Getting the best windows and doors – a practical guide

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Nick Dardalis

As a potential buyer of new windows and doors, many product choices and conflicting sales messages can often seem overwhelming. There are over forty brands of bifolding and sliding doors and numerous window brands and types. Every salesperson or glazing company claims to offer the “best” product. But what does “best” really mean? How can you understand whether the best windows and doors being offered are right for you?

Buying windows and doors for your project may feel like a minefield. In this article, we will give you some insight and knowledge about the windows and doors you need to buy, helping you make sense of what you are being told and arming you with the right information to ask any door and window supplier. We will also help you understand more about the best windows and doors and the glazing industry in general.

Do the best windows and doors exist?

In the context of windows and doors, “best” can be subjective. What works best for a modern loft conversion or contemporary home will not suit the traditional glazing required at the front of a Victorian terraced house. Therefore, the best windows and doors significantly depend on the nature of the project and personal preferences.

The term “best” can often be misleading when used by salespeople or in marketing campaigns, implying that components of one brand are inherently superior to another. Whilst this is true in some respects, it is incorrect in others.

What is true is that some of the best windows and doors are engineered better. They can be designed in such a way that they have more technical capability, they can meet or be enhanced for specific use cases and come with more options in terms of function. If none of these more advanced features is necessary for your project, these are probably not the best windows and doors for you.

aluminium crittall-style doors in a new dining room extension supporting best windows and doors article.

When you encounter a salesperson dismissing a brand outright, it’s wise to be sceptical. There isn’t a ‘bad’ brand because most windows and doors are tested to the same standards and have similar aluminium, glass, and coatings specifications. The quality of a window or door often boils down to its manufacturing and installation.

There are four areas where the standard and the best windows and doors are very similar. Moreover, these are the areas where you may be told one product is superior.

The quality of the aluminium itself

Whether low-cost or the best windows and doors, each must meet certain basic standards and specifications. Aluminium is widely used in various consumer products and comes in many grades. The aluminium profiles for windows and doors are always of a quality suitable for ‘architectural use’. So if your salesperson says their windows have the best quality aluminium or premium grade aluminium, ask them to explain how and why.

The quality of window and door colours

Then we come to the powder-coated colour finish on aluminium windows. Who applies the colour matters a lot. The door and window system company usually has its own coating plant. Alternatively, they may subcontract the work to a network of very specialist and quality-assured colour applicators specialising in coating aluminium extrusions for doors and windows. The takeaway here is that if you are told the colour coating on an aluminium window is better than the competition, this is unlikely to be completely true, although it is true that some brands offer a marine-grade coating as standard, especially on the best windows and doors. This paint coating is thicker and more durable than the standard coating. However, marine-grade sales messages can be misleading, as explained in this article.

The glass quality in your new windows and doors

The significant component of any window is glass. With glass sheets being produced by major names such as Pilkington Glass, Saint-Gobain and others, again, it is unlikely someone’s glass is better than the competition as there are substantial standards applicable to glass, depending on how it is used and its location. Once again, be sceptical of companies claiming the glass in their windows is superior to others.

Security, weather performance and energy-efficiency

There is no question that security, weather performance, and energy efficiency are three of the most important features of the best windows and doors. It is also true that these performance credentials do vary from product to product. The testing of windows and doors can be quite a complicated subject to get your head around, made worse by the complexities of the testing process itself and what products specifically are submitted for testing.

A good example is doors. An outward-opening patio door may have been tested and has PAS 24 or Secured by Design, but an inward-opening model has never been tested. But your salesperson tells you that the brand you are looking at has Secured by Design certification and accreditation. You can check this on the Secured by Design Website by searching for the system company. If you don’t see it, you can contact us or get back to your salesperson and ask for clarification on what this means for the products you are interested in.

Questions to ask when choosing the best windows and doors

How can you navigate the window and door market effectively? We advise asking a few simple yet specific questions of your chosen installer. Each of these should demonstrate that you have done some research and are less likely to be told what a salesperson may want you to hear. With any of the answers you are given to these questions, you are welcome to contact us for more information and clarity. These questions apply to any window material, not just aluminium.

The good news is that any ‘claims’ made by a window company can be fact-checked relatively easily. In today’s digital age, abundant resources can help you validate these claims. This is precisely where platforms like the Aluminium Trade Supply Website come in. For over a decade, the Aluminium Trade Supply Website has been a trusted resource for consumers, offering clear, unbiased information on a range of aluminium products. Whether you’re curious about a particular brand’s origins, security features, energy efficiency, or design options, this platform provides accurate and up-to-date information to help you make an informed choice.

What is the window or door system?

Very few companies in the UK glazing industry have their own product or system that they have designed, extruded the aluminium, sourced the accessories, tested and brought to market from scratch. Therefore ask, “What is the window or door system”? An honest company will reveal this. Upon receipt of this information, you can then research the system company. System companies rarely make anything. They design and test the product, bring it to market, and sell it to a network of manufacturers. Some of these manufacturers make and fit their products. Others supply the product to installers nationwide.

Who manufactures your windows and doors?

Next, ask, “Who manufactures your windows and doors?” Most companies buy windows and doors from trade manufacturers. Researching the manufacturing company can give you valuable insights into their expertise, business tenure, and customer reviews.

Can you provide the test reports for security and weather protection?

With all the testing done by the system company or a specialist manufacturer, there should be no issue with an installer providing you with the required security and weather protection documentation. Windows and doors are tested by most providers, and you can often take this on trust, But if you do want to see the documentation, these are usually publicly available on the system company website or the manufacturing website.

Six top tips for choosing the best windows and doors for you

We hope the information given about the nature of windows and doors, their core materials and questions to ask your salesperson is useful and helpful if you are finding deciding which brand to choose a bit of a minefield. Here are our top tips to make the process easier for you.

sunflex heritage products at dusk on a contemporary house, regarded as some of the best windows and doors

There is no ‘bad’ window or door

With the significant materials in a window or door meeting certain standards and specifications, rest assured you are not buying a bad product by design. It is usually a badly made or badly fitted window or door that creates a poor customer experience and is rarely the product’s fault.

All claims made about windows and doors can be verified

In our experience, the most reputable window companies will give you honest advice and answers to questions. Remember, checking most of what you are being told is possible. Take the information, contact us, visit the system or manufacturing company websites and ask questions if something is unclear.

Be happy with the reputation of your chosen window or door provider

You will have seen advice everywhere about getting around three quotations and checking reviews and testimonials. This is indeed sound advice. We would also recommend checking your installer has experience with the products you wish to buy. A very good example is the latest generation of large and ultra-slim sliding doors. Sliding doors, steel-look glazing, and large windows with more glass are now popular in home design. The more complex the product, the larger and heavier it may be, the more experience your installer needs. So if you are about to buy a very large door or two-storey window, check if your chosen installer has experience in fitting these products, where a precise and professional installation is essential.

Consider a company offering several brands rather than just one or two

Expanding on the myriad options in the market, it’s also worth mentioning that not all window companies offer the same breadth of choice. Some companies may offer just one or two brands, while others have showrooms encompassing multiple windows, a complete range of sliding doors, and an array of bi-folding doors. These choices can come with varying styles, sightlines, and design elements. A company offering several brands demonstrates they are experts in more than just standard windows and doors.

Lean towards Approved installers and providers

It is usually a good sign if your chosen installer has an Approved Installer or Approved Dealer status. The manufacturing or system companies train and monitor their dealers, and some of the best windows and doors are only available via Approved Installers. Approved status is not just given to any window company. And you can always contact the manufacturing company to check that they are approved, although do bear in mind the system company or manufacturer and the installer are independent and unrelated businesses.

Try out the windows and doors

With the same material features, always try out the windows and especially the doors. How easily a bifold comes together and closes. How smoothly and effortlessly a large sliding door moves is often the best quality indicator. Just like other products, how something feels should reassure you.

Buying the best windows and doors – conclusion and summary

In conclusion, while the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming, remember that there are no inherently bad windows and doors on the market. Focus on the system, the manufacturer, the installer, the look and feel of the product, and its price. Considering these factors, you’ll be well-equipped to make the right choice. Remember, the “best” choice is relative, often depending on the unique requirements of your project and your individual preferences.

Since 2010 the Aluminium Trade Supply Website has helped homeowners and the trade find the right products from the proper suppliers. Contact us for more information and to discuss your project.