When I talk to joinery manufacturers, the top subject is often how to sell good quality timber windows and doors into newbuild developers and trade installation companies. Companies want the opportunity to make and sell more, but we continue to see PVCu and aluminium windows and doors take the lion’s share of the work. Timber is a far superior material. It will outlast even the best PVCu and it comes with all the environmental credentials that we know homeowners want.

The issue for many joinery manufacturers is that selling into these markets requires accreditations, which can be costly. The upfront investment in testing is huge and can outweigh any future profits, especially if it’s for one-off projects. It doesn’t make financial sense for joinery manufacturers.

The PVCu and aluminium sectors tackle this by the system companies testing a variety of window and door configurations. The test results can be cascaded down through the supply chain and used by both fabricators and installers. The system standardisation means it’s worth the system companies taking the financial responsibility of testing.

The legislation has been set up to protect consumers. However, because of the costs, this system discriminates against small and medium sized manufacturers of timber windows and doors. This is a huge problem, because the majority of joiners are SMEs.

A different solution is needed for timber windows as there are no system companies. For many years I wanted to find a way to fund the upfront testing. The Joinery Network has made it a reality. The newly formed co-operative of eight businesses has a common goal to support joinery manufacturers make and sell superior timber windows and doors. It has collectively funded the testing of windows and doors needed for joinery manufacturers to enter the trade and newbuild sectors.

The founder members of The Joinery Network bring together a level of expertise that covers everything joiners need: Leitz Tooling UK for tooling; Close Brothers for asset finance of tooling and machinery; BJ Waller for ironmongery; DJH Group for Stonebridge and Finesse hardware; Critica for manufacturing software; Balls2 Marketing for marketing; Fiscale for R&D tax credits; and OT Dare Joinery Consultants.

The first step for The Joinery Network was to invest in testing. This included initial BS 6375: 1 for weathertightness and thermal performance; PAS 24 and Approved Document Q for security; and Part M to ensure that people can access and use buildings and their facilities.

We wanted to do as many variations of windows and doors as possible. We tested nine variations including flush casement, box sash vertical sliding windows, and entrance doors with standard and low thresholds, French and single doors, and bi-folding doors. Next, we are testing high performing flush/storm-proof casements. We’ve pushed the boundaries by testing the largest products possible to the laboratory’s capabilities.

The windows tested were manufactured by Scotts of Thrapston, which wanted new tooling to manufacture windows and doors to expand the business into the newbuild sector.

Once we had the initial batch of products, The Joinery Network booked two weeks at the UKAS testing house. The results are excellent. We included full-glazed, halfglazed and panel door options, opening both in and out, and several permutations of French doors.

There was good reason to test appropriately sized windows and doors. Cascaded results have to be a true representation of the products manufactured. Testing small sized windows simply doesn’t give joiners the back up they need for new build projects.

This means we now have the results that can be cascaded to other manufacturers and installers. To cover the costs and future testing, joiners can use The Joinery Network’s results through a licencing system.

The licences are available for the products needed, and the fees have been designed to be easily affordable. It’s not just the fees that The Joinery Network is keen to keep low. The system massively reduces the up-front costs of creating a system suitable for the newbuild market. Scotts of Thrapston’s joinery sales manager, Tom Barfield, said using The Joinery Network for tooling and testing, saved an estimated £50,000.

The launch of The Joinery Network has already attracted joinery manufacturers looking to sell to newbuild and trade installers. Alongside the website and social media, we have set up The Joinery Network Hub as a Facebook discussion group. We also have several practical events coming up which are free to attend for joiners.

There is still more testing to do to complete the range. Apart from the licence fees, there are no membership fees or tie-ins for joiners to share any of the information we deliver. We believe that this is the best way to help joinery manufacturers access the lucrative newbuild and trade installer markets.