Aluminium windows shortages explained

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Nick Dardalis

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Have you placed an order for new windows or patio doors and being told of a general glass and double glazing shortage? Are you being told of aluminium windows shortages too? The glazing and the wider construction industry is facing significant material and glass delays and a general problem with supply. This double glazing shortage isn’t just for aluminium, but PVCu, steel and timber windows. We explain the reasons why your new windows and doors are late and all the different parts of the supply chain affecting them.

aluminium windows shortages and why they're affecting home improvements

Aluminium windows shortages and why the glazing and construction sector is busier than ever

First of all it’s worth putting some context into why this double glazing shortage and windows delays. The Covid-19 pandemic saw an unforeseen surge in all home improvement products. There are several reasons why:

  • People working from home and improving the home for work and family life
  • Significant household savings built up and spent on home improvements
  • Homeowners like you, continuing to invest in their homes

It’s also worth remembering that the construction sector continued to work throughout the pandemic as did the home improvement industry, with tradesmen at the height of the pandemic allowed to work in peoples’ homes.

Above all, nobody could foresee that the Covid-19 pandemic would see a massive surge in demand for home improvement products. The home improvement industry, like food retailers and online shopping, has done well out of the pandemic. So here’s why thy your new doors and windows are late.

Why aluminium and glass demand was underestimated

Nobody foresaw a massive demand for home improvements at the start of the pandemic. In March 2020 the retail glazing sector mostly shut down expecting a nationwide slowdown. Why would anyone want new windows during a lockdown? The opposite happened and demand was higher than ever. At a time when most in the supply chain prepared for less work, demand shot up.

It wasn’t just consumers. Even the global aluminium raw material suppliers couldn’t have seen unprecedented demand. When demand goes up, so do the global aluminium billet prices.

You can’t blame uncertainty and pessimism at the height of a pandemic. People and business have had to adapt fast, deal with changing guidelines and regulations.

glass shortages explained in an article

Glass shortages throughout the UK explained

There are critical glass shortages across the entire supply chain. Whilst the double and triple glass unit manufacturers are ready to make the glass. Their stock comes from the global glass processors supplying float glass in various thicknesses. These top-level suppliers also rely on shipping containers and you’ll probably have read about the global shortage of these. Even the ship blocking the Suez Canal affected supply.

Making matters worse for your window installer, delivery dates have stretched into weeks and their suppliers then raised their prices. These price rises are also attributable to increases in the cost of containers. So whilst your window and door frames may be ready, many suppliers are still waiting for glass.

You may be asking, why your glass isn’t made in the UK? It is. It’s the supply of the raw materials and flat glass sheets most glass manufacturers buy around the world. It doesn’t help that most of the major float glass plants in the UK have closed.

Does the global vaccine rollout affect your windows and doors? The requirement for the billions of glass vials for vaccines is likely to affect glass supply at the top level too.

Even the components glass needs are in short supply.

You may not think making glass needs much in the way of other components, but it does. Plastics! Polyethylene, Polypropylene, Monoethylene shortages are leading to factory delays.

Laminated glass is in high demand and the plastic interlayer needed for this glass type is in short supply. This plastics shortage is having an effect on PVCu windows of course as well as the polyamide thermal break in all aluminium profiles.

aluminium windows shortages and glass shortages caused by a lack of handles supply

How hardware delays are affecting the double glazing shortage

Much of the hardware in your new glazing is also made abroad. Locks, hinges, patio door rollers, and smaller essential components. Again these supply issues create an aluminium windows shortage.

But doesn’t any window hardware get made in the UK? The answer is yes and a lot of it. The problem with just swapping one Made in China hinge for those made in the UK is certification. BSI, Kitemark, Security testing and other accreditations all rely on specific types of components in a lot of cases.

It’s not just aluminium. Foiling of PVCu windows creates their texture and colour. There’s a massive supply shortage of Renolit and other foils – essential to many window and door profiles.

Back to plastics demand. The polyamide thermal break essential in aluminium profiles is also in short supply. Without polyamide, aluminium profile producers can’t put the door and window profile together. No profile affects aluminium systems companies selling bars to the manufacturers. No profile means the manufacturer can’t make doors and windows on time. No profile means the installer can’t get your fabricated windows on time. Neither can you.

Why the entire manufacturing chain is affecting delivery of your new windows and doors

Door and window manufacturers throughout the UK are doing their best to mitigate the effect on them, their installer customers and you.

Many are trying to establish which are the most critical components and trying to locate these elsewhere. Others are doing their best to ensure ongoing supply. These door and window manufacturers rely entirely on the reliable supply of hardware, glass, plastics and many other components types, not just for making windows, but also for the smooth operation of their factories and machinery.

Lead times are longer than ever as a result of all these genuine factors. Typically, window manufacturing companies take between two to ten days to deliver standard colour windows and doors to your installer. Special colours and bespoke products typically no more than around two to four weeks. Lead times are up to nine weeks or more for some aluminium products, such is consumer demand, construction industry demand, combined with the lack of components supply and glass.

glass shortages and aluminium windows shortage explained in an informative article

Understanding what your home improvement company is doing

A caring company will do their utmost to minimise the disruption to you. No business wants to delay your installation. They want to complete it, ensure you’re delighted and get paid.

Many are in ongoing communication with their suppliers, checking when products are ready and moving their own installation schedules to accommodate you as much as possible.

Others are looking to source glass and other essential components elsewhere even if it costs them more and not passing the cost onto you.

Many are not waiting for deliveries of products instead choosing to go and collect it.

How you can help

Be flexible. Obviously replacing a dated set of doors doesn’t cause you significant disruption compared with a newly built opening with a boarded-up hole for your new bifolding doors.

Be understanding. Your installer does not want to delay you, they want you to be happy. Rest assured they’re incurring significant costs right now and none of these is likely to be passed onto you. Whilst you may not care about other home improvers, others are experiencing exactly what you are.

Be curious and do your research. It’s unlikely anyone is spinning you a line! A search online will confirm an aluminium windows shortage, a double glazing shortage, global price increases and supply issues based on transport, containers, the workload at ports and many related stories.

Be calm. Don’t jump to leaving negative reviews about your installer and their terrible service. They’re doing all they can. They can’t control the multiple suppliers and globally sourced components that go into your new windows and doors.