Double Glazing and Replacement Windows Buyers Tips

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Buyers Guide - Tips

 
Buyers Tips for Replacement Windows and Double Glazing
Below you will find our "Quick Reference" set of general tips. Apart for the first tip (which we consider most important) the tips are not in any particular order. We hope they will assist you in coming to the correct buying decision. You may download this section as a WORD document by clicking here.

We also recommend you review our Top Designs Tips page for some specific advice on choosing designs for your replacement windows.
Replacing windows on your property can change the visual appearance of your home considerably. You should choose a style that matches your property and enhances its looks. This is particularly important with PVCu and Aluminium designs when they are fitted to older properties. It's a good idea to look at properties similar to yours in the area and compare the effect of various replacement window types. It is also a good idea to make sure you have adequate numbers of opening windows. It's been known for some salespeople to promote designs with very few openings and of a very simple nature. The simpler the design and the fewer the openings - the "cheaper" the window. Whilst you may end up with a price you like it's more likely you will regret this option in the end - especially as badly designed windows can turn out to be a very bad investment and even lower the value of a property. We have known of buyers of properties negotiating a reduced price for a property just because of this. What's even sadder is that the seller had only "replaced" these windows a few years earlier.
Always ask your supplier how long the delivery will be. It's also a good idea to have this stipulated on your contract. Additionally ask for an "estimate" of how long the work will take to complete once they are on site.
Sometimes (but rarely) planning permission may be required in order to fit replacement windows. This is particularly the case in "listed buildings" and "conservation areas". Also if you are "converting" a flat window into a "bow" or "bay" window you may need planning permission. It's a good idea to always check this your self with the local authority.
With PVCu windows it's a good idea to ask your supplier if the windows are fully welded or if parts of the window (transoms / midrails) are mechanically fixed. Mechanical fixing is generally a "cheaper" way of manufacturing. It's possible with wear and tear (especially on doors) that the mechanical (screw) fixing will split apart - weakening the frames and reducing performance. Whilst mechanical fixing is not entirely a bad thing - especially if done correctly - we would suggest you give preference to fully welded structures especially if all other "conditions" (price / quality of supplier) are similar. The only exception to this is maybe in WOODGRAIN style PVCu frames when a mechanical fixing can look neater - especially with regards to how the "grain" finish on the PVCu frames "runs". Ask your supplier for an explanation of this if you are not sure.
Fitting double-glazing in replacement windows will provide some sound insulation. However if your primary motivation for fitting double-glazing is to reduce sound then secondary glazing, where you fit a new single glazed frame in front of the existing (prime) window frame, will be better. The greater the "air gap" the better the sound insulation. 
Double-glazing will reduce heat loss through your windows by an estimated 10 - 12 %. You will save money on your heating bills. However it will be a considerable time before you save enough money to "pay for the windows" - so don't fit double-glazing for this reason alone.
Don't accept the first price you are quoted. Get at least two - three estimates if you have the time. Research all of the alternatives in terms of product and style.
Where practical, try to visit a showroom or view other work carried out by the company. Alternatively, ask to speak to other customers on the telephone. Do bear in mind however that the company is going to give a reference that will be complimentary. Try and ask specific questions such as - Did they turn up on time? Was anything missing and how quickly was this rectified? Did they leave the site clean and tidy? Don't always expect "perfect answers" - in fact be suspicious if they are. Any type of building work or remodelling can have its problems or unforeseen challenges. The point is "how quickly was it sorted and was it to your satisfaction". Its often been said that the true test of a company is when there are problems - not when everything goes perfectly.
Most companies will require a deposit with order. Try and make the deposit as low a percentage as possible - generally speaking 10% is normal. Avoid paying larger deposits than this unless your work is particularly "unique" / "bespoke" - such as "one off" timber window designs. It's likely in these circumstances that suppliers will require higher holding deposits. You should also make sure that a "fair percentage" is withheld until such times as the work is completed to your entire satisfaction.
Check out the Guarantee and what it covers. A lot of companies now offer "insurance backed" guarantees. Do note however that these are really Insolvency Guarantees and only become effective if a company should go out of business. Most guarantees will give a 10-year cover on the frames but you may find that the cover for the double glazed unit is 5 years. It's always best to ask a potential supplier to be specific (in writing) about these issues.
Always enquire about the type of locks and security features being fitted. Most modern double-glazed replacement windows feature multi-point espagnolette type locking, which will also "lock" partially open in a "night-vent" position. It may be possible to upgrade to shoot bolt locking or SAC bolt locks for additional security. For doors, many different types of locks and features such as "Entry Guard" (a sort of security chain allowing you to partially open the door and view visitors) are available. Always enquire what is standard and also what upgrades are available. Often for a little extra cost you can have a substantially better locking system.
With PVCU (Vinyl) windows in particular you will often hear a lot of "arguments" in favour of using an internally beaded window - instead of an externally beaded window. Clearly, if the beads holding in the glass are on the inside of the window it will be more difficult for a burglar to remove the glass and enter your home. Do note however that some suppliers of externally beaded windows will fit special glazing gaskets and double sided tape to the frame and sealed unit in order to improve on the security and some even claim security "as good as" internal beading.
Always ask if the windows have any special "easy escape" or "fire escape" features. Special hinges can be fitted to help with this - but these are not usually standard items and will cost more.
Rarely will the "cheapest" price be the best for you in the long run. When comparing "like with like" please also take into comparison how long the company has been established and the "quality" of their guarantees. You may find two suppliers using the same XXXX PVCu extrusion and the same Pilkington Glass. However if one supplier happens to be some "window fitters" doing "private work" at the weekends then please realize that their so called 10 Year Guarantee may be of less value than another from a more established company with a supporting infrastructure. 
Ask your supplier if you will be responsible for "making good" around the new frames when they are fitted. Most suppliers will include this as part of their work - but you should check.
Whilst PVCu and Aluminium frames are virtually maintenance free please note that the hinges and mechanical parts such as locks will need regular lubrication etc. The frames will also benefit from an occasional "wipe down". Special PVCu frame cleaners are available.
For timber frames you will need to paint every 3-5 years or, if you are using hardwood, oil or varnish as appropriate. We recommend an annual "spring clean" for all windows and doors no matter whether they are PVCU, Aluminium or Hardwood. 
Our final tip in this section and perhaps one of the most important. Do not be the Customer from HELL. To get the best out of any Replacement Window Supplier or Builder maintain a friendly but professional rapport. Do not assume that they will always be trying to get "one over" on you. Their advice may be in your best interests. If you appear defensive and untrusting - always assuming the worst of your supplier - the whole experience will be unpleasant for both you and the supplier. Be vigilant - but always prepared to listen to their advice - especially if problems occur. 

Whilst most trades will come prepared with their own food and drinks - do take the time to offer them hospitality. A cold drink on a warm summer day or hot soup in the winter will build on your relationship - resulting in a better job for you.
We also recommend you review our Top Designs Tips page for some specific advice on choosing designs for your replacement windows.
 
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