Modernist Crittall windows

Those who are not lovers of modern architecture probably won’t have heard of Crittall, but most people will have seen some of their iconic design work. Known for their metal windows, divided into segments by a metal frame, Essex window manufacturer Crittall is the byword for the glazing that changed the face of our buildings from the 1930s to 1960s.

Their windows are on many famous buildings throughout the UK and Europe, including the Hoover building in London. They define modernism and art deco in Britain and have shaped the look of both the Metroland of Betjeman and the civic architecture of the post-war years.

Picture of an art deco style building with crittal windows

Fashion, age and neglect has seen many of these windows replaced by more standard double-glazing units over the years, which is a real shame. This is the equivalent of ripping out Victorian fireplaces or ceiling roses. It changes the look of your home, but very rarely for the better. So many 1930s blocks end up with overly-wide white aluminium frames where there should be black, green or grey finished Crittalls. These homes also lose the curved glass that sat between many of the steel frames from the era.

Some homeowners are now looking to restore their original Crittall windows, whether via the business itself or salvage yards. If you wish to do the same then a good glazier or window-fitter should be able to help you with the details. But what should you do if you have Crittall or other metal windows that you want to keep and maintain.

Crittall themselves can advise on repairs and many window-fitters will be on their recommended lists or have experience of working with them. But caring for steel windows yourself is simple and it can make the windows last for a long time. The materials used should see them outlast any uPVC window frames, but taking care of the frames is vital to keep them in good shape and free from decay.

Picture of a large art deco building

The most important thing with steel window frames of this type is to keep them clean and free of deposits of salt or pollution. So, once a year just wash them down using a mild detergent and warm water, before washing that off with just hot water. Use a soft brush to remove any debris. Use a metal touch-up paint to repair any areas that have become damaged or where paint has flaked. This approach is always advisable where you know you have factory-finished windows, rather than ones where paint has been applied on site.

Windows that were not powder-coated in the factory and that have been painted in situ will need extra care to ensure that all the moving parts are kept well-maintained and are free of paint. When you touch up or re-paint windows you add another layer, which can cause the windows to become hard to close or for the window to bow. For this reason, it is always best to strip paint away and clean debris using a wire brush before any new paint is applied. Your Crittall windows should last at least as long as you but they can become draughty or weakened if they are allowed to bow due to excessive paint.

Looking for the help of an expert to replace, repair or fit Crittall windows? Find a qualified and trusted Window Specialist on Rated People by posting your job.

Iain Aitch

Iain is a London-based writer who works as a journalist for a number of newspapers and magazines. He has also written two books, one of which is a hilarious lexicon about Britishness – Iain is a Brit through and through!

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  1. our critta windowsl are approx. 78 years old. They need to be repaired or replaced. They are very draughty and have a lot of condensation
    during winter months and yes some of the panes are bowed.Your
    advice would help to get the process started to replace or repair.

    1. Hi Margaret, I’d recommend posting a job to have your windows repaired or replaced using the drop down selections on our homepage at Up to three tradespeople who work in your area will be able to give you a quote on the work.

      I hope this helps.

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