Cornwall LivingIssue #79

No pane no gain

Thinking of giving your home an exterior facelift this winter? I get the lowdown on the options for replacing your windows from home improvement expert, Phil Dawe.

Your windows are very much part of the aesthetic of your home. Not only do they frame your view from the inside, with the advent of modern designs and a range of colours, they also add style and charm to the exterior. The quality of windows also affects the energy efficiency of your home and can have a huge impact on the temperature and noise inside. With this in mind, and after a couple of winter storms making it very apparent that my 1970s bungalow is certainly in need of some new windows for its soul, I seek advice from Phil Dawe, owner of Dawes and Windows.

At Dawes and Windows, we only employ the very best installers who are paid by the day, not by the window”

The company is family-run, with Phil ably supported by his wife and daughter, supplying and installing replacement windows, doors and conservatories into homes across Cornwall. I ask Phil where I should start when considering replacing my windows. He tells me that the first step is for him to come out for an initial, no-obligation chat. “I’m guessing,” says Phil, “that with most bungalows of that era, you’ve got vast panoramic, characterless windows with only small openers?” He’s right, at least half of my living room is glazed and the windows only have small opening panes. “That’s because in the 1980s, when your windows would have been updated, glazing was all about cost-effectives. The less openings and panes, the cheaper the price,” explains Phil.

It transpires that double-glazing used to be all about a quick sell and volume sales. For Phil and his team this couldn’t be further from the truth. “My initial consultation with a client is a fact-finding meeting all about the look and style that they are trying to achieve. I sit with them to try and ascertain their priorities – are we going down the ultra-modern route? Do you want to have a more original feel? How many openers do you want? How do you want your windows to open? What material do you want to use?”

This may seem like a lot of questions, but it makes me breathe an internal sigh of relief. It shows me that Phil and his team have considered all of the options so that I can easily make an informed choice. I quickly realise that by adding more opening panes, opting for the easy maintenance and modern look of PVC windows and choosing one of the great coloured frames now available, I will be able to transform the look of my home. Phil even thinks of the finer detail of adding top-openers to my children’s bedroom windows so that I can vent them on warm summer evenings without worrying about the security risk of a big open window on a ground floor room.

Having spent some time living in Europe, where the combination of shutters and inward opening windows are common, I ask about the possibility of having this set up in my bungalow. Unsurprisingly Phil’s response is: “No problem! We offer a ‘tilt and turn’ option that would be ideal for you, and it makes cleaning them much easier too.”

I also learn from Phil that it’s not just aesthetic benefits that come from replacing your old windows – it sounds like I’m going to be spending much less on my heating bills once I upgrade, too! “Sealed units have come on leaps and bounds since the 80s. Your windows are likely to have no energy coatings at all and the two panes will only have air trapped between them,” surmises Phil. “Modern casements have a layer of argon gas between the panes which, along with high-tech coatings, create a level of heat retention that on a property of your size could be up to 20 times more efficient than your existing windows.” My windows have lost their fit over time as well and some are now letting in a noticeable draught, making it clear to me that it’s time to upgrade.

I learn that once I’ve chosen my windows, a 20% deposit, and a short lead time of approximately six to eight weeks while they are made to measure, will see my beautiful new windows arrive and installed. With such stylish frames I can see that I’m going to have to address my ageing front door as well and it’s no surprise that Phil is easily able to accommodate my slightly quirky request of an outward opening door, with minimal glass, in a vibrant colour.

But, I’m worried about having the fitters in my home – you hear such horror stories of poor workmanship, so I need someone I can trust. I turn to Phil for reassurance. “At Dawes and Windows, we only employ the very best installers who are paid by the day, not by the window,” says Phil. “This means they never have to rush a job. Even if a job runs over by a day or two I would rather it was done well. You can have the best product in the world but if it’s poorly fitted you can have problems with damp and cold spots.” Phil tells me that much of Dawes and Windows’ work comes from customer recommendations and with an ethos like this, it’s easy to see why.