DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE IS AN OPINION PIECE BASED ON THE GENERAL COMMENTARY WITHIN THE INDUSTRY ABOUT THIS PRODUCT AND IS NOT AIMED AT A COMPANY OR GROUP OF COMPANIES IN PARTICULAR
This is an opinion piece by DGB
There’s no doubting the impact composite doors have had on the overall entrance door market and UK fenestration in general. From niche to full blown growth machine in no time at all. Those growth projections continue to look solid for years to come, with some of the UK’s major composite door markers looking set to cash in on their hugely popular products.
However, as with any product, the composite door market does have it’s problems. This has become more and more apparent this year as some disgruntled installers have taken to social media to vent their frustration at both product quality problems and customer service issues.
I have even seen one or two questions whether to continue selling composite doors in the future at all. So, does the composite door market have bigger issues than we realise? Or are the vocals on social media making it seem worse than it actually is.
The argument from both sides
I am going to attempt to see this topic from both sides of the fence, installer and manufacturer. I’ll go with installer first.
There is nothing more frustrating for an installer who wins an order, usually more expensive than their competitors, on the back of a quality product and service. So when a product, in this case a composite door, develops problems quickly, the novelty for that home owner quickly fades away and lands the installer with remedial work. These things happen of course, we don’t live in a perfect world. But it’s how you put that problem right.
For an installer, they want the back up from their manufacturer in helping to deal with the issue at hand. I have seen quite a lot of commentary this year of that problem being bowed door slabs. It appears to be an issue that affects pretty much all suppliers. A bowed door slab presents a number of problems. Weather performance drops. Hardware doesn’t function properly. Appearance suffers. All in all, a serious matter for the product and home owner overall.
So, as an installer, a professional one at least, you would hope that your supplier has your back if such an issue arises. It seems that it’s not always the case. There has been much discussion on social media about the unwillingness of some suppliers to replace faulty products, or at the very least dragging their feet when it comes to deciding on what course of action to take. All the time the installer grows impatient at not knowing what the outcome will be, and their home owner becoming increasingly agitated by a lack of action.
Any installer out there been told it’s “fitter error” and that there’s nothing wrong with the door? I’m sure some of you have had that at least once in the last couple of years.
Here’s the thing. Almost all composite door suppliers give out generic guidance on installation and maintenance of their composite doors. It’s the only product many of them make, they have hundreds of customers and so umbrella guidelines makes it easier for them. Problem is, issuing blanket guidelines in a country where even a whole estate of new-build houses aren’t likely to be square and level means it’s almost impossible for the installer to stick to them. Where I live, many areas are ex-mining towns, so pretty much everything is on the slide! Installers have to work with the house, and fit their composite doors to the opening, even if it means fitting it a tad wonky.
Bowed door slabs have been a hot topic this year so far. I have seen installers complain about having to replace not one, but multiple slabs on the same door because they have bowed. It’s incredibly frustrating and does tarnish the reputation of the composite door market that up to press has been very positive.
For some context, sales of composite doors at our places have grown strongly over the years, rising in the high percentages. But, the more you sell, the rule of numbers dictates that you’ll get more problems too. We haven’t been immune to things like bowed slabs. However, they have been few and far between, and not in the numbers others have talked about. Generally product quality has been good and reliable.
Just because an installer shouts about a problem, should that qualify for immediate action without investigation? It can’t be a one-way street.
View of a supplier
Every supplier of every product will always have a failure rate. It’s inevitable. To think that they shouldn’t would be delusional. So installers should always cut them a bit of slack on that front.
But a supplier, in this case a composite door supplier, shouldn’t also be under pressure to hand over free products and free services each and every time an installer rings up to say something is wrong. Why? Humanity, as we are, is still full of people who frankly are willing to take the p**s out of someone else if they think they could benefit from it. I have no doubt that there will be a small percentage of installers out there more than willing to throw their own suppliers under the bus if they think they could get a freebie or two out of them if they complain long and loudly enough.
It is because of this I can completely understand when a supplier wants to investigate remedial complaints first before sending out free products. They don’t want to be taken advantage of, it costs them money.
And here’s an unpopular view, but lets face it, there will be some fitters out there who just aren’t good at what they do, and won’t know how to fit composite doors properly. I can already hear your gasps that I would even bring up such a point, but trust me, there are some shoddy fitters out there not fit to fit. So, why would it be fair for a supplier to fork out their time and money to rectify a door that wasn’t fitted properly in the first place? If they did that, again it would cost them a lot of money, which would be better spent elsewhere in the business.
Most composite door makers, especially those who deal with timber cores, will admit that when dealing with a natural product like timber, problems like bowed slabs are going to occur from time to time. I have been told personally that many suppliers have become far stricter when dealing with remedial calls simply down to the fact that the problems were found not to be caused by product problems, but because of poor installation or installers simply trying to pull the wool over their eyes. If you found someone trying to throw you under the bus on a regular basis, would you want to continue to deal with them in the same way, or would you change?
As with everything, there has to be a balance. I don’t believe that the composite door market is about to be bogged down in a sea of product quality problems. All products have issues. The larger problem here I think is the service, or at least the way complaints are handled by composite door companies.
Installers needs to feel as though they are being listened to. But also need to understand that the supplier has a right to make sure that the issue is a genuine one, and not caused by the installer via poor workmanship for example.
Let me know what you think via the comments section below. Does the composite door sector have problems? Do suppliers need to do more? Do installers need to up their game as well?
To get weekly updates from DGB sent to your inbox, enter your email address in the space below to subscribe:
By subscribing you agree to DGB sending you weekly email updates with all published content on this website, as well as any major updates to the services being run on DGB. Your data is never passed on to third parties or used by external advertising companies. Your data is protected and stored on secure servers run by Fivenines UK Ltd.