Firstly that is the last of the horse racing analogies – mainly because I can’t think of any others! But things have actually got underway here – on two levels. Firstly the house renovations have actually started. We even have a radiator that is attached to a wall. We have pipes, an oil tank, a water cylinder, a boiler, and the afore-mentioned radiator – sadly none of them is attached to a power supply, water or each other but it is progress – well it must be because my bank balance has been dented. We also have an electrician who is putting in new wiring and a new consumer board. He nearly fainted when he saw our existing board which has three or four meters and a myriad of outdated wiring.
Our biggest problem at the moment is that the plumber is not here himself on site – one of his guys is and for some reason he has not thought it prudent to discuss the siting of the radiators with us. I’m a bit OCD about things being positioned in the centre of things – i.e. that the radiator sits centrally under the window if possible. Well since all the windows are being changed and the new ones will not be in the exact same positions as the old ones I fail to see how the plumber who is not the plumber can be sure that they are centralised! Luckily I spotted this after the first one went on to the wall so it’s not a disaster but it proves how you have to make sure everyone knows what is needed – I didn’t even presume he knew, I just hadn’t twigged that he had actually moved on from pipe laying to radiator hanging. But then again he should not have presumed that he knew where I wanted the radiators to go – but ultimately it will be us who suffers if they are in the wrong places so we have to be vigilant. Anyway it is still very exciting which only emphases how cold it is in the house without central heating. Somehow I think that winter will pass us by before the heating is fully functioning – I must be the only person hoping for a cold Spring so I can reap the benefits of the new system.
Whilst it nice to have a heating system (even a non functioning one) and new wiring that doesn’t cause light bulbs to explode is great; the most pressing thing are the windows. So I have spent a huge amount of time thinking about, looking at and being confused by them! The whole build is due to commence with the creation of a shower room on the 2nd floor – to create that we need to install a dormer window, to instal the window we need to order them, to order them we need to make a decision as to which window supplier to go with. Should we choose the expensive windows or the outrageously expensive ones? We have 26 new windows, a utility door, an entrance door, and 7 sets of French doors, 2 of which have side panels – these could be bi-folds instead, another decision. Our top quote so far is £65,000, the lowest £29,000 both plus VAT at 20% – what value added the tax man is bringing to all of this I don’t know. We are looking at wooden windows – this is a countryside property and I love proper wooden windows. But the choices do not stop there. Do we want aluminium clad, dual colour, double glazed or triple glazed, with window boards, flush or stormproof, what U value, with or without cills. The choices are endless. So how do you make a decision?
Well for what it’s worth I rate customer service, communication and helpfulness pretty highly. Some companies never respond to emails or phone calls and that’s when you are looking to place an order. I won’t deal with them – if they do not contact you when you are doing something positive how will they be if something goes wrong? Obviously budget is important – we just can’t afford the expensive windows, they are from Brookeswood and are lovely and their sale manager, Andy has been incredibly helpful but we just cannot do it. If I had the money I would but if I had the money and they were not communicative or helpful I still wouldn’t.
Secondly it has to be the budget. As long as your budget is realistic then you have to stick within it. Much as it hurts not to have what you want it is more important when the budget is being squeezed to want what you need. Cut out the ones that you can’t afford from your list – although firstly I would try to get the price down if you really want them.
Then it is the look that you are trying to achieve, and indeed what you are allowed to have. If the planning department are demanding wooden windows don’t put in UPVC unless you can change their minds first. Also consider what style of property you are trying to achieve. Sash windows are great in the right property but not everywhere and they are more expensive. Our architect originally drew in sash windows which are in keeping with the look of our house but we can’t afford them and I also hate the way the bar of the sash blocks my line of sight when the window is open. So we put in casements but utilising the sash window proportions – and they look fine. In fact I prefer the unfussy look that they give. We are going to have simple crosses – cottage crosses I think they are called. We could go for just plain windows but I am worried that the house will look like something off a 1970’s estate – plain windows work, in my view, either in a very modern house or in a barn like design with long thin windows. And don’t start me on colours – there are over 200 RAL colours – and most companies will offer a dual colour option – different colours inside and out – eeeek.
It is also important to very carefully compare the quotes that you have received – are they all quoting for the same thing? Going through our quotes I discovered missed windows, some included window boards some didn’t , some included the two triangular windows in the gable of our kitchen extension whilst some missed these out, some included the front door and the utility door, one firm missed off the utility door, some quoted for Ali clad windows whilst some were just wood. So it’s a good idea to go through each quote cross checking the details. Cheap is not cheap if it’s for the wrong thing.
Compare specs – what are the U values, how thick are the profiles, what mouldings are they using. This is especially important if you have seen your potential suppliers at a show where it is easy to get carried away by the imposing stands and the smooth sales talk. If possible visit the factory itself – do they actually manufacture or do they just import. If possible I would buy British – not because I am patriotic (although I am!), I like the idea of being able to go to the place that the windows are being manufactured and see the process. If something goes wrong I just feel that there is a lot more hassle in sending things back to say Poland. One company I saw simply imported from Eastern Europe – I couldn’t help but wonder what their value added was. Also consider how the windows will arrive – fully protected in sealed coverings, and who will fit them? It’s worth searching on-line for reviews and you cannot beat personal recommendations.
When you are entirely happy then go and order – you can’t have a house without windows and delaying the buying will delay the build as the house won’t be watertight – and this in itself might have on-costs.
Having said all of that I am sitting here with quotes from 7 companies – I’ve ruled out the two most expensive ones so I’m left with 5. Decisions, decisions, decisions! There is only one thing to do……..