….for a ha’porth of tar. This old adage about ruining a good product by being cheap with key components has never been more appropriate than with the new generation of timber windows, says Mighton’s Mike Derham.
Anyone wandering around this year’s FIT Show could not help but notice the small, but significant presence of timber windows and in all frame styles, confirming their steady return to the home improvement sector.
Under the unifying battle cry of ‘why install windows manufactured to look like wood, when you can have the real thing?’, the joinery industry believes that the self-inflicted demons that allowed the PVC-U replacement window sector to boom 40 years ago, are now firmly behind it, achieved through advances in timber preservation and joinery production technology.
As well as quality, a number of other factors are in favour of a return of good quality, timber frames: time, in that many have simply forgotten the often appalling quality softwood frames that were once installed in new homes; and another is, ironically, that PVC-U and aluminium replacement windows and doors have now gone upmarket to meet the price points of timber, especially for those categorised as ‘Heritage’ styled frames. Thus, windows produced in all three framing materials may be presented to homeowners as options, with many who would choose timber if they could be assured of comparative performance.
Quality is the key to the continued resurgence of timber frames as replacements: but installers buying frames in to offer to their increasingly well-educated and infirmed homeowner customers, should consider not just the manufacturer’s information about the frames, but to also look closely at the quality of the hardware.
It is our experience from supplying the quality joinery industry with high quality fixings and hardware for 30 years, that despite the passion that often goes into the manufacture of traditional box sash frames, that some producers can be extraordinarily stingy when it comes to the key operating components of their product. The frames may last for years, but because they skimped on the hardware, failures – and consequent call-backs – occur.
My worry is that with this renaissance of timber frames in the home improvement sector, the pressures of competition will lead producers to cut corners with the hardware, something that will be a huge mistake for products that are making such an impressive come back. Homeowners considering timber windows against alternatives in PVC-U and aluminium, will be doing so because they believe that they are buying and paying for the very best. Their decision will be based on the aesthetics of the timber but also in the overall product, which includes the visible fittings. It will also be based very much on the way the window operates, and whilst cheap hardware may stand the test when installed new in a showroom, any diminishment of performance will be become quickly noticeable when installed, by people that have paid for and expect the very best.
A surprising number of manufacturers undermine their products – and potentially your reputation - by shortening the viable service life of their products with the installation of cheap hardware. This goes against every instinct that I have as a former manufacturer of timber box sash windows and surely, it makes no sense at all. Installers may make the assumption that as they are selling windows from an otherwise reputable manufacturer, then high quality hardware will, surely, be a given. Sadly that is not the case and the purpose of this editorial is to urge installers to be clear on the quality of the hardware installed. For it is your reputation that is at stake here and you that will pay for the call-backs when the hardware fails.
Close attention to these details will save you a great deal of money; and ensure your reputation remains intact.