Good windows can make or break the beauty of a house.
But they also have a serious job to do. They have to be easy and economical to maintain; and more than ever before they have to provide good insulation. The long hot summer of 2022 is highlighting the need for houses that we can keep cool in summer as well as warm in winter.
“The cost of replacing windows varies dramatically. If there are no restrictions in terms of what material and style you use, you can bring your windows up to a good insulation standard on a budget. But if you’re restricted by a Listing, or because you’re in a Conservation Area, or if you have a period property in which UVPC windows would look out of place, you are looking at much more significant costs. Replacing the sash windows in a Georgian property, or metal framed leaded lights in a period cottage, represents a substantial investment.
You can buy a 5’ x 3’ plastic double glazed window for around £250, but a double glazed hardwood sash window will cost more than three times that.
So what should buyers be considering when they’re assessing the windows of a new property?
Anto Clay of Stacks Property Search says, “Look at both aesthetics and practicalities. Windows can be incredibly seductive – huge sash windows in a beautiful Georgian house; leaded lights in a country cottage; or alternatively they can be a great big turn-off – ugly UPVC frames in a pretty Victorian terrace. Questions you should be asking yourself, and the vendor, are:
“Are they double glazed? If they’re not double glazed, you’re going to have to consider either replacing them with double glazed units or installing secondary glazing at some stage in the medium term. Windows are one of the worst culprits when it comes to bad insulation.
“Do they look good and suit the architecture of the property? Buying a house with terrible windows isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it should be factored into the price and it’s a great opportunity to bring them right up to current standards, and make them look great at the same time. But get a good ballpark figure for the investment you’ll need to make – windows have increased in price like all building materials, and labour continues on an its upwards trajectory.
“Do they open properly? And does their design allow them to be opened sufficiently to let lots of air in? Some modern windows only open a few inches. And many decrepit sash windows haven’t opened more than a crack for decades.
“What is their state of repair? Will they need replacing or repairing immediately or in the next year or two?
“Some materials are better than others, but all have their pros and cons.
“UVPC is long-lasting and requires little maintenance, but despite improvements in design they still don’t sit well in a period property. But they’re relatively cheap, and they perform well in insulation terms.
“Hardwood is often considered ideal being classic, attractive, reasonably robust and easy to double glaze. But they do need to be maintained well and repainted every four years or so, a job that for most property will require scaffolding.
“Soft wood is cheaper than hard wood, but less robust, and while easy to repair they can start deteriorating quickly and will need maintaining annually.
“Crittal-style steel frames are functional, utilitarian and should last way longer than wooden frames, requiring little in the way of maintenance. Modern steel framed windows are generally double glazed and provide a good fit and insulation; but original metal windows that won’t be double glazed can have big gaps due to inadequate fitting, and provide shockingly bad insulation.
“Anodised aluminium can mimic wood much better than any other material suitable for windows. And it doesn’t rot like wood. It has a questionable reputation because the original ones were brown or bronze and didn’t tick the aesthetic box. But the current versions are certainly worth investigating with the big advantages of durability, strength and slim frames.
“Finally, if you’re after the very best in insulation, consider shutters. They’re wonderful things, especially if you have them inside (to keep the cold out) and outside (to keep the heat out). Sash windows are wonderful for ventilation – open them top and bottom to create a natural circulation of air.
“And blinds and curtains can go a long way to compensating for rattling windows and badly fitted external doors.”
Stacks Property Search, 01594 842880 / www.stacks.co.uk