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Windows and Doors

Windows and doors are the portal to your home. Everybody needs them, so we take a look at just what's available in Bulgaria and how much they cost. If you’ve not noticed before, you soon will - Bulgarians seem to be terrified of the cold. Whether it’s yourself being chastised at the bus stop for not wearing a scarf, or an old lady waddling by covered in socks and oversized parka jackets, or the customer entering the shop in front of you and shutting the door in your face to banish the icy air that may enter in those few seconds, the hatred of cold and draughts is all around.

It’s not hard to see the reasons why if you look at the old Bulgarian houses; rickety roofs, cracked walls and stone floors. Wrapping up and plenty of the local strong 'rakia' are good winter solutions, as is a sound log burner, but most importantly in these cold months, quality windows and doors will make all the difference between living in a house or an igloo!

 

Lucky then that the window and door market in Bulgaria now has numerous companies catering for different tastes, and are providing aluminium, PVC and wooden varieties in all shapes and sizes.

So seriously is Bulgaria taking the window and door market now, that the Bulgarian Windows and Doors Association now has 11 reputable companies under recommendation to those seeking out portals. Their website says; “The main aim of the Association is the development and realisation of strategic plans, prognoses and projects for the overall support and development of door and window production in Bulgaria, as well as to facilitate the transition and the branches entering the conditions of real competition after Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union in 2007.” Sounds like serious stuff!

Due to the rapid growth of the market, there is obviously a lot of competition, so take advantage of this and shop around for a good deal.

It’s tempting to look at the cheapest versions available and veer toward those – especially if you’re paying out for home improvements across the board. Be aware though, that you get what you pay for, and the cheapest PVC windows and doors will probably have wobbly handles, loose catches and wonky frames within a couple of weeks. Not ideal for home security, never mind the aesthetics.

Even the pricier window and door packages are surprisingly unpricy – at around a third of the price than the cost of UK packages – so invest the extra for better quality long term.

All window and door deals in Bulgaria come with a guarantee. Ask for a clear contract stating the terms of the guarantee and how many years it is valid for. Sometimes, the guarantee will only be valid if the windows are installed by the firm’s fitters. This, as always, means a bit of a gamble with the quality of the installation and the mess that may be left behind. However, this way if something was to go wrong you are within your rights to claim repairs or replacements. Some companies will charge for the removals of old windows and some will do it for free, so remember to ask and clarify. Plastering around the windows is also hit and miss in Bulgaria. Some companies will do this on the day they fit the windows, or some will leave you guessing. If they won’t do it on the day, or not at all (not all are ‘qualified’ to do the plastering bit) then you will have to draft in another company to do the neatening up bits, or do it yourself. If you do want to DIY, make sure you know what you’re doing. Broken panes are a pain to deal with, and you would have to buy replacements yourself if accidents happened.

When it comes to choosing windows and doors for your home, security and style are usually the foremost considerations, but the location of your house also plays a part in deciding what the best materials and finishes are.

For example, if you live in an area with a seacoast climate and high humidity, real wooden windows could be at a risk from rotting, and are also prone to attack from insects and birds.

There are a number of finishes available for aluminium windows that have a wood effect if you want the look without the worry of the durability. Also consider what kind of windows will affect the amount of light, ventilation and temperature needed or wanted in your home. For example, tinted glass reduces the glare of windows that are positioned in direct sun, and safety glass is a good choice for large windows on a second floor if you have children around. Some people choose non-opening windows, which are cheaper, can’t be opened by little hands, and are practical when you have an air-conditioning unit which will work much less efficiently with the windows open.

When it comes to having the best security – important for holiday homes – there are built-in additions for doors and windows.

Ask for models that have several locking points activated by one handle, and doors with T-bars at the bottom to prevent them being kicked in. Shutters and security grills over windows are also a simple addition to keep out intruders. Many companies will provide the option of having security shutter which can be remote activated or put on a timer. A cheaper option is to have metal security grills fixed to the exterior window pane. They don’t have to look like prison bars though – there are some attractive metalwork grills to be found in railing shops and other metalwork retailers, or grills can be made to order by a specialist welder.

So, with comfort and security considered, what choices are there for window and door materials? PVC or vinyl windows and doors are the cheapest option if you want to upgrade your Bulgarian home from mouldy wooden homemade single-pane jobbies to something more modern and secure. They are also built with hollow spaces inside to make them more resistant to condensation and heat loss.

Aluminium windows are also built to reduce heat loss and condensation, and are insulated with a thermal break of extruded vinyl and sometimes foam. Different finishes can then be added to stop the aluminium from corroding, but be wary if you live by the sea as the salty air can cause these finishes to deteriorate.

Wooden windows are still a popular choice because of the way they look, but as mentioned before, they need proper treatment and regular maintenance to avoid rotting and warping. Such windows aren’t the ideal choice if you’re going to be away from your home for long periods as you won’t be able to nip any decline in the bud. It is possible to buy windows pre-primed and painted, which reduces deterioration. However, one of the main problems with installing wooden windows and doors that are made from Bulgarian wood is that kiln dried or seasoned hardwood timber is hard to find, and other wood will bend out of shape if exposed to a lot of sunshine.

Clad-wood windows are also popular. They are made from wood, and clad on the outside with either vinyl or aluminium. Both choices are very durable, will remain rust and rot free, and require no maintenance from year to year. The only differences are that aluminium is prone to scratching, but is tougher than vinyl, which doesn’t scratch due to the colour permeating the material. Aluminium clad-wood windows are available in more colours than vinyl clad-wood.

Velux windows are available in Bulgaria, but are not much cheaper than in the UK. However, roof windows make a great addition to a sunny Bulgarian home and can transform rooms where not much light is coming in from the sides. There are several outlets around, including in Dobrich and Praktiker in Varna and you can also find a catalogue online at www.velux.bg but as yet the site is only in Bulgarian.

When it comes to prices, apart from shopping around, the way to get the best deal is to barter a bit at the end. Ensure you know what you are getting, when the installation will be if they are doing it, how long the guarantee is, and what it covers, and so on. The final price quoted can usually be rounded off to the nearest 10, or if you’re lucky and have a wonderful smile, the nearest 100. It is normal to pay a deposit of 50%, which you will get a receipt for, then the further 50% on completion.

Below are some case studies to give you an idea of prices. Depending upon your region and distance from your supplier the prices will vary. If you live in a bigger city then you will be able to find better deals.

The choice and availability for the windows and doors you want is now almost as easy to achieve in Bulgaria as it is in the UK – at generally much more attractive prices. For a list of recommended door and window manufacturers and distributors in Bulgaria go to www.bulwindoors.org (site in Bulgarian and English).

Bespoke Wooden Doors & Windows
Five 1.2m x 90cm windows double glazed with 4 point locking system. One 2.5m x 1.8m window windows double glazed with 4 point locking system. Three walnut external doors. Four internal doors 4,500 leva

PVC windows & wood effect finish
Five 1m x 80cm double glazed windows. Two 80cm x 90cm double glazed windows. One 1m x 1.5m double glazed window. One external door with multi-point locking system 4,000 leva

Aluminum windows and doors with clad-wood finish
Three 1m x 80cm double glazed lockable windows. Three 2.5m x 1.8m double glazed lockable windows. Two external doors with T-bar 5,600 leva

PVC with wood effect grain & steel
roll-down shutters
Four 1.4m x 1.4m double glazed windows. Two 70cm x 1.4m double glazed windows. Two 80cm x 50cm non-opening double glazed windows.
4,900 leva

PVC doors and windows
Two 1m x 60cm double glazed windows. One 1.4m x 1.3m double glazed windows. Two 80cm x 80cm non-opening double glazed windows. Five 1.8m x 90cm non-opening double glazed windows. Two external single-locking doors. One internal single-locking windowless door 2,400 leva