Windows in older properties - the common problems..
If your property still has original old single glazed windows, you'll already know to watch for excessive draughts, condensation, and overly cold rooms caused by quicker heat loss during winter months. You might also have difficulties associated with maintenance such as opening or closing windows, paint flaking and localised timber decay - particularly along the bottom rails where the glass meets the frame.
On the flip side, if you have pre-2000s replacement double glazing - aluminium, pvc or even timber - this can also be problematic. Windows may be keeping you a little warmer, but these air filled units (top quality units nowadays being argon-filled) are prone to moisture getting trapped inside - and had to be made bulky to achieve any worthwhile insulation, so, unfortunately, they're unlikely to be doing much for the looks of your older property. For upvc manufacturers - at least up until very recently - it's never been possible to replicate anything even vaguely resembling the elegance or appearance of any Victorian or Edwardian window, however, astonishing improvements to character and market value are now possible if you get good advice on where and what to buy.
With old style double glazing it also means the original timber sashboxes will have been dismantled - companies sold upgrades on basis of being zero maintenance, so out went anything timber. Again, unfortunately, aethetics will have suffered, as characterful original architraves and mouldings on sashbox casings are lost, replaced by plasterboard or flat strips of timber or pvc.
Security is also a potential issue. Old style double glazing windows were often beaded from the outside, and therefore relatively easy to gain access by removing the glass. Original timber windows are too often forced open with even the most basic of tools - so, again, these will be a potential concern.
Finally, noise disturbance is a problem increasingly affecting many households and it's only recently that acoustic laminate glass solutions - with argon fill - have become available at a sensible price.
comfort and heat retention
We restore old properties and love period detailing but in our opinion it really isn't worth spending money on secondary glazing, draught proofing, plastic films or replacing glass with a double glazed unit - none of it works particularly well, it rarely looks any good, and at best it's only ever a partial solution.
Thicker curtains can help with heat loss but this isn't really practical during the day - thin fabric roller blinds are often a better option as they trap colder air but also let a good amount of light in without compromising ventilation too much (ikea do a beautiful floral design called LISELOTT that we've used many times).
If you've good heating and aren't too fussed about higher bills - or don't have the cash to spend on replacement windows - it is possible to keep original windows in reasonable shape. We've included some 'How to' information about sash window repair and maintenance here, condensation advice here and of course if you've any specific questions you can always get in touch with us directly here.
In regards of older style double glazed windows, the thermal insulation found on modern 'third generation' windows like the Heritage Range out-perform 95% of all double glazed units in homes around the UK today, utilising advances in glass coating (low-e) that allow the sun's warmth in, but then limit the emission of energy from inside to outside. Added to this, special insulation spacers are used around the edges of glass units limit any 'cold bridging' effect - and it's now possible to authentically re-create the classic Victorian and Edwardian glazing bar arrangement.
Top quality double glazing is now argon filled - a higher density inert gas - this improves heat retention and reduces sound transfer.
Sliding Sashes are also very condusive to the introduction of fresh air into a room, creating a natural circulation path with cooler - fresh - air naturally drawn in at the bottom, and stale air being expelled by convection currents out at the top. So, if you want a great quality healthy living environment, sliding sashes are a great option - and practical even on cold days as the windows only need to be open a fraction to achieve efficient air circulation. Where sashes aren't visually appropriate, opening 'casement' (ie. regular hinged) windows can be supplied, or fixed casements (non-opening) utilised, with adjustable trickle vents providing superior air quality even during winter months when windows would normally be left closed.
Ok, you can go with timber replacement windows, draughtproofed and rebated to accept deeper double glazed units - but keep in mind that advances in technology mean pvc-u sash windows can now be manufactured with authentic detailing and absolute regard to appearance with authentic 'top window at front', 'bottom window at back' sliding sashes just like original period sashes. Conservation-grade (ie. suitable for listed buildings) flush fitting openable casements are also available in pvc-u that are totally indistinguishable from timber versions - but of course have the additional benefit of requiring almost no maintenance.
Missing architrave detailing - removed during an older style double glazing install - can easily be replaced with an authentic reproduction. Materials aren't expensive - getting this right will make a huge difference to the overall wow factor, however, unfortunately it's an aspect almost always ignored by the mainstream window companies who either won't know, or don't care about this kind of detail.
Slimline framing can now be achieved in manufacture meaning it's now possible to replicate the original glazing proportions essential for creating a positive first impression - get the right 'look' and you will be astonished what difference it makes to the average period property's street appeal. Estate agents will often say that a property with good windows - which in agent-speak means double glazed, but original looking - will always be worth at least 5% more than those without, and that's a sizeable amount of money even with a standard two up two down terraced property. You also aren't limited to white - an increasing number of suppliers offer attractive period colour options, and woodgrain finishes that present very similarly to painted - or stained - timber.
ps. If you'd like to read our Top 10 makeover tips for boosting your homes value check out this blog post here.
People are always asking why as restoration people we're such advocates of pvc-u - the answer is easy; great pricing, great looks and simple maintenance!
It really is incredibly time consuming to keep a timber window looking good, even with regular care. This is particularly the case with traditional sliding sashes, as to re-paint them properly you have to take each apart, undo the weights and strip down the surfaces so to avoid paint or varnish buildup interfering with operation over time. Paint also invariably collects between the meeting points, making windows hard to close. Keep in mind that timber also has an annoying habit of expanding - or contracting - depending on the weather or more specifically, the humidity level - and over time this will interfere with operation.
All Heritage Range Windows are available in a variety of great looking period colours and natural woodstain or woodgrain finishes - and supplied as standard with a manufacturers 20 year guarantee - so, if you are looking for some beauty therapy for windows, our advice always is... forget about timber - and go with Heritage Range pvc-u windows!
NEW!! Window Ideas Service
As we're pretty handy with photoshop and can easily create mock-ups in just a few minutes, we thought we'd offer a homeowners 'Windows Ideas Service' . There's no obligation, all you have to do is email us with a picture of the front of your house (or whichever other elevation you're interested in), and we'll produce a quick mock-up showing our recommendation for your property.. eg. what style/finish will work best to increase your homes character, and market value.
one of our recommended approaches..
original photo taken at the customer's property
Alternatively, we can pop round and take a picture for you - or, if you'd prefer, just email us your address (use the 'contact us' link, it's easier) - we can usually find your property on google streetview, and get a reasonable front elevation image this way.
Heritage Range sash windows - in cream woodgrain - at a property we restored a few years ago, in Coventry.