The quality of the building of homes back in the day (as in early 1900s) was something to be admired wasn’t it? Row after row of of tall, decent sized, well built homes that have easily stood the test of time up to now. Around my neck of the wood, on the main road through Wakefield heading up towards Leeds, there’s a long road of them. All still standing proud, knowing they’re better built than some of the dross on the new-build estates.
And speaking from a glazing perspective, one of the really nice things about working on these homes is that you know they have a lintel. You can see them. Usually made of solid stone, with some sort of design on them to turn something frankly quite boring into something nice to look at. It means when we’re changing the windows we can get on with the knowing everything above is staying put.
However, somewhere around the middle of the last century, building standards appeared to dip. At some point, I’m told around the 40s onwards for at least three decades, builders stopped bothering to put lintels in above windows, and instead used the window to support the brickwork. Why?
Were standards cut to deliberately save costs? Were building laws suddenly relaxed? Or were house builders cutting corners and bending rules to make a few extra quid? I’d wager the latter. Whatever the reason, we’re now left with a generation or two of homes that use their windows and doors to support the outer skin of brickwork.
The installation of lintels
You would think that all installers would identify windows and doors that don’t currently have a lintel and make sure that lintels are then installed when those windows and doors are changed. But no.
Time and time again, whilst on my visits to home owners, we appear to be the only company in the area that brings up the subject of lintels and installing them into openings which don’t currently have them. This is despite recent FENSA guidelines saying that they should be installed and local council guidelines becoming stricter.
This brings up an issue, especially for home owners cautious of our industry because of the reputation. If a home owner is getting four companies in to give quotes, and we’re the only company to bring up the subject of lintels, the home owner can sometimes get suspicious of our advice. Why would three companies not mention it and only one would? Skeptical is the word.
Some home owners though are open minded and most usually get it once we explain the importance of lintels and the problems that could be caused if windows and doors are replaced without putting them in.
Make it law, not guidance
My problem with the whole lintel situation is that there are too many times in official looking bits of paperwork that say it’s “best practice” to put lintels in. Fact is, a wide window without a lintel above is going to let the brickwork above it slip if there is no lintel in. Lets have it plain and simple, a window or a door without a lintel must have one installed if the home owner is going to replace said window or door. Easy.
If that is made law, clear as day, installers up and down the land will have no choice but to comply and do a proper job rather than looking at a few courses of horizontal or what they believe is a solid looking soldier course of brickwork.
FENSA can then make lintel inspection on like-for-like replacement part of their overall checklist, and then penalize the companies that fail to do the job right.
Builders would get a natural boost. Installers can rest easy knowing the job has been done right. The home owner knows, even if it has cost them a bit more than they thought it might, that their job has been done well and to the right standards.
So when we count the cost of lintels, it’s not all bad.
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