Recently we have had an increase in the number of variations raised against Approved Document L due to glass units made incorrectly.
When the inspector visits the installation one of the tests he will conduct is looking for low e glass. Actually, if you watch him closely he is completing two tests. The first is the one where he holds the low e detector flat to the glass and presses a button. If it beeps and the light turns green low e is present.
Next he will flip the detector forwards and touch the two little metal prongs on the glass. Hopefully nothing will happen. If he does get a beep it means the low e coating is exposed to the air – and that isn’t good!
The low e coating is a very thin layer of metal and when the two prongs touch it a circuit is made and the detector indicates a problem.
Now as installers it isn’t easy for you to spot this without a detector. However, it will become noticeable fairly quickly if you use a soft coat low e product as these break down over time and a silvery mark that looks a bit like a water stain will appear.
If you do have units like this on one of your jobs give your glass supplier a call. I’m sure they will be more than willing to sort it out for you.
COMBUSTION VENTILATION – DON’T GET CAUGHT OUT
Mention gas appliances and installers usually shrug their shoulders and say it is nothing to do with them. They could not be more wrong! There are a couple of instances where not taking notice of a flue or vent may land you with a failed inspection, or even worse, a trip to court.
First up is the combustion vent. This is a vent that is permanently open and usually looks like a plastic cone on the glass with a free spinning fan inside. Sometimes they are vents that were once closable but a gas engineer removed the cords long ago. This vent needs to be permanently open so the appliance can get enough oxygen to burn efficiently. If it does not burn efficiently then it will produce too much carbon, which will soot up flues leading to a blockage. If not spotted this could result in carbon monoxide spilling back into the property – with possible deadly effects! These vents are only used when the appliance takes its oxygen from within the room – such as back boilers. Modern balanced flue boilers do not need them. If the old boiler has been removed and a new room-sealed appliance installed then you can take away that permanently open vent and replace it with a new solid piece of glass. Unless you are completely confident you can proceed, you must always seek confirmation from a gas safe engineer. Ignorance is no defence in law.
Next for discussion are the flues themselves. Flues have usually been installed to the regulations that were applicable at the time. They would have been positioned away from openings so the exhaust gasses do not immediately flow back into the building. For window installers to comply they must not move any opening closer to the flue than is acceptable under the current regulations. Where installers seem to get caught out is in buildings constructed in the 1980s and 1990s where the boiler was installed in the corner of the kitchen next to a window. The window is usually a fixed pane next to the boiler with a side hung opposite. At time of sale of replacement windows the householder explains that they cannot easily reach the window to close it – as the handle is half way up the opener. So a decision is made to convert the window from a half side hung to a full top hung. This is great for closing but you have just moved the opener right next to the flue and this does not satisfy current regulations! Remember if in any doubt about gas appliances you can consult Approved Document J (available as a free download on the Planning Portal website) as this will give you correct distances from a flue as well as minimum ventilation requirements. An even safer bet is to talk to a gas engineer.
On the third day of the FIT Show 2016 next week (Thursday 14 April) FENSA will be using the Master Fitter Challenge stand to showcase Building Regulations compliance – and the common faults that can lead to an inspection failure. All FENSA Installers are very welcome to attend.
It all starts with an accurate and comprehensive survey. Do that right – and everything else will fall into place.
The subjects that will be covered are:-
- Structural Safety & Fire Safety (Documents A&B of the Buildings Regulations)
- Access and Use of Buildings (Document M)
- Conservation of Fuel & Power & FENSA Window Energy Ratings (Document L)
- Ventilation, Condensation & Combustion (Documents F&J)
- Glazing Safety & Protection from falling (Documents N & K)
- Minimum Technical Competencies (MTC)
This will be a unique opportunity to walk through the inspections process on the stand with our team of experts from both FENSA and RISA. The FENSA team includes Managing Director Chris Mayne, General Operations Manager Liam Gilsenan, Inspection Manager Dave Mecham, Inspection Supervisor Tim Lowin, FENSA inspector Lee Galley and Certifications Manager Darrell Williams. Attending from RISA will be Operations Director Peter Maddern.
In addition, FENSA certified installers will be able to ask inspection experts questions on compliance issues at both survey and installation and the new FREE FENSA Window and Doorset Energy Ratings.
Every time an installation fails inspection it costs installers hundreds of pounds in time and materials to put right – money that could be saved if the work was done to the correct standard in the first place.
Come visit us – and if you Opt In to FREE FENSA Window Energy Ratings – you will be able to get hold of free copies of the vitally important FENSA Guide to Compliance, the full Building Regulations Approved Documents, the GGF’s Condensation leaflet Some Causes, Some Advice and the GGF’s Right Glazing In The Right Place leaflet (don’t miss this opportunity – limited stocks only).
The Master Fitter Challenge stand is located in the entrance hall of the FIT Show – you can’t miss it.
To register for your free FIT 2016 tickets go to http://www.fitshow.co.uk/fensa/reg
SAFETY GLASS – COMMON MISTAKES
The most common variations are still due to safety glazing because there are so many places it can go awry.
The need for safety glass should be checked for at least three times. Once at sales, once at survey and finally at installation. Below are the top six most common mistakes made:
- Next to doors – The surveyor may not note on the survey that a window next to a door needs safety glass because the factory will pick up it is a door combination. However during order processing doors and windows sometimes get spilt up and that flag window is suddenly just a window…
- Bathrooms – Any bath or shower tray below the window becomes the finished floor level – so measure from inside that not from the floor. Also, if the window change is part of a refurbishment of a bathroom ask if a bath or shower will be under the window. Remember it is considered good practice to fit safety glass in bathrooms even if the windows are outside critical locations.
- Outside floor level – The measurement of 800mm from floor level or 1500mm when within 300mm of a door is taken from inside and outside. If the glass is below these levels on either side then it is critical and needs to be safety glass. Cellar windows are commonly missed as they are at head height inside but ankle height outside.
- Damaged units – Scratched and damaged units are spotted by the fitter and sizes for a replacement called in. A new unit is made but the safety aspect has been missed and annealed glass is installed in a critical area.
- Units the same size – Often there are two units that are the same size but one is safety glass and the other isn’t. Its easy to switch them by mistake. Some IGU manufactures are trying to combat this using different coloured tape or labels for their toughened units.
- Window seats – Any fixed furniture in front of a window will be considered the floor level so when surveying watch for these and call up the appropriate glass.
From January 2016 FENSA Certified installers will be able to use free window and door energy ratings (WERs and DSERs) as part of their registration package. It is totally voluntary. All they have to do is Opt In, agree to the rules and be supplied by a BFRC registered fabricator.
These new window and door energy ratings are operated and independently verified by BFRC. It is exactly the same as the existing BFRC scheme in terms of ratings, ratings bands, license scopes and windows and doors covered. Labels provided will cover windows and doors rated ‘A++’ to ‘G’.
The only difference is these new labels are branded FENSA and will have their own marketing support. These ratings will be marketed heavily at consumers in the second half of 2016 to raise awareness and drive consumer demand.
Existing BFRC Authorised Retailers can quickly and easily switch to be a FENSA Authorised Installer – by Opting In by emailing BFRC.
“This is the most exciting and radical promotion of energy rated windows and doors since the launch of BFRC 10 years ago,” explains FENSA managing director Chris Mayne. “This brings energy ratings to UK homeowners under the name of one of the most well-known brands in windows and doors. We predict that it will vastly boost the numbers of installers using windows and door energy ratings to comply with Buildings Regulations and put the labels in front of many more consumers than before.”
The benefits of Opting In to FENSA energy rated windows and doors for installers are: an easier product to sell because homeowners understand and recognize energy rated labels; installers get their own labels; it is the easiest route to Part L compliance; a listing on BFRC website (the first port of call for homeowners searching for energy rated product); consumer publicity support and recognition; installers can source glass and frames separately; opportunities to upsell; technical and marketing support and advice.
Currently just over 53% of Part L compliant notifications are through window and door energy ratings. The rest are by declaration of U-values.
“We expect to be reporting a big rise in WER based compliance by this time next year because of the launch of FENSA WERs and DSERs” concludes Mayne.
The Opt In process for FENSA certified installers is to email the Operations Team on EnergyRatings@fensa.org.uk with their company name, registration number and name of their fabricator supplier. FENSA will do the rest.
AVOID LOAD BEARING PROBLEMS
A vital part of the survey and installation of replacement windows is how any structure above them is supported. In the majority of cases a suitable lintel is present and plays no part in the installation. But this should never be taken for granted.
UK homes exhibit varied building techniques for load carrying – concrete, steel, timber and stone lintels, brick arches, boot lintels. The list is endless. If the installation property has one of these in place (with no signs of failure) there’s little to worry about. But if there are no obvious means of support then very close scrutiny must be made during survey.
If there is any potential for the structure to move, then as a competent person you must ensure that the load above the opening is secured. Many properties were built with the original timber window supporting the brickwork above. So replacing it with modern PVC or Aluminium window frames compromises the carrying the load.
A soldier or head course of bricks above a window is not acting as a support unless it has been formed into an arch. A soldier course is usually decorative. These should be carefully examined and a plan to support it drawn up before any window below is replaced.
Good surveying is the key to getting the support issue correct. If you inspect thoroughly then any issues can be brought to the attention of the householder before work commences. If it is not identified beforehand and a support has to be installed during or post installation, the cost burden may fall on you the installer.
Bay windows should always be treated as loadbearing even if the load seems small. It should be supported by suitable bay poles that rest on either a fully reinforced cill (the reinforcement should be under the pole), steel spreader places having passed through the cill or onto a jacking pole system. The top of the pole should be tight to the structure above with steel spreading plates in-between. The poles should be carrying the whole load (not just point loads). It may be necessary to use steel or leave the head in place to carry any centre loads.
Finally a word to the wise – a disclaimer signed by the householder does not remove the onus on the competent person to do a professional job.
DOORS – THRESHOLDS AND ACCESS
Mention door thresholds and their need to comply with Building Regulations and it’s common to assume this means wheelchair access. While this is an important consideration, it is not the only one. The requirement is that reasonable provision shall be made for people to gain access to the building.
This means thinking about all users, paying particular attention to wheelchair users and other people with mobility problems such as older or blind people.
When assessing any door’s need to comply with Approved Document M, the first items that need to be addressed are location and position. Approved Document M relates to the main access door, however best practice should be applied to all doors wherever possible.
The main door is usually the entrance that would normally be used after a person has exited from a vehicle and approached the property. In most cases this is the front door but do remember UK housing stock also has a large proportion of properties with main access to the rear of a building.
When surveying the door, the original threshold height should be measured and ideally any replacement should be no worse than that already in place. In some cases this is an impossible task – for example, timber doors on stone cills with no current threshold. In areas of low weather exposure a threshold of no greater than 35mm cill height should be installed, extending to 50mm in areas of high weather exposure.
The clear opening of the main access door must also be made no worse than the original provided the opening is less than 775mm. If the original is greater than this, then the opening may be reduced to 775mm. Measurement is always taken from the face of the door leaf when open at 900 to the edge of the frame on the latch side.
It is common practice when using PVC-U to use an “Add-on” profile down the hinge side to stop the hinges fouling on the plaster-line. Remember these profile pieces reduce the width of the door opening so the door should be properly assessed as to whether it needs them and to establish the smallest size required to obtain the desired result.