Dear Telegraph editors,
I read to my amusement on Sunday morning the advice given to a homeowner by Jeff Howell, when asked a question about choosing a new front door. Now, to be clear from the outset, I have kept an eye on his advice over time whenever it has mentioned the glazing industry I work in. I have rarely agreed with anything he has said, however, after his latest “advice” I feel compelled to correct his many mistakes.
For my readers who may not have seen the question and response, this was the question asked by the homeowner identified as NW:
My home needs a new front door. There are two double-glazing companies in my area. One supplies a door that has a high-density central core of foam and a glass-reinforced plastic skin. The door is heavy. The other company supplies a solid laminate timber-core door with thermoplastic skins. This one is a normal weight. The cost of either door is about £1,400, including essential add-ons. Could you advise me which would be the best buy, or whether I should consider other types of doors?
This was then the answer given by Jeff Howell:
You don’t say why your home “needs” a new front door. And I couldn’t advise you whether to buy a modern composite door or not, or which version is better for your circumstances.
However, I do know that composite doors can be bought for about £400. So it sounds as though you might risk being taken for a sucker – or at least for a hefty salesman’s markup – by these “double glazing” firms.
First of all, if the guy needs a new front door, then he needs a new front door. He knows his home better than Jeff and better than the readers of the Telegraph. So lets take him on his word that he actually does need a new front door. He also says that he couldn’t actually give advice on whether to buy a new composite door or not, or which is better for his circumstance. So why is he bothering to reply to this question in the first place? But lets forget that for a second and tackle the incredibly poor information he is giving out.
The figure of £400 he states is rather ambiguous. It’s very low to start with. A mid to high range composite door, depending on the specification of the glass, colour, hardware etc will cost more than that, lets say in the region of £500-£600 without the VAT – that’s what it would cost my family run installation business to buy a composite door in from our suppliers. The homeowner never states what door spec he had been quoted for, and it’s quite realistic to expect a quote of around £1400 for a composite door if he has chosen some high-end specs.
So, for the sake of Jeff so he can learn about the door market a bit better, lets work backwards on the homeowners quote of £1400 so Jeff can be assured that the homeowner is not about to be ripped off. Lets take my figures I’ve just mentioned and work in the middle. Lets say it costs an installation company about £600+VAT to buy the door set in – it might be a certain colour with certain optional extras added. Add to that then the costs of fixings, silicones, trims and other ancillary products required to fit the door. The door then has to be sold in the first place, and I can assure you that no sales person is going to do that for free, so lets now factor in what the sales person needs to make, this of course will differ from company to company but there will always be some level of commission involved. Now we’d need a surveyor to come out and do an accurate final measure prior to the product being ordered, and of course they need paying for. Next up is the fitter’s cut, because they of course need to make a living. Let’s chuck in an insurance backed guarantee for around £25 which as Jeff will obviously know became law this year to have one on every installation. So lets assume that those costs collectively come to around £250+VAT. So, after all other costs involved, what is left is company profit. If you have done your maths, you’ll know that it isn’t a great deal when compared to the overall cost the homeowner has been quoted. Now of course these are just back of the packet figures, the actual profit margin could be a little higher or lower and so could the costs. But I am part of my family run business dealing in installing windows and doors so they shouldn’t be that far away. Jeff, can you see that this homeowner isn’t actually being ripped off? God knows what he was going to buy for £400. It certainly wasn’t going to be a quality door, nor would it have been fitted for him at that cost either.
Jeff, the way you put quotation marks around the words “double glazing” in your piece to suggest that the industry is corrupt is rather insulting. The majority of our industry is made up of decent people and businesses trying very hard in a very competitive market to make a living and pay the bills. Your knowledge on our industry conveyed by your latest piece appears to be very, very poor. Perhaps if you had consulted parts of the industry first to then tailor your advice to this homeowner, then maybe you could have given them a more accurate and useful insight. Yet you didn’t.
Now, to save future faux pas when it comes to reporting on our industry, I am more than willing to be on hand to help you out when window and door related questions crop up in your features again. You can find my email address in the contact section on this website.
I’ll end this with my own advice to the homeowner. Out of the foam filled composite door and the solid timber core door, I would go with the timber option. It will be heavier than the foam option. Also, taking a stab in the dark here, the timber option is possibly made by a company called Solidor. We use them ourselves and have found them to be a good door to install. One last tip, ensure that you visit showrooms to see exactly what you’re getting for your money. You need to be confident about what you are buying. Also, £1400 for a high quality, well designed front door that includes fitting and VAT isn’t as ridiculous as Jeff makes that sound.
As always, all comments welcome in the section below.