If you own a period flat or house, chances are that you bought it because you fell in love with the building’s original features. Traditional wooden sash windows can contribute significantly to the historic character of a building, and they are beautiful to behold.
However, what do you do if your sash windows are old and draughty? A combination of age, the hollow box of the sash, a warped frame and the sliding mechanism can all contribute to this unsatisfactory state of affairs.
The most drastic solution is to fit a new window as a replacement for the ones that are failing. However, replacing a sash window like for like can be very expensive and, if you live in a conservation area or your building is listed, you will need to obtain consent first. Replacing a sash window with a modern uPVC equivalent is, of course, possible (unless listed status or conservation area status forbids it) and considerably cheaper too, but the result will substantially change the appearance of the building – and often not in a good way.
If you want to retain the period character that makes your home so special but still improve the energy efficiency of your sash windows to save on heating costs, there are 3 solutions you may want to consider.
Curtains and Shutters
Your first port of call should be your window dressing. Don’t underestimate the effect of good old pair of curtains; they’ve been serving as a major source of protection from cold draughts for centuries. For best results, use thermally lined and interlined curtains with a heavy curtain fabric. Make them floor length if at all possible, unless there is a radiator underneath the window which shouldn’t be covered up.
Thick, heavy drapes in opulent fabrics can look stunning, especially in a large room with high ceilings and period features. Top off with a pelmet or other ornate finish for best effect.
Traditional sash windows were often made with accompanying internal shutters that would be closed at night to keep the heat in. Of course, during the 20th century and with the availability of cheap and convenient heating, these were used less and less; many were simply removed or painted over.
Luckily, wooden window shutters are now very on trend, so if your sash windows still have original shutters, now’s the time to have them refurbished, for reasons of style as well as functionality.
If your window shutters are fitting well, they can perform the same function as double glazing, providing valuable insulation during the hours of darkness, when it’s coldest.
Alternatively, why not have new shutters made to measure? Window shutter companies operate all over the country and there’s bound to be a reputable supplier near you, offering different designs and materials to suit your requirements. It could prove to be a good investment into your home.
In contrast to double glazing, secondary glazing is the addition of a second pane of glass to the inside of the window frame, so that the original window can be retained. That way, heat loss can be cut by around 60%, saving around 10% on your energy bill. Another bonus is that it’s reversible – simply take it out if you don’t like it! For a few hundred pounds, you can buy ready made kits that you can fit yourself, or get a trusted local tradesman to install secondary glazing for you.
If you’re looking for a cheaper, temporary solution, perhaps because you’re renting or money is tight, you could try adhesive window film that is fixed in place by way of hot air from a hairdryer. Window film should cut your heat loss by about a third and you can easily remove it, come summer.
Acrylic or polyester sheets perform a similar function and offer more robustness. They’re typically held in place with magnetic strips and can be easily fitted by a DIY competent person.
Professional Draught Proofing
If your traditional sash windows are cold and rattly for whatever reason, contact a specialist sash window company about having them professionally upgraded to provide extra draught proofing.
An expert carpenter will come out to your home and check the weights, fit new nylon cords and put in new parting and staff beads with draught excluders. He may also fit a draught excluder to the centre of your bottom sash, so that both sashes can still be operated as before and you don’t use any functionality. A brush pile draught excluder system is very effective against draughts and rattling. What’s more, draught proofing your sash windows also really helps with noise pollution, which is particularly relevant in urban environments.
While your windows are getting some much needed maintenance attention, why not take the opportunity to have window locks fitted for added security? Dual position locks are insurance approved and designed to be child safe, protecting fingers from getting caught in a slammed window.
Article provided by Sara Bryant, an independent writer working with Sash Window specialists Sash Window Tunbridge Wells.