This guide provides a full review on the tips and considerations to make when procuring a blinds contractor. The guide broken down into sections: Tender Analysis, Value Engineering, Programming.
The Tender Analysis
When you receive Subcontract tender documents, invariably they’ve got differences and it’s important to make sure you’re comparing Apples with Apples.
Look out for these important cross-checks to make sure you’re comparing like-for-like proposals.
1. Fabric Check
Make sure the fabric performance is consistent across all tenders (e.g. black-out / dim-out / screen vision etc). Different fabric performance could lead to a big price difference.
Chain and crank controls are the most popular in the world of manual operation - make sure you have the same operator across all estimates. Some common misalignments are metal versus plastic chains; metal versus plastic crank or detachable versus fixed crank – check what the specification requires and make sure tenderers include for it.
3. Barrel Size
With roller blinds, the barrel size is a key indicator to durability. If barrel sizes vary between 5mm - 10mm across estimates you will be comparing different quality products so make sure you align these with the specification.
4. Brackets and Fixings
Most systems have options for metal or plastic fixing brackets. If you have both in your comparisons, it’s possibly the reason one price is lower than the other. It’s worth noting that metal brackets are safer, more durable and reduce the risk of blinds falling down.
5. Exits and Doors
Check no blinds are blocking doors or fire exit routes. If blinds are needed for privacy then they should be installed to the actual door so they are out of the way when the door is opened. This is to eliminate the risk of hindering doorway use for fire regulations.
6. Blind Configuration
If the window is too large to fit a standard blind then the blinds should be split to follow the mullion (Fig. A). Splitting blinds out of line with the window pattern is not best practice (Fig.B) and can cause problems with the Architect on completion. It is cheaper to configure the blinds as per Fig.B and could mean your prices are not comparable.
Blinds Value Engineering
This next Chapter identifies six simple, intelligent solutions to Value Engineer a blinds package.
1. Fabric faced blackout vs PVC Blackout
Fabric faced blackout is a normal dim-out fabric that goes through an extra process to apply a blackout backing. Architects often prefer the aesthetics of the fabric faced solution, but it comes at a higher cost to the PVC.
PVC offers a similar technical performance and is cheaper to produce whilst still delivering full blackout.
2. Fibreglass Screen Fabrics vs Polyester Screen Fabrics
Fibreglass screen fabrics are made from glass and a mineral fibre that is known for its durability and resistance to stretching. This makes it an excellent fabric for blinds as it’s not prone to breaking, shrinking, deterioration or even mould in humidity.
These qualities all come with a price and if specified you have found the perfect product. If not, you’re paying a lot of money for something the building doesn’t need. Polyester screen fabrics will visually look the same as fibreglass, will still maintain privacy and all at a fraction of the cost. Well worth considering….
3. Foil Back Fabrics vs Standard Backed Fabrics
Foil back fabrics are a ground-breaking idea. Manufacturers spray foil partials or vacuum foil to the back of the fabric and the ingenious concept wins for these two main reasons:
The heat rejection properties and fabric performance are streets ahead of any standard backed fabric. It’s obvious, but foil backing rejects a huge percentage of heat which you won’t achieve with any other backing.
It means a building can maintain continuity in its external appearance whilst providing a variety of blind colours internally.
The extra process and materials for foil backed fabrics does put them into the premium price band against a standard backed fabric. No alternatives will do the same job, but it may be that you can afford to lose some of those premium properties to reduce costs.
4. Screen Fabrics vs Dim-Out Fabric
Screen fabrics come in a variety of opening factors which provide differing levels of shading. This delivers an enhanced feel to an environment by removing the cell-like feel when the blinds are down.
Standard back fabrics will often deliver better performance in heat and light rejection, but don’t provide any opening factor and therefore no outward vision. If an alternative option with no outward vision is acceptable then this will save you a considerable sum albeit with reduced ‘performance’.
5. Metal Crank Handles vs Plastic Crank Handles
Metal crank handles are normally specified for child safety. Whilst metal crank handles are more durable and easier to locate in the blind mechanism due to magnetic assistance, you pay a premium for these.
Plastic crank handles will essentially do the same job as metal crank handles. You will still meet the child safety requirements whilst opening the door to a cost saving. There is, however, a deterioration in user experience and also a number of restricting factors such as operational height worth considering.
6. Sewn in Weights vs Weights and Linking Chains
Sewn in weights are the tidy option for vertical louvres. You lose the messy linking chain between each louvre and they aren’t vulnerable to the damage that easily comes in busy environments. This option delivers a lasting and good visual appearance.
Weights and linking chains are a widely used option for vertical blinds. They will operate, shade and provide the same privacy, they’re just not as tidy. If sewn in weights are not specified or if an ongoing maintenance plan is in place, then it would be worthwhile suggesting this as an alternative to reduce the cost.
Blinds are a package of works that fall on the critical path of the project and just before Practical Completion. Despite this, they’re often seen as a minor package of works and therefore, little attention is paid to them.
Don’t make this mistake and follow these six tips for a snag free handover:
1. Engage Early
Late involvement of the Specialist is not uncommon; however, as a bespoke product blinds themselves take a minimum of 2 weeks to manufacture (depending on specification) and often have a design process to. Alongside this, consider that with site survey, programming, installation and sign off you’re best awarding the package at least 3-months prior to Practical Completion.
2. Design Programming
Fabric colour selection is a decision that often needs client or Architect liaison, and this can take longer than you’d expect. Early selection, ideally at time of order, will prevent delays.
3. Organise Design Coordination Meetings
Late involvement with the Electrical Contractor can impact motorised blind packages. Essential discussions and decisions around the electrical first fix positioning and wiring need to be had early in the project. If you have motorised blinds, ensure the package is let to allow the blind specialist to liaise with electrician before first fix is complete.
4. Blinds are Made to Order
Misunderstanding the manufacturing process is an easy misconception. All products are bespoke, made-to-order and not off the shelf or factory-stocked, so lead times need to be considered.
5. Focus on Preceding Works
Incomplete cills, jambs and heads all delay blind installation. These need to be compete in time for survey so accurate opening sizes can be obtained - even a millimetre makes a difference. Without the site survey, manufacture cannot commence.
6. Coordination on Site
For the quickest installation possible others trades need to be complete including carpeting and decoration of the reveals prior to fixing the blinds. Ideally installation should take place just before final sparkle clean.
This content was created in Collaboration with Stansons, the leading Blind Specialist.
With over forty years of experience, Stansons has the expertise, capacity, reputation and technical proficiency to create and deliver the full range of imaginative and innovative window shading and blinds solutions at competitive prices. Providing the complete solution for window shading all under one roof facilitates project scoping, assessment and specification, improves project lead time management, mitigates errors and delivers overall time and cost savings.