Frequently Asked Questions
FENSA stands for the Fenestration Self-Assessment Scheme. It has been set up by the Glass & Glazing Federation (GGF) with Government encouragement in response to the current Building Regulations for England and Wales. It is intended to ensure that installations of windows & doors meet the requirements of the current Building Regulations (many of these are statutory - i.e. legal, obligations).
Companies that are registered with FENSA are able to 'self certify' that installations they undertake meet these requirements and this is periodically checked (by inspection) by FENSA. Obviously it is important that the products installed in your home meet the Building Regulation requirements - both for your safety & peace of mind - but also if you decide to sell your property a solicitor will expect this work to be Certified.
Unfortunatly FENSA membership is not compulsory within the industry and FENSA can only inspect the work of member companies. As with any 'random' inspection process it is the 'threat' of inspection that should police the system - FENSA membership in itself does not 'guarantee' a good installation - rather it indicates a company that is a least committed towards achieving the correct standards.
This is correct - you can apply to the local Building Control Dept. for an independent inspection certificate. However this is normally costly (prices vary but are usually in the £60 - £110 range). Many reputable builders and joiners simply don't install enough windows & doors to feel they can justify the business expense of joining FENSA - however seeking Building Control Dept approval can become an additional cost & inconvienience for the homeowner. Any good Double Glazing Company or Installer should be registered with FENSA - if they're not ask why.
The short answer is the full scope of the current Building Regulations. A professional window surveyor or installer should be familiar with these requirements and should be able to tell you how they apply to your property - if they're not are they someone you trust to work on your property? Try asking them some 'technical' questions - Do you need fire escape (egress) windows? (A: Yes if you have them now, no if you don't - a fire escape window is one with an opening within 1500mm of the floor, that opens to an unobstructed 450mm and a minimum area of 1/3 of a square meter. They are required in all upstairs habitable rooms (unless there is a fire escape), and downstairs rooms that have more than 2 doors between them and outside). Which side does the Low E glass go on? (A: it goes on the inner pane on the side facing into the sealed unit - this question often fools inexperienced surveyors as glass is usually labelled with a "this side OUT" sticker).
Of specific importance are;
Part L (Fuel conservation) often referred to regarding Low E glass use - however other aspects also apply.
Part M (Disabled Access) of particular importance for new build applications and door detailing.
Part N (Safety - see Safety Glazing Question) of paramount importance - yet rarely mentioned by surveyors.
Part F (Ventillation) Various local authorites interpret these requirements in different ways in our experience and this part of the regulations is due to be ammended (as of Sept 2007).
Part B (means of egress). Often misinterpreted.
This is partly true.
New windows & doors need to conform with Part L of the building regulations with the aim of improving the thermal performance (energy efficiency) of your property. In order to do this window systems require the use of a Low E (the E stands for emivissity) glass. K Glass is simply the brand name for one manufacturer's product - it was one of the first products launched and as such is one of the best known. However as with many things newer products - (notably the soft coat glasses that have come along) can offer a significant improvement. The Building regulations require a 'U' value of less than 2.0. K Glass achieves 1.7 in a 28mm double glazed unit. Other products can achieve 1.4 - you should ask potential suppliers exactly what they are offering you & who makes it.
Low E glass does cost more than standard 'float' glass - however this is in reality not an additional cost as it must be supplied in all domestic dwellings and represents a relativly small percentage of your overall installation.
All coated glass will cause a slight colour variation due to the nature of the application. Usually these are only visible in certain circumstances (bright sunshine at an angle). The product we normally recommend has a neutral colour balance to minimise this affect. Customers have commented that K glass has a slight greenish tint - ask to see a sample.
DON'T BUY FROM A COMPANY WHO DON'T GIVE YOU A WRITTEN GUARANTEE.
Unfortunately, there are literally tens of thousands of people who have purchased Double Glazing but do not have a Guarantee - because they didn't get it in writing at the time, the supplier has since gone out of business (or changed the company name ever so slightly).
The standard Guarantee in the industry is 10 Years. Beware of guarantee's that do not state a specific period of time - the use of phrases like 'Lifetime', 'Ever Lasting' or 'forever' should be treated with caution.
Always 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 company ceasing trading. However this is not the whole story. Insurance Backed Guarantee's are not all the same, and it is worth taking the time to make sure that the insurance cover is worth the paper it's printed on. Questions you should ask include;
Is it a UK based insurance? (if not then it is not governed by the UK Financial Services Ombudsman)
Will it pay out if the company voluntarily ceases trading (i.e. retires, many policies only pay out in the event of Bankruptcy).
In our opinion a reputable company should include this cover as standard - but all too often we hear of companies 'offering' the cover as an expensive extra (presumably to put purchasers off!). It is always better of course to choose a supplier that you feel can offer a proven track record & is likely to be able to honour the promises it makes you - this company will be familiar with your property and the products you chose - they should ideally carry spare parts & be able to send someone relatively quickly to attend to your concerns. Check how long the Company has been in Business - in this Industry, Longevity is a good Recommendation!
Yes & No. Some Trade Associations are of great benefit to you as they actually police their members and by doing so offer you - the consumer, a greater degree of certainty about the company you're dealing with. Reputable Associations should bind their members to a code of conduct or a set of standards and this should be enforceable by the association.However many Trade Associations' are simply businesses that are interested in collecting membership fees & actually have no powers of action (the worst they can do is recind the companies membership - which they are unlikely to do as the company is actually their paying customer). Our advice is to check that the associations or accreditations shown by a supplier actually belong to the supplier - it sounds simple but many companies simply use other peoples logo's or those of suppliers. Most accreditations should carry a certificate or membership number that is specific to the company using it.
The other BIG benefit to the consumer is that it is usually these trade organisations that supply & support the insurance backed warranty that you recieve - so it is worthwhile taking the time to check that it would hold up should you need it.
No, No, No!
In fact no two window systems are the same - they can't be as systems companies go to great length's to ensure their designs are different. In addition even windows & doors made from the same system (we use REHAU) can be made in entirely different ways. There are many components that the consumer cannot see (e.g. reinforcement) and these offer unscrupulous companies a way to reduce costs. The differences in the UK markets product range can be quite noticeable - it's worth taking the time to research the system you are being offered - the differences can be quite eye opening. Some companies don't have different window & door frames - they just use one - whilst this might be acceptable to some it limits the customers options and the scope of possible designs. We've heard of companies still offering externally beaded window systems- the only possible reason for this is that they haven't the investment in manufacturing to adopt new processes to accomodate internally beaded window systems - this keeps their costs low - but results in the consumer getting an inferior window system with possible security issues.
You should always check the windows & doors you purchase are made to the systems companies instructions - even better if possible use a company that is independently accredited by a recognised Quality Management System (e.g. ISO9000, BSI, BBA or other) - this will verify that the company you purchase from manufactures to a recognised standard - which should help ensure that your windows & doors are made correctly.
In addition is also very important that you check that the components that your supplier is using are of a reasonable quality - you wouldn't put budget tyres on a prestige car - it's a false economy & it will affect the performance - the same is very true of windows & doors. There are different types (& qualities) of door & window locks, handles glass etc and all of these affect the cost, quality & warranty of the products you purchase.
Like any insurance the answer is hopefully not! Insurance is there for when something goes wrong - but unfortunately things do go wrong from time to time, companies cease to trade & customers lose their deposits - there are stories in the paper every week. Any reputable company should include this cover - like the guarantee insurance in a previous question this shouldn't be a chargeable extra. The standard deposit in the industry is 25% - we're not aware of any Deposit Insurance that will cover more than 25%. In addition many insurances have limits, make sure that the cover you are offered is enough for your deposit. If you are asked for more than 25% as a deposit question why - is the contractor using your money to fund their business? This is not a good sign.
Obviously when you hand over your deposit you should get a 'contract' or written record of your deposit.
Not necessarily (you should of course check that there are no restrictive covenants, planning restrictions or conservation area issues). For many customers changing your windows & doors is a chance to get the designs you actually want. You should be very wary of companies that try & sell you specific styles - you should be in charge of choosing what you want - not the supplier who may only be able to make certain types of window - or may only wish to buy in certain types of window. There may also be specific requirements that need to be met under Building Regulations - any competent company should be able to advice you.
It's worth taking the time to look at the other properties in your area - some may have the original windows, many will have replacement windows - some will enhance the look of the property, capitalise on views or offer special features, others will detract from the look of the property. In many cases we find that the original designs are the best for your property - they were part of the design for your whole property and were probably chosen to best suit the house's 'look' by a designer or architect that was looking at the 'larger picture'. Many replacement windows are sold on the basis of reducing the cost (for the installer) and being easy to install.
Often customers are not made aware of product types & designs that a company is unable to offer - Sliding Sash Windows are good example of this - a quick look at many older properties will reveal examples of poorly chosen replacement windows.
Reading the above you might think you’d never fall for this type of gimmick – but a quick look at the adverts in any local paper tells you that a lot of people must do (companies only use adverts that work for them). We don’t believe in High Pressure Sales (see 1stFrame Sales Policy at bottom of page)– you should never sign up on the night - & if you do you must remember that you have a legal right to change your mind for the next 7 days.
There is an entire industry based around training Salespeople to part the customer from their cash. The entire focus of this training is always "Get the Order". If you feel at all pressurised by the salesperson you should question why. Don't let the salesperson use their set 'script' - this is designed to raise hypothetical questions and answer them for you - thus (supposedly) removing your concerns & objections in order that you feel happy to place the order there & then. But - are they actually the questions you wanted answered? Do they relate to your property & needs?
Before starting on the process of replacing your windows & doors you should work out a list of questions designed to answer your concerns - and it is reasonable for you to expect the salesperson or company to be able to answer these questions for you. If they can't do it there and then they should be able to get back to you promptly - if the answer is of particular importance to you make sure it is confirmed to you in writing.
Almost without exception, companies selling 'Special Offers’ or various finance packages' sell most of their business that way. So, of course, the discount & credit charges are built into the price. Realistically nothing is ever actually ‘Free’ – the cost is built in and it’s a selling technique to get the customer to extend the purchase range and amount spent.
We can’t recommend enough that customers are extremely careful about buying windows on finance packages – it’s not uncommon for the interest rates to be double that that you can get from a bank or building society – the Salesman is trained to sell to your budget – but whilst a £100 a month sounds great – this might be over 120 months – meaning you pay £12,000.
1stFrame Sales Policy.
- 1stFrame do not cold call customers (telephone calls at night, knocking on your door) - you will never be contacted by 1stFrame unless you have made an enquiry to us.
- Your details will not be sold or given to any third party (except when legally required to do so - e.g. Independant Guarantee Schemes). Upon reciept of a written request to do so we will be happy to delete all of your details from our systems.
- We will arrange an appointment with you at a time suitable to yourself - and we will turn up! If for any reason we are running late you will be contacted as soon as possible.
- We are happy to see anyone - we do not insist that you are both there (if applicable) - this is a sales tool to remove possible objections and try & force you to sign up on the night (see above).
- A typical appointment will be anything between 15-60 minutes. There is no logical reason for an appointment to run into hours - that is harrassement. We are quite happy to spend as much - or as little time with you as your enquiry requires. If you have questions we will stay and answer them to the best of our ability.
- We do not give prices during the visit - nor do we try & make you sign up then & there.
- We supply a detailed written quotation which will be posted (or emailed if you prefer) within 24 working hours. The quotation will be our 'best price' - we do not 'start high & finish low'. We assume your time is valuable and that you are able to make up your own mind. Our quotation is valid for 30 days.
- Should you require any additional information or a variation to your quotation then we are happy to supply this & it will be confirmed in writing to you.
- We do not chase you. You may (at random) be contacted by our Customer Service Dept. to check that we are responding to potential customers in a prompt and professional manner. Like any professional organisation we believe this feedback is vital to our success.
- Should you decide to use someone else then Thank You for the opportunity and we hope you will consider us again if the need arises.
- Should you decide to go ahead with 1st Frame then... Thank You very much! We will write to you and confirm your order and we will arrange for a detailed survey to be undertaken (see Customer Charter)
Shown below is the current (Sept 2007) Building Regulation document for the statuatory requirements for toughened glass. In addition we believe that there are also certain areas where the use of toughened glass constitute 'best practise' - such as in bathrooms with showers near windows (risk of fall) , below 1500mm on staircases & window seats.
There has been much controversy surrounding the use, manufacture, recycling and sustainability of PVC. It's use has been under intense & hostile attack for a number of years, primarily because of it's association with chlorine chemistry.
Much of this argument has been emotionally driven rather than based upon scientific scrutiny. Indeed Dr Moore (co-founder of Greenpeace) has said "Further, PVC is durable, low maintenance, recyclable and performs well in LCA (life cycle assessment) tests".
Some simple facts about PVC-U windows are:
- The Building Research Establishment (BRE) states a life of at least 35 years.
- No need for additional chemical and manufacturing processes to create paint and treatments (unlike other products). (source Specifier Briefing - The Open & Shut Case for PVc-U BPF)
- 8500 tonnes of PVC-U window waste material were recycled in the UK in 2005. A study by the government funded Waste and Resource Allocation Programme (WRAP) suggests that some alternative materials are practically impossible to recycle efficiently due to the paints solvents and putties used to install & maintain them.(source Specifier Briefing - The Open & Shut Case for PVc-U BPF)
- PVC-U manufacture has been referred to as 'Dioxin Factories'. The industry is very strictly regulated and it's a very low contributor to dioxin levels. The highest dioxin concentration allowed from industrial discharge is 0.1ng/cubic metre. UK studies suggest that as much as 14% of the total UK annual emissions can be attributed to Bonfire Night celebrations. According to a report published by HMIP in 1995 (source 'A review of Dioxin Emission in the UK) more dioxins are released into the atmosphere through sources invloving the combustion of wood than are produced by the entire halogenated chemicals industry.
- The energy used to manufacture PVC is low compared to other materials e.g. aluminium. The manufacture of 1 cubic decimetre of PVC requires only 2kg of mineral oil, for the same amount of steel it is as much as 5kg, and for aluminium it can be 15kg.
- PVC has the following properties in a fire; difficult to ignite, self extinguishes, will not spread flame.
- Figures put together over a 30 year period by the Northern Consortium of Housing Authorities in the UK shows that the total capital and maintenance costs for a softwood window will be 33% more than for a window in PVC-U (assuming a 10% bank interest rate in a scheme over 30 years).
- An industry study in Germany (where PVC-U windows have been commonplace for many years) by AgPU (German industrial organisation) has shown that total investment and maintenance costs for a hardwood system over a 35 year period were 23% more expensive than PVC-U and aluminium systems were 57% more expensive.
We attached a link to the Pilkington range of obscure glass - these are pretty much the industry standard.
Certain patterns are directional, and certain obscures are not available over 1300mm in size.
Most of the standard obscure glass designs cost the same - however the sand blasted (or acid etched) designs do cost more - as it's a matter of personal preference we let you decide.
On the bottom of each picture you will notice a number 1-5. This represents the degree of obscurity that the glass offers - 1 being not far off clear, 5 being the least transparent.
Under new regulations that came into effect from 1 October 2008 adding a conservatory to your house is considered to be permitted development, not needing an application for planning permission, subject to the following limits and conditions:
- No more than half the area of land around the "original house"* would be covered by additions or other buildings.
- No extension forward of the principal elevation or side elevation fronting a highway.
- No extension to be higher than the highest part of the roof.
- Maximum depth of a single-storey rear extension of three metres for an attached house and four metres for a detached house.
- Maximum height of a single-storey rear extension of four metres.
- Maximum depth of a rear extension of more than one storey of three metres including ground floor.
- Maximum eaves height of an extension within two metres of the boundary of three metres.
- Maximum eaves and ridge height of extension no higher than existing house.
- Side extensions to be single storey with maximum height of four metres and width no more than half that of the original house.
- Roof pitch of extensions higher than one storey to match existing house.
- No verandas, balconies or raised platforms.
- On designated land* no permitted development for rear extensions of more than one storey; no cladding of the exterior; no side extensions.
- Where work is proposed to a listed building, listed building consent may be required.
The term "original house" means the house as it was first built or as it stood on 1 July 1948 (if it was built before that date). Although you may not have built an extension to the house, a previous owner may have done so.
Designated land includes national parks and the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas and World Heritage Sites.
Building Regulations Building regulations will generally apply if you want to build an extension to your home. However, conservatories are normally exempt when they meet a number of conditions.
Conservatories are normally exempt from building regulations when:
- They are built at ground level and are less than 30 square metres in floor area
- At least half of the new wall and three quarters of the roof is either glazed or translucent material
- The conservatory is separated from the house by external quality door(s).
- Glazing and any fixed electrical installations comply with the applicable building regulations requirements (see below).
You are advised not to construct conservatories where they will restrict ladder access to windows serving rooms in roof or loft conversions, particularly if any of the windows are intended to help escape or rescue if there is a fire.
Any new structural opening between the conservatory and the existing house will require building regulations approval, even if the conservatory itself is an exempt structure.
Disclaimer: This information is for guidance puposes only and is not a definitive explanation or legal advice.