Replacing your windows

The windows on your home can so often seem like something of an afterthought. As long as they keep the wind and rain out then most people are happy with whatever they have inherited from a previous owner or whatever a canny double glazing salesman has convinced them they need.

But, in reality, the windows that face outwards towards the world are far more than simple windbreakers. They are pieces of design that have been considered, drawn, tested and formed. The architects who designed your home will have pondered different designs, different sizes, even different shapes. So, when it comes to replacing your windows you should do a little more than simply go for whatever the nearest supplier has in stock.

The main types of window frame are wood and uPVC, although some architectural periods (notably between the 1930s and 1970s) favoured metal frames, usually breaking the panes up into smaller parts as part of the design of the building. These steel or aluminium windows were most usually seen on blocks of low-rise flats but some ‘suburban’ homes also had this design, often with curved glass used in bay windows.

steel window frames

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These metal frames can look outstanding, but those looking to keep the design long-term can be sure that a hefty bill will be coming their way before long. Metal windows are expensive to replace, unless they can be picked up at salvage yards. Replacing the curved glass can be even more expensive and attempts to fudge a replacement for metal window frames with uPVC can often look terrible, spoiling the line of the building. This is usually your only option if you want to upgrade to double glazing. It’s definitely something to consider if you are looking at buying a property with metal window frames.

Wooden sash windows are the main type of windows that draw our eye when considering a property. They are usually pleasing in size, offer a way to really let the air into your home and have a stately period appearance. Looked after well, sash windows will last you forever. They may need the odd bit of maintenance now and again but that is usually restricted to replacing the sash cords. Unfortunately, not all sash windows are well looked after, so some may be susceptible to rot. You are then left with the decision of whether to replace them with wooden frames from a specialist supplier or go with uPVC sash windows.

wooden sash windows

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The latter option doesn’t have to be a terrible one, as many businesses now make uPVC frames that are all but indistinguishable from wooden ones. The main thing to consider is that despite what its manufacturers may claim, a uPVC window frame will not outlast a well-maintained wooden sash, unless we are talking in terms of bio-degradation. If you use sustainably-sourced wood you will be making a purchase that is far kinder to the environment and will stay looking good for longer. UPVC can start to lose its finish and can also fade rapidly, especially if you opt for coloured finishes.

The mullions or muntin that divides windows or panes often looks better on wooden frames but you will often find that these are an unnecessary feature anyway, especially if you look back at the original designs for your home.

My advice would be to always speak to a professional before considering replacing your windows. Additionally, you should always remember that a good glazing expert can be far better than someone whose only interest is in selling from the limited range of windows that their business sells, be they wood or uPVC.

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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One Comment

  1. My energy bills haven’t been all that great, and I suspect my windows might be the culprit. I’ve been looking at having them replaced, but there seems to be so many different options available. I’ll definitely take your advice and start by speaking with a professional to see what I should do.

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