Sunday, 25 February 2018

​Eight weeks is a short time in housebuilding

Finally we have two working external doors.

I wrote about our unhinging problems back in May, at which point they had already been troubling us for a couple of months.

The broken top hinge was a particular worry, as our heavy front door was now just hanging on two out of three hinges, and there was a risk that another hinge would break and the door would land on somebody's head.

The people who came to install an inside door noticed this problem, and we got in touch with Wald at the end of March. I'm not sure what happened in April. It tends to be a busy month. At the end of May they put us in touch with  Yamazakiya Moko who make the best wooden windows I've seen in Japan. They visited on 5th June. They said they'd try to get in touch with the manufacturers of the window, which I suggested would not work because they had gone out of business.

As well as looking at the door problems, I showed them our more chronic and less critical big window on the South, and the leaky part at the bottom between the second and third leaf. He fairly quickly noticed that there was only one point along the bottom of these two leafs fixing the door when it was closed, and suggested that adding some more would be a good idea.

Anyway, confidence inspired, I looked forward to my front door getting a new hinge, and waited for a reply.

And waited.

I'm probably not pushy enough, and I know I'm not the most active of correspondents, but I did telephone on 18th July, and he said he was waiting for parts.

I got in touch another couple of months later, and finally got a reply back 29th September saying that without any contact from the supplier, they wouldn't be able to do anything. I wrote backing telling him that I had known the manufacturer wouldn't get back to them six months ago.

So I started exploring other routes. The two options seemed to be to find another person who could fix the door, or do it myself. So I started working out what the part was, and looking for it online.

I got in touch with the importers of our windows to see if they had any other ideas. They responded very quickly, and sent someone around. But they are importers and not fitters, so they said they'd have to get in touch with the company they worked with. Yamazakiya. I explained that I was already in touch with them, so they told me to wait for them to get back to me. October also gets pretty busy, but I wrote to the Passive House lady on 11th October. And wrote to Wald again a bit later.

On 22nd October I wrote to G-U, Gretsch-Unitas, who make these and probably a majority of high-spec window hinges in Germany, asking if they had a Japanese supplier, or if there was anywhere in Europe I could order these parts online.

The Passive House lady was in Japan, and she went to visit Yamazakiya, finding out that the problem was in getting the parts. I had assumed that getting parts would be easy. I realised that when Yamazaki had talked about the manufacturers, they were talking about parts manufacturers, not window manufacturers.

On 17th November I went to visit the Japan Home Show, where I noticed by chance Yamazakiya were exhibiting, so I went to visit their stand and had the chance for a quick chat, which I think helped remind them I'm a real person.

On 22 November I got a message from MSH Co., Ltd, an authorized distributor and the sole agent of G-U in Japan. They apologised for being so late replying to us, "since the articles in question are not treated as single parts in Japan, nor we have handled them before." But they did find part numbers, and told us we needed to specify whether the hinge was on the right or left. The good news was that they could supply the parts, but the bad news was that they could only supply 10 parts of each which would take around a month to get here, and they would charge 50,000 yen. "Please consider and let me have your reply in case you want to go ahead."

This seemed like a lot of money when I only wanted one bit of metal, but at least it explained the lack of progress from Yamazakiya.

Surely there is a way of getting this part cheaper in Europe? Well our window importer spends part of the year in Europe, and has contacts with European window manufacturers, so that seemed like a good person to get back in touch with.

By now, it's the end of January, 2018.

Once again there was a fast response, and a lot of initial positive noises although it's important to remember that Europe essentially has a four-day week because their weekend starts Friday lunchtime. I think this is an excellent thing, but it does require some concentration. I already knew that European businesses didn't do August, and you'll notice that month also missing from this timeline.

Reports then followed of potential wholesalers, parts in stock, numbers of parts required, prices, higher prices, no parts in stock, and eventually a higher price than MSH in Japan was charging for ten parts. Apparently this hinge is no longer used in Germany, and as a hinge for an out-swinging external door, it was probably rarely used in the past.

So on 8th February I got back in touch with MSH in Japan and asked how much they would charge just for the hinges and not the latch plate. I could get a single latch plate online from, a supplier in Belgium for around 20 euros, so there was no need for me to order ten. He told me that would be 45,000 yen, but stressed that did not mean he would sell me ten latch plates for 5,000.

I reminded him that I didn't want ten latch plates, I only wanted one. And for that matter I didn't want ten hinges either.

He then seemed to get a bit defensive and told me that the maintenance and replacement of fittings should be carried out by the manufacturers of the windows or doors, because their condition depends on the quality of manufacturing, and that inappropriate manufacturing or installation will lead to elements breaking.

He also said they had to respect G-U's ''Unit Package'' of ten pcs. They had never purchased or sold this part in Japan before, did not expect to sell any in the future, and did not want to hold any on stock, and that they were giving me special treatment.

I was left feeling that the customer care at GU did not care much about customers. Also this highlighted my own unenviable situation. The manufacturer of my doors has gone out of business, so what am I supposed to do? The fact that the parts broke suggests at least a possibility that there was a problem with the quality of manufacturing, and I imagine that is the usual reason for parts needing to be replaced.

So around 9th February I ordered ten hinges from MSH, and ordered one new latch plate through, which was great practice for my Dutch web skills. The latch plate was shipped 13th February and arrived around a week later. I was worrying that the hinges would take much longer, but they got to the MSH warehouse 19th February and were sent straight to my house.