Reading Time: 5 minutes
Published on: November 7th, 2013
The window and door industry can seem quite daunting to a new buyer, and the variety of products and companies is wider than ever. On the back of requests from our customers, we have put together a guide to buying wooden windows, which will help you to ask the ‘right’ questions and undertake an objective comparison.
Believe it or not, this is the most overlooked area. It is our belief that this should be the most important in your analysis because of the impact it has on the other areas. The key considerations are:
Longevity and security of company. Have they been in business for a long time? Are their finances secure? Do they have a solid basis of business and is their business plan sound? This is important for the short term, where the company may be holding your deposit, but also in the long-term, where the company will need to be available to service guarantees.
Experience with your property and product type. All joinery companies are looking to expand their business into new areas, but there are unique challenges in every situation and you don’t want to be part of the learning curve. This is particularly important with listed buildings.
TOP TIP: Beware of phoenix companies offering long guarantees. Do your research.
The industry is full of middle men who will import or buy in products, and fit them with sub-contractual installation teams. The key considerations are:
Don’t deal with middlemen. The sale, survey, manufacture and installation of high quality joinery products is a complicated process and requires the necessary expertise and team work at each stage. If you are working with a single company, then the responsibility is clear and you have a single point of recourse, during the production, installation and aftercare. If there are middlemen in place, then who is responsible for maintaining the product guarantee. We have met many customers who get stuck between the salesman and the sub-contractual installer, with each passing the buck for issues.
Use as few suppliers as possible. This will ultimately present many benefits; easier onsite coordination, simpler billing cycles, more time to effectively vet your supplier/s, bulk order discounts and a single location for the guarantee.
TOP TIP: Visit the production facility or workshop; meet the people who you will be dealing with.
The type of materials used in the construction of your products, as well as the manufacture methods used, will tell you a lot about the company. The key considerations are:
Look at the machinery and workforce. A factory full of large CNC routers and window-lines will produce standard products to a decent quality – with a focus on achieving quantity sales and low costs. A workshop with flexible machinery and skilled craftsmen will produce truly bespoke joinery to a variable quality at a higher cost. A facility with a mix of the two extremes could offer the best of both worlds. In any case, it will give an indication of the values of the company and a few to their stability.
Consider the specification being offered. To look at just one area of specification, there are a variety of different timbers that are offered as the main building materials for external joinery. These range from softwood at the bottom end, through engineered softwoods, low quality hardwoods, engineered hardwoods, mid-grade hardwoods and into chemically modified timbers (like Accoya) at the top end. This factor alone can mean the difference of 30 times in the life span. Couple this with other specification details like spray finishing and micro-porous paints and the difference can be even more pronounced.
TOP TIP: Consider the desired service life and budget, and then create a detailed comparison table.
Guarantees and promises are often inter-woven to make this area a little less clear and transparent. If you are willing to spend some time looking over the details, you can generally get to a point of fair comparison easily. The key considerations are:
Length of the guarantee and areas covered. There are two main types of guarantee offered; one that includes everything and one that gives a different guarantee period on different elements of the work. The general rule is that the more complicated a guarantee is to understand, the less likely the company will be to support you in the future.
Consider maintenance cycles that must be completed. Some guarantees are founded on the requirement that you keep to a predefined maintenance cycle. I.e. you might get a 10 year guarantee on ironmongery, if you oil it every 6 months. These type of clauses are sometimes used as a way of avoiding responsibility for issues raised during the guarantee period, so should be considered carefully.
Stability of company. Again, there are many phoenix companies in the marketplace that offer very long guarantees, but have a history of bankruptcy. When a company goes bankrupt the guarantees that they have offered are void even if they reform under the same name and premises.
TOP TIP: Read the small print carefully and ask for clarification; beware of ‘too good to be true’.
I hope that you have enjoyed our guide to buying wooden windows and that it will be helpful to you. We actively encourage customers to do a full and objective review of our products and service against others in the industry, because when all of the information is available we will almost always win the work. If you need further help in doing a proactive review, then please download our guide.