The risks and pitfalls when buying the cheapest aluminium windows

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Nick Dardalis

Trying to find the cheapest aluminium windows in order to save money on a property project can be tempting, and you’ll find some good and not-so-good ways to save money on the glazing element of your project. Unfortunately, using the cheapest possible routes to buying aluminium windows and doors can also cause problems in terms of window quality, getting the products you expected, a proper installation, and even affecting the entire renovation or building project.

The best route to a successful and trouble-free project is either the full supply and installation service via a professional installer or buying directly from a reputable and expert trade supplier. In this article, we explain the risks and pitfalls with some of the routes to getting the cheapest aluminium windows and what you should be aware of.

Why do you want to buy the cheapest aluminium windows in the first place?

new aluminium windows in a brand new detached house supporting article about buying the cheapest aluminium windows

Every project has a budget, and it is often the case that budgets can overrun. You may have absolutely precise costs for other parts of your project, or you’ve simply under-budgeted how much aluminium windows cost.

The pandemic caused major problems for the glazing industry, and prices have consistently gone up over the last two years. As a result, the original budgets for projects now no longer apply. Or for some, the truth is their budget was unrealistic to start with in costing their windows and doors.

Knowing the true cost of your new windows and doors can help do away with unrealistic expectations. Professional door and window firms are best placed to advise you honestly as to whether you are below the realistic cost of your new windows and doors, and they’ll tell you so too. Early conversations with glazing professionals about what your new windows and doors are likely to cost let you choose whether to go for an alternative window and door design or revisit other ideas for your property renovation generally.

However, we also know projects change for all sorts of reasons, leaving you needing to finish your project without the budget you thought you had. With glazing being a major part of the building fabric, finding ways to get the cheapest aluminium windows and doors is natural.

Here are some of the common ways of getting new windows and doors at lower prices and the potential risks and pitfalls.

Buying direct and getting someone else to fit

Several businesses and websites are now set up to save you money on the glazing element of your project by providing your windows and doors for you to buy directly, and you arrange your own installation. You can read our article about the pros and cons of buying direct vs the full installation route.

If you know what you’re doing, this route to buying the cheapest aluminium windows can work. However, you only sometimes get access to the full range of products and all the options for personalising new windows and doors the supply and install route provides.

The other risks and pitfalls to buying direct and getting someone else to fit your windows are that there are only so many companies around providing installation-only services, and those that do exist focus mainly on larger-scale commercial work. So before you buy direct for the cheapest aluminium windows and think you’ll find someone willing to fit them, make sure you can.

Using your builder to source your windows

Builders are often an excellent source for buying new windows because they’ve built up established relationships with their suppliers, enjoying preferential rates and usually faster lead times. The downside of using your builder to fit your windows are twofold:

First, they don’t have access to the complete product range and won’t always be able to provide exactly the desired product you want. While builders can fit new windows and doors, they cannot have experience fitting anything other than what they are used to. So even if your builder can obtain other brands, chances are they won’t know how to fit and adjust them as well as a professional installer that has more experience with the product. With sliding doors being slimmer and more advanced, this is one product where builders often struggle because they are more complicated to fit and need a very precise method of installation.

Items requiring more hand finishing during installation, such as steel-look windows and doors, may require the glazing bars cutting and applied on site to the glass. Again, this is something a professional installer has more experience with and is more likely to have the right tools, resulting in a better quality install.

The other consideration with using your builder to source your windows is you will never get anywhere near the guarantee on your windows and doors than the full supply and install route. If you are expecting the widely marketed ten-year guarantee, with your builder fitting your windows, you won’t get it. Should anything go wrong, the windows and door frames, the glass, routine adjustment, handles and hardware are unlikely to be covered in the same way as the would be with the full installation route. And remember, brands such as Origin and others providing a longer warranty, offer this conditional upon a trained installer fitting their products.

It is also worth checking how you or your builder are going to comply with the current Building Regulations your new glazing should meet.

Using a lesser-known aluminium system

Some aluminium brands are widely used in the home, and others less so, better known and used in commercial developments or by construction companies when building new homes or apartments. Examples include Stayfix, Kawneer, Senior Architectural, Exlabesa, Kestrel, Jack Aluminium and others. The downside to using lesser-known systems to get the cheapest aluminium windows is that the companies making and fitting them may not have the eye for detail and quality focus you want in your home. This is because they are more commercially orientated.

Where installers are fitting windows for the construction company and not the homeowner, can often get away with a less ‘precise’ installation. It is easier to get away with marks on the paintwork, scratches on the glass, windows and doors not made that well and compromises on styling, installation and specifications. This is because, for new build properties, the buyer is in no way involved in the purchase of the windows and doors.

If you choose to buy a cheaper and lesser-known system, ensure the manufacturer, especially the installer, has some experience working in dwellings directly for the homeowner and residential windows and doors. We know of people that have used builders and installers more used to fitting for commercial installations and are unhappy with the result. Bear in mind this is never the fault of the window brand itself. Every door and window is only as good as the company making and fitting them.

You risk poor quality buying the cheapest aluminium windows

From the requests for help, we get when things go wrong, it is obvious that choosing the cheapest products usually comes with quality compromises. The product does not look right. There are gaps and draughts, the overall fit and finish are poor, and the installation isn’t great.

The frustration with the cheapest route to buying windows and doors also involves a lack of engagement by the company or individual you used when things go wrong. There is always a risk of poor quality when you insist on finding your new windows and doors at the lowest possible price from the cheapest supplier,

Online Auction Sites

Online auction sites offer some of the cheapest aluminium windows. These come with a lot of risks, if you don’t know the history of the doors and windows in question. We are frequently asked and sent links to products available on online auction sites and asked to recommend or check them.

Some of these are clear to see were installed and subsequently rejected, with visible markings showing they have been fitted and taken out again. Others come with alternative hardware to what is usually supplied. There is no guarantee you’ll get the glazing gaskets and seals for the glass, and they often come with no cills, finishing trims and other small parts. It is also unlikely the correct glazing packers for fitting the glass properly, fixing screws and other components usually found in a window fitters tool kit are ever supplied to you when you by online via online auction sites, leaving you at a loss where to source them from.

When buying from online auction sites, even from a reputable seller, unless you are 100% certain the product is complete, the risks and pitfalls can be significant.

Buying the cheapest aluminium windows and doors from manufacturers abroad

Another route to getting the cheapest aluminium windows is using a supplier that sources their windows and doors from abroad. Most suppliers do this very well, and bear in mind some of the top-end brands are only made abroad and supplied to a UK network of trained and approved installers. Buying from a supplier making their windows and doors abroad also comes with pitfalls.

There is no guarantee the profiles supplied by system companies, hardware and components in other countries are the same as those used in the UK. There is also no guarantee that the paint quality is the same either. Moreover, you have no guarantee that the system company in this country can and will offer support for products made abroad.

The other consideration with buying windows and doors made abroad is the service and support in place should things go wrong. For example, if your installer comes to fit your new windows and the cills or window beads have been cut the wrong size, will you have to wait for the parts to be sourced from the original manufacturer? These delays can be costly and inconvenient compared to buying from a UK supplier with stockholding of materials. If you choose to source your new windows and doors in this way, ensure the installation company tells you how the product is supported.

With security so important for new windows and doors, you must also ensure the windows made abroad meet the current standards in the UK.

Beware the bargain when buying the cheapest aluminium windows

In many cases, reputable windows and doors suppliers with the systems, procedures and services in place to supply to you directly will give you a better experience. Make sure your chosen installer is competent and qualified and knows the product they are fitting, the installation should also go well.

A professional installer will show you a choice of products, know the Building Regulations, take care of FENSA or other compliance certifications, provide a professional survey, use a reputable manufacturer, fit professionally, and provide the best guarantee.

If you are on a tight budget, the temptation to source products from the cheapest suppliers means all manner of compromises, pitfalls and risks, and you need to become quite knowledgeable on windows and doors!

There is a real cost to using the cheapest route. The low prices come with a risk of poor quality, you may also find hidden costs. Overall, for a significant project and wanting to improve or build a dream home, cheap aluminium windows are simply not worth the risk, and it could be a false economy with delays, disappointment and frustrations.

Looking to buy the right windows and doors from the proper suppliers? Use our contact form to get in touch for free help and advice.