A glazier is someone who installs windows, glass partitions, decorative glass and conservatories in public, private and commercial buildings
A glazier is a skilled installer of window frames, windows and glass products. Often, the installer will become a specialist in a certain type of window, so some may prefer to work on people’s homes, whilst others may be commercial installers. Domestic jobs can be anything from replacing a 20cm pane of glass which has fallen, all the way up to the full installation of a custom-build conservatory. In this instance, some firms will subcontract out the conservatory building and handle only the glass, whilst others will manage it in-house if they have the capability. On the commercial side, the installation crew could be carrying out a large number of simple glass-fits on a customer’s premises on a monthly maintenance contract, or it may be a full-scale design implementation for an exotic or high-value centrepiece in the Regional Operating Headquarters of a multinational company.
At the career’s “entry point”, the fitter may become an installer with an established firm and learn the skills needed to progress to setting up his or her own firm. Many installers who concentrate on domestic installations work either individually or in teams of two. Commercial installation teams can number in excess of 7 or 8 persons, depending on the scope of work and the value of the contract.
For a glazier who wishes to join an established window fitting businesses, the expected earnings are around £9.50 per hour, which works out at £19,760 based on a standard 40-hour week. More experienced installers can join as team leaders, and the rate of pay usually increases then by 15%. There is the possibility for semi-regular overtime too, plus use of the company van for personal reasons should the employer so decide. These salary figures are based on aggregated searches of UK job opportunity web sites; they are reflective of fitters working outside London but in the South East of England.
Many fitters choose to become self-employed, and may then seek to take on at least one additional worker as helper. This is often because two people are required to fit windows over a certain size. It is a challenging industry in terms of new business entrants, with many new companies setting up in locations around the UK. Word-of-mouth advertising works well for established firms and the earnings capacity for a successful business with a very busy commercial order book is technically unlimited. Some firms find it harder to enjoy consistent revenue streams in parts of the country where there is an outward pattern of businesses moving to other areas; this is often due to recessionary pressures or declining demand for the company’s product or service.
- Arrive at customer’s site at the pre-agreed time and place
- Work either on own or part of a fitting team to install windows or selected glass displays
- Leave the customer’s property in a tidy state with no unnecessary mess
- Ensure the customer’s property is completely secure from intrusion once the work has been completed
- Ensure there is no glass left on site which poses a significant risk to adults, and a huge risk to children
- Complete evening and weekend overtime in order to satisfy an open book of ongoing work
- For a self-employed candidate, the owner must handle invoicing, tax and administration, at least on a day-to-day basis
- Self-employed candidates will also need to handle their own marketing and find ways of growing their revenue
Most fitters have no formal qualifications as they are generally not required at the time of job application within this industry. Some employers like candidates to have at least a GCSE standard in English and maths as it shows a general aptitude for communication and problem-solving. However, many employers like new candidates to have at least some experience working in the industry, either as a fitter or as a finisher in a glass cutting wholesalers.
- Candidates must be able to cut, fix, modify and fit sheet glass into position on site
- Must be able to measure accurately and suggest potential materials and finishes to satisfy customer
- Must be able to work within a team of glaziers in larger projects
- It may be a requirement that the fitter also drive the company van from site to site
- A good understanding of common-sense health and safety concerns are paramount, as glass is a highly hazardous material
- A good appreciation in terms of being able to leave the site in a clean and habitable condition, and also secured against intrusion
Being a glazier is a high-risk occupation due to the constant need to handle large sheets of glass, some of which is decorative, not reinforced and difficult to handle. As well as the shoulder-cramping weights involved from time to time, non-toughened glass which has not had edges sanded poses a considerable risk to the wellbeing of the installer, and for the customer whilst work is being completed. Common sense is required to ensure the safety of the candidate, but strong communication skills are the key to a safe and effective fitting team; members must be made aware of what each other are doing at all times. This co-ordinated effort will reduce the chance of injury whilst on site. Glass is an invisible hazard, and care should be taken by candidates at all times.
New candidates usually receive training after they begin the job, and some companies use this lack of industry experience as a reason to pay a relatively smaller hourly rate. However, experienced fitters can usually walk straight into a salaried position depending on the size of the order book of the firm handling the candidate’s application. There may be an expectation that experienced glaziers train younger members of the team too. Many glaziers begin working in glass cutters, which are retail operations which sell sheets of glass to the trade and to the public in bespoke sizes. Regular use of the cutting machines and polishers will equip the candidate with skills which they would otherwise need to have learned at a later date when working as an installer.
As the role can involve working in teams of four or more people, there is often one person appointed as the team leader or installation manager. This is routinely a key stepping stone for individuals who work for a company as an installer but who wish to set up their own firm at a later time. Many fitters who work for established glass installation companies choose to take the self-employed route, which has its problems and benefits in almost equal measure. Those who manage their own business have to contend with taxation, handling workloads, locating sources of new revenue, sourcing products, maintaining vehicles and dealing with accounting and changes to the local market conditions. Operating as a sole trader can be stressful at times, and this is common to many different sectors and industries, but it affords the business owner the chance to brand and grow their own firm, and look to hire other glaziers in order to continue expansion.
Glaziers usually work within a pre-defined geographical area for the simple reason that it is easier to build a local reputation than a national one. Each region has their own trust or organisation also; for example, the York Glazier’s Trust seeks to represent interests only of firms local to that area.
Also known as…
- Window fitter
What’s it really like?
Dominic is a glazier at DB Designs, which is Surrey’s leading glass, windows, doors and conservatories specialist, and which has been trading successfully since 1991.
What made you decide or choose to get into this sort of career?
DB Designs has been running since 1991, but before we created DB to be a local market leader, we were a family-run installer business anyway. I saw how my father was able to encourage repeat business through word of mouth advertising, and that was the result of his dedication to excellence. So in following him into the family business, I guess you could say I was always going to be a glazier.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of `exercise’?
As we are the leading glass business in the region, we cover quite a few bases. We have our own in-house manufacturing unit which makes us something of a rarity in the industry; most installers do not have this option, so we will always have a cost base advantage in this respect. We also do doors and full conservatories, in addition to retailing our bespoke products for home improvement and commercial purposes. You get to see jobs on site that are standard; by this I mean the window sizes for domestic properties obviously come up time and time again, but anything commercial is usually more bespoke.
What do you like most about the job?
The fact that the company is a labour of love for the family, and the fact we are a significantly well-known brand in the heart of Surrey. I’m proud of the fact that DB Designs can now offer such a truly bespoke service which our competitors cannot, simply because we can custom-build our own products in-house.
What do you like least about the job?
You occasionally get customers who insist on getting multiple quotes before commissioning work, which is absolutely fine; some then persist in playing one company off against another but still never get round to placing an order. I dislike anything that takes away my time, because I feel I can best use it on site doing quality work for customers who appreciate our attention to detail.
What are the key responsibilities?
The over-riding necessity is in leaving the customer with a job they are thrilled with. The premise is quite simple; install a window or install a door, clean up, invoice, but I make sure that DB Designs leaves a lasting impression with every job we do. Quality is key, as with most “detail” industries.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
Please see the testimonials section of our web site; it will give you an indication as to what customers look for and demand when they are pricing up work. It’s not just about the lowest cost, because making an investment in your own property adds value to your home and satisfaction for the owner over a long period. It’s worth spending a little bit more sometimes to get the best quality, so new entrants to the market should not assume that they can win repeat business just by going in with a bargain quote.