The future of PVC-u sash windows

Saturday, September 21st , 2013

We’re always saddened with the “casement mentality” this country, some window installers and retail customers seems to desire and promote.

When price is the only factor, product quality is reduced, something has to be cut back to provide MTC, the minimum technical compliance and nothing more. That’s sad because at no point has anyone considered the impact new windows have upon properties.

Selling is a tough business, retail customers have been advised (correctly) to find 3 or 4 alternative prices before placing an order. However, unless they understand the differences, what’s included or omitted from a quote, how can they decide which offer represent "best value"?

There’s always pressure from retail customers to get the best price, so it’s entirely natural for sales people to cut prices, then the product, to secure an order. Alternatively there are some companies who’ll suggest that the real price is far higher than it is, so that customers think they are getting a bargain, providing they sign there and then.

Both of these create the criticism that the industry has been saddled with since it started, getting the lowest cost (at any price) and deceiving retail customers. It also disregards the affect upon a buildings appearance that cheap solutions have. What’s more, it seems that properties with sash windows are affected more than most, mainly because original frames can be left in-situ and just the sashes themselves being replaced.

Conservation officers haven’t helped matters either. They could have prevented this carnage but are only now slapping Article 4 directives onto properties, so that they get to say what and how, replacement windows will look. Don’t get us wrong, most casement windows are made to current standards and are perfectly good windows, it’s just they change the appearance so dramatically that the end result is abysmal.

Unfortunately this cost element has entered the replacement sash window market and retail customers are getting short changed, resulting in windows that look ike these.

Shiny white plastic, Georgian bars inside the units, face drainage and missing drainage caps, unnecessary trickle vents, ugly plant on horns and no appreciation for profile depths mean the streets are littered with poor examples of double glazed sash windows, each one a real eyesore.

 

Whilst the planners probably don’t know just how authentic PVCu sash windows can be, their immediate reaction is to ban PVCu and take retrospective action against those guilty of breaching the planning laws!

So what does the future hold for replacement sash windows?

Well despite the scenario above, the opportunities for sash windows have never been greater! PVCu seems to have turned a “credibility corner” its recycling attributes has improved its life span and its acceptance will be assured if the industry designs and manufactures products which are sympathetic to the building.

This means educating retail customers about the benefits and helping them specify those things that make a huge difference aesthetical, critical moving parts like hardware and balances, or appearance things like wood foiled finishes, plant on bars, run through horns, deep bottom rails and slim transoms, with tradition jointing methods that provide authentic detailing.

It is possible to have PVC-u sash windows that look like these;

 

Yes this attention to detail add costs onto the finished project, but the planners then accept them as ideal solutions, the home owner gets plastic windows they won’t have to paint ever again, and the property value is maintained not diminished.  

With an estimated 44 million timber box sash windows installed and the vast majority being replaced with inappropriate casement or tilt turn designs or poor quality vertical sliders, the opportunity for this market remains huge, either for first generation replacements or replacing these earlier installations and with sash window installation figures of circa 400k pa, we are still less than 1% per annum.  

Timber has a “natural advantage” the material is welcomed for its green credentials but exterior coatings can have issues. Aluminium has strength, slender sight lines and coloured finishes on its side and is ideal for commercial buildings, but lacks the chunkiness of timber sections. PVCu has found new favour is generally identical in size to its timber counterparts and good examples can deceive even the most critical eye.

Other materials will no doubt provide competition for these established materials, especially wood composites, per reinforced PVC systems and GRP or fibre glass but one thing is for certain, these new materials all bring extra costs but given the right education, the sash window market not only appreciate good design but are willing to pay for it too.

Companies seeking to push their standard window won’t get far with planners, cheap bolt-on or hinged decorative horns won’t win them over, trying to convince homeowners and planners about the “authentic” nature of PVCu sashes requires a degree of listening and adaptation of standard products to fit their brief. Then and only then, will companies stand any chance in this design sensitive, market.

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