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How a simple idea has revolutionised the world of aluminium window installation

It has often been said that the simplest ideas are the best.

This is so true when a simple idea is taken and applied to the modern world. For me, a great example of this is the point & click camera – I have no idea how to use a fancy SLR camera, but a point & click is my kind of camera. Its simple, quick and gets the job done.

It may seem crazy, but this same concept relates to the world of window installation.


Not so long ago, virtually all windows built into houses were made of wood. The windows were fabricated in joinery shops and regardless of their shape or size they all had one thing in common – EARS.

Ears are the bits that stick out at each corner. To the casual observer it might appear that the joinery shop forgot to cut them off or maybe they are there to help carry the window.

In reality the ears perform an important job which is to key the window to the brickwork in which it sits.

On the building site, when the wall has reached windowsill height, the window is propped up on the wall (level, plumb & parallel of course). The bricklayer continues to build the wall up and around the window, making sure to enclose the ears as he goes.

The end result is a window that is held securely in the wall and is literally “not going anywhere”.


Wooden windows have their limitations. Wood is prone to decay over time, especially if it gets wet. And so, the wood must be protected from the weather to prevent the decay, which means ongoing maintenance.

The advent of making window frames from aluminium is kind of a no-brainer. Aluminium doesn’t corrode and can be powder-coated in any colour, so removing the need for maintenance.

Further, the process to fabricate aluminum windows is much more efficient and lends itself to mass production.

But the one thing that is missing from aluminium windows is their ears.


As a result of no ears, the installation process has had to evolve. In the course of evolving, the process has moved away from the old-fashioned “throw up a wall & here’s your window”. It’s almost as if everyone has forgotten how easy it used to be.

Without their ears, the process of installing an aluminium window has changed to one where when the wall is built, a hole is left behind and a window (made to fit the hole) is installed at a later date. By changing the process, a whole raft of problems has been created, which everyone has simply learned to live with.

Problem 1.

Whereas a wood window was installed by the bricklayer, now the aluminium window must be installed by a “specialist”; usually the same company that fabricates the windows. Naturally, this service carries with it a charge and so it now costs more to install your window.

Problem 2.

As described above, the wood window is installed as the wall is built. This means that the wall and the window reveals can be plastered in one go – as soon as the next day if the team is well on top of things.

In the case of an aluminium window, the window cannot be installed as soon as the wall is built because the hole must first be measured and the window fabricated. Even then, the specialist installer will want to come to site to do all the windows in one go, which means generally the clock starts counting down only when all walls are built.

This doesn’t stop the plastering team getting going on the walls, but they won’t be able to plaster the reveals. Only when the window is installed can the reveals receive their plaster. This is not an efficient way to work; plus no matter how skillful the plasterers are, there will inevitably be a join between the wall plaster and the reveal plaster.

Problem 3.

Whenever you involve an outside party on your project, you may think you are in control of the process, but the stark reality is that you are not. The more outside parties involved, the less control you have. This is one reason why major construction projects sometimes come in seriously late and over budget. It takes a true super-hero to “herd all the cats” and keep the project on track.

Problem 2 describes why there will inherently be a time lag between wall construction and window installation. If your 3rd party window installer is running behind or wants to service a larger job before yours, then that time delay will only get bigger. You can try shouting, but remember, you’re not really in control. Every week that passes is a week of extra cost you have to shoulder.

Problem 4.

For some reason, this is the problem that no one wants to admit exists: the holes are not always built square.

So, having measured the hole (and left a bit of clearance to make sure the window will fit), on fitting day the installer discovers that the window just won’t fit into the hole. It doesn’t take much of a deviance in the brickwork to be 10mm or so off.

Now there’s a choice – either take the window back and make a new one or “adjust” the hole with a hammer & chisel. Either way, this is going to take time to fix. Imagine if all the holes are like this – its not going to be a good day for someone.

Problem 5.

The windows are finally installed, but the plasterers are busy on another part of the project and won’t be free for a day or so. No problem, just yet another delay.

Aluminium windows are fixed to their holes using small aluminium strips that clip to the outer edge of the frame. Each clip is secured to the brickwork of the hole with nail-in anchors and so the window is held in place awaiting plaster work to cover it all up.

If there’s a delay in the plaster work, each window is vulnerable to a visit from the window thieves – yes, there’s such a thing. Just as the install process is reasonably quick, so the uninstall process is even quicker (and if they’re careful, quieter).

In short, until the window reveals are plastered, your expensive aluminium windows are sitting in their holes feeling very nervous.

Problem 6.

Most often than not, the same company that fabricates and supplies your windows will also install them. You’re kind of locked in to them in the same way that you have to get your brand new car serviced by the dealership – they might make some profit on selling you the car, but they sure will by servicing it.

Because of this supply/install relationship, you are hampered in your ability to drive down cost. In the end you live with it and convince yourself that it’s the best deal all things considered.

If you could just gather in quotes for window supply (like you do with the other building materials) then you could cherry-pick the best prices and wrangle some great discounts.

Problem 7.

This problem is linked to control and cost – quality control.

The window installer may be long gone and the reveals plastered before you realise that the windows are not square, plumb or parallel.

This can be rectified, but it going to take time and therefore money to fix. If the installer is from the cheaper end of the price range or they are just flat out with bookings, you may have to do some chasing to get the faulty install fixed. It all takes time and effort.

Problem 8.

Here’s the final problem. What if you buy your windows from a retail outlet?

You have the windows and they were at a great price, but you still need someone to install them. You might find that the larger &/or more reputable window companies only want to install their own product. Equally, the one-man band may bring you unsuspectedly into the world of quality control. Of course, it’s doable – but it’s just more hassle.

If you’re a DIYer – hey no problem man. Just make absolutely sure the hole is the right size!


And here it is: put ears on aluminium windows!

If aluminium windows had ears – like their wooden cousins – then all the above problems would go away. Simply buy the windows “off the shelf”, hand them to the brick layer and build them into the wall. Job done.

Well, my friend Tony has done just that. He invented (& patented) a clip-on window ear, designed specifically for aluminium windows.

He has called it the Aliklip – catchy name.

The clip is precision molded in an engineering plastic, so that it fits exactly inside each corner of a window frame. Now an aluminium window can be installed exactly the same as a wooden window. Oh! for the good old days.


You may not be too bothered about the time and hassle side of the current process, but if I told you that using Tony’s ears (not his actual ears, his Aliklips) would save you at least 40% of what you’re paying to your installation company, would that make a difference?

If you could get 40% off your cement costs or your bathroom fittings, I bet you would jump at the chance – so why not the windows? By the way, you’re not going to get a 40% saving  on your cement – but you are by changing to Aliklips!

And it really is as simple as changing your process back to how it always used to be.

If that still makes no sense, consider this: if you build 100 houses a year at 10 windows per house – that’s 1,000 windows per year. Switching to the Aliklip method will save you around R100,000 per year.

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