Irish say no to PVC windows

Irish say no to PVC windows

Postby Jas » Wed Jul 28, 2004 7:47 pm

missed this in the news



Irish say no to PVC windows
16 July 2004


The Irish government has put a stop to what it sees as a plague of PVC windows infecting the country’s historic building stock.

The Irish Planning Board has said that the offending windows may not be used in buildings of “architectural merit”, following a landmark ruling that conservationists hope will lead to PVC windows being ripped out all over the Irish Republic.

The ruling came after conservationists complained about PVC windows used in the conversion of a Georgian building in Dublin into a pub.

Dublin City Council agreed and refused permission. The John Hanlon pub, which had already installed the windows, took its case to the Planning Appeals Board but lost.

An Taisce (the Irish National Trust) claims that PVC windows are a “national disease” and has started to check all privately owned historic buildings around the country. Where it finds any offending PVC it will contact the local authority and urge it to prosecute. An Taisce heritage officer Ian Lumley said the main targets are courthouses and town halls, many of them listed early 19th century classical buildings.

“Where PVC windows have been installed, we will demand that they be replaced by wooden sash windows,” he said. “In some cases, the local authorities should be prosecuting themselves.”



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Postby GrahamH » Wed Jul 28, 2004 9:27 pm

What a positive move. I know it is percieved as snobbery to criticise PVC, but in historic buildings it is totally unacceptable.

But by far the worst use of the material, where it is so damaging, is in the small, unassuming vernacular buildings that line the county's small town streets. Simple classical architecture is destroyed with bulky profiles, shiny finishes and the lack of depth in the plastic grid designs. And as for when they are opened, hinged from the top, they are just woeful. Windows are the primary feature, not to mention the eyes of these buildings, and sashes are being ripped out by the hundred. And because they're on streets with shops, where no one supposedly looks above 12 feet, local authorities completely ignore what's going on - as long as there's a window box with pretty flowers infront they're grand.

And PVC is now used in a whopping 80% of new houses, and comprises some 90% of the replacement market (surprising it's not higher)
Someone I know was considering having PVC installed for replacement windows (but wood was still a contender) and so called out the country's leading PVC company (let's just say the one with the annoying jingle). I was asked to sit in on the visit apparently 'being into that sort of thing', but the ignorance of the rep was truly extraordinary, trying to compose a window unit with opening parts that fitted the standard tall rectangle (sash shape) opening - amongst other things he proposed that the aperture be split in two with a vertical bar, then a crossbar be placed across mid-way, and then one of those feckity 70s picture window openings be popped up in the corner!
His whole attitude was 'well that's what everyone else is doing', over and over again, with no consideration whatsoever to the house or the individual circumstance. Nor did he propose that matching windows have co-ordinating opening parts - 'oh I suppose yeah'

It is no wonder that window design has literally gone out the window in this country, with bulky, standardised, awkward lumps being shoved into every opening concievable.

Not all PVC is bad, it can work well in offices, or plain white with casements in homes with pebbledashed facades. But the majority looks terrible, esp what can only be described as that diarrhoea coloured stuff that's supposed to look like beech, or the lastest trick - wood-effect front doors in 'the shade of your choice', which ironically cost more than a top-quality hardwood version.
The sales brochure for the PVC company was the most repulsive yoke I have ever seen - nearly had a nervous breakdown with the pictures of one-off 'executive' piles plastered in the stuff, mock-Palladian lumps with conservatories tacked on the side, and as for the sales pitch for their beautiful 'Regency' stained glass doors!

Nonetheless, I don't accept the usual arguement put forward against PVC by the wood 'n sash lobby - that the material is toxic to make, damages the environment, and is short lasting. The material is recyclable, emmission controls are enforced, and should continue to lessen with technology (I think the EU PVC lobby has set next year as a date for 40% of windows to be recycled), and considering the amount of paint or varnish, and putty needed to maintain wood for 200 years, not to mention the PVC tubs and metal cans the stuff comes in, as well as the amount of brushes and tools required over the years, the resources and energy consumed soon piles up for wood too.

Quality, visually appealing windows are desperately needed now, most of our buildings depend on them as their primary feature of interest and deserve better treatment.
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Postby JL » Wed Jul 28, 2004 9:40 pm

No no no no no - PVC windows are never ever ever acceptable from an environmental point of view, and any architect specifying them is failing in his professional duty of care to the environment.
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Postby JL » Wed Jul 28, 2004 10:07 pm

For an comparative analysis o fthe window situation look at: http://www.cibse.org/pdfs/Masif.pdf

The lifespan is especially interesting.

Or in plainer English have a look at: http://www.greenpeace.org/international_en/extra/?campaign_id=3988&forward_source_anchor=PVC%20free%20solutions&item_id=8646

The other point about PVC windows is that although they are recyclable, they are never recycled.

Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing 18th century timber windows being replaced by PVC frames but there is a critical issue of environmental responsiblity which goes beyond conservation and imposes a responsibility on all of us to find out the facts - as opposed to the hearsay or industry propaganda.

Finally - to end the self-righteous rant - I was once giving some architectural help to friends who had just bought a house. The house was 1960s and they wanted to replace the windows. I lobbied long and hard for timber. A couple of months later I got a call to visit and see how the work had turned out - especially the windows. When I got there they were delighted to show me that my advice had been taken and the best thing had been done with the windows - timber effect PVC.
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Postby Devin » Thu Jul 29, 2004 12:14 am

I wouldn't agree with Kevin Myers on much, but he wrote a very funny 'Irishman's Diary' a while back, saying that PVC window fitters attend special de-sensitivity courses before going on to fit PVC.

I think the reporter who wrote that piece quoted by Jas (it doesn't say which paper) was tarting up the quotes from an taisce a bit; after years of lobbying by people like an taisc & the irish georgian soceity there's already a system in place (the Planning and Development Act 2000) to ensure that, over time, listed buildings with PVC or other replacement windows are refitted with the correct design (usually sliding sash).

When the owner of a Protected Structure or building in an Architectural Conservation Area (ACA) (Planning Authorities have been dreadfully slow to designate ACAs - as far as I know the O'Connell Street IAP area is still the only one in the republic) with replacement windows applies for planning permission for any work - such as an extension to the rear - the planning permission, if given, should include a condition that 'prior to commencement of the development, the applicant shall submit a written agreement to the planning authority for the restoration of the original window design'.

But in the Dublin area, I've noticed, people usually want to do that anyway. In places like Ranelagh and Clontarf, they're removing PVC and reinstating sashes like crazy!

Hate to say it but outside of Dublin beautiful old overhanging sash windows are still being replaced by flat shiny white PVC on a daily basis. It just kills the character of the building in one fell swoop.

Some towns, like Kilkenny and Drogheda still have a good half or more of sash windows in their old buildings, but sadly most towns - Kenmare, Longford, Strokestown, Castlebar, Thurles... - have been blitzed with PVC and the wooden sash is almost extinct.
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Postby FIN » Thu Jul 29, 2004 9:59 am

not all places thankfully
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Postby phil » Thu Jul 29, 2004 10:43 am

A few 'protected structures' near me recently replaced their windows with PVC. It is amazing how much it changes the look of the building. What I think looks nearly as bad as replacing sash windows with PVC is the replacement of original windows within our 20th C. buildings which were fitted out with either metal or wooden window frames. The ones I am mainly referring to are the 1940s and 1950s suburban houses which are being destroyed by PVC.

I am also pretty sure that I noticed the facsimile of Archers Garage has been fitted out with PVC. At least they are trying to keep it as historically accurate as possible by imitating what probably would have happened to the original had it survived!
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Postby JL » Thu Jul 29, 2004 10:53 am

Agree on the overlooked modern buildings. One example is Mount Carmel school - a fine 30s building on the corner of Kings Inns St and Bolton Street which replaced all the original steel windows with boxy poxy PVC in the last couple of years.

Obviously the issue here is cost although surely the public authorities subsidising/funding the school should have some conservation responsibilities or at least a policy. Had the building been a protected structure (I assume it isn't) then a conservation grant could have been obtained at the time the work was done.

On the issu of aesthetics and the environment, insensitive use of quite chunky timber window systems - a couple of Scandinavian examples spring to mind - are excellent from an environmetal point of view but can be visually as much a problem as PVC.
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Postby GregF » Thu Jul 29, 2004 11:04 am

PVC windows in period buildings with what should be sash windows are a curse.
However in Corpo houses they can look good as Graham said....providing they're not too chunky or OTT with panels etc..
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Postby anto » Thu Jul 29, 2004 1:09 pm

Georgian Limerick is ruined with PVC windows. Oh and the only thing worse than PVC windows is pvc front doors. Most Irish provincial towns are destroyed with pvc. Most people only think that double glazing is progress and go for the PVC windows for this.

Some of the coloured aluminium windows on new houses apartments looks ok. Not sure that those wood Rationel windows that are fashionable lately are always appropriate either.
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Postby Paul Clerkin » Thu Jul 29, 2004 4:35 pm

Originally posted by Devin
I think the reporter who wrote that piece quoted by Jas (it doesn't say which paper)


I think that it's "Building Design"
http://www.bdonline.co.uk/story.asp?storyType=80§ioncode=426&storyCode=3038313
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Postby GrahamH » Thu Jul 29, 2004 7:45 pm

Thanks JL for those links - I'm surprised at how durable the aluminium is above all else, then again it always appears to be in good condition, even in 60s houses.

On PVC, clearly it's toxic stuff to manufacture, but I think that the wood lobby aren't telling the full truth when comparing. If you dumped all of the waste products of maintaining your timber windows over the course of the life of PVC into a pile on the floor, not to mention the stain or varnish products themselves, and white spirit, all of which have extremely high VOCs, and presumably are equally toxic to manufacture, and the tins and tubs and bottles (which are rarely recycled), plus brushes, I think the damage begins to add up here too - a point that the paper acknowledges is difficult to quantify. Although yes, if you use simple paint, the impact is reduced.

Saying that, I wouldn't touch PVC with a barge-pole, the very idea of having plastic coated fittings is horrible, let alone the environmental impact. It's a disgrace that so many 30's schools are having their steel windows replaced with PVC, likewise small 19th & early 20th century schoolhouses having sashes chucked in the skip in favour of the squeaky clean, supposedly child friendly material.
The Irish Home Builders Accociation took out a big ad in one of the property supplements last week entitled 'Plastic is Actually Fantastic' - and amongst other things recommeded that unless your property is listed, there is no reason why you shouldn't install PVC sashes as replacements, which apparently from a short distance are indistinguishable from their timber equivilants, enabling you to have 'the period look of classic timber sashes with all the added benefits of low-maintainance PVC'.
Yeah - I think people noticing PVC on Leinster House from the far side of Kildare St answers that one, let alone the conservation issues. And the horns inevitably attached deteriorate quite fast, with the joins becoming evident as a result of the brittleness of the product.

I think the best place in the whole of Dublin to see sashes at their best, where uniformity of design and slender profiles truly shine is Dartmouth Square just off the Grand canal. Every single one of the 70 or so Victorian houses surrounding the large green have their original windows, with unusual arched windows on the upper floors. It is an extraordinary sight, marching lines of matching sashes - a remarkable feat of conservation, it has to be unique in the city. Suffice to say, every one of them is protected!
Mountpleasant Square in Rathmines is another gem - aside from feeling like walking back in time, what is immediately apparent are the sashes, I think there's but one house on the whole square that has replacements.
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Step Inn replacement 'windows'

Postby davematt » Tue Aug 10, 2004 1:02 pm

Recently visited the village of Stepaside in South County Dublin. This area is subject to massive surrounding developments at the moment, which is very unsympathetic to this once charming locality.

On an existing theme though I want to raise the ugly spectre of windows in this thread;

To my dismay, the owners of The Step Inn pub / restaurant have recently replaced (since i was last there approx 1 year ago) the traditional timber sash windows on the first floor with very nasty white uPVC ones that have the upper half opening-out! Totally out of character for a historic landmark building like this. They've even left the original ground floor windows in situ as a poignant reminder of what proper windows should look like.

The Step Inn has changed ownership several times over the past 6 / 7 years and unfortunately, the new owners don't seem to care much for the building's housekeeping or appearance. It was once quite a pretty and well-maintained 'coaching-inn' style property. Now, with uneven paintwork and gaudy commercial signage and yes, PVC windows to boot and this formerly attractive pub is apparently being run according to the lowest cost, highest profit model.

I think historic building owners/custodians should not be allowed to replace windows and other elements with such cheap-looking, nasty fixtures.
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Postby GrahamH » Tue Aug 10, 2004 9:04 pm

If a building is protected, does the local authority have an obligation to insist on the removal of old replacement windows, similar to an ACA in the case of the owner applying for pp for other works as Devin mentioned earlier?
Also, if a building is listed, and original sashes are removed subsequent to its listing, are the local authority obliged to enforce their reinstatement - or is it up to the planners/conservation officer as to whether they'll allow them?

I can think of many such cases where I think the buildings are listed, but PVCs are installed. And these would be properties that have applied for pp so the PVCs were part of the job.
The windows are so inappropriate, on a unique street, and it is disgraceful PVCs were allowed to be put in. And they're sweeping up the place like a cancer. I'd like to follow it up because it just can't continue, it's been said by other people too which surprised me - but I don't know where I stand if they are listed.
As far as I know I remember seeing them identified in the Development Plan.
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Postby JL » Tue Aug 10, 2004 9:28 pm

On the enforcement topic I recently had a bafflin / bizarre conversation with the Corpo enforcement dept.

I think a development near me was carried out without planning permission (involving the vandalisation of a victorian building, a part of which involved PVC windows). The enforcement officer told me that the development may not have needed planning permission and if I wanted to pursue the matter it would be up to me to make a written complain and it would also be up to me to investigate and prove that the development was unauthorised in order for them to act.

This sounds absolutely pathetic to me - equivalent to seeing a robbery take place, notifying a garda and being told that it would be up to me to provide evidence of the crime before they can investigate.

Can anyone clarify the reasoning or statutory background to this? Surely the Corpo is failing in its statutory duties?
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Postby Rhino » Wed Aug 11, 2004 9:52 am

JL,

Check out Section 152 of the Planning and Development Act - in summary once a legitamate representation is made to the Local Authority in writing regarding unauthorised development being or may be carried out...... the authority SHALL issue a warning letter. Purpose of warning letter is to give the authority time to investigate the complaint and then decide whether or not unauthorised dev has actually been carried out and if in their opinion it has - an enforcement notice can be issued within 12 weeks of the serving of the warning letter.

The local authority do not have to investigate complaints over the phone or in person - only those in writing.
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Postby JL » Wed Aug 11, 2004 9:38 pm

Yes, but I was told that even when I have made a complaint in writing, they don't have the resources to investigate, and that it would be up to me to provide eveidence for them that the development was unauthorised.

Sounded unlikely to me too, but they restated this when I queried it.
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Postby Devin » Wed Aug 11, 2004 11:24 pm

That's sad about the Step Inn. PVC window insertion in old buildings is still happening a lot despite the strengthened architectural heritage protection afforded by the Plan. & and Dev. Act 2000 and supposed greater public awareness of heritage etc.

Is the Step Inn a Protected Structure? I don't have the Dunlaoghaire/Rathdown Development Plan to hand to check if it is. If it's not, there's not much can be done about the window replacement. If it is a Protected Structure, then the PVC window insertion is an unauthorised development and a complaint can be made to DL/R Council's Enforcement Dept. An inspection will be made by an Enforcement Officer confirming the recent PVC insertion and a notice will be served on the owner instructing him/her to make good the unauthorised development (i. e. reinstate sashes). The owner has the option to apply for retention of the development (this is what happened in the case of Hanlon's pub, mentioned at the start of the thread). But it won't be given for PVC windows in a Protected Structure (After being refused retention by DCC, Hanlon's wasted 600 Euro on a first party appeal to An Bord Pleanala - making subjective arguments as to why they should be allowed to keep the PVC - but were of course refused).

The only hope for The Step Inn if it's not a Protected Structure is that, because it's a landmark old building in the middle of Stepaside, it will become protected sooner or later. The Council can't then insist on immediate reinstatement of sashes, but next time the Inn applies to do other work, they can be compelled to restore the sashes by planning permission condition. Or they might even want to do it themselves! (though not the current owner by the sound of things)

The information on protection of listed buildings in most current Development Plans is obsolete now because it's been superseded by the Protected Structure (and ACA) system of the Planning and Development Act 2000. Though the list of "Listed Buildings" in the back of Dev Plans are the ones that are now Protected Structures (listed buildings automatically became P.S.s at the time of the Act).
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Postby GrahamH » Fri Aug 13, 2004 6:47 pm

So is the replacement of original windows in protected structures deemed to be a material alteration to the fabric of such buildings in ALL areas of the country? - i.e is it considered as important as the masonry/brick facades of buildings or is it up to the planners or conservation officers as to whether they will allow them?

There are just so many of them cropping up in the centres of villages and towns across the country in 18th & 19th century structures, that just some of them must be listed, even if it's just a handful out of the 100s it's happening to. Is a blind eye turned to replacement windows in favour of concentrating on protecting more 'worthy' aspects of buildings or parts that are easier to police?
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Postby Devin » Sun Aug 22, 2004 10:33 pm

Yes. You always think that any day now it's going to stop and people are going to realise that the timber sash window is an essential design characteristic in Irish period buildings, but it just goes on.

The agressive marketing strategies of the PVC companies is a lot to blame. In the Yellow Pages there's about 30 pages non stop of PVC company ads and maybe one or two pages for wooden window making or repairing. And they bombard old buildings with leaflets for PVC.

While the enforcement system is there for unauthorised window replacement in protected structures, it is usually ignored cos owners reckon they won't be taken to court for something as "unimportant" as PVC windows.

Visual awareness is low in this country and a lot of people have PVC installed in good faith, thinking that by doing so they are improving and restoring the building.

I've made loads of complaints (on behalf of an taisce dublin city) about PVC and other unauthorised alterations to prot. strucs. and only a handful have ever been resolved. Complained about a prot. struc. on Fownes St. last year, told Frank McD. and he kindly put a piece in the Times for me.

I'd say in country towns there's no hope at all of getting PVC out once it goes in.
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Postby Devin » Sun Aug 22, 2004 10:57 pm

I imagine that a lot of PVC insertion in prot. strucs. in towns and villages across the country goes uncomplained-about, cos awareness is low. So the owner has 'got away with' putting the PVC in.

At the time a building was made a listed building or protected structure, the owner should have got a letter from the planning authority, telling them that window replacement (among other things) would need planning permission. But with Ireland being Ireland, people forget about that, or mislay the letter, or don't agree with being told what they can and can't do with their building.
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Postby GrahamH » Mon Aug 23, 2004 7:48 pm

It's the precendent set that's possibly the worst aspect of it - within months they creep down streets and roads into neighbouring properties. And sometimes people ask their neighbours if they'd like it done as well at the same time, reducing the cost, whilst increasing the damage to the street and buildings.

Certainly there are many people who are simply unaware of the damage being done, but so much is carried out by persons only too well in tune with what they're at, esp developers. Many people as you say simply don't agree with being told what to do - an issue highlighted fairly recently on the radio, albeit a bit off-topic, with Victorian owners in south Dublin annoyed at being prevented from removing railings and paving over front gardens.

Nice to see someone cares:

PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT: The provision of a vehicular entrance and one parking space, replacing section of boundary fence with matching ironwork gates at Palmerston Park, Rathmines, Dublin.

DECISION

REFUSE permission for the above proposed development based on the reasons and considerations set out below.

REASONS AND CONSIDERATIONS

The existing dwelling at Palmerston Park is included in the Record of Protected Structures, and the site of the proposed development is located in an area designated, in the current Dublin City Development Plan, with zoning objective Z2 - “To protect and/or improve the amenities of Residential Conservation areas”. It is the policy of the planning authority to protect and enhance such areas. It is considered that the proposed development, entailing removal of a section of the original front railings and plinth wall, its replacement by vehicular entrance gates and conversion of part of the front garden area to car parking use, would detract from the streetscape character of the area and from the setting of the protected structure and would set a precedent for further similar development in the area. Accordingly, the proposed development would conflict with the reasonable policy of the planning authority, would materially and adversely affect a protected structure and would, therefore, be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.


Member of An Bord Pleanála duly authorised to authenticatet the seal of the Board.
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Not the Four Courts too

Postby PVC King » Mon Sep 27, 2004 10:58 pm

This evening I noticed some new additions to the Land Registry within the Four Courts complex.

Yes you guessed it PVC windows, it once again proves that state bodies are the worst offenders when it comes to flouting the regulations in relation to heritage legislation. The saddest thing is that the windows are a patchwork of original and replaced windows.

It really annoyed me as I was just cheered up by walking along the new Luas line from Smithfield in towards town. The Luas is really living up to its name along this stretch in terms of extra lighting its great, but without this light I would never have spotted the windows.

Could someone take a few pics and post them if they are passing they are on the elevation directly opposite the Bridewell.
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Postby GrahamH » Tue Oct 05, 2004 1:53 pm

The situation isn't exactly clear cut here but I see your point alright Diaspora. This entire facade's window stock is made up of a particularly nasty variety of replacement steel window which appear to have been put in in the 50s, and make the building look like a Russian mental asylum.
What's happened is that rather than replacing the tens and tens of frames with original sashes, the deteriorated opening parts of a few have been replaced with PVC parts - attached to the steel frames - which makes such a mess it has to be seen to be believed. I didn't think it was even possible to do that - unfortunately it is.

Saying that, the PVC appears to be quite a few years old - if it makes it that bit more excusable. But still, especially considering the new Luas stop and regeneration of the immediate area, not to mention the beautiful architecture here, there is no excuse now for wooden sashes not to go back in.
The neighbouring rear of the Four Courts looks fantastic with its sombre brown sashes and rustic granite. Some of its windows even have some shimmering cylinder sheet glass intact.
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Postby Frank Taylor » Sun Oct 10, 2004 1:22 am

I live in a property with 7 year old PVC windows that, for various reasons, I can't replace.

Is it possible to paint them- maybe by 'keying' them first. I asked one friend who advised me against, saying they would peel and look like a decaying caravan.

I really hate the front door. it's made of a huge hunk of white PVC moulded into a mock georgian shape with a mock victorian knocker. It has a lip at the bottom to trip you up. You need a key to lock the door from the inside (no latch is fitted on this door type as standard). So if the house went on fire and I couldn't find my key, bad luck. So I just started leaving the door open with the handle pushed up. Then the toddler let himself out and had to be returned by a neighbour. I had a latch fitted but the locksmith told me that new lock fittings tend to fall off PVC doors after a few years as the screws just slide out of the plastic. One day a six foot sliver of white plastic just fell off one side of the door. I couldn't see its purpose or how to reattach it so I chucked it out. The letter box flaps have broken off on the inside. i often see this door type on other houses and I wonder why such a crap product has won market share from one that worked fine before (wooden door).

Some of the window frames have cracked from kids climbing on them. Others have been spattered with paint or otherwise discoloured. The opening mechanisms are ugly and lumpy and some have broken off.

Anyhow, can I paint them?
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