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Buyers Guide Download - Click Here to Download

After your House and Car, Home Improvements are probably the biggest single sum expenditures most people ever make. So, although it can be a bit (OK, VERY) boring, it makes good sense and is well worth while doing some research and proceeding with Caution.

It could Save you Money as well as ensuring that you have a Stress & Hassle Free experience. As with all Purchases, the Law says, 'Caveat Emptor - Let The Buyer Beware!' With Home Improvements the motto really should be, 'More Haste - Less Speed'

Please also see our FAQ's Page for other important advice & tips about Replacement Windows, Doors & Porches. Below, we discuss the key issues & give balanced advice on the major points to consider when making your purchasing decision and choosing your supplier.

This is summarised in the Buyers Guide Download which you can print & use to assist you when getting your quotations.

Before starting, we recommend that you take just a couple of minutes to read the Investigative Report on Double Glazing Sales Techniques & Finance Selling at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/watchdog/reports/houseandhome/index2.shtml?rpt29


1, It is fashionable at the moment to claim that FENSA Registration will solve everybody's problems; clean up the Industry and Guarantee Consumers a Fair Deal and Good Workmanship.

Sorry, this is simply not realistic! The Scheme and the Organisation are very new and do not regulate selling methods. Inspections started in July 2002 and it is only reasonable to expect that some of the initial Registrations will be rescinded as a result of poor Inspection Results & Consumer Complaints in the first few years.

Our advice is to use a FENSA Registered Company as well as using the tried & tested methods detailed below.



2, The best way to choose a supplier is by Recommendation from Satisfied Customers.

This is good advice, but it is not the be all and end all. Just as a 'Good Company' may occasionally do a 'Bad Job,' so a 'Bad Company' will sometimes do a 'Good Job.'

Our advice is to get Quotations from several companies', say 3. More if you have the stamina! If a Company has been Recommended to you, then they should certainly be one of your quotations. But with this and the other companies, ask for further references, work that you can go and see & also people that you can telephone to ask about the levels of service, quality and how any problems were resolved.

Even if you don't follow all or even any of them up, this can be very revealing. You may be surprised at how many you simply never hear from again!


3, They're all much the same, you might as well go for the Cheapest.

Price is, of course, a major consideration. But, like everything else in life, you tend to get what you pay for. All of the modern uPVC double glazing systems are pretty good and, really, there's not much to choose between them, technically.

The Professionalism & Experience of the Surveyor is very important, it is he or she who will specify what is to be made, the exact sizes, and also how the work will be fitted, whether Acro-Props or Scaffolding will be needed, etc, etc.

However, the Quality of Manufacture is important and maintaining Quality Control Systems, rejecting Sub-Standard Products, etc, adds to the price, even though you might not be able to actually see the result.

Installation Quality is of Paramount Importance, it is probably the single most important consideration. Again, this is where taking references and/or looking at a company's finished work can be important. When you pay for the work, it is probably not pouring with rain, snowing or blowing a gale! So the new windows need to perform well and look good. What you don't see, is just as important as what you do.

What about dealing with unexpected problems during the course of the work, or attending to Service Calls 8 or 9 Years into the Guarantee? Again, this costs money and a Reputable Company must build it into the Price.

Our advice is to be very suspicious if any of your Quotations are wildly different in either direction, either too cheap or too expensive. As long as you have ensured that the Specifications are the same, the quotations should be in the same 'ball park.'

Ask about Service Arrangements, Quality Control - Manufactured to British Standards? Survey & Installation Expertise? You should be able to satisfy yourself on all of these points as well as getting a Fair Price.

And you are entitled to be suspicious if the person sitting in front of you doesn't know all the answers!


4, I've been told that Externally Beaded Window Systems are just as Secure as Internally Beaded ones?

Sorry, this is simply not true! The chances are that you've been told this by a Salesperson who only has an Externally Beaded System to Sell. Just check, by telephone, with the Crime Prevention Officer at your local Police Station.

Generally, the Externally Beaded Systems are very old systems. This isn't necessarily a bad thing in itself, but you have to question why, over the past 10 years, the rest of the Industry has Standardised on Internally Beaded and all of the Impartial Advice specifies it?

Our advice is to only use an Internally Beaded System! There are no disadvantages, so there is no point in taking a chance. But don't assume, make sure that you check, because a Company that doesn't use an Internally Beaded System is unlikely to bring it to your attention.

A note of Special Caution; there are some 10,000 Double Glazing Companies around the Country. Many of them still use Externally Beaded, including some that are very well known!


5, I don't know where to start. What is really important?

A good question, and one that will have Different Answers for Different People. Really, you have to decide Why you are having new Windows, Doors or a Porch & What are the things that are really Important to You.

For instance, if your major consideration is Noise Reduction, then Replacement Windows may not even be the right product. Secondary Glazing, which fits inside your existing windows, will almost certainly achieve more Noise Insulation. But what if the windows need replacing anyway? Then you could consider Double Glazing with a special Noise Reduction Glass. This is much more costly, but cheaper than replacing the windows and then finding that you need Secondary Glazing as well!

For Thermal Insulation, Double Glazing is definitely the right product. If Low Maintenance is high on your list, then uPVC is probably the best. Security may be your prime concern and if so, consider up-rating from the Standard Security being offered.

How about aesthetics? The look of the product might be more important to you than anything else. Bevelled frames, Scotia Beadings, Brass Furniture, Stained Glass, White Gaskets, Woodgrain Finishes; the list of options is almost endless, but they all come at a price and not all Suppliers will be able to include them in their Specification. Perhaps uPVC is not the Right Product for you at all, and you should be considering Timber, or Aluminium?

Maybe, for you, this is what is known as a 'Distress Purchase,' i.e. your Windows are rotten or literally falling out! In this case you probably haven't budgeted for the work and Price will be the most important factor. Don't fall into the trap of just buying on price though, with careful shopping around you will be able to get an excellent job done at a good price. Bear in mind that it's a competitive Market Place and that Suppliers want Your Business!

Our advice is to decide your answers to these questions before getting your quotations and Don't Compromise. With 000's of Suppliers you should be able to get exactly what you want without compromising. For most people that means products that Look Good, are Secure, have Low Maintenance and are Thermally Efficient.


6, What should I expect in the way of Guarantees?


The Standard in the Industry is 10 Years on the Frames and Workmanship & 5 Years on the Sealed Units. Unfortunately, there are literally tens of thousands of people who have purchased Double Glazing but do not have a Guarantee - because the Supplier has since Gone Out of Business.

So you must make sure that the Suppliers' Guarantee is backed up by something more substantial. This is known as an Insurance Backed Warranty and your Supplier must give you details when you make your Purchase. This protects you in the case of the Suppliers Insolvency and the Insurance Company will arrange any necessary repairs.

As ever though, this is not the whole story. Insurance Backing is all very well, but it is much better if you can rely upon your Supplier and simply telephone them for a Service Call - no paperwork to fill in and they will of course know the product and carry stock of spare parts, etc.

Our advice is to only Purchase from a Company that gives you an Insurance Backed Warranty. Check that the amount of cover is sufficient for your Contract Value.

Additionally, check how long the Company has been in Business - in this Industry, Longevity is a good Recommendation!

Also, take those References; it is not unknown for a Supplier to simply ignore Service Requests or not turn up for Service Appointments. This can leave You, the Customer, in an almost impossible situation.

The Company still exists, so you won't be able to claim on the Insurance. Trading Standards? Overstretched, under-funded and very time consuming.

Make sure that your Supplier is a Member of a recognised Industry Trade Association, such as the Glass & Glazing Federation or National Federation of Glaziers. These Organisations do wield real power over their Members and do Cancel the Memberships of Offenders. They will also genuinely try to help resolve any dispute and can also offer a Legally Binding Arbitration Service should it prove necessary.

One last word of advice in this respect, check out the Trade Association, as there are a number who are not what they purport to be. They often include words such as 'Master,' 'Guild,' 'Builder,' & 'Craftsmen' in their titles.


7, How about Deposits?

It's sad but true, that Companies take Deposits because they want to know that you are serious about making your purchase and that you are not going to change your mind once they have started spending money on your job!

However, the Industry Standard is 10% and Reputable Suppliers will give you a Deposit Indemnity Insurance at the time you place your order. This protects you against Insolvency and Guarantees that the work will be completed at the agreed Contracted Price.

If you are asked for more than 10%, be suspicious. We are not aware of an Indemnity Insurance covering more than 10% and it could be that the Supplier is trying to use Your Money to fund the work. This could mean that they are already in financial trouble and suffering cashflow difficulties.

Our advice is to pay a maximum 10% Deposit and ensure that you get a Deposit Indemnity Insurance.


8, One Salesperson said that I don't need as many openers in my Windows and that if I reduce the number it would save me money. I never open them all, so it seems like sound advice, what do you think?

Firstly, compare like for like, because reducing the Specification should reduce the Price, which is not the same thing as saving you money!

Secondly, have a good look at your Neighbours' windows and doors. Really look, as if you are visiting the street for the first time and thinking of Buying one of the Houses. You will probably be surprised by just how awful and Out of Character some of the houses that have had their windows replaced actually look, especially those done some years ago. Try to find a House with its Original Windows. Again, you may be surprised by how good it looks, In Character with its construction and surroundings.

Thirdly, bear in mind that any reduction in the number of openings may bring You and the Contractor into Contravention of Building Regulations Parts F1 Ventilation & B1 Fire Escape.

Our advice is generally to replace like for like, as most original designs suit the house. An exception to this would be if the windows have already been poorly replaced, in which case take the opportunity to improve things by reverting to the Original Designs.

Think about the possibility of selling your house in the future. If it looks good then you should be able to sell it quickly and at a good price. Is it worth saving a few hundred pounds now when it could cost you 000's in the future?

We are not slaves to tradition, so if the original window designs really do look awful, as they do in some 60's & 70's built homes, go for it and change them!

Always make sure that you are getting Fire Escape Openings in all the Bedrooms & any Upstairs Living Rooms. If you are Changing Designs, then check that the new windows will Comply with the Ventilation Regulations - your Suppliers' Surveyor should automatically check this on Survey and advise you if there is a problem.

Lastly, if you have seen a particularly attractive design or feature on a Neighbouring house, take the Salesperson out to look at it. If he or she says that they can do the same, make sure that it is detailed on the Sales Agreement. If it is not and you don't get what you wanted, you will probably have great difficulty getting the Company to make changes!

Remember, you are probably spending 000's of Pounds and you are entitled to expect a Professional Service from start to finish.


9, The Salesperson is telling me that if I Sign Up Today, then I qualify for a Special Discount that is only available right now! I hadn't got my Finances sorted out, but that's not a problem, because my home is going to be used as a Special Show-House, so I Qualify for their Fantastic Low Deposit/No Deposit Home Improvement Plan!

Reading this before the event, you may have smiled, and thought, "Not me!" But this happens literally thousands of times every day. And thousands of people do 'Sign Up' there and then, under pressure, without taking the time to Think about things, get Comparative Quotations, etc.

In the Industry this is known as Closing The Order, or Getting A (Yes) Decision. It will usually be proceeded by 'Tricky Questions,' known as 'Qualifications,' throughout the Salespersons 'Presentation,' more commonly known as his or her Script, Pitch or Patter.

The sort of questions, dropped innocuously into the conversation, that go along the lines of; "What sort of Monthly Repayment or Budget did you have in mind?" meaning How Much are You Willing to Pay, or "Subject to you liking our product & it fitting into your Budget, is there anything that would stand in the way of you taking advantage of our Special Promotion today?" or, "Would you be in a position to take advantage of our Show-House scheme if I was able to include you in it?"

These questions are designed to put you Under Pressure and Make A Liar of You when it comes to Decision Time! Let's assume that you have said, not unreasonably, that you can afford 75 per month and that, subject to liking the product, you could be a part of their Special Show-House Promotion.

Lo and Behold; the usual price, or Repayment, or Investment, would be 103 pounds per month but, only available now! it comes in at Just 69 pounds per month!

Naturally enough, you say that you would like to "Think About It." This is known as 'An Objection' in fact, it is the Classic Objection. And Salespeople are trained for hours & hours to 'Overcome' it!

"Oh, you said that if it was within your budget and you liked the product, you could be a part of The Promotion?" (Subtly, he or she is saying, 'You're a Liar!')

"Don't you like the product?"

Probably, you are now feeling quite pressurised, but the Salesperson is used to that and Trained not to, 'Let You Off The Hook.'

You are now expected to say something like, "No, no, I like the windows, I just want to Think About It."

Salesperson, probably acting 'Confused but Sympathetic,' now proceeds with a list of questions to which He already Knows The Answers! "Oh, right, is it the Window Designs you want to think about?" "OK, so you're happy with the designs, are you sure you want installation in 5 weeks?" Etc, etc, etc.

Time To Inject Some Humour & Ease The Pressure, just a little!

"So, is it the thought of Saving All That Money that's worrying you?" (Ho, ho, ho.) "I'm not quite with you, what exactly do you want to think about?" (Are You Stupid!?)

Salesperson, now in 'Friendly & Helpful' mode;

"Look, I understand, we all have difficulty making our mind up about things, I'm the worst! You should hear my Wife/Husband, says I can never decide anything about anything!" (Don't be stupid & indecisive like me!)

"If you like everything, and are serious about getting your windows done, it would seem to make sense to Take Advantage of these Savings, wouldn't it?"

"If you don't want to Take Advantage Of The Offer and Save Yourself a Lot of Money, Just Say No!"

How can you answer No to these sort of carefully constructed statements & questions, without also saying, "I'm Stupid," "I'm wasting your time," "I'm a Liar." ???

We could go on endlessly about this and the Salesperson probably will!

Our advice is to take your time, get several quotations, then Think About It. That is most peoples' natural feeling, you should trust it. Make this decision before you have Salespeople in your home and Stick To It, whatever the pressure applied or incentives offered!

What these Salespeople are really saying is; "Don't look around for the Best Product and Price, Trust Me (Even though you don't know me!) I'm your Friend (Even though you will never see me again!) Believe Me, Take as 'Gospel' Every Word I Utter (Why?)

Almost without exception, companies selling 'Special Promotions' sell 100% of their business that way. So, of course, the Discount is built into the Price List.

If you don't go ahead, you will be contacted again within a couple of days, by the Salesperson or someone else from the Company. Whatever the 'Reason' given, 'a cancellation,' 'really liked your house and need it in the Promotion,' 'found we had some Budget left over,' etc, you will be offered a cheaper price!

This especially applies to the Big Names in the Industry. So if you do like the product (generally they're all OK) and you want to purchase from one of these Companies, you might as well hold out for the Best Price. If, exceptionally, you don't get the 'phone call, ring them up and make them an offer. Even if you end up paying the original quotation, you have lost nothing.

What is almost certain is that if you say Yes, too soon, to the first price quoted to you, you will be paying too much.

We have never yet heard of a Salesperson saying, "Hold on, I haven't finished my presentation yet, you need to say No a couple of times, give me some Objections, so that I can drop the price by Several Thousand Pounds."

What actually happens is that the Salesperson will, 'Thank You for your Order' and happily share the Overcharge with his Company, who also won't write to you with a refund.

Consider also the overall Integrity of Companies operating this sort of Sales Policy? If they are prepared to try and take advantage of you in this way, what will happen if there is a problem later on, during or after the Installation?

Finance. We cannot advise Care & Caution too strongly!

Check the APR, Annual Percentage Rate of Interest. It could be approaching 30%, when Building Societies and Banks are offering 5-10%.

Usually these loans are for 10 years, so it may fit into your monthly budget, but just multiply the monthly repayment by 120 months to compare the total to the cash price.

Taking a Loan through a Double Glazing Company will almost certainly be The Most Expensive Way to Borrow.

If you are offered 0% Finance, check that the Loan Amount is the same as or lower than the Cash Price. If it is not, then the Company is Trading Illegally and you should report them to Trading Standards.


GENERAL ADVICE SECTION

10, Check that Manufacturing is to British Standards. Some smaller Suppliers won't be able to achieve this. You might save yourself some money, but Quality could be suspect.


11, Ask the person Quoting you some Technical Questions, about Building Regulations Ventilation Requirements, Locking Systems, which way round the 'K' glass goes in a sealed unit (It is on the inner pane of the sealed unit, on the surface inside, i.e. facing into, the sealed unit), etc. If they don't know the answers, do you really want them specifying your work?

For a full specification of 'K' glass visit the Pilkington site: click here


12, Make sure that you are getting High Security Locking Systems, Espagnolette or Shootbolt on Windows, Hooklocks or Shootbolts and a Deadlock on Doors. Windows should have a locking system capable of being locked in a slightly open position. This is known as a Night Vent - it is not secure enough to be left in this position when the property is unoccupied.

The truth is, if a Burglar wants to get into your home, and he has the time & opportunity, he will get in! The purpose of Security Devices is to make your home a less attractive prospect and make the Burglars' life as difficult as possible.

Consider upgrading locks on Windows or Doors that are particularly vulnerable, such as the back of the house or downstairs side windows that are not overlooked.


13, Ask for an estimate of the Delivery Time and make sure that it is written on the Contract. Most Companies won't Guarantee an exact time period and will probably have an Exclusion in their Terms & Conditions. But you are entitled to expect a reasonable level of service! If one Company says that they can do the work much quicker than anybody else, do ask why? No Order Book? Will rush it to Get The Order? Will say anything To Get The Order?!


14, Even if you are fairly certain that you want a particular product, ask the Supplier if they offer a Range of Types & Materials. If they only have the one, then that is what they will try to Sell you, even if it isn't necessarily the right type for You and Your Property!


15, Do take the time to Read the Terms & Conditions on the Back of the Contract, before Signing. Make sure that they reflect what the Salesperson has said. They should be clear and simple to understand, in large enough print that you can read them; with glasses if you use them. Question anything that you are unsure of, or don't like the sound of. If you are not happy with the Terms & Conditions, Don't Sign The Contract!


16, Make sure that the Contract accurately records exactly what you are getting, especially in respect of any 'extras' such as Special Locks, or a Woodgrain finish. If the Salesperson forgets to write it down and it doesn't get picked up on Survey, you could have a real problem. The Salesperson, 5/6 weeks later, may not remember and the Company's' attitude is likely to be "That's what you Signed for!"


17, Finally, you'll be relieved to know! Take your time. Get several quotes' and don't just accept the first. Consider the whole 'package,' not just the price. Get references. Check the paperwork. If you are not comfortable, don't sign. You can always ask for the Contract to be left with you to post it in, if you would like to 'sleep on it.'



Some of the above may sound like some sort of Horror Story, but actually there are 000's of Genuine Companies offering Excellent Products and High Levels of Service.

Sadly, there are also quite a few Unscrupulous Rogues, hence the Industry's' Reputation.

With a little Time & Care, you can easily sort the Good from the Bad, and ensure that you get what you want, at a Fair Price, Well Installed and in a Reasonable Time, with good After Sales Service.

Happy Shopping, and remember, The Customer Is Always Right!


Buyers Guide Download - Click Here to Download



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