Window suppliers struggle to meet demand amid rule changes and driver shortages

Suppliers are struggling to keep up with demand for windows amid a boom in home improvement as problems caused by Brexit and a shortage of workers and drivers hit the sector.

Industry insiders said the sector was facing problems similar to many other suppliers in construction.

They include a shortage of workers and drivers, high demand from people doing up their homes after lockdowns, as well as shortages of raw materials and changes to the way products are certified following Brexit.

Many skilled eastern European workers have left the UK following Brexit and the pandemic, which has placed large strains on the construction sector.

Plants are back up and manufacturing glass after a shortage of supply that had affected the sector at the start of the year.

But other shortages of cardboard, plastics and timber are bigger concerns now.

James Lee at the Glass and Glazing Federation said many of the problems are connected, and that any one of them would have an impact on the sector.

“To do a home improvement job properly you need skilled workers. If you’ve got a shortage of skilled workers and, as reported recently, a shortage in delivery drivers, then even with all the right products and materials, they still need to get there and then be installed to the acceptable standards.

“Conversely, if you’ve got the skilled people and the transport available, you still need the materials to do the job, so it’s very difficult to say which problem or shortage outweighs the others,” he said.

Suppliers are having to come to terms with new certification processes and other law changes.

The UK’s exit from the European Union means that British producers need to shift from so-called CE markings to a British UKCA marking.

“Post-Brexit and post-Grenfell, the regulatory landscape is changing considerably in terms of building regulations and legislation.

“At the moment this is a problem for the industry generally as they need to update their product testing and certification to ensure their products are placed on the market legally,” Mr Lee said.

The Government recently gave companies another 12 months to adjust to the new system.

Mr Lee said that he has heard some less scrupulous contractors are not informing customers about the supply chain delays that they are facing before being hired to do a job.

“They’re getting the orders in first, getting the contracts signed and then saying down the line to homeowners there’s a supply problem.

“However Glass and Glazing Federation members sign up to a different set of standards, including our well-established consumer code of practice that our members operate to,” he said.