Reinforcing the need for approved steel

Despite the pressures on margins, one thing that shouldn’t be scrimped on is using quality steel for reinforcements, according to Rehau’s certification and quality manager Mark Gajda, and product manager Malcolm Taylor, and why fabricators and installers can easily find themselves fitting windows and doors that aren’t up to standard – and facing hefty financial penalties for doing so.

Over the years, we have seen customers come to us for their window and door products and components, yet get their steel or aluminium reinforcements from alternative, third party suppliers. While we don’t insist that our clients purchase steels from us, it’s important that fabricators and installers understand the consequences of purchasing reinforcements from non-system approved suppliers, and recognise the risks to their customers and their business.

The main issue associated with using unapproved reinforcements for a window or door, is that the product being fitted is not the same as the product that was approved and awarded industry standards under test conditions, and may therefore not perform to specification.

A window made from our Total70 profiles, for example, is PAS24 and BS 6375 (BS7412) compliant – these standards are awarded on the basis that the same components and hardware are used by Rehau fabricators and installers.

Rehau-approved reinforcement steels are put through rigorous testing to ensure safe and easy-to-fit installations. If different materials are being used, there is no guarantee the window or door would meet the grade for these standards under test conditions.

It’s worth noting that for windows or doors going into a new build, failure to meet the PAS24 security standard means that installers and fabricators will need to find an alternative way of complying with Approved Document Q of the Building Regulations for England.

By altering the structure with alternative components, third party certifications will also become invalid, such as BSI Kitemark, BBA Certification, CE Marking, and DoP. Fabricators will therefore be left liable for the cost of retesting the altered products, which could run into £tens-of-thousands.

So, what was once a cost saving suddenly becomes an expensive gamble and one which could have serious consequences. In the light of the Grenfell Enquiry, tougher building regulations are on the way to ensure that what is tested and approved and what is installed in a building are one and the same. Don’t be surprised if one door or window in a multi-occupancy building fails a quality or safety check, then all the windows and doors will need to be tested and possibly removed.

As well as the impact that third party reinforcements can have on industry standards, compliance and safety, alterations to a supplier’s standard window or door design can also have consequences on the product’s performance in situ. For example, the structural or wind loading calculations will no longer be valid if the reinforcements are different, and any BIM modelling data supplied by the manufacturer will also be incorrect. The WER rating and U-value calculations will be invalid and thermal performance could be adversely affected too.

The supplier’s warranty on the windows or doors may also be forfeited, should the third-party reinforcements cause issues further down the line, leaving the fabricator and installer to pick up the tab for repairs and replacements.

To safely find cost savings in reinforcements without compromising on quality, fabricators can consider value engineering to reduce the specification for reinforcement or to move to a five-chamber profile, which can be sufficiently strong without additional reinforcements.

In summary, maintaining the synergy between tested products and installed products is the only way that we can assure customers that the products being fitted do what they say they will in terms of performance and standards. Any change of third party components introduces unnecessary risks and can damage the reputation of the supplier, the fabricator and the installer – so think ‘real deal’ when it comes to steel.