Posts Tagged ‘property’

Removing carpet grippers from floor boards

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

If you are completely re-doing the flooring of a room (to go from carpet to wood flooring, or to lay sound proofing for example) you might need to remove the old carpet grippers. Here is how I removed the carpet grippers in one room. I used:

  1. A chisel with a fine sharp end that could get under the carpet gripper
  2. Another item to use as a fulcrum under the first chisel. I used a smaller chisel but I could have used anything of similar size and solid such as a screwdriver or piece of wood or metal.
  3. Safety glasses. A lot of DIY guides say to use safety glasses but of course you never do. In this case you really should – especially when removing smaller strips of carpet gripper. They are covered in sharp nails, and they can fly off the floor when levered up. I’ve had some that have shot up well above the height of my face when they suddenly pop out of the floor.

removing carpet grippers 3

The method I used was to start at one end of a carpet gripper machine and push the sharp end of the chisel under the first nail. The using the other chisel as a fulcrum I slowly levered the nail out.

removing carpet grippers 1

If the gripper is really tight on the floor board you might need to hammer the chisel gently to get it below the gripper, but I never needed to do this. In all cases I was able to push the end of the chisel under the gripper a little by hand, and then work the nail out.

Then I moved onto the next nail. I found that on a strip of carpet gripper the first nail might take about 5 seconds to get out, but then the next ones might take 2-3 seconds. I was able to remove the grippers pretty quickly, and intact using this method.

removing carpet grippers 2

It is even possible to reuse the carpet grippers after they have been removed using this method, but because the nails are now pushed down, and slightly curved after being removed they are a bit arkward to hammer back down. New carpet grippers are really cheap so it is probably less hassle to buy new ones than to attempt to reuse them.

If you do want to reuse them then I’ve found it is easier to remove the fixing nails and then use new nails/screws to secure them. To remove the nails I used some combination pliers to push the nail up a bit, and then some diagonal pliers to twist and pull the nail out. I can get each nail out in about 10-15 seconds doing this. Wearing thick gloves on the hand holding the carpet gripper will stop you cutting yourself.

Ikea assembly service

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

My flat is full of Ikea furniture. And until now I’ve assembled it all myself. I’ve either had it delivered by Ikea themselves, or used one of the taxi vans outside the store to get it back.

For my new Ikea PAX wardrobe I decided to get it assembled for me. The main reason is because of its size and weight. The wardrobe is 236cm high and 200cm wide, made up of two 100cm wide parts.

Each wardrobe half is 56kg and needs to be assembled on the floor before being raised to vertical. It has two sliding doors which are each nearly 30kg each. These need to be assembled on the floor before being lifted onto the frame.

ikea pax wardrobe assembly service 3

Because of the size and weight, this wardrobe needs two people to assemble it. As I didn’t want to risk my life by assembling it myself I started researching Ikea assembly services. There are lots of flat pack assembly companies around the London area.

eXpress Wardrobe

I decided to try eXpress Wardrobe whose slogan is “No More DIY Torture”. I sent them my Ikea list giving them the names, article numbers and prices of everything I wanted.

  • PAX Wardrobe with sliding doors, oak effect, Malm mirror glass/oak £465 (£120 * 2 + £345) / 801.215.31 * 2 (oak frame) / 801.830.05 * 1 (oak sliding door with mirror) / http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/S29875492/
  • KOMPLEMENT clothes rail £8 / 601.411.63 * 2 / http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/60141163/
  • KOMPLEMENT shelf (2 pack) £42 / 601.215.27 * 3 / http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/60121527/
  • KOMPLEMENT drawer £88 / 901.214.46 * 4 / http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/90121446/

Two days later they sent me an Ikea shopping list via the Ikea website and also their quote. The Ikea parts cost £603, and then they quoted £85 for pickup and delivery, £20 extra because I’m on a higher floor (the large items won’t fit in the lift) and £97 for assembly.

I agreed to their quote and gave them three suggested days for that week. A day later they confirmed that they could make one of the days and so I paid my 35% deposit. The 35% is calculated on the cost of the Ikea items, not the pickup/delivery/install charge.

Before the delivery day I cleared the room so they would have as much space to assemble as practicle. Here is the big empty space waiting for my wardrobe.

ikea pax wardrobe assembly service 1

Delivery / assembly

They had agreed to arrive between 9:30am and 10:30am. At 9:48am they sent me a text to say they were running late and apologising for this. They said they’d be here between 11am and 12:00.

At 11:30am their van arrived and they started unloading the parts from their van. By 11:45am they’d started bringing the things through my door (it is a bit of a trek up the stairs to the flat).

ikea pax wardrobe assembly service 2

Before they started assembling I asked them to let me know when the frames were vertical so I could get them positioned in the correct place, and they later checked which positions I’d like the drawers to be placed at.

There were two of them and they very quickly had the PAX wardrobe frames in place and positioned according to where I wanted them. They then spent their time assembling the sliding doors which are clearly the more complicated part of the wardrobe.

They both worked hard to get it finished and were polite when they needed to speak to me. They must have done plenty of these PAX wardrobes before as they didn’t need to reference the manual.

By 1:20pm they had both doors on and were assembling the 4 drawers. And by 1:45 they had left leaving me with my giant new Ikea PAX wardrobe.

ikea pax wardrobe assembly service 3

Above is the outside and below is half of the inside. I didn’t know at exactly what height I wanted the clothes rail or final two shelves to be placed so I wanted to put them in later rather than having them fitted.

ikea pax wardrobe assembly service 4

Finishing off the wardrobe

To save a tiny bit of money I’d told them when requesting the quote that I’d do the wall mounting myself. I did the wall mounting and then made a few finishing touches to the wardrobe.

  • I stuck some extra buffer pads inside the sliding door so that the doors are quieter when opened.
  • I screwed in some corner braces under the bottom shelves so that they can take more weight. The 6 plastic shelf holders that Ikea supply for the shelves look a bit flimsy.
  • I oiled the sliding door, and sliding drawer mechanisms. Better to oil the drawer mechanisms before the drawers start filling up.

Paying and conclusions

I chose to pay via bank transfer rather than PayPal / Google checkout. There is a 3.5% surcharge for PayPal / Google checkout payments so it seems more sensible to pay direct.

The amounts I paid were:

  • Ikea shopping list: £603 (35% of this paid in advance as a deposit)
  • Pickup and delivery: £85
  • Higher floor surcharge: £20
  • Assembly: £97
  • Parking: £7:40

Total = £812.40

They had done a good job with assembling the wardrobe. It looked the way I wanted, was where I wanted, and had required very minimal effort on my part. I’d certainly use them again if I ever buy another piece of flat pack furniture which is too large for me to assemble myself.

The only work I was left with was squashing and putting all the cardboard boxes in the recycling (they don’t take away your packaging).

You can find out more about eXpress Wardrobe’s service on their website at http://www.expresswardrobe.co.uk. They also have some great speeded-up assembly videos on their YouTube channel if you want to see them at work.

Extending a leasehold, Section 42 and the LVT

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

I recently completed a leasehold extension which involved issuing a Section 42 notice and applying to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal. It was a long process but now that it is over I can share an account of what happened.

leasehold extension

If you have bought a property in the UK there is a high chance that you have bought a leasehold. A leasehold is like a very long term rental. Instead of renting for 6 months you are renting for 10s or hundreds of years. The ultimate owner of the land or property is the freeholder. If you own the freehold, or a share of the freehold you will never have to worry about extending the lease (because you own the land/property, and are not leasing it).

In this post I’m going to give real figures for the surveyor and solicitor costs for both sides, but I don’t want to reveal the actual property value or premium amount. I will however give re-scaled figures. I am going to use the diamond symbol ⋄ as my unit, and have re-scaled all the premium costs based on the property being worth 100,000 of this units at the time the process was started– so ⋄100,000.

You can quickly turn the premium estimates and valuations into percentages of the property price by dividing by 1000.

The rough lease extension process

In order to extend a lease you will have to pay your own surveyor and solicitor costs, as well as your freeholder’s costs.

If the lease is less than 80 years in length you will have to pay the freeholder 50% of the marriage value. The marriage value is the increase in property value as a result of extending the lease.

You can come to an agreement without invoking the Section 42 process if both sides are happy with this. But in many cases both sides don’t agree, so the statuary Section 42 process will need to be invoked.

Issuing a Section 42 notice to the freeholder will force him to give you valuation, and it mandates that the process and outcome follow a standardised set of rules. These include fixing the time scales by when each side has to respond, the terms of the new lease, and the right for the leaseholder to take the case to the Leaseholder Valuation Tribunal if no agreement can be reached.

If the LVT stage is necessary then each side will be responsible for their own costs for this stage.

Initial enquiries – July 2009

I’d owned my property for about 8 years and had been aware of the lease length slowly ticking down. It had got down to about 67 years before I first did something about it.

I sent an initial letter to the freeholder asking him for a rough figure as to what it might cost. He replied a week later saying that I would have to pay for his surveyor costs (£850+VAT) to get a proper valuation, but he guessed it might be around ⋄8600. This would not be for a 90 year statutary lease extension, this would be for a negotiated extension whereby the existing lease would be surrendered and a new 125 year would be granted.

There are several problems with going down the negotiated route.

  1. The freeholder can give you any valuation he likes. Even though he guessed ⋄8600 in his letter he could well come back with a figure of ⋄15000 later on. By which time the £850+VAT valuation fee has been paid. And this valuation is not necessarily valid for the S42 process – you may have to pay the freeholder’s valuation costs again if you then decided to abandon the negotiated route and go down the S42 route.
  2. The negotiated lease could contain clauses that are unreasonable.
  3. It is likely you would have to agree to a rise in the ground rent.

Forming a group – February 2010

I did nothing more until the next year when one of the other residents in my building sent round a letter asking if anyone was interested in joining him in extending their leases in a group to save on surveyor / solicitor costs.

This seemed like a good idea so I sent him my name. He had already contacted a surveyor and solicitor that he recommended we use. There were 4 people with 5 flats originally in the group, but one dropped out later. The core group was 3 people, with 4 flats between us.

Surveyor valuation – May 2010

The first step would be the surveyor’s valuation which would cost £587.50 each. I had to give him a £100 deposit to commit. By the end of March we had all committed and his visit was scheduled for May.

When he visited he looked at the existing lease and made some notes about it. Then he looked around the flat and took some measurements. After he’d been to all our flats we all had a drink together and he told us about the process and answered our questions.

Two weeks later we received his valuation. He estimated the cost of a statutary lease extension at ⋄7500. He recommended we put in an offer at ⋄5800. And he predicted that the freeholder might try to seek a figure of around ⋄9300.

Issuing the Section 42 notice – July 2010

Around the time the surveyor’s valuation was carried out I arranged for the solicitor to make an ordinary power of attorney (PoA) so a relative could act on my behalf whilst I was away in Japan.

In June the solicitor was given the go-ahead to issue the Section 42, and in July the notice was served – it was signed by a relative using the PoA.

Once the Section 42 is served the freeholder has two months to respond. And once the Section 42 has been served the freeholder can insist on 10% of your offer price being put on deposit with your own solicitor. As my offer was for ⋄5800 this meant I had to send a ⋄580 deposit.

A month later in August the freeholder responded disputing the validity of the Section 42 notice as it had not been signed by me personally. I had to send over a new signed Section 42 notice from Japan which had to be re-served on the freeholder. This unfortunately resets the two month period.

Valuation received from freeholder – October 2010

In October 2010 the counter notice was received from the freeholder. His valuation was ⋄11100, much higher that even the surveyor’s expectation of what the freeholder might ask for.

Negotiation

Now that the counter notice had been received there were three options.

  • Give up!
  • Come to a agreed price by negotiation.
  • Take the matter to the leasehold valuation tribunal. They can made the decision on the fair price for you.

An application to the leasehold valuation tribunal (LVT) has to be made within 6 month of receiving the counter notice from the freeholder.

That meant there was about 5 month of negotiating time left before we felt we needed to get the LVT application ready (best not to leave it to the very last minute!).

Over a month later my surveyor managed to get a copy of the freeholder’s surveyor’s calculations. But the freeholder’s surveyor remained fairly elusive and non-responsive for the next 4 months. Although both surveyors occasionally communicated little common ground was found. Much of the disagreement seemed to centre on what percentage to use for the ‘relativity’ in their calculation.

No offers or counter offers were made during this time. Occasionally I would email the surveyor for news, and after waiting 2-4 days he’d reply saying there wasn’t much to report.

The surveyor estimated that if this went to tribunal his costs would be around £1500. And we would have to pay for our solicitor to attend the tribunal as well – the solicitor never gave an estimate of his costs for attending the LVT.

Application to the LVT – March 2011

It reached March 2011 and the 6 month deadline was looming so we asked the solicitor to make the LVT application. 10 days later the LVT acknowledged that the application was in their system.

In April the LVT issued some written directions stating when the freeholder must send the draft lease for us to look at, and a suggestion that the hearing take place between June and August 2011.

Lease terms agreed – May 2011

In May the solicitor contacted us to say that the terms of the draft lease had been agreed. This is referring to the wording of the lease, not the premium. That was still very much unresolved!

An offer from the freeholder – May 2011

At the end of May, to our surprise, we received an offer from the freeholder. He would agree to settle for ⋄9300. This was much lower than his original offer of ⋄11100, but still a lot higher than my surveyor’s estimate of the fair value being ⋄7500.

Agreement – June 2011

In June the final premium of ⋄9300 was agreed. The agreement was signed by a relative using the PoA which had earlier on invalidated the initial S42. The money was transferred in July, and the final lease, and Land Registry documents were received at the end of August.

Leasehold extension timeline

Here is the timeline of events.

leasehold extension timeline

Here is the same timeline shown as a list.

  • 01/03/2010 Surveyor contacted
  • 31/03/2010 Surveyor given go ahead for valuation
  • 27/04/2010 Solicitor asked to prepare Power of Attorney
  • 04/05/2010 PoA ready
  • 11/05/2010 Surveyor valuation visit
  • 24/05/2010 Surveyor valuation received
  • 24/06/2010 Gave go ahead for solicitor to issue S42
  • 20/07/2010 S42 served on freeholder
  • 02/08/2010 10% deposit transferred
  • 18/08/2010 Freeholder disputes validity of S42
  • 23/08/2010 New S42 served on freeholder
  • 13/10/2010 Freeholder’s valuation received
  • 19/11/2010 Surveyor receives freeholder’s calculations
  • 07/03/2011 Asked solicitor to make LVT application
  • 17/03/2011 LVT acknowledges application
  • 15/04/2011 LVT issues written directions
  • 17/05/2011 Terms of draft lease agreed
  • 27/05/2011 Surveyor mentions possible offer to settle
  • 15/06/2011 Premium is agreed
  • 07/07/2011 Lease extension completion
  • 19/08/2011 New lease and Land Registry docs received

Lease extension cost breakdown

These prices include VAT. I haven’t included the £111.63 power of attorney, as this isn’t required in normal circumstances. I only had one arranged as I was going to be out of the country for a long time.

My surveyor

£587.50 – Valuation (based on 5 flats)
£600.00 – Negotiation (based on 4 flats)

My solicitor

£44.00 – Land Registry search for issuing Section 42
£60.00 – Issue the Section 42 notice (based on 4 flats)
£50.00 – Fee to ‘protect our position at the Land Registry’ for S42
£300.00 – Submit LVT application (based on 4 flats)
£300.00 – Dealing with new lease after issued by freeholder (based on 4 flats)
£50.00 – Land Registry fee for registering the title
£4.00 – Miscelaneous Land Registry search fee

Freeholder’s costs that I had to pay

£1057.50 – Surveyor
£1085.00 – Solicitor
£1.55 – Special delivery fee

Estimates vs valuation vs final price

This graph shows how the estimate, valuation and final price varied.

leasehold extension estimate vs final premium

Conclusions

The whole process took about a year and a half to complete and used £4139.55 in costs (surveyor/solicitor). The premium was another ⋄9300 on top of this (or 9.3% of the current estimated value of the property).

A lease extension is certainly an expensive and time consuming process.

It isn’t too complicated if you leave everything up to your surveyor / solicitor, but it may be best avoiding it in the first place by not buying a property with a short lease.

Estimate the value of your house or flat with a graph

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

If you want to know what the current value of your house, flat or property is (useful if you are buying, selling, or extending the leasehold for example) you can go for the easy option of asking an estate agent to do a valuation, or use a tool such as Nationwide’s house price calculator. Both have their disadvantages; the estate agent will almost certainly try to sell you an overly inflated figure to get your business, and an online tool such as the one from nationwide bases the prices on a very wide region (e.g. Greater London).

If you live in an area with lots of similar properties (e.g. a block of flats, or a street with very similar houses) and are good at Excel you can produce a localised graph of property prices over time. The scatter graph below is of the prices of flats for one specific street in London. The red line is the Nationwide regional data for flats in Greater London. Based on the sale prices of other similar properties you can make a guess as to the value of yours.

house price estimation graph 10

I’m going to assume you have a reasonable amount of Excel knowledge – this is *not* a step by step guide. To follow this you need to know how to import data into Excel, produce graphs, add new data to existing graphs, and format/sort data.

To start with you’ll need historical property sale prices. There are lots of websites that you can get them from, but www.houseprices.co.uk gives you them in a form that is easy to import into Excel.

house price estimation graph 1

Try searching by postcode and by street name to get the relevant prices for your block of flats or street. I’d suggest setting the number of results to 100 so the data isn’t too broken up by their adverts.

Copy and paste the prices tables (there will be multiple tables split by ads) into your Excel sale prices spreadsheet one after the other.

house price estimation graph 2

This produces a basic date vs price graph. If you select from the first date / house price to the last then Excel seems to correctly guess which way round the X and Y axis should be. If you include the column names in the selection Excel gets it wrong.

house price estimation graph 4

If you want to compare against regional data like I did, go to Nationwide’s house price data download page. I chose the ‘Regional Series’ / ‘Flats (Post 91)’ as the best match for the actual property price data I had.

house price estimation graph 5

The Nationwide spreadsheet data looks like this with prices by quarter and region.

house price estimation graph 6

Unfortunately Excel doesn’t understand the date formats in this spreadsheet (e.g. Q2 2009) so I used Find and Replace to change the Q1/Q2/Q3/Q4 values into dates. E.g. I changed ‘Q1 ‘ into ‘01/01’. Note that I used the find and replace to remove the extra space.

house price estimation graph 7

Then I marked the column data format as being in ‘date’ format.

house price estimation graph 8

I then copied the Nationwide data into a separate area of my original property sale prices spreadsheet. The data from the Nationwide spreadsheet is in chronological order, whereas the data from houseprices.co.uk is in reverse chronological order. I therefore sorted the Nationwide data to be in reverse chronological order as well so that it could be easily added to the same graph.

Finally I added a new data series to my original graph by selecting the Nationwide dates for the X axis and the prices for the Y axis.

house price estimation graph 9

And this is of course the result (I did a bit of tidying / formatting of the graph to make it look better), which will look familiar as being the graph at the start of this post.

house price estimation graph 10

It can’t predict the future, but you can make some useful assumptions based on past property prices. And it can give you a good indication if your estate agent is over inflating his/her estimate.

Clothes moths attack!

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

I have spent a lot of time in the past few weeks helping a friend whose flat is under attack by clothes moths. The species in question is known as the common clothes moth, the webbing clothes moth, or if you are really posh, as tineola bisselliella.

There have been clothes moths in this property for many years eating the carpets but it is only recently that damage to clothes was spotted. This initiated a massive operation in order to protect the remaining clothes and get rid of the moths. Here are some photos of the chewed up carpets and clothes. The carpets here are wool and they really like them!

carpet damaged by clothes moths

If you don’t know what a clothe moth look like here are some images. They are only about a centimetre long but are very destructive. They lay their eggs on cotton or wool clothes and carpets. The clothes moths themselves do not eat the clothes. It is what hatches from the eggs that causes the damage.

clothes moth in carpet
common clothes moth on wall

The larvae are a bit over a centimetre long. They are white with a brown / red head. When they hatch they start eating your clothes / carpet. Later they turn into moths.

clothes moth larvae in carpet

The clothes moths and larvae like dark undisturbed places such as under your bed, desk or in your wardrobe. When I closely inspected the carpets I spotted hundreds of eggs along the edges of the carpet under a desk. The eggs are tiny – much smaller than a pinhead.

When I lifted the carpet there were thousands more along under the skirting board. I tried to vacuum the eggs up but this required a lot of scraping with the hoover as the eggs were well stuck on. Even after a lot of vacuuming I still couldn’t remove all the visible eggs.

clothes moths eggs

clothes moths eggs under carpet

I tried getting rid of the eggs, moths and larvae by using moth sprays from Robert Dyas. They do kill the moths and larvae but not the eggs. You can kill all the moths and larvae but then the next day there will be a whole load of fresh larvae to take their place.

In order to protect the clothes I took them all to a laundrette in black bags. They were then hot-washed them to remove any eggs, the black bags were thrown away (in case they contained any moth eggs) and then the clean clothes were put in new black bags. I then took the clothes to my (non-moth infested) flat to keep them safe until the problem is sorted.

When it became clear that the home sprays weren’t able to get rid of them completely, the landlord was contacted who arranged for a professional to come into the flat. When the pest control guy visited he explained that the eggs are virtually indestructible. He said he would spray the carpet with a chemical that would kill any live clothes moths or larvae. The chemical would remain on the carpet for two weeks (no vacuuming in the mean time) killing any larvae which subsequently hatch. After two weeks the carpets would be sprayed again. He was very confident that this would get rid of the problem. We’ll have to wait and see.

Lessons learned

  1. Deal with any clothes moth problems right away before they cause real damage.
  2. Household moth killers may work against small numbers of moths but are unlikely to help if you have an established infestation.
  3. If you have clothes moths then consider replacing and wool carpets with synthetic ones.
  4. You can use lavender scented moth repellers in wardrobes to keep the moths away. However they are not fully effective – some moths don’t seem bothered about the scent!
  5. Vacuum regularly to increase the chances of removing eggs. However even vacuuming won’t get rid of all of them as the eggs are usually stuck to the carpet fibres.
  6. Try to avoid having dark undisturbed areas in your rooms. e.g. if you have lots of junk under your bed try to move it elsewhere or get rid of it. This will reduce the number of hiding spaces for them.
  7. If the infestation is established then you may have to get a professional in. This could cost many hundreds of pounds. Try to get a guarantee that if they don’t get rid of the infestation for a certain length of time they will come back for free.
  8. If you are not going to be wearing certain clothes for a long time – e.g. your winter wardrobe – consider putting them into storage in sealed vacuumed packed bags.

Moth Update – 2nd June 2008

The flat has now been sprayed twice with a two week interval. I have found out that the chemical is called Ficam W. After each spraying moths started re-appearing after 5-6 days. There will be a third spraying in a few days and maybe even a fourth!

Moth Update – 11th August 2008

The first two spraying failed to get rid of the moths so my friend decided to move out. I gather from the remaining flat mates that the moths are still there and the landlord didn’t bother to get a third spraying – even though it wouldn’t have cost him any more!

Unfortunately the problem is not over. It seems that the clothes moths have transferred to my friend’s sister and parents homes! Sometime in the next month or two I’ll probably try out one of those home fumigation kits that you can get at Robert Dyas to see if it will kill the moths. When I do try out the fumigation kit I’ll write a post about it.

Moth Update – 30th June 2009

I never did try the fumigation kit out. My friend’s sister moved to a new place – not because of the moths though. Occasionally moths are spotted at my friend’s parent’s house but as far as I can tell they haven’t taken hold there – yet.

If you want more information on what other people are doing about their clothes moths problem then I suggest you read the comments to this post. This has now become one of the most popular posts on this blog, and the post with the most comments. Clearly these creatures are causing misery for a lot of people!

Moth Update – 25th July 2009

I’ve uploaded a videos showing a carpet moth larvae, a carpet moth, moth eggs and carpet damage to YouTube – you’ll find it here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mALtFjCLQIE. The quality of the video isn’t very good but it may help you to recognise them.

Reader’s clothes moths stories

If you want to know more then do read the reader stories in the comment section below. Loads of people have been writing in to share their battles with the common clothes moth. Please feel free to share you own moth stories by adding a comment to my new ‘How to get rid of clothes moths‘ post.

Tips and advice for buying windows

Friday, March 21st, 2008

After recently buying some windows myself here are some tips that I have put together. This advice is aimed at people living in Britain but much of it applies for where ever you may live.

1. If you can, inspect windows previously installed by the company. The window company may be able to provide addresses of people whose windows you can view. Make sure you are satisfied with the way they look from both the inside and outside. If you can’t arrange to see actual windows then ask to see detailed photographs or a brochure of their work. Try to agree with the company (in writing) that your windows will look as good as the ones you see – they are bound to show you the best ones!

2. As well as inspecting the windows you should ensure you are happy with the mechanical operation of the windows. Try opening all the different types of windows (e.g. if there are large and small windows open both of them) and testing any handles or locks.

3. Check what guarantee the company offers. A guarantee is legally binding and provides rights in addition to your statutory rights. Check if the guarantee is “insurance backed”. This will protect you if the window company goes out of business. Make sure that you get the guarantee in writing.

4. The language used on quotes is often quite technical. Ask for explanations of any technical terms that you don’t understand.

5. Check if the quote includes repairs to the window-sill and repairing / repainting any damaged areas of the window frames. If your TV aerial is routed through the windows make sure that they can take it into account.

6. If you are going for double glazing find out how easy it is to replace the double glazed sealed units. They have a limited lifetime (often 5-10 years) after which the seal may fail and condensation may build up inside.

7. Get multiple quotes – if possible contact a minimum of three companies and compare the quotes.

8. Try to pay only a small deposit. Ideally paying as much as you can after the work has been completed. This will give you more bargaining power if there are problems with the windows. For example, if there are problem you may be able to withhold some of the balance until the problem is fixed. The Trading Standards web site explains how you can do this.

9. Before handing over the final balance inspect and test all your windows. If you can avoid having to pay too soon after the windows are completed, you may get lucky and be able to see how your windows perform during wind and rain.

10. Ask the company what problems previous customers have had with their windows and how they dealt with them. Ask if they can give you details of previous customers that you can contact for references. Be aware that they are likely to give you details of happy customers.

11. If you run into problems then there is legislation protecting you such as:

  1. Sale of Goods Act 1979
  2. Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982
  3. Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002

12. Further advice can be found at:

  1. http://www.tradingstandards.gov.uk
  2. http://www.consumerdirect.gov.uk
  3. http://www.adviceguide.org.uk (Citizens Advice Bureau)

You may wonder if it is worth going through all these steps. Think about how much the windows will cost. Replacing a number of windows could end up costing as much as a small car (or maybe a bigger car depending on how many get replaced). Would you buy a car without thoroughly researching it, reading the brochure and taking it for a test drive?