A guide to house building in South Africa

A guide to house building in South Africa

Build: Window frames and glazing

Chances are that your glazing and window frame installation is your most expensive outlay in your budget, therefore you have to choose wisely.

These are the options:


Wooden window frames are a glorious and beautiful thing, but finding well-made and high-quality fitters is not always easy. A lot of South African timber frames are made from sub-par meranti wood and have gotten a bad reputation for warping and splintering. Best to go with a top-grade manufacturer.

The second thing to consider is the maintenance costs as any external wood has to regularly be sanded and painted/sealed.

Timber and Aluminium combo


Aluminium is a very popular choice, especially at the coast, as it does not rust (well, only the good stuff). Colour selection is simple and the frames get made up to measurements taken on site. With a lead time of 3-6 weeks it’s crucial to get your order in as soon as your walls go up.

Frames require almost no maintenance, but are still susceptible to scratches.


Making a roaring comeback are steel window and door frames. Priced similarly to aluminium, but less manufacturers, so a likely longer lead time. Naturally they need upkeep to avoid rusting, but an uber cool finish for an industrial look. Remember to hot dip galvanise if you don’t want rust (painting alone won’t do it).


Relatively new option in South Africa – plastic frames. They offer good performance and longevity at a reasonable price.

Window schedule

Most construction drawings now come with a window frame schedule (index of all the doors and windows with reference numbers and sizes). Very useful for quoting purposes, but your supplier should still measure on site for final order.

Double glazing

Council now requires homes to have an energy evaluation done. If your glazing coverage goes over a certain percentage, they will require that the house is fitted with double glazing to negate energy consumption. Fortunately, the cost of double glazing has become more competitive in SA.

Note that there is still grades of double glazing. Some is more heat resistant than others, while triple glazing covers the highest insulation/noise control.

Safety glass

Any glass door has to be fitted with safety glass to ensure minimal injury with breakage (safety glass, like a windscreen, is laminated and shatters).


Sills being plastered on the outside, below the window frames must have a slight slope to allow water to drain away. If you want a very dramatic, contemporary sill, consider a steep, 4-6 brick sill, finished with a steel trowel.


  • Ensure whoever is installing your glazing is registered with the SA glazing institution (SAGGA). On completion you have to provide a glazing certificate to council.  This is why window imports (often more reasonable) can prove difficult. See Glazing certificate.
  • As the plastering and rest of the build will continue around the window frames and glass, it is absolutely crucial that both frames and glass are covered with good quality plastic right up until completion. If plaster does land up on the glass, supervise any cleaning with clean, running water or acid (wiping it down with a dirty cloth will result in fine scratches – a terrible results that you can only fully realise when direct sunlight hits the glass).

Internal doors

In most instances, solid wood frames will be used internally, fitted with either hollow core (timber frame with hardboard surface), or solid timber doors. The one exception is any internal door leading into a garage. This will have to be a certified ‘firedoor’ – to prevent easy spread of fire from chemicals often stored in garages.

Frames must be fitted very securely as cracking can easily occur where the frame meets the plaster/masonry. Best still, use jambs, or architraves (framing) for the neatest result. Single unit door handles are the best, opposed to the seperate lock/handle units that can come loose (especially in hollow core doors).

Finally, if you want to create a more stylish look, consider using 2.4m internal doors as opposed to the standard 2m. Fanlights can also be added above for more illumination in a dark passage.

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