Most of the oldest buildings in the country, those that we have all admired and enjoyed – from castles and palaces, to places of learning, prayer, contemplation and recovery – have magnificent doors made from timber. Today these national treasures, protected and cosseted with the help of private trusts, public ownership and a stream of funding to support regular maintenance, look every bit as imposing as they did when they were crafted.
Sadly this cannot be said of the cheap imports, mainly from the Far East, that were much needed to support the explosion of property ownership in the 1960s through to recent times. For those who did, and can still, purchase their local authority house at a fine discount, ownership encouraged investment in new doors and windows. The market research carried out by the British woodworking industry in the late 1970s, when Taiwanese imports were at their highest level, identified that UK home owners typically paid an average of £50 for a new front door, a stark difference to their West German counterparts who would pay in the region of £3000.
This prompted an industry-funded campaign aimed at the private home owner to invest in a new timber entrance door, made in the UK, named: What a Difference a Door Makes. The campaign was hugely successful and while it didn’t see off all the cheap imports the consumer became educated about the benefits of a home-produced timber door and willing to spend more. By the mid ‘80s the market peaked at 3m units and had a value of £400m.
And then, of course, the bubble burst, brought about by the plastic revolution and campaigns selling the virtues of double glazed fenestration with low pricing and so called ‘authentic, classic design’. By 2000 the timber market share was lost in windows alone, by some 80%, in favour of plastic. Timber doors however retained a higher share as the consumer was attracted to the greater security of timber and its performance.
More recently the industry has seen the rise of composite door constructions where modern materials have been used to make up the door core; this has then been covered with an external finish of thermal plastic; glass-reinforced plastic, GRP; and even wood fibre-based boards. These products have performed and today account for more than half of the UK market, now measured at £600m with growth of more than 5% per annum.
Security and robustness has been achieved by the strength of the door core together with good ironmongery. Today this will contain espagnolette systems that can lock all three leading edges using shoot bolts, or hooks, with a central controlling arm handle.
A national standard for security has existed, along with test methodology to BS7950, which values security, thermal performance and weather resistance to regional degrees of exposure. A police-recommended standard and marketing tool for the private housebuilding sector, Secured by Design, has prevailed for more than 30 years and is frequently a standard requested by designers, architects and developers responsible for new developments.
Only last year the new Approved Document Q Building Regulations was introduced for the new-build sector which demands even greater security standards for doors and windows. The security standard demanded by Building Regulations, to which products are tested, is known as PAS24 but prior to this all products must be tested and rated for weather and air tightness to meet BS6375 (Parts 1 & 2).
“While the requirement to meet Doc Q applies to new buildings only, existing home owners will want these security benefits applied to replacement products for the upkeep and maintenance of their properties as well as for major refurbishments and extensions,” says Roy Wakeman.
“Current research suggests that the major driving force for home owners when purchasing new doors and windows is security and energy conservation.”
“It comes as no surprise that the timber door, complete with all the appropriate ironmongery, factory assembled and finished, is now leading the way again to dominate the choice for new door designs and mechanics that more than satisfy today’s demanding standards.”
Timber is the most versatile of all materials and can be easily finished with modern water-based paints or stains, chosen from a huge range of colours and shades. These modern finishes now come with life time warranties for the complete door set, with maintenance cycles at a very minimum, and the paint itself is expected to last up to eight years before re-decoration is needed.
Composite door cores, using urea or phenolic forms, are not exactly the best products to satisfy today’s demanding consumer who knows all about active carcinogens and the toxicity of chemically-based products. For complete peace of mind it is far better to use a sustainable and naturally-replacing material, such as timber, to ensure that our children’s children grow up in a safe, sound and comfortable environment behind modern timber windows and doors.
Modern timber engineering techniques and water-based, friendly finishing treatments, do make timber the material with the very greenest credentials.
Timber is the material of the future.