In June 2016 The Window Centre Harrow replaced windows and doors in my property. The work was shambolic from start to finish and after more than fourteen months of stress and aggravation I sued them for a full refund plus compensation. With so much evidence in writing against them they knew they wouldn’t win the case and eventually settled out of court but left it until two weeks prior to the hearing to do so.
Despite the endless positive reviews that can be found about them online, The Window Centre Harrow is definitely not the company it makes out to be and worse still, it’s run by a director who is deceitful and dishonest. In this blog I’ll talk about my entire experience with this second rate window replacement company and will include photographs and extensive email correspondence that was exchanged between us.
Having communicated since day one with The Window Centre Harrow by email I had a record of everything that had ever been discussed. By the time I submitted my evidence to the court that correspondence amounted to more than sixty pages. It made up a crucial part of my evidence and served to prove what kind of a company I was dealing with. In defence statements submitted to the court by Mr Barber director of The Window Centre Harrow he lied repeatedly despite the truth being present in black and white in email correspondence.
Before deciding to use The Window Centre I read many customer reviews that had been posted online and it was those that convinced me they were a reputable and trustworthy window replacement company.
During my first meeting with their sales rep’ in May 2016 I explained that I wanted a really good quality product and had already met with Everest and Anglian Windows. The guy who was relaxed and friendly spent considerable time telling me about their products and assured me I’d be very happy with the quality of the windows and doors and standard of workmanship. He said they used their own highly trained installation teams so the work would be carried out with “precision and expertise”. During the meeting I was shown point 10 of their Terms and Conditions which states
All brickwork and plasterwork immediately adjacent to windows or doors (to the top, bottom, sides only) shall be made good provided the existing work is sound
I said I wasn’t too bothered about minor damage because it could all be repaired when the house is decorated later in the year.
Installation of the new windows and doors began a few weeks later.
The job dragged on for five full days instead of being completed in three as I was told and although the windows looked great, I soon started finding damage around the house. In my first email to The Window Centre I explained that on day three I returned home to find both flower beds on either side of the porch full of broken glass. The windows in the porch had clearly been smashed outwards instead of being removed carefully and in one piece. Flowers and shrubs in both flower beds had been trampled into the ground and two mature rose bushes had been damaged. Not wanting to make problems so early on I spent the evening picking shards of glass out of the soil and cut back the roses and was hopeful the installers would be more careful the following day. Sadly that wasn’t the case and when I returned home the next evening I was shocked to see even more damage had been caused to plants in both beds. When the installers left at the end of the week I found a chip in a newly installed toilet cistern, damage to the frames of several paintings, scratches on three chrome light switches and a broken picture frame on the stairs. They also left five days worth of cigarette butts on my driveway.
Having complained Mr Barber came to the house, apologised profusely and subsequently offered me £100 as “compensation”.
Two weeks later some of the windows were catching so I contacted The Window Centre Harrow once again and a service visit was arranged. It was the first of many many visits that took place over the next fourteen months. During that visit the engineer lubricated windows and made several adjustments. A few weeks later and there were more problems. Following another email I was told these were only teething problems and I shouldn’t be alarmed. One patio door was catching and had to be lifted to get it to close, the other wouldn’t open at all, there was a loose screw in the kitchen door, a strip of metal on the side of a small window was badly scratched, a rubber seal around another window was split and the bathroom window and two bedroom windows were catching despite both having been adjusted and lubricated previously.
In their reply of 20th July 2016 The Window Centre said the problem with the pato doors is likely to be because of the “extreme heat of recent days.” I told them they’d been like that for over a week but had not had time to get in touch until now so it had nothing to do with the last two days of hot weather.
Another service visit took place and more adjustments were made.
17th November 2016 I advised The Window Centre that the same windows were catching again. I also noticed that two metal “protectors” had been removed from window stops (correctly known as keeps) during the last visit to try and prevent the window from catching and I wanted them to be put back.
In this latest correspondence I also complained about strips of plastic known as trims which had been fixed around all windows and the patio doors. They had been glued to the frames and adjacent wall and their purpose was to cover damage caused to plasterwork during the installation. As well as being ridiculously wide they were also different widths and all had now cracked away from the wall. I hadn’t said anything about them initially because I assumed they could be removed when the house was decorated but having tried to remove one, I soon realised it wasn’t going to be possible. I therefore told The Window Centre I wanted them to remove them.
Another service visit was arranged. In a subsequent email I was told
The best thing to do would be to remove the existing trims and replace them with a smaller more discrete alternative so that all the windows look in unison with one another. That will also ensure no glue marks will be visible on the plastic window frames. This will of course be carried out on a free of charge basis.
Despite not wanting them at all I couldn’t get rid of them because the glue that had been used on the window frames was permanent. I told The Window Centre that customers must be asked if they want these to be fitted and if they do, narrow strips would suffice and the same width must be used around all windows.
During his next visit the engineer carried out more adjustments, added more lubricant and put back the metal protectors which had been removed. With regards to one of the windows that was still catching despite having already been adjusted and refitted several times, he decided the only way to resolve the problem was to file a groove into the frame. I didn’t notice it until many months later.
As summer turned into autumn I quickly noticed a draught coming from the garden door and found both the top and bottom corners on the outer edge could be pushed outwards when the door was closed but not locked. Even when the locking mechanism was activated which squeezed the compression seals together the door was still draughty. There was also a draught coming in from the bottom corner of one of the patio doors. December 30th 2016 I emailed The Window Centre again.
Their reply dated 3rd January 2017
All hinges and compression seals are made to be adjustable and compression on the Q-LON seals can be adjusted. The above will need to be carried out by one of our service engineers. Please advise on a suitable date/time for this to be carried out.
Another service visit was arranged and this time I asked Mr Barber company director to attend. When we met I complained about ongoing problems with windows, doors and plastic trims and also raised another matter which would go on to become a major part of the complaint. Having noticed the plastic corners on many windows were chipped I’d asked the engineer during his first visit why that was. He told me the upvc is only plastic hence corners do sometimes break. Although surprised that the windows were so poorly finished I didn’t make an issue of it at that time because it was only aesthetic however after months of other problems it was time for it to be addressed.
Mr Barber went on to explain in great detail how the upvc coverings are manufactured. He said the corners are not chipped it’s the way the plastic is cut when the windows are manufactured. We then spoke at length about the trims around the windows and I drew his attention to point 10 of their T&C’s which states “All brickwork and plaster immediately adjacent to the windows shall be made good”. In my understanding that does not mean covered up with strips of plastic. He repeated what I had already been told in a previous email that they were “fitted as standard unless otherwise requested.” I asked how I was supposed to request otherwise if I am not told they would be used in the first place. He told me the glue would never come off the frames so the only alternative would be a narrow and more discreet alternative.
I also told him I wanted the wide strips of plastic that had been stuck on top of oak window sills to also be removed. They were used to cover the gap between the sill and the window. Mr Barber said they could be replaced with an oak trim.
My next contact with The Window Centre Harrow was June 2017. This time the kitchen window was catching despite having already been adjusted several times and there were also issues with the bedroom and lounge windows both of which had also been adjusted many times. In this latest email I told them I wanted all three to be replaced. I followed the email up with a written complaint.
Having found out the manufacturer was Griffin Windows I called their technical help desk and spoke to “Christoper”. He told me that because upvc is only plastic corners do sometimes break but asked me to send him some photos so he could see whether that was the case. He then told me I would have to deal with them via The Window Centre.
Having received my written complaint The Window Centre replied by email
I am writing to you in response to the letter recently received which details the issues you have experienced since our installation in 2016. Whilst we are disappointed to hear you are not entirely satisfied with the work carried out, we are committed to resolving this for you. Having spoken to Mr Barber on the matter he has suggested we move forward with the replacement of your kitchen window. This would enable you to see how a new window would operate and could be the route to finding a resolution.
It annoyed me that they were saying “this could be the route to finding a resolution” and I said I wanted a guarantee that replacing the kitchen window would resolve the problem. I also said I wanted the lounge and bedroom windows to be replaced. I told them I had been in touch with Griffin Windows and said I wanted confirmation from them as to whether the corners of the upvc were chipped or had been manufactured like that.
In their reply they said
We have contacted the technical department at Griffin Windows and asked that they forward all relevant documentation relating to the manufacturing, durability and performance of the windows. I shall pass that onto you as soon as I have received it. I have also spoken to Mr Barber who would like to inspect the windows once again. Our sole intention is to honour the contract as stated and resolve any issues you may have with any of the windows.
The lounge and bedroom windows (as well as the kitchen window) will be inspected and replaced if necessary. Replacement windows will be quality assured and fit for the purpose and will resolve the issues you are experiencing. Please advise on a suitable date.
During the subsequent service visit Mr Barber and the engineer arrived. The latest problems included three windows that were catching and the draughty garden door which had already been adjusted twice previously. Mr Barber confirmed again that the plastic corners were not chipped, it was how the windows were manufactured. The engineer then removed and refitted the door once again this time under the guidance of Mr Barber. He also removed and refitted the kitchen window and made further adjustments to the lounge and bedroom windows. I was assured I wouldn’t have any further problems. NO windows were replaced.
A few weeks later and the kitchen window was catching again and the garden door was still draughty.
In my next email I said the kitchen window must now be replaced and I wanted a full refund on the garden door so that I could replace it myself. I also said no further work could be carried out until I had heard back from Griffin Windows.
Several weeks later and after numerous emails chasing a response I received the following
Please see attached email from the Customer Service Manager at Griffin Windows. I have discussed this matter with our technical team and it is correct in that the manufacturing process does cut away the corners of sashes. The email goes on to say that they will replace any sashes necessary so please advise on a suitable date/time for a visit from Mr Barber in order to action any replacements.
Finally they had confirmed that the corners of the sashes (the openings) were cut like that “as standard” and were not chipped. Despite stating that they still offered to replace “any sashes necessary”. Upon reading the attached email from the Customer Service Manger myself he said he could see from the photos I had sent that there were “inconsistencies” with the corners which is why they were offering to replace those affected. I didn’t understand what was meant by “inconsistencies” so asked The Window Centre to obtain clarification. Out of seventeen openings, fifteen had “inconsistencies”.
This was the reply from Griffin Windows sent via The Window Centre Harrow
The inconsistencies that we discussed relate to machinery not damage
So if the chipped corners are the result of damage caused by their machinery they’re not finished like that as standard. With that said I didn’t believe that a company who manufactured 7,000 windows per week in 1999 according to their website, a number which is sure to have increased since then would allow fifteen windows to be dispatched with “inconsistencies” caused by their machinery. Something didn’t add up especially considering I had been told by two different people that plastic corners do sometimes break.
I refused to arrange a further service visit until this matter had been resolved which irritated The Window Centre Harrow and on 9th August 2017 I received the following email
An agreement to conclude the matter is now required. A site inspection is required to determine whether sashes are chipped or have inconsistencies with corner weld fabrication. Until an inspection has been carried out we will not be able to confirm this either way. A brand new sample window can be used to compare weld quality, fabrication quality and window function during the proposed site inspection. In the event that any existing windows are to be found sub-standard, these will be reordered and replaced, under the terms of your contract.
Corner weld fabrication refers to the way the corners of the windows are manufactured.
Despite Griffin Windows having confirmed there were “inconsistencies” with some of the corners, Mr Barber still insisted it’s the way they were cut as standard. In my reply I confirmed an agreement was indeed required and subsequently arranged a further meeting.
By the time of that meeting every window in the house was making a terrible scraping noise, the patio doors were still draughty as was the kitchen door plus the frame of the kitchen door was now loose. I had already made it clear that the only solution was a full refund so when Mr Barber arrived I told him I intended to have all the windows and doors replaced and would be using another company. He then told me there was clearly a problem with the way the windows had been manufactured and said he wanted to put things right so would like to replace them all. With regards to the kitchen door frame he said it was loose because of the number of adjustments that had been made so just needed screwing back into the wall. I repeated that I was not satisfied with it and intended to have it replaced. I also said I wasn’t happy having another installation team in my house because of the damage they had caused the first time around. He said he would send two of his best teams so that the work would be completed quickly, carefully and he would oversee it himself.
As he left he said he hoped I would give The Window Centre another chance. He also said he’d confirm everything in writing.
During the service visit that followed plastic trims around the windows were replaced but the standard of work was shocking. The trims at the backs of the window sills were also removed but were not replaced with anything.
After waiting twelve days I received the following email
Further to the recent inspection Mr Barber has confirmed the operation of some of the opening sashes have a consistent problem with reduced tolerances on friction hinge operation. Although remedials can be undertaken on opening sashes it has been decided due to ongoing remedial issues surrounding this, that all of the windows with opening sashes will be replaced with brand new windows under the terms and conditions of your contract. In accordance with BSI quality control programme the existing windows will be returned to the manufacturer for verification of this problem.
The works will be carried out by 2 installation crews of the highest order, with Mr Barber present on site to oversee the works. The 8 windows which are scheduled for replacement are:
Kitchen window 1 & 2, lounge, front bedroom, back bedroom 1 & 2, bathroom, downstairs cloakroom.
As well as the replacements, Mr Barber has also confirmed that the kitchen door will require a re fixture.
Despite telling me that the windows had not been manufactured correctly I was now being told “remedials could be undertaken” but it had been decided instead that all windows would be replaced. In my reply I said I wanted an offer of compensation for having a faulty product installed and for all the inconvenience.
Three weeks passed by and I heard nothing. Their lack of response helped me to decide I was done with this second rate window replacement company and told them I was not prepared to allow any further work to be carried out by them and wanted to a full refund. I also said that despite making it clear on two previous occasions that I intend to have the kitchen door replaced, Mr Barber had the audacity to say it requires a further “re fixture”. It had already been adjusted/refitted on a least four separate occasions yet was still draughty. The locking mechanism on the patio doors was now also making a terrible noise and I had also discovered in addition to the right door being draughty, the left door was just as bad.
Having only ever received emails from Ben at The Window Centre I finally received one from Mr Barber
Having read the content of your email I would confirm the following. Your email has been forwarded to our main manufacturer Griffin Windows. Your contract has been agreed between two parties yourself and The Window Centre. We have contractual obligations within the T&C’s of this contract. Faults or remedy’s must be undertaken and resolved on a free of charge basis. This may be by service call or direct replacement of parts or windows/doors. Compensation is not payable as per those T&C’s. Our manufactures will send their own technician to inspect the windows and doors to support this case.
The following points were included in my response:
The contract that has been agreed between us was breached during the installation. Point 10 of your T&C’s states “All brickwork and plasterwork immediately adjacent to the windows or doors shall be made good”, that was not done. Point 17 states “The Company shall guarantee that all products used in the installation are fit for purpose and are of merchantable quality”, that has not been the case.
I have had at least seven service visits, you have been here at least four times. I am certainly not prepared to allow anyone else to carry out an inspection. Should this matter proceed to court I will instruct an independent surveyor to carry out a full inspection. Whilst I would much rather resolve this amicably I am ready to pursue the matter through the courts if necessary. The only solution I am prepared to accept is a full refund. Should you not agree I will begin legal proceedings immediately.
A few days later I received the following
We have made contact with our fabrication supplier who have suggested that they inspect the widows themselves. They would send a senior engineer from their group who would be skilled in the fabrication and the installation and also have a strong understanding of the extrusion process. He would be qualified to determine your suggestion that the windows that have been fitted by The Window Centre are “not fit for purpose”.
This report will be unbiased as he will report his finding based on the BSI accreditations and other industry standards which the group hold and are audited on annually, not a personal opinion.
Please let me know your thoughts on the above.
And excerpts from my response
A report written by the manufacturer is not unbiased. An unbiased report is one that has been written by someone who’s not affiliated with The Window Centre OR Griffin Windows. They have not even admitted the plastic corners are chipped and have instead stated there are “inconsistencies”. Despite asking many times for clarification on what that means, no explanation other than “it relates to machinery not damage” has been given.
There have been ongoing issues since day one and I don’t think an expert from the manufacturer needs to report on whether the windows/doors are or are not fit for purpose. I think the fact that your own engineer has not been able to fix ongoing issues speaks for itself and you have already confirmed to me that the windows have not been manufactured correctly. A brand new window that has to have a chip filed into the frame or a metal plate removed in order to enable the adjacent window to close without catching is NOT fit for purpose.
I am not prepared to allow any further inspections to be carried out. It’s also worth mentioning that the plastic beading that was removed by your technician from the backs of several window sills which covered the gap between the sill and the window was not replaced with an oak alternative as agreed during our last meeting. As a result there is now a cold draught coming through the backs of the sills.
Following this correspondence I filed documents with the court in order to sue for a full refund.
In my next article about The Window Centre I’ll explain what happened next and will include the expert witness’ report.