Introducing one of our more well known member of our ever expanding Twitter community, Ben Warren from Legacy Windows. Continuing my expanding series of regular guest columnists on this site, Ben will be writing using his experience from being in the middle of the supply chain. The reaction to my first guest columnist, Sam, has been fantastic and for that I am grateful as I am sure Sam is. So lets please all welcome Ben to the site and enjoy is regular musings. If you’re a supplier/manufacturer, then you’re going to relate to this one!

Life in the Middle of the Supply Chain…

The purpose of this column is to try to help those who are new to the Aluminium industry understand the individual issues with this unique supply chain, so that they can see the importance of planning and accuracy, and gain a more rounded knowledge of the available systems for windows and doors which are available to them. Hopefully this will help every body avoid the common errors and pitfalls.

Over the next few months I want to get across the main points which installers need to take note of:

  • Product Specification and Application
  • Energy Ratings and Glazing
  • Paint Finish Guarantees
  • Colour and Finish Choices
  • Hardware Options
  • Surveying
  • Purchasing, including lead times
  • Powder Coating
  • Fabrication and Supply
  • Installation
  • Remakes and Mistakes

This week we’ll go over a few of the issues concerned with Product Specification and Application.

When looking at the uPVC market, there is very little use in the commercial or architectural fields, this is due to uPVC having a much lower wind loading capability. Aluminium has the inherent strength to cope with this, and there is always a product available to suit, from Domestic to Light Commercial to Curtain Walling.

As the installer, are you dealing with a residential customer, a house builder or a main contractor for a commercial project? Each of these customer types requires a different approach. Home owners need help going through the process of buying, whereas builders and contractors tend to just accept your advice as long as all products comply with current building regulations and energy ratings.

When a client/homeowner comes to you as the installer and asks for Aluminium windows and doors, the first thing to ask is why they have done so? Are they attempting to keep up with Jones’s, are they concerned about the environmental aspects of using a highly recyclable material, or are they looking for an inherently stronger and higher quality product?  The first thing that needs to be discussed is their available budget. Now we would all love to drive a Porsche, but when we go into the dealership can we really afford one, with Aluminium becoming more and more fashionable too many end users simply don’t understand the pricing implications of upgrading from uPVC double glazing to Aluminium.

Once budget is out of the way, what appearance and application are they looking for? When people think of Aluminium they think of slim, contemporary sightlines, but in actual fact there are some very traditional systems out there in the market. Every client has their own personal opinion as to what suits their home, we as suppliers/installers can just advise as best we can.

The next issue is that some people think that it is possible to supply windows and doors which are much larger than their uPVC counterparts. In truth it is, but the larger windows need to be, the larger the profiles which will make them up become. I continually struggle to get customers to understand that profiles designed to be Steel lookalike, cannot be used to make 1600mm high side hung casements, they simply are not man enough for the job. Or residential doors which are 1200 or 1300mm wide. Again they can be fabricated but require light commercial doors which come with much larger sections to cope with the excessive loadings.

This is why we as fabricators offer a range of systems which cover all eventualities, whereas most uPVC suppliers will on the whole just offer one. We fabricate the Smart systems range, and offer over a dozen residential window systems, each which has at least four outerframe options, four casement sashes, multiple bead and cill options. They say there are close to a billion options of Door Stop  doors, well we surely cant be far off that with our range of windows. Other trade fabricators will offer more than one suit, ie Sapa, Schueco and Beaufort, so they will literally have a window that can suit every need.

The main issue concerned with all of the above is cost. Unfortunately for our industry, this is becoming more and more of a factor. The basic rule of thumb is clear, the more metal and different types of sections the more it costs, so before you leap into any project, talk to your supplier and ask their advice on any of these, they should have the product knowledge and the experience to help in any way.

I hope I’ve covered everything, next time is Energy Ratings and Glazing.

Ben Warren – Technical Director, Legacy Windows Ltd –