Content Supplied by WOOD WINDOW ALLIANCE
Do you know your sashes from your casements? Your double-hung sash from your Yorkshire light? We have been creating holes in our homes to let in the sun, then covering it with hide, wood or cloth to keep out the weather, since before there was a word for it; window – said to come from the old Norse vindauga, which means wind eye – wasn’t recorded until the early 13th century.
Before the 16th century, glass was only used in windows for buildings of status, the small panes held in place by lead strips. In prosperous Tudor times, windows were larger, but divided into smaller openings or lights. One of these might feature a casement in a wrought-iron frame with a vertical hinge, so it could be swung open like a little door.
The 17th century saw the increasing use of timber frames, and towards the end of the 1600s, sash windows became hugely popular, not only used in new buildings of the time but also to replace older hinged casement windows. Early sashes had a fixed top half and a bottom half that slid upwards and was held in place with pegs or metal catches. The later double-hung sash could be opened top and bottom, operated by a pulley system with a weighted cord concealed in the frame. It is a design that has endured for 300 years. Less familiar is the Yorkshire sash, which slides open sideways rather than vertically.
Since the 1970s, aluminium and then uPVC (unplasticized polyvinyl chloride), have been used for frames, driven by people’s enthusiasm for perceived low-maintenance windows. However, although homeowners were keen to embrace the benefits of the new materials in keeping their houses warm while requiring minimal upkeep, they found they still wanted the look of the old, leading to an increasing demand for man-made materials that resembled wood.
But it is one of the myths about timber windows that they aren’t as easy to maintain, as durable or as competitively priced as their wood-effect counterparts.
The quality and engineering of wood windows has undergone a revolution in recent years, with low maintenance coatings that only need refreshing every eight-10 years in certain environments, and frames that can be expected to last around 60 years.
Tony Pell, of the Wood Window Alliance (WWA), debunks some of the myths and misconceptions about wood windows.
They require lots of maintenance
Factory-finished timber windows are given a specialist spray-coated paint finish for even and durable coverage which might only need redoing once a decade. Then all that is required is a rub down with sandpaper, wipe clean and one or two top coats. Lighter paint colours reflect UV rays that can break down the surface of the paint, meaning they won’t require repainting as regularly as darker colours.
They will rot quickly
Provided they’re maintained, the lifespan of softwood frames is about 60 years and modified wood is around 80 years. This compares favourably to uPVC which can become brittle and discoloured due to exposure to sun. Wood windows can also be repaired, which starts their lifespan all over again.
They are expensive
The robustness of wood windows means they work out to be less expensive because of how long they’ll last. They will also add value as classic timber designs in keeping with the style of your house have been found to make it more appealing to potential buyers.
They only suit period homes
The variety of timbers and designs means that they can look as at home in a new build as they can in a property that’s been standing for a century or more. A practical timber for windows is engineered softwood. For houses in exposed sites, such as coastal areas, consider a modified timber like Accoya. They can be readily repainted in whatever colour you choose to update the look of your home.
They are draughty and aren’t energy efficient
Wood windows can be both double or triple glazed. The strength of timber means triple-glazing is more cost-effective with wood than with other materials.
“Windows make a significant contribution to the efficiency and beauty of a home. People who haven’t experienced modern high-performance WWA wood windows before will be amazed at the difference they make to the warmth of a home,” – Tony Pell, Wood Window Alliance
About the Wood Window Alliance
The Wood Window Alliance (WWA) is made up of more than 20 members manufacturing many different kinds of doors and windows, that promotes and champions the beauty, efficiency and durability of wood window frames. Visit woodwindowalliance.com for more details.