanted them all ripped out and was refusing to pay.
He’d signed a contract after seeing a particular sample timber window. But it turns out the windows fitted were a completely different product made by a different manufacturer!
The installation was abysmal and a majority of the windows had been incorrectly measured. It was the worst I had ever seen (enough material for a future blog).
Our quotation for replacements in the best timber (Accoya wood) was only about 10% more than the poor quality softwood products (with MDF trims and resin beading – not even 100% wood!) he was desperate to get rid of.
It’s a minefield folks!
Make sure you are well informed before parting with your money. Don’t take anything that the company representative tells you (including me!) for granted, and do your research.
Checklist – make sure you do ALL the following for ALL quotations:
See samples of all the product types you’re interested in
Quotations: these are often vague: insist on detailed written specifications
Warranties: check the small print – e.g. does a 10 year warranty cover everything?
Deposits: are your deposits protected and insurance backed?
Visit the showroom: anyone can have an impressive showroom, but where are the products made?
Visit the workshop: if you can’t, the product is probably imported
Seek testimonials: is the work on the company’s website their own, or are the images ‘borrowed’? Is the company willing to put you in touch with any of their previous Clients?
Comprehensively compare all the above
If your budget will not run to the best UK manufactured timber products, most of which will last a lifetime, you might consider opting for aluminium, or – if your budget is even more restricted – a high quality uPVC or composite. The latter should last up to 25 years – unfortunately considerably longer than much of the cheaper timber products which are available today.
Timber – almost any traditional/contemporary design; warm; low maintenance; lifespan 70yrs+ (depending on timber/manufacturer)
Aluminium – contemporary homes, limited designs; lifestan 25yrs+ (depending on range/manufacturer)
uPVC – top ranges mimic timber; suit traditional/contemporary homes; warm; low maintenance; lifespan up to 25 yrs (depending on range/manufacturer)
Robert has been developing and building period & contemporary homes since 1995, and has installed all types of external home improvement products.