Monthly Archives: March 2012

Can you tell if I am a cowboy?

builder

If I were a Cowboy, would you spot me?

Obviously if I arrived on horseback, wearing spurs and a big Stetson hat, you’ll probably spot me immediately, you’ll suspect I was a bit dodgy, but what if I wore smart work wear, with a nice printed logo, and showed you a business card, what if I looked “normal” even “legitimate”, would you still be able to tell?

So if you know what to look for in the first instance, you are less likely to become a victim.

Let’s start, did I arrive unannounced or did you ask to see me?

You should ALWAYS be wary of people who arrive at your front door, trying to SELL you something, there and then. NEVER just accept what they say. ALWAYS buy yourself some time, take their details and say you will get back to them. GOOD companies will be happy to return when it is better for you.

As a cowboy, I want you to decide NOW because I need your work, NOW!

Have I told you the truth?

Ask questions, never be afraid to ask questions, GOOD companies would rather you ask hundreds of questions and be happy that you are making a decision that will be right for you situation.

As a cowboy, I will tell you what you want to hear. I will say whatever I need to say, so that you give me your cash, your order, my pay day.

Did you see any Accreditations, certificates, impressive logos?

Logos, badges and accreditations are dead easy to “cut and paste” from official web sites. Good companies will be proud to show you the up to date, current certificate. They will have copies to leave for you; they will show you how to check that they are still current and what the benefits are to you because of their affiliation.

As a cowboy, I will have copied the logo, but it may be old, and I don’t want to give you a certificate number in case you decide to check it and find it belongs to another company. Best if I say I belong, flash a piece of paper under your nose and leave nothing with you, so you cannot verify what I just said!

Did you ask about other work I’ve done in the area?

Good companies will be delighted to explain who else has had these products installed, they won’t breach any confidentiality but they will be happy to show you their work. They will show you photographs of roads in your area, before and after pictures about how the property was improved, they may have hand written testimonials, thank you letters from satisfied customers. They may even suggest a couple of past customers who would be willing to show you their new windows in their own home!

As a cowboy, I will show you pictures, even nice installations in your area and say that I did work that I didn’t do (you won’t know and are unlikely to ask the occupier). I will have some references, but I’ll avoid providing any real detail, saying “under data protection you cannot have any information”.

Did you sign a contract?

Good companies operate within the law. Whilst word of mouth can constitute a contract, it’s far better (for both sides) to have a contract in writing. It will say what the sales person has sold you, and what you are going to pay in return for those products etc. Do read the details; you may have seen lots of sample products, ones with special locks or self-cleaning glass etc. None of that is relevant, it is what the sales person has written on the order that counts, that’s what you are ordering, that’s what you are signing to by.

As a cowboy, you won’t need a contract, I’ll give you a bill at the end, here’s a receipt for the deposit from my book, but it won’t have any detail on it!

Were you told about the cooling off period?

Because some people feel they were forced into making a decision or because they have since found out something they don’t like, there is a law that says, if you sign a contract in your home, you have an automatic right to cancel the contract, providing you do so in writing within 7 days (this may change to 14 days later this year). Whilst no company want to lose your business, especially as they thought you wanted their products, they will know about this cooling off period and accept the cancellation.

As a cowboy, there is no cooling off period, once I have your cash its gone, good luck with the phone number I left you, it’s a mobile number and I’ve moved on!

Were you offered deposit or an Insurance Backed Guarantee?

Most companies find it difficult to sell you windows and say “do you need an insurance policy in case we go bust before we do the work!” No one wants to worry you unnecessarily especially if they know they are a good company, and it’s not likely to happen. That said, these are difficult times, most companies have found the trading condition very difficult so you would do well listening to the options. IBG’s are not compulsory. Some companies GIVE a policy within the prices they charge, some OFFER a policy for a fee and some don’t mention IBG’s. Fensa require their members to OFFER them, DGCOS insist EVERY contract is sold with one, GGF members MUST safeguard deposits.

As a cowboy, I won’t mention IBG’s, and reassure you that your deposit is safe with me, we’ve been going years, don’t worry everything is included whilst avoiding leaving any clear information.

Is it the cheapest price?

Good companies will charge a “fair price”, one that means they can pay their suppliers, their fitters, their sales people etc. and enough so they make a profit so that they are still able to service claims under the terms of their guarantees.

As a cowboy, I’ll undercut anyone else, if I can get away with charging you VAT that’s good (but I don’t have any intention of paying it to the revenue) or I’ll do the job for CASH, real money, pay my fitters and suppliers but skip any income tax, national insurance, corporation tax or VAT.

Did you feel pressured?

Good companies will offer you a price in writing, detailing what you get with their offer and be happy for you to take your time to decide if theirs is the best solution. Some will offer their best price straight off and stick with what they have offered, others will try it on, and they will start high and sell it to you if you say that’s ok, gradually reducing their prices. Whilst this isn’t illegal and doesn’t help the image of the industry, because you feel that the offer only applies if you sign NOW.

As a cowboy, I’ll offer to be lower than anyone else but you need to pay me a deposit (or all of it if I can get you to part with it all) before I leave you, even frog marching you to a cash point so that you can pay me the cash.

Start straight away?

Good companies have existing order books, they have customers who ordered before you and fitting dates for the next few weeks some have fitting dates running into several months! They will tell you the first fitting date they have and sometimes the fitters who they will use to do your work. Windows often take 4 weeks to make, once the survey has been done so 6 to 8 weeks isn’t unreasonable.

As a cowboy, I probably not give a specific timeframe, or I’ll tell you I can fit them next week, if that gets me the order. I won’t mention the 7 days cooling off period either because I need to start immediately and I want to fit them before you cancel!

Did you look at the samples in the showroom or factory unit?

A reputable company should provide business cards with full details, names, registered business addresses & contact numbers. You may get their company registration number, their VAT number or numbers of their accreditations etc. Good companies will be pleased to show you their factory unit or show room, but not every company has showrooms because they cost to keep them open. You’ll be invited to view different finishes, different materials, designs and styles to suit your home.

As a cowboy, I’ll may show you a sample but I’ll say I understand what you want, just leave it to me to fit. I may give you a mobile phone number but getting anything else is impossible.

Did you check?

Clearly even good companies want your business and don’t want you to find a better, cheaper alternative contractor and lose your work. That said, good companies will not mind if you want time to check the things they have said, they will help you and be happy to explain things again.

As a cowboy, I’ll show you a certificate, knowing it to be false, because I know most people accept what I say as the truth, they never check if it is true or not, so I can make claims that make me sound like a proper company!

 

 

 

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Everest Limited bought by Better Capital LLP

conservatory with sofa

Better Capital LLP the venture capital organisation known for turnarounds of ailing companies has announced on its web site that it has purchased Everest, here’s what their web site says;-

BECAP12 Fund LP (“Fund II”) has completed its first acquisition, that of Everest Limited (“Everest”) and its subsidiary companies by a special purpose vehicle ultimately owned by Fund II.

 

 

Everest is a leading consumer brand in the manufacture, installation and supply of PVCu and aluminium windows and doors, conservatories, roofline products, garage doors, security systems, kitchens, driveways and other home improvement products.
Everest Limited revenues for the year to 31 October 2010 were £173 million.
Fund II has committed £25 million to finance the acquisition and to fund the working capital and restructuring requirements.
Nick Sanders and Peter Williamson will join the board of Everest.

 

So someone considers the industry worth investing into, but I suspect in todays market place it was at a favourable price!

So is this a sign of positive inward investment and the start of many companies changing hands or yet another sign that times are really tough and that many companies are heading towards challenging times?

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The GGF help the BBCs Dom Littlewood

ggf logo

Dom Littlewood has a new show starting in April called “Don’t Get Done Get Dom”. Known for Cowboy Builders and To Buy or Not to Buy, Dom is seen as the consumers champion, so it was no surprise to the GGF to be asked to assist Dom in the new series as he sought to save consumers money and avoid unscrupulous traders.

The first show is aired on April 11th at 11am on BBC1.

Giles Willson, GGF Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Technical Affairs was interviewed for the show and commented,

“With GGF Members operating to the highest technical and ethical standards in the industry, it was only natural that the BBC approached the Federation for assistance with the programme. We are always happy to work with the media to get our message out there. I hope the advice offered enhances consumers’ awareness of why they should use a GGF Member company when buying or installing glass and/or glazing.”

The GGF has increased public awareness for their members by exhibiting at retail shows like the Ideal Home Exhibition, and the green products show EcoBuild, so these three episodes on the BBC will be much appreciated.

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Energy saving materials to be VAT free?

VAT

Today the chancellor Mr George Osborne ducked to opportunity to reduce VAT on Energy Efficient windows.

The standard rate of VAT was temporarily reduced to 15% on 1 December 2008 before reverting to 17.5% in 2010 and then to 20% in January last year (2011). Sales for most of the industry have declined and many had hoped that the chancellor would take this opportunity to reduce VAT on the most energy efficient windows “A rated” ones, which are energy neutral or energy positive over the typical energy year.

Consumers and companies do not understand why these energy efficient windows should be treated differently to loft insulation, cavity wall insulation or energy efficient light bulbs! They all get a 5 % VAT rate, so homeowners who are prepared to invest in the best windows and doors, must pay the same VAT as lesser performing standard glazing.

This doesn’t make sense and is hold back the installation of energy efficient products being installed in the existing housing stock, preventing them the vital improvements they so desperately need to bring them to modern standards.

One glimmer of hope, was contained in item 2.187 where it said that, “charitable buildings would be removed from the scope of VAT for for energy saving materials”, in the finance Bill of 2013. So if every homeowner claims to be a charity shop (you should see my children’s bedrooms) can they have energy efficient windows VAT free?

Probably not!

 

 

 

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Glass company, Solaglass, changes name

conservatory

Solaglas is using its presence at EcoBuild to announce it is changing name to Glassolutions Saint-Gobian Limited, along with its logo and brand image.

The change reflects the companies feelings that it is more known as a world wide “solutions provider” than just  a glass producer. The change is effective on March 20th but all other details remain the same.

 

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Google rankings 1 year on at DoubleGlazingCompanies

double glazing installations growth

When double glazing companies.com started, it was a brand new site, no companies were listed, there were no reviews available nor were there any Google rankings, lets face it nobody had ever heard of the site!

One year on and how it has all changed.

We are fast approaching 2,000 companies that are listed. Virtually everyone lists themselves for FREE but many of have invested in “gold” enhanced entries, listing their companies accreditations, pictures, logos etc and having a page of free text to explain why they are the best in their area.

There are dozens of reviews  being left, genuine ones which help visitors assess their options. Theres even an automated system for requesting client reviews and coding to promote reviews for installers own web sites!

Best of all however is the Google ranking.

We are P1 on page 1 for the search term “double glazing companies” and have been since shortly after we started, however the search term of “double glazing” was always going to be difficult because of the 33 million web sites that challenge for that term! Well, we may not be page 1 just yet only page 6, but that’s a fantastic achievement for the first year and justifies the investment of the early supporters of www.doubleglazingcompanies.com

As always there are many new improvements coming through and we have just signed our marketing budget to attract even more retail customers. Thank you to everyone who has supported us to date, we aim to be page 1 in the next 12 months!

 

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Ecobuild now open, until Thursday

thermostat

This years Ecobuild at the Excel centre in London’s Docklands is now open, and will be so for the next three days.

A popular show there are numerous trade companies displaying their products and services. Good luck to all the exhibitors.

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The Ideal Home Show started Friday 16th March ends April 1st

ideal home show

This years ideal Home Show starts today at Earls Court in London, with weekend admission prices on the door at £18.50 for an adult, its worth being organised buying them in advance for just £14.

This years show is being sponsored by Everest and has many exhibitors from the double glazing industry, most offering special prices, large discounts or low prices for double glazed windows, doors and conservatories. The Glass and Glazing Federation has again taken a stand to promote its member organisations.

Visitors can claim a discount voucher for use during the show to obtain lower priced windows via participating GGF companies.

Most visitors end up buying some widget for slicing potatoes or a special paint brush or mop, what was your best buy from the Ideal Home Show?

 

 

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Green Deal, industry awaits governments decision.

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With the consultation now closed, many in the industry now await the governments decision. We understand that whilst most people generally support the idea of green energy, conservation of energy and the installation of products into the fabric of the building to improve it’s thermal efficiency, but not many are in favour of the bureaucratic nature which accompanies these proposals. (more…)

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Hoteliers in North Wales facing retrospective planning issues.

Article 4 directives

According to Chris Dearden for BBC Wales News on 28th Feb, hoteliers in the North Wales town of Llandudno are facing the prospect of having to replace windows, (previously replaced) because they didn’t have permission! Retrospective planning issues are a huge concern for hotel owners, who rely on maintaining energy efficiency to increase profits.

Obviously the owners are worried about the costs associated with the replacement, particularly now with the economy being quiet but also because they seek to ban a material (PVCu) and the retrospective nature of this proposal going back 30 years!

The question is “have planners become detached from modern life or have the owners of listed properties blatantly disregarded regulations?”

Well, most towns and cities have planning requirements for Listed properties, Article 4 directives, and conservation areas. Mostly they follow the lead of English Heritage whose job it is to preserve the historic fabric and can only recommend timber products or secondary glazing. Therefore if hoteliers or property owners have chosen to proceed with unauthorised refurbishments which are against the planning requirements, can they or anyone really complain? I think not.

However, seen from the other side of the fence, planners appear to building owners, to be totally unsympathetic to their requests for improvements for better insulation against heat loss and reduced maintenance costs. Many of these old buildings lose heat at an astounding rate because they were single glazed, and the original windows too draughty or inoperable.

This “stubbornness” has led many owners to proceed with unapproved casement styled PVCu double glazing in place of the sash windows most of the Victorian buildings would have had originally. The introduction of casement windows, has a serious impact on the buildings aesthetics, the street scene and potentially the lives of those occupying the property, (irrespective of the material the new windows are made from).

Here’s why,

Casement windows are cheaper to manufacture than sliding box sash windows and if the original box frame is left insitu (along with the existing architraves etc) and the new window is fitted within the old frame (where the two sashes were), then the installation costs are significantly less too.

This method is common place and has created much of the anti PVC lobby, when actually it’s the style, design and installation method which is hideous, not the fact something is made from PVCu.

This style of window tries to recreate the style of sash by having splitting the window across the middle, with one half opening and the other fixed. But these create new problems.

  • Firstly if the top half is opening then it creates a problem for people to get out of, in an emergency faced with a fixed pane of glazing.
  • If the bottom half opens then it may help in an emergency but creates an issue if children open the lower half, especially in upper floor bedrooms.
  • The fixed upper half of the window traps in stale air, so rooms cannot get the benefit of purge ventilation.

Casement windows will never replicate the style nor elegant proportions of sash windows.

So perhaps the solution for the council in conservation areas (not Grade I or II listed properties), is to allow owners the opportunity of reduced maintenance bills that PVCu permits, but insist the properties are fitted with authentic sash windows that are “virtually identical to their timber originals”, thereby retaining the character of the buildings Llandudno is known for rather than banning a perfectly good material 30 years after the event!

What is your view, is it too late for the council to act, are they resonable or should the hoteliers have done the job right in the first place?

Find out the latest from the local MP here

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