What is FENSA?

It is every home owner’s nightmare to pay out a large sum of money for home improvements such as new double-glazed windows, only to find that the workmanship is not up to scratch or even worse, they don’t meet building regulations. Failure to comply with building regulations could mean the installation is unsafe and may even need to be removed, at the cost of the homeowner. You could even incur a fine from your local authority. This is where FENSA comes in…

But, what is FENSA?

The Fenestration Self-Assessment Scheme (FENSA) is a government-authorised industry standard for self-certification of compliance with Building Regulations. It covers the replacement of external windows, doors, roof windows and roof lights in England and Wales.

Here, we’re going to take a look at all you’ll need to know about FENSA certification, what it is and how it can be obtained.

What is a FENSA certificate?

  • When was FENSA introduced?
    FENSA was created in response to the new building regulations introduced in April 2002. These require that any new double glazed door, window or roof light installations must comply with those regulations and meet certain thermal performance standards.  
  • When did FENSA certificates start?
    FENSA certificates were made compulsory from April 2002. 
  • What is a FENSA registration?
    A FENSA registration is held by installers who carry out work and supply products that comply with Building Regulations. Installers can self-certify the works they carry out and register the installation with the local authority on your behalf. 
  • What is a FENSA guarantee?
    A FENSA guarantee is an insurance backed guarantee that can cover the product and installation work for up to 10 years. This guarantee only applies if the installers are FENSA registered and the subsequent work carried out is also registered and certified. This guarantee serves as peace of mind for customers who are paying large sums of money for an installation, and also for home buyers who did not oversee previous work to the property. 
  • What is FENSA approved?
    FENSA approved installers can be large national brands or small local companies. All approved installers are regularly assessed to make sure they qualify to meet the required standards. If you use a company that is not FENSA approved, any works that include replacing windows, doors and roof lights will require you to get a certificate from Local Authority Building Control instead.

Do you need a FENSA Certificate?

  • Do I need FENSA certificate for replacement windows?
    Yes, FENSA certification is needed when replacing any windows, even if they are like-for-like. 
  • Is FENSA required for replacement glass?
    No, FENSA certification is not required for replacement glass, however it is always a good idea to have the work completed by a FENSA approved installer, for peace of mind. 
  • Does FENSA apply to wooden windows?
    Yes, FENSA compliance extends to all PVCu or wooden/timber windows and doors. 
  • Do I need FENSA for a conservatory?
    FENSA only applies to windows and doors of more than 50% glass, on the main part of a building. Any new conservatory, orangery will not be covered by FENSA and will need to go through the local authority Building Control Process. 
  • Are FENSA certificates required for listed buildings?
    If you live in a property that is a Listed Building and wish to replace your windows, this would fall under the jurisdiction of the relevant Local Authority. Therefore, planning permission would be required and the installation cannot be registered with FENSA. 
  • Does FENSA apply to internal doors?
    FENSA applies to external windows and doors. However, if a NEW doorway opening is to be created this will need to go through local authority Building Controls. 
  • Is FENSA required for single glazing?
    Whether a window is single glazed or double glazed, the replacement installation still has to meet the building regulations and meet thermal performance standards. Meeting thermal standards alone may indicate that double glazing is the preferential replacement.
  • Who issues FENSA certificates?
    Registered FENSA installers will issue you with a FENSA certificate on completion and register the work with the local authority. If you have used a non-FENSA installer, or completed the work yourself, you will have to apply directly to the local authority who will need to inspect the work before issuing the certificate. 
  • How to obtain a FENSA certificate.
    If you have work carried out by a FENSA approved installer, they will register the completed work with your local authority and the certificate should arrive 2-4 weeks after completion. If you are looking for a replacement for a lost certificate, you can contact FENSA and obtain a copy for a £25 fee. 
  • How to get a FENSA certificate from the council.
    If you have had work carried out by a non-FENSA registered installer, or have completed an installation yourself, you need to go through your local authority Building Control process to get the work signed off. If the installation meets the requirements, the certificate will usually take up to 2 months to arrive.

How much does a FENSA certificate cost?

If you use a FENSA approved installer to carry out the work for you, you will not pay anything for the certificate. If however you use a non-FENSA approved installer, or carry out an installation yourself, you will have to obtain approval on the work from your local authority Building Control, who will charge a fee. If you are looking to replace a lost certificate, the charge is currently £25.

How to become FENSA registered

If you’re a window fitter and would like to become a FENSA approved installer, this can be done directly through the FENSA website.

There will be a one-off application fee to pay, and then ongoing fees determined by the number of jobs your company completes annually. more details of which can be found, here.

FENSA installers are pre-approved for adhering to building regulations. They should offer an insurance-backed 10 year guarantee as a minimum on all work carried out.

So, for peace of mind and a quicker sign-off on an installation, it is always best to have your windows and doors fitted by a FENSA approved installer.

 

Green Kitchen Splashback

Choosing a Splashback for Your Kitchen: Which Type is Best?

Splashbacks have been a part of our kitchens for decades, if not centuries. They were designed to protect the walls of your kitchen from food, liquids and grease. And, they’re still used for this purpose today. Kitchen splashbacks are best placed behind a cooker, whether you have a gas, electric or an induction hob. But a splashback is also ideally suited for the wall behind a kitchen sink – some will go as far as using them across the entire length of a work surface. Not only do they serve a purpose, but they can also play an integral part in the aesthetics of your kitchen.

Using splashbacks to strengthen the design of a kitchen is not uncommon these days. They come in many different shapes, sizes, colours and styles, and a kitchen splashback can be truly unique to your home.

With so many options to choose from, we’re going to delve into the world of splashbacks to help you decide what type is best for you.

Types of Kitchen Splashback

Kitchen splashbacks don’t all have to be the same. Naturally, we favour glass splashbacks, not only are they durable and sturdy, they’re also easy to keep clean and great for modernising your kitchen; the possibilities are only limited by your imagination as far as design and installation goes. 

Alternatively, if you have papered or painted walls and want to add a bit of texture to your kitchen, a tiled splashback would be a great addition. Tiles look great and are fairly inexpensive to purchase and install, however there is a little more maintenance involved. The adhesive (grout) used to stick the tiles to the wall can be a little difficult to clean, and some food and liquid can cause stains, meaning you may have to regrout every so often.

If you want a splashback that doesn’t adhere to the wall, then an upstand is the choice for you. An upstand is used directly behind your hob and only sits around 100mm high. They tend to be filled with chipboard or solid stone to ensure maximum heat resistance, often acting as a continuation of your worksurface. 

As a general rule, an upstand doesn’t cover the entire wall behind the hob, this means there’s potential for food debris to taint the wall above the upstand, so the addition of a splashback in this area is advisable.

Choosing a Splashback Material

The first step in choosing a splashback for your kitchen is to decide on the material that you’d like to use. Each material has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to weigh-up your options first.

Glass Splashbacks

Glass is a great material to use as a splashback. Today, you can get made-to-measure splashbacks in pretty much any colour, shape or design. So what are the pros and cons of choosing glass? 

  • Toughened glass is completely safe for use in the kitchen.
  • Glass can be easily customised in colour and shape.
  • Perfect for creating a real statement in your kitchen.
  • Can be used to clad walls in bathrooms too.
  • Glass has a flat, smooth surface, making it very easy to wipe clean.
  • Heat resistant.
  • Measurements are crucial for a glass splashback. You need to ensure there is enough room for the glass to expand so you don’t have any unwanted cracks or breakages.
  • Toughened glass can’t be cut on site to make room for sockets etc, so it’s vital measurements are accurate before they’re manufactured to order.

Tile Splashbacks

Tiles are a great splashback material. If you have plain kitchen walls, you can use different coloured tiles to create a colourful and truly unique splashback. Pros and cons of tiled splashbacks: 

  • Fully customisable in colour and size.
  • Heat-resistant.
  • Tiles can be adapted and cut to fit around kitchen sockets.
  • Depending on the type of tile adhesive used, stains may occur from splashed food.
  • The cost of fitting can be high.
  • Can be difficult to replace if needed.

Acrylic Splashbacks

Acrylic splashbacks are versatile and inexpensive. If you want to create a feature from your splashback, try using different and unusual shapes of acrylic to really add the ‘wow’ factor to your kitchen. Pros and cons of acrylic splashbacks:

  • Fully customisable in colour and size.
  • Water-resistant.
  • Can be cut to size on site.
  • Acrylic isn’t heat-resistant so you shouldn’t use an acrylic splashback near a heat source such as a hob.
  • Acrylic can be cut in many different shapes and patterns making it extremely versatile for plug sockets and unconventional kitchen walls. 
  • Not a totally rigid material so can warp or split over time.

Stainless Steel Splashbacks

Stainless steel splashbacks aren’t for everyone, but they can certainly be an affordable and practical option in a kitchen. Pros and cons of stainless steel splashbacks:

  • Inexpensive.
  • Can be cut to fit.
  • Non-porous and hygienic. 
  • Not always to everyone’s taste.
  • Can be difficult to keep smear free. 
  • Can warp over time.
  • Despite the name, stainless steel can stain, especially if the food debris is acidic such as that from lemons.

Colour Coordinating Your Kitchen Splashback

When it comes to coordinating your splashback with the rest of your kitchen, you need it to either blend in or stick out.

The colour that you use for your splashback is a personal choice however there are some factors to consider. Decide whether you want your splashback to match the rest of your appliances, units and countertops. If you do, it’ll be much easier to decide upon the colour, however you may not be able to find a perfect match. If this is the case, we’d suggest going a shade darker with your splashback.

If you want your splashback to stand out against a plain wall, we’d recommend going for a colourful piece of glass. You can even get sparkles put into it if you really want to make a statement!

For texture, tiles are the best material to use. For colour coordinating your kitchen, we think different shades of the same colour look beautiful as a splashback. An example of this is, if your kitchen is grey, then create a splashback with light and darker shades of grey – you could even include a few black tiles!

When deciding to install a kitchen splashback, we understand how difficult it can be to pick the right material, colour, design, shape and size. Glass, tiles and acrylic all have their pro’s and con’s but glass splashbacks sit firmly at the top of our list for practicality, design versatility and cost.

If you have any questions about splashbacks, or you’d like to learn more about the made-to-measure glass splashbacks that we supply including our colour matching service, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

 

Is Double Glazing Worth It?

If you’re thinking about replacing your windows, you’ve probably wondered exactly what are the benefits of double-glazing?

This is a sensible question to ask, and one that’s rarely answered fully. There are so many advantages, you can lose track before you’ve begun to completely appreciate the impact double-glazing can have.

To address this, we’ve put together a quick run-down on the many (sometimes underappreciated) benefits of double glazing including the insulation improvements and noise reduction qualities, to help answer the question does double glazing make a difference?

What is Double Glazing & How Does it Work?

For something that is almost standard in modern houses, it’s slightly surprising how many people don’t know how double-glazing works.

A common misconception reduces it down to the basic idea that placing two panes of glass in your windows must be better than simply having one.

But the reason why double glazing works so well is more complicated (and more impressive) than that.

Between those two panes of glass is sandwiched a layer of inert gas. An inert gas is far less conductive than regular air. This means it allows less heat to transfer from inside the window to the outside. If you’d like to learn more about inert gases in double glazing, our handy guide will help.

Does Double Glazing Reduce Noise?

Double glazing is usually associated with keeping heat in. Not a lot of people think to ask ‘can double glazing reduce noise?’ as well.

This is something of a shame because if you’re struggling with traffic noise invading your home, double glazing could be a key weapon to tackle it. In the best-case scenario, double glazing could provide up to a 50% reduction in external noise being heard inside your home.

How does double glazing reduce noise?

That extra layer of glass and insulating air doesn’t just slow down any hot air as it tries to escape. It also creates an extra barrier to prevent noise from getting in. Sound won’t travel as clearly through that second pane of glass.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that the answer to the question ‘is double glazing soundproof?’ is always going to be yes. But, if you’re simply looking to minimise the impact of the outside world and keep your home a cosy, comfortable sanctuary space, double glazing is the answer.

Does Double Glazing Stop Condensation?

Another question that is frequently forgotten by anyone contemplating replacing their windows is ‘will new double-glazing stop condensation on the windows?’. Or, in the very least ‘will new double glazing reduce condensation?’

This is another ‘yes!’ for double glazing: it can significantly reduce the condensation you experience inside your home.

Condensation is a complicated problem, affected by things as varied as the age of your home, how it’s built and even how you use it. Condensation is caused when warm, moist air hits a cold surface (say, a pane of glass exposed to the outside elements). The rapid cooling of the air causes water droplets to form.

Thanks to the extra layers, the interior pane of a double-glazed window stays a lot warmer than a single pane would. The air doesn’t cool as fast or as far, and less moisture is released.

Will double glazing stop mould?

Condensation doesn’t just look unappealing – it can cause black mould to grow inside your home, too. And black mould, in turn, isn’t just unpleasant to look at – it could cause you or your family to become ill!

If you’re asking can double glazing stop condensation – the answer is not entirely.  If there’s a lot of moisture in your home, or a severe lack of ventilation, condensation may still form. However, you may see enough of a reduction to prevent mould growing. It should certainly make the condition more manageable.

Does Double Glazing Save Energy?

There is one question that anyone considering replacing their windows should already know the answer to. That being ‘does double glazing save on heating?’.

Afterall, no one wants to be wasting money on unnecessarily high heating bills. This is why so many people turn to double glazing in the first place, because it is so much more energy efficient.

How does double glazing reduce heat loss?

We’ve already mentioned the main mechanics of how double glazing reduces heat loss. The extra barrier layer of inert gas slows the travel of heat both into the house and out of it. Then there’s that second layer of glass.

But there’s also another often-overlooked aspect of double glazing to be considered: those fresh new window frames!

A well-fitting window frame, with a secure seal holding the pane in place, won’t be letting any warm air wiggle out and escape around its edges. It won’t be letting any cold air seep in either. This can effectively eliminate drafts around your windows. Another win for energy efficiency.

Will Double Glazing Add Value?

There is of course one last benefit any homeowner should consider before improving their home, and updating your windows is no exception: does double glazing increase property value?

Thanks to all the benefits listed above, updating your windows to modern double glazing will increase the purchase appeal of your home and add to its value.

With so many benefits to double glazing, it’s hardly surprising this is one of the most common home improvements people invest in. From the more obvious energy saving aspects, to minimising condensation, we may have even highlighted a few here that you’d never thought of!

How to Recycle Old Windows

When replacing your windows for shiny, new modern versions, your first thoughts might be on how great your home will look. You’re probably also thinking about energy savings and reduced bills. But what about the environment? Did you stop to consider how to dispose of old windows? Recycling, reusing or repurposing your windows are responsible ways to proceed, so we’ll talk you through everything you need to know. 

Can windows be recycled?

Yes, many windows can be recycled or reused. However, you need to start by assessing the materials and specifics of your old windows. If your house was built before 1970 and the original windows are still present, paint used in your home may have contained lead. There are rules specific to renovations including window and door replacements carried out in homes built before this time, so you’ll need to research this before you begin your window replacement. 

If your home does fall into this category, you may also need to follow regulations on how to dispose of your old windows which will rule out standard recycling routes. You can find more information via the Association for Project Safety who are an authority when it comes to best practices in safety risk management.   

We’re often asked if UPVC windows can be recycled. The good news is, UPVC is actually an easily recycled material, so the answer is yes! 

Next, you’re probably wondering how you can dispose of window glass. Glass is a recyclable material, right? So there should be plenty of options here. Unfortunately, things are a little more complicated when it comes to recycling window glass. A simple glass bottle actually has a different chemical composition to glass from a window. The melting temperatures are different too, so the two types of glass can’t be recycled together. 

Window glass can be many different types; such as tinted, safety glass, and tempered glass. Each type of glass needs different treatment which further complicates the recycling process. This doesn’t mean recycling is impossible though, we’ll explain how next.

How to Recycle Old Windows

To start the recycling process, first you’ll have to separate the different window materials. This means taking windows out of their frames.

How to Take Old Windows Out of Their Frames

Start by removing all moving parts from the window by unscrewing the hinges. Stack all the framed sections together. Saw through any upright central sections with care, then bang frames away from the glass using a hammer and chisel. 

Where to Take Old Window Materials for Recycling

Once you’ve separated the materials, you’ll need to find a centre that can recycle them. One of the best options when it comes to UPVC window recycling, recycling old double glazed units and more is a building materials reuse centre. You’ll need to search for one local to you (your local council is usually a good place to start) and speak to them to see which materials they accept before taking your old windows to be recycled. Take a look at this useful guide to recycling construction materials for more information. 

What Else can you do with Old Windows?

If you can remove your windows in tact, you can also find ways to repurpose them rather than recycling the individual materials. This is a great option for creative people who are looking to create a unique feature. 

How to Repurpose Old Windows

Here are some ideas for repurposing or upcycling your old windows.

  • Photo frames: An old window can make a great frame for a striking photo collage. Pick out your favourites and get creative!
  • Mirror: Replace the glass with a mirror and hang your old window in your home.
  • Garden feature: Use your old window to create a feature in the garden, dividing different zones or replacing a fence panel. 
  • Cabinet doors: If you’re really handy, you could create a bespoke cabinet and use your old windows as cabinet doors.

For more ideas, check out this great round up of window repurposing ideas

Responsible Window Replacement

Replacing your windows can really lift the look of your home and improve energy efficiency. But spare a thought for replacing responsibly by looking into recycling or repurposing your windows before you start your project. Make use of building material reuse centres or use creative ideas to help your old windows continue their lifespan in a useful way rather than ending up in landfill. You’ll find the whole process more fulfilling knowing you’ve done your bit!

Building Regulations: What You Need to Know

For any budding home improver, the prospect of building regulations can be a significant deterrent. There are so many questions around what exactly they are, when they apply and how you go about actually meeting them, that they can make the simplest DIY improvement job seem far more hassle than it’s worth. And, large scale jobs, like conversions or extensions, can become impossible tasks when you don’t even know the difference between building regulations and planning permission.

Luckily, UK building regulations are not really that confusing at all. They exist to ensure your home (or any building) is safe, efficient and practical. They are actually about protecting you!

Still, knowing that simple fact isn’t much help to someone in the process of updating their home, tussling with lists of approved documents and building regulations.

So, we’ve decided to put together this post as a primer on British building regulations.

As well as looking at what they are in a little more detail and signposting some helpful places where you can learn even more, we’ll get into specifics around building regulations for staircases and safety glass regulations so that you can ensure that any regulation-compliant product you purchase from us is as safe and secure when it’s installed as it was when we manufactured it.

What are Building Regulations?

Building regulations are statutory legal requirements that must be met when completing any form of construction. They were originally set out in the ‘Buildings Act of 1984’ and are regularly revised and updated to reflect new developments in construction materials, technology and health and safety. The most recent iteration of the act is Building Regulations 2010.

Their main purpose is to define the standards that must be met by all building work, to ensure the safety and health of anyone who uses the building after its completion.

The act also sets out as follows:

  • What building work is covered by them
  • Any type of work that is exempt (for example, in certain temporary buildings)
  • The notification procedures that must be adhered to at the start, during and completion of building work

Approved building regulations are classified under 16 headings, each one identified by a letter (Building Regulations Part A to P). They cover all aspects of the construction process including:

  • Energy (efficiency, performance as well as safety of gas and electrical systems)
  • Fire safety and protection
  • Structural integrity
  • Accessibility
  • Standards for drains and ventilation
  • Protection against contamination or ingress of water

To assist with compliance to the building regulations, the government published free accompanying documents (called ‘Approved Documents’) that provide general guidance and practical suggestions on how the regulations can be met.

When a house is sold, surveyors will ask to see proof that any building work that has been carried out is compliant with the relevant regulations. If you commission or carry out on your work, you should always investigate what regulations will apply and obtain proof they were met by either the person employed to complete the work or by applying for approval yourself, before the work is started.

Building Regulations and Planning Permission

A lot people confuse approved building regulations and planning permission. In fact, these terms are not actually interchangeable and refer to completely different legislative requirements.

Building regulations outline standards for specific building design and construction and features within, as outlined above. In contrast, planning permission is a way of guiding the development of villages, town and cities. It takes into account the effect on the general environment, encompassing the use of land, the building’s appearance, the required access and the impact on the local ecosystem.

As the nature of building regulations and planning permission differs so greatly, for most larger scale development projects you would need to satisfy both processes. For smaller scale internal building work, you may not need to seek planning permission but you will still need building regulations approval. You can find more information on exactly what work requires planning permission on the Government Planning Portal.

Building Regulations for Windows

You may wonder, when it really comes down to it, do you need building regs for windows? Structural integrity should be the same with or without window frames.

Most glass sold these days is strong enough to keep out the elements and stay safe: at the very least, is double glazing exempt from building regulations?

In actual fact, windows are covered by a number of different building regulations and whether you’re updating one front window, or replacing every pane in the house, new windows need to conform to those standards.

Some of the areas that cover windows, are what you would expect. For example, Part L of the building regulations deals with conservation of energy and energy efficiency, with a requirement that all windows provide a minimum level of insulation against heat loss. This is something that is really rather reassuring in a world of rising fuel prices not to mention sea levels.

Part K of the building regulations also has obvious relation to windows, as it covers protection from falling and lays out exactly where you can place windows and the need for safety glass.

Alternatively, you may be surprised to see windows covered in the section which deals with means of fire escape. Of course, when you look deeper, even this makes sense. For many domestic dwellings, the only means of escape on the first floor is through a window. Having a minimum unobstructed opening space so that people are able to evacuate through a window is a sensible precaution, and that is what is outlined in the Part B building regulations.

In fact, there are so many subsections that cover windows, that a scheme was set up to allow certain traders to self-certify their work as compliant. This is called the FENSA scheme, and it has a rigorous validation process, where installers have their work inspected to ensure standards are maintained.

You don’t have to employ a FENSA registered installer, but if you don’t you will need to seek approval through the relevant channels yourself. This applies to all new windows, including both UPVC and timber framed.

Building Regulations for Stairs

When it comes to staircases, Part K of the building regulations is the main section you need to consider. The section is named ‘Protection from falling, collision and impact’ and has a whole sub-section that deals specifically with staircases. Limits on the width, length and pitch of stairs are all laid out as are requirements for headroom, landings and handrails.

Even within the building regulations on stairs, there are a lot of subsections and extra considerations. Though the prospect of a handrail might seem like a simple yes or no question – do you need a handrail on stairs?

In an area as important as construction health and safety, there are always further details to be considered – how many stairs before a handrail is required? What height should it be at? What materials can the handrail be made from?

For any staircase with more than two stairs, a handrail is required – and if the staircase is wider than 1m, you will need a handrail or balustrades on either side. Height and material for handrails have a lot more specifics and conditions, but the details can all be found in the Part K building regulations, making it an essential read when you’re planning a new or replacement staircase or balcony.

Building regulations were set in place to make sure that any building you live in, work in, or even visit is safe, secure and accessible. It is in everyone’s interest to keep to them in every step of building work and if you undertake any significant work on a building that you own, compliance with the appropriate regulations should be a priority.

Hopefully you’ve now got a better handle on building regulations, what they are and how they impact you. Particularly with regards to double glazing units, glass balustrades and other home features we supply.

However, if you have further questions about how our glass products meet with UK regulations, or how you can incorporate them compliantly in to your building, call us today.