Top 10 Essential Supplies for Window Fitters
A good friend of mine recently had new windows fitted at their home. The old 1920’s house still had the original steel ‘Crittall-style’ windows, that were inefficient and in need of serious repair. Although it was a shame to remove an original feature, that had been in situ for an entire century, I understood his reasoning. The replacement windows were a flush casement style, manufactured from uPVC in a light ‘Agate Grey’ finish on the exterior. Once the new windows had been fitted, I have to say that they looked great and he was impressed by the obvious improvement in both thermal and acoustic efficiencies. Add to that enhanced security and minimum maintenance, it proved to be a good decision in the end.
Making the job easier for window fitters
During the fitting stage, I took the opportunity to observe how the installation team went about their craft, asked questions about their experiences, their frustrations and came up with ideas on how to make their job easier. It was apparent that what I took for granted and assumed most people working in the trade must know, was in fact not the case. The feedback received suggested a huge proportion of accessories and consumable items stocked by ‘trade outlets’ were poor in terms of performance and life – and the people selling them, in many cases, quite simply didn’t have a clue! Being passionate about decent quality items that ‘do the job’ properly, I wanted to share my knowledge of what I think is the best equipment for the job. Rather than just sharing my insight with a handful of people, it made sense to put this article together to spread the word.
Going through the new window installation process, the first challenge is to remove the old ones. Various power tools are used, but I’m not going to include power tools in my Top 10 essentials as most reputable brands perform to an adequate standard. It’s the accessory used with the tool, that can make a profound difference. I’ll then move on to installation products and end with the final finish.
What supplies are needed for fitting windows?
1. Reciprocating saw blades for window installers
Recipro saws are a great way to ‘rip out’ old windows, but it can be frustrating when they bend or wear our prematurely. To avoid this, ensure you’re using a bi-metal ‘‘demolition’ blade that won’t lose its teeth when they come into contact with fixings. For ultimate performance, carbide reciprocating saw blades are the way forward. Milwaukee claim their blades last up to 50x longer than standard bi-metal blades and also cut up to twice as fast! Carbide blades are also capable of cutting through hardened screws and fasteners, adding to their incredible durability.
2. Multi tool blades for window installers
I was surprised to see the frequency of how often multi-tool blades were being used during the removal process of the old windows. Being able to flush cut, to help ‘release’ the old windows, certainly makes the job much easier – but issues arose once again with using the wrong type of blade – leading to frustration, poor performance and premature wear. Very much like the recipro blades, ensure the multi tool blades are bi-metal – enabling them to cut through most materials and survive hitting nails. For optimum performance and life, go for carbide tipped blades once again – capable of slicing through the toughest screws and fastenings with ease.
3. Diamond blades for window installers
The angle grinder is another useful tool that can be used when removing old windows. Used in conjunction with the correct blade, this tool can be an unbelievable addition to your armoury. The Klingspor DT 900 ACR Rescue Diamond Blade is designed to cut through almost any material – including wood, metal, uPVC, plastics, concrete, masonry… and even glass! This extreme diamond blade is a true ‘all-cut’ accessory that will tackle pretty much any material a window installer will come across.
4. Drill bits
It might seem obvious, but my fourth essential is a drill bit… but there’s more than one option! The most commonly used drill bit for window installation is a traditional SDS Bit. For excellent performance and value, the Maxitek CTZ-2 features the renowned Ceratizit carbide and all sizes are tested to the PGM standard – the official approval for quality and accuracy. For unrivalled performance, don’t look past the Milwaukee MX4 – manufactured in Europe, these SDS Plus drill bits take performance to the next level. An alternative solution to traditional SDS bits are multi material drill bits. Used in plain rotary, which significantly reduces vibration, noise and also massively minimises the chance of blowing out or damaging brick facings and rendering, these drill bits are capable of effortlessly drilling through a whole host of materials including concrete, bricks, aerated concrete, thin metal, aluminium, ceramic tiles, wood and PVC. I must stress that the absence of a percussion or hammer mechanism, does not affect drilling speeds. In fact, for diameters up to approximately 8mm, a multi material bit will actually drill faster in most building materials.
5. Direct fix frame screws for window installers
Frame fixings have evolved over the last few years, with direct fix frame screws becoming more and more popular – not just with window installers, but many other trades. The old-fashioned nylon frame anchors have been superseded by a frame screw that taps its own thread in the substrate. Because the fixing does not expand in the masonry, the potential for damaging the masonry through spelching is virtually eliminated. The clever thread design also prevents frame distortion. The required pilot hole diameter is also much smaller – just 6mm for brick and block, which significantly speeds up the drilling process compared to drilling 8mm or 10mm holes. Direct fix frame screws have excellent pull-out resistance and can be used in numerous construction materials including concrete, masonry, stone and even wood. Our website clearly shows what fixing length is required, for different common building materials.
6. Winbag packer for window installers
The Winbag Air Wedge is a fabulous addition to your tool kit. The all-purpose inflatable and reusable lifting device is an innovative aid, when using shims and packers to level the window frame. Simply pumping-up the Winbag ensures fast and precise adjustment from 2mm up to a maximum of 50mm – making the positioning during installation effortless. The air wedge is extremely strong, capable of lifting up to 135 kg, but also soft – ensuring frames are not marked or damaged.
7. Expanding foam for window installers
B3 expanding foams are most commonly used during window installation – whether it be ‘hand held’ or ‘gun grade’ – the latter used in conjunction with an applicator gun for greater control. Expanding foam helps hold the window frame in place and fills the gaps between the frame and wall. The foam also provides heat and sound insulation, but although most brands claim their product has ‘excellent thermal and acoustic properties’, after time this rigid foam may crack or tear, due to expansion and contraction of the frame, leading to compromised energy efficiency. For a superior performance there is only one expanding foam you should consider using. The premium quality, highly flexible and durable Soudafoam SWS Window and Door expanding foam was developed around their Flexifoam technology and provides a long term airtight solution – a must for A, A+ and A++ energy rated windows and doors.
8. Snap off knife for window installers
Once expanding foam has been applied and cured, there will almost certainly be a need to trim any protruding excess foam from around the frame. A snap off knife has a blade that can be extended to the required length and flexibility in the blade ensures an accurate, clean and flush finish. For this application, a snap off knife is much more effective than a traditional utility knife.
9. Silicone sealants for window installers
My ninth top essential might also seem obvious, but the silicone sealant I’m recommending is no ordinary mastic. When perimeter sealing uPVC windows or door frames externally, it’s essential a low modulus neutral cure silicone is used. Low modulus silicones have more elasticity or movement, which is necessary for changing climate conditions outside in the elements. Neutral cure silicones adhere better to uPVC, wood and metal. The neutral curing process will also not cause damage or discolouration to sensitive materials. Soudal Silirub N is a high quality silicone and perfect for window and door installation. Supplied in 400ml foil packs, they are physically a similar size to traditional sealant cartridges, yet contain approximately 35% more product. Once consumed, the volume of waste is reduced by 95%, compared to traditional cartridges, reducing both the cost of waste disposal and plastic pollution. For internal sealing, Soudal Acryrub acrylic sealant is also available in 400ml foils. Our earlier article explains in more detail about reducing plastic pollution in the construction industry.
10. Wipes for window installers
The final essential I’d like to put forward is ‘wipes’. Conventional paper wiping roll is a superb low-cost solution for cleaning the glass once the windows have been installed. Used in conjunction with uPVC cleaners or glass cleaners, the soft and lint-free paper is hugely effective. Another type of wipe that has become popular over the last few years, is multi wipes. Supplied in a tub; they’re ready to use immediately, without additional water or cleaning agents. Multi wipes are ideal for cleaning hands, tools and surfaces – removing paints, silicones, sealants, acrylic caulks, adhesives, PU foams… plus much more. Most traditional ‘wet wipes’ contain polypropylene or plastic – another significant contributor to global plastic pollution. The Maxitek Rayon Bamboo Antibacterial Multi Wipes would be my personal ‘environmentally-friendly’ choice, as they are made from organic, sustainable and 100% biodegradable bamboo plants, processed into bamboo rayon.
That concludes my Top 10 essentials for window installers. I’m sure there are numerous other products I could have included in the list, but these are my top picks.
Since writing this article, Milwaukee have launched their Demolition Driver, which has been hugely popular with window installers for removing the old windows. The 275mm long all metal core chisel driver, features a striking cap and robust tip for prying and chiselling applications. This innovative hand tool would definitely be a useful addition to any window installers tool kit!
Craig Sanders – Joint Managing Director