With many homeowners looking at alternatives to plastic windows the opportunities for selling high quality timber box sash vertical sliding frames have never been better. But, says Mighton’s Mike Derham, the hardware choice is critical on such windows.
According to the key 2017 Palmer Report* on the fortunes of the window, door and conservatory markets in the UK, in 2016 550,000 timber windows were installed in housing, out of a total market of 6.82 million. Of the total market, 7% were vertical sliders, of which an estimated 23% were manufactured in timber.
A small, but actually very worthwhile market as prices and generally margins at the premium end are high with homeowners more intent than average homeowners to preserve the authenticity of their property.
Of course many installers will be supplying this generally recession-proof sector and will understand the need for superb quality at every level: great customer care and installation service and of course, at the core of it all will be the products that they took a great deal of time selecting your company to supply and install. Your reputation rests heavily upon these being not just perfect when they are installed, but to remain so for many years to come.
The customers of such products choose them because they believe that they are buying and paying for the very best, in the overall product of course but also very much in the visible fittings, but also in the way the window operates, when new and over time. Any diminishment of performance will be very noticeable by people that have paid for and expect the very best.
But a surprising number of manufacturers undermine their products – and potentially their reputations – by shortening the viable service life of their products with the installation of cheap hardware. This goes against every instinct that I have and surely, makes no sense at all. And installers may also make the assumption that as they are selling such 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 retailer 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 callbacks for failures.
One may understand the use of cheap hardware when the window itself is unlikely to last more than a few years. But for high quality joinery I am surprised at how often I come across manufacturers who, despite the care and skill with which they produce what inevitably are expensive window frames, still insist upon fitting cheap hardware that will corrode within weeks of installation and fail within a few months.
The irony of this is that timber window specialists inevitably (and usually appropriately) see themselves as craftsmen, as opposed to just ‘fabricators’, producing high quality, hand finished windows that are produced with skill, care and pride and sold – and purchased – as such.
Why do quality conscious joinery companies do this?
When inevitably I challenge those in charge of procurement for these producers about their decision to ‘go cheap’ their response remains consistently the same: ‘we need to cut costs’. But when one considers a frame that may sell for more than £1000, such financial savings amount to perhaps £10 for the whole window when buying cheap hardware, with limited guarantees and performance expectations. Is this worth staking a company’s reputation on, when a whole house installation might save a few hundred against an installation costing £20,000 or more? In the age of instant news the old adage of a bad reputation being gained overnight has never been truer.
Cheap products should be avoided at every opportunity in order to maintain the quality of operation and aesthetics for the lifetime of the window. Poor quality products can lose their finish visibly in just a few weeks and can fail in is as little as a few months. Seldom do they come with safeguarding treatments such as PVD for example, or are they covered by worthwhile guarantees.
Closer attention to these details will save you a great deal of money; and ensure your reputation remains intact.
*The Window, Door and Conservatory Markets in Housing in Great Britain 2017 Sept. 2017. www.palmermarketresearch.co.uk
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