I think one of the key things that separates those of us who are ‘into’ homes – including our readers, writers, editors and of course the misguided coterie of self builders, renovators, architects, builders and so on who aren’t members of the Homebuilding & Renovating church – from those who aren’t (let’s face it: most people) is paying close attention to windows.
I never could quite get the people who prefer to spend their money on normal things like holidays, flash cars and designer clothes rather than their living spaces. For these people, windows are something that isn’t important. It doesn’t matter how they look, or how they perform, or how much light they let in — just don’t spend too much on them.
Us wise souls know that windows and doors are the making of a house. We want them to look great from the outside — with balanced sightlines and minimal framing at that. From the inside, we want the frames to be modest too, because we want to maximise light. As we want more glazing in our walls and roofs than ever, so the role of the window has become elevated.
The good news is that it’s an obsession that is helped by the knowledge that in making the right choice you’re getting it right for the effective lifetime of the home, too. Windows have become part of the architectural design of homes, and homes are all the better for it.
It is in this context (some might call it madness), that we approached the decision around what to do with our house. I’d admired the aluminium-framed variety and, it being a modern home, knew that this seemed a sensible option. After much deliberation, we chose Velfac. I always remember the brilliant architect Martin Hall telling me that, in his view, pound for pound they were the best you could get — and other architects I know and respect equally had all put Velfacs on their homes.
Door-wise, we opted for a mix of French openings, and on the front living room, a four-panel sliding door that opens out from the centre — and feels as smooth as silk to use.
Glazing-wise, we opted for triple glazing on the north elevations, and double glazing on the rest of the house. As I understand it, we’d want the heat from the southerly sun into the house almost all the time, so why block it out?
Fitting the windows took around three days for our approved fitter (Simon Chadwick at SMC Architectural Installations) and his army of men. An amazingly fast job.
Given that light (or the lack of it) was one of the early problems we had identified with the existing house, we also wanted to use a large rooflight to – apologies for the cliché – ‘flood’ the hallway with light from above. I had some worries on this front — a poor performing rooflight would ruin a lot of the good work elsewhere, and one that looked too ‘framey’ would ruin the benefit of the light.
We also wanted to make sure we couldn’t hear heavy rain on what would be in effect a glass roof. We looked around and chose a flush triple-glazed rooflight from Glazing Vision. It was heavy to fit – it weighs over 120kg – and getting it in position on top of a tall first floor landing was not brilliant fun, but now it’s in, we can’t hear the rain and we get brilliant views of the sky and loads of light. With it being flush and frameless, you almost don’t notice it — but it is essential to the success of our home.
We did make one mistake which is worth passing on. Our window schedule was complicated — we had windows going into the extension; windows replacing existing windows like-for-like; and some windows going into new openings in the existing house. As a result, we not only managed to order the wrong sill depths (with various overcladdings, the thickness of our walls is quite varied), but also the wrong window sizes for around half the windows in the existing house.
A simple mistake – and one that could have been avoided by double checking the replacement window sizes before we ordered – but still, once rectified we were finally weathertight.