Here’s what happens when I go to a home visit for windows and doors and I don’t see lintels: I quote for them. The last thing I want is our installers turning up on site to take out some old big windows and have the bricks above them start to come down. No good work can come of it.
Yet, when we’re in the mix of a number of companies quoting for work, we still seem to be one of the only companies talking about lintels. Even though they’re a requirement.
Most home owners get at least a couple of quotes when they’re searching for new windows and doors. Maybe three of four. In our area we’re usually in the mix of those companies. We like to demonstrate that when it comes to detail, regulations and quality, we’re better than the rest. Part of that process involves taking the home owner outside to look at their brickwork above the windows and doors being quoted for.
In an ideal scenario lintels are already present above the existing windows and doors, so that would end that particular conversation. But, as we are finding more and more often, the existing windows and doors are doing the supporting themselves. At that point, we explain to the customer that there is a very good chance that if we take the existing item out there is a good chance bricks can come with it because it’s the old frame that’s doing the supporting. So, to be able to do the job right and to make sure that we’re sticking to the rules, we will quote for lintels to be installed prior to window and door installation.
This is where we can sometimes hit a snag. You start to get that look on the home owner’s face where they’re starting to question your observation, usually because the other companies before us haven’t bothered to mention it. We ask them if any other companies have brought this issue up and almost always it’s no. We explain that we can’t have a scenario where installers are having to worry about bricks coming down when they take their old windows and doors out. We won’t bodge bricks back in, we won’t hope for the best and hope they stay there. It’s not the right way to do the work, it’s against the rules for us not to put them in and it’s better for the new products if the right support is put in above the windows and doors.
Once you explain why you have to put them in, and that it will prevent longer term problems with their external walls and new windows and doors they come around and understand that the work absolutely does need doing. The thing is though, if more companies were professional enough to bother to look outside and understand the risks of taking out old windows and doors without proper support then we’d have less scepticism from home owners.
Right and proper
To be clear, it is the responsibility of installers to identify window or door openings that currently don’t have lintels to install them if the windows and doors are going to be installed. Speak to your council or self-certification scheme. You have to do it.
The issue our industry has is that it’s always been one of those rules that has never been properly enforced. That’s why most home owners in my experience never know to think about them when looking at upgrading their windows.
One of the other things I notice and use to help reinforce the point to home owners is when we’re going to replace 1st generation PVCu are the cracks in the mortar above that have been patched up when the last lot were installed. Those cracks can be six or seven courses high. In some cases if the windows are wide enough they’re already bowing. Had lintels been installed when they were changed for the first time they wouldn’t be having those problems.
Away from trivial things, like rules, regs and structural integrity, installing lintels is simply the proper thing to do. Why take a window out and hope the bricks stay up? Why risk the bricks moving and causing the window to bow when it’s fitted? It’s lazy selling.
Look at the window or door in question, find evidence of a lintel. If you can’t find one then assume there isn’t, brief the home owner why they need one. Sell the job, fit the lintel, then the installers can come and take the window or door out safe in the knowledge that the bricks are going to stay exactly where they need to be and they can then do the best work they can.
Lintels aren’t difficult. The issue our industry has is lazy selling and companies scared to add to the cost of their quotes for fear of losing the job. In my experience we win jobs because we have bothered to educate the home owner about their importance where others have not.
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