St Mary’s Church Homes – replacement of front windows

Part of the service The Almshouse Association offers it’s member charities is to help support them with grants or loans if they do not have sufficient funds to carry out necessary works to their almshouses.

St Mary’s Church Homes needed to replace the windows in their almshouses and were given an Almshouse Association loan of £55,000. Now that the work is complete, the trustees have kindly put together a case study to demonstrate how the funds have been spent and the difference it’s made to their residents’ lives.

St Mary’s House in Ealing, London W5 was built in 1900 with 12 one bedroom flats (ground floor and first floor). Major work was carried out in the 1950s and 1990s to improve these dwellings. In 2016 two additional dwellings were built, one at either end of the block. Both were designed to be accessible for persons of limited mobility; one of these dwellings has one bedroom, the other has two bedrooms. All the flats are currently occupied and in recent years vacancies have been filled quickly by persons satisfying the criteria of their trust deed.

May 2023 – St Mary’s House before replacement of windows
  • A report on the condition of the flats in 2019 indicated that substantial work would be needed in the medium term on the front windows of the original flats. Since the flats were built secondary double glazing had been added, but the original wooden frames dating from 1900 had not been replaced. Although there had been regular maintenance, significant defects had developed in these windows. Some windows did not open and close easily and some suffered with condensation. Because of the age of the windows, there was substantial heat loss.
  • In 2021 the trustees commissioned a more detailed survey, from architects they had used on previous projects, for their options on repair or replacement of the windows. This report compared having an ongoing programme of repairs, replacement with PVC windows or replacement with wooden frame windows. Following receipt of this survey they requested and received three quotes; two for wooden frames and one for PVC frames.
  • During 2022 the trustees carried out investigations on the potential suppliers of the windows and the details of the specifications, including one factory visit. By October, they were ready to make a decision to proceed. They selected a specialist window manufacturer to make and fit modern glass with wooden frames and appointed their previous architects as architect and quantity surveyor for this project.
  • In January 2023, the trustees confirmed the contract with the window manufacturer to start work on making the windows. By paying the deposit they were then effectively fully committed to the project proceeding in 2023. They appointed a local building firm to carry out the associated building work; erecting scaffolding, making good the plaster and decoration around the fitted windows and repainting the outside to take advantage of scaffolding being in place. Some employees of the building firm were already familiar with the building having been involved in the 2016 extension.
  • The residents were first told about the plan to replace the front windows by letter in January 2022 and were given the opportunity to ask questions at the annual meeting in May 2022. When the timing of the work (May – June 2023) was known, the trustees arranged a meeting with residents to discuss the practical arrangements.
  • Within all 12 flats the area next to the front window had to be cleared to avoid damage to the residents’ possessions when the new windows were fitted. Storage boxes were hired to enable residents to store items off-site and residents were offered help from the trustees to pack items or move items to another part of their flat.
  • The Charity then announced the detailed timetable so that a resident could arrange to be out on the day that their old window would be removed and new window fitted. The trustees explained to residents that making good of plaster and repainting would be a gradual process during the month following the installation. Part of the lawn to the side of the building was used to create a secure storage area between delivery from the factory and installation.
May 2023 – scaffolding erected for full length of building
and an old window frame removed

When fitting of the windows commenced in mid-May, the fitters immediately encountered a problem with one batch of windows. Measurements had been taken before manufacture commenced, but it was discovered that there had been errors at design stage in applying those measurements (the end flats have a slightly different design to the central flats).

Fortunately, the builders discovered that there was a void space just above the existing windows and this space could be used to enable most of the manufactured windows to be fitted. Completely fresh windows had to be manufactured for only two of the flats. Through the diligence and cooperation of all involved, these problems were quickly overcome and the project was able to be completed within the agreed time scale.

Once the majority of the new windows had been fitted the builders started work on making good the plaster around the windows and repainting the walls and ceilings of the front room of each flat. While the scaffolding was in place they also repainted the outside of the front of the flats.

New window frame going into ground floor flat
New window frame fitted to ground floor flat
New plastering needed here
Note space above existing frame
Preparing to install window in upstairs flat
Installing new window in upstairs flat

The residents gave feedback that both the fitters and the builders were always courteous and considerate. Access was needed to the individual flats to carry out the work and the residents are delighted with the quality of work. They are all proud of their new windows and the neat finish to the decoration in that area. They benefit both in personal comfort and financially from now having double-glazed windows providing a high degree of thermal efficiency.

As at December 2022, the Charity’s net realisable assets were £105,000. In addition, they secured a loan from The Almshouse Association for £55,000. The amount of this loan was set taking into account their existing loan for the 2016 extension, for which £40,000 was still outstanding at the end of 2022. Excluding the windows project, the Charity estimated that income would exceed expenditure during 2023 by at least £20,000, which gave them a margin for contingencies.

When the trustees placed the order with the window manufacturer in January 2023, the estimated project cost was £160,000. At this stage, they had not received a quote from the builders and used estimated figures from the architects. They recognised that the payment to the builders would depend on the extent of making good and work on the outside to take advantage of the scaffolding. The actual cost of the work was £180,000 (windows £76,000, builders £89,000, architects £14,000, sundry £1,000). Phasing of payments enabled the Charity to meet all payments as they became due.

The quality of the window frames and the windows is very high. The design matches the previous windows and hence preserves the look of the building.

  • By replacing all the front windows at the same time, they benefited from economies of scale.
  • The Charity will avoid substantial maintenance costs from deterioration had the existing windows remained in place.
  • The new windows are expected to last for at least 60 years and maintenance costs should be low.
  • The residents are pleased with the ease of opening and closing the new windows. In the summer this makes it easier for them to ventilate their front room. In winter, the improved insulation will help to contain energy bills.
Repainting outside while scaffolding in place
All windows fitted and repainting complete
  • Every dwelling must be measured separately before starting construction. Dwellings may look similar, but particularly if they were originally built many years ago there may be small variations in dimensions. A small amount of time checking measurements can avoid costly errors in manufacture.
  • This project required much involvement throughout from the trustees in liaising with architects, two firms of contractors and residents, as well as attention to detail over a considerable number of issues.
  • A project of this nature, involving replacement of key parts of an existing and inhabited building, can require much more thought, attention and effort than new construction or work on an empty building.

We would like to congratulate all the trustees and contractors for their hard work and determination to ensure these beautiful almshouses have been preserved and can continue to provide safe and warm homes to people in need for many more generations to come.

We would also like to thank the people who so kindly donate to The Almshouse Association or leave gifts in their Wills. Without their generosity, we would not be in a position to help support almshouse charities with their renovations and new builds.

The Almshouse Association awards loans and grants to our member charities every year. In 2023, £804,624 was approved in new loans and grants approved totalled £78,590. Charities pay no interest on the loans, just a small administration fee. As they make repayments on the loans over a ten year period, the Association can continue to offer loans to charities year after year, meaning that your donations continue to support almshouses and their residents in perpetuity.

If you are interested in making a donation to The Almshouse Association or leaving a gift in your Will, please do visit our Support Us pages here.