Dear Reader, I give you the truth. This is a quote I was given for replacement windows for our home on the day I’ll never forget. I’m rapidly learning that whatever I think something is going to cost for the house I can just quadruple it and I might be roughly in the right ballpark.
This year we’ve decided we have to focus on the structure of our home and get all the things that we don’t want to spend money on, but need to, completed. Up until January it was a mild winter but it was still freezing cold indoors – the current windows are around 25 years old and let all the heat out and all the noise in. Coupled with an ineffective heating system and drafty front door, we’re just throwing money away on heating bills.
How the house currently looks
I put a shout-out on Twitter to see if anyone could recommend a local company to come and give quotes. Since we moved to Bromley, I’ve come across a really fantastic community support network on social media and we’ve found some brilliant companies to work on the house so I felt sure that windows would be no exception. Armed with three different recommendations, I booked them all in to come and quote for the work.
Windows are something until yesterday I knew very little about. I knew what I didn’t want (ours are currently diamond leaded throughout which look quite old-fashioned) but whilst there are some lovely examples in our little 1930s “estate”, I haven’t seen anything that’s really made me jump up and down and know that it’s what I want. The home-owning pedant in me is rearing it’s ugly head.
So the first company arrived, duly measured the windows, told me all the required stuff about being FENSA registered, different grades etc. There was some opinion giving about what might look best or what wouldn’t work so well and then he sat down to do the quote. After about 15 minutes or so, I was told that we have 27 windows (it sounds like a lot right, but I think it’s more like 27 panes) and the final quote was given. £17,600. £17,600. £17.600. No matter how many times I say it, write it, think it, it doesn’t get any less gobsmacking.
Being the very cool cat that I am, I styled it out, explaining we had another 2 companies to come and quote and how refreshing it was to deal with smaller, family run business rather than nationals. Really I wanted to scream “are you batshit crazy? I have holes in the only pair of jeans that are actually any good. There is damp on our walls. There are million and one things that need doing to this house and £17,600 is not one of them”. I texted OH with the news and waited for the second company.
They arrived and were instantly more professional. I was asked about equal sightlines (where from the outside the windows are all equally sized so you can’t tell which ones open) which although is more costly is important from an aesthetic point of view, especially with older properties. The final quote was still jaw-dropping but I was now prepared and £13,800 seemed positively cheap by comparison.
Georgian style windows with equal sightline (Image courtesy of www.windowstoday.co.uk)
Finally, the third company. Third time lucky has never been more true. I felt comfortable, assured that I was being given all the options and genuinely listened to. He spoke about how their installers are trained and work, how they use wood surrounds to frame the PVC windows to give them a more period feel and that even the PVC itself is sculpted in such a way to appear more decorative and in keeping with the age. He was the only one to tell me that all newly installed windows need to provide a fire escape access from every room and so in our office where the window is quite narrow it would be necessary to place two openings side by side so that they will both open outwards and we can escape as needed. He was also the only person who advised that on the top floor where it was a loft conversion, we didn’t even need new frames but just replacing the glass and handles will be sufficient. A window is 90% glass so get that right and you’re winning.
The final company haven’t quoted yet but having read their reviews online I’m quietly confident that despite all of their knowledge and detail they may yet be the cheapest of the three. Watch this space.