This afternoon Jessica is back with more from her Real Renovation. Having grown up in period houses I think I have somewhat taken for granted the beautiful large windows that come with older properties and so it has been a revelation for me to see the care which Jess has poured into returning the ones in her home to their former glory. Looking at the images here, they’re also such a focal point for a room, so I hope this is both a useful and inspiring post for those renovators amongst you!
Well, I can tell you that the windows at the front of our house were in need of laser correction and serious cosmetic surgery! Part of what attracted us to the house were the original big sash windows. And unusually, many of our neighbours also had their original windows, making what I think is quite uniform and attractive street, (there is an edge of OCD in all of us!) So despite the structural survey recommending a window overhaul, we weren’t put off buying it. We moved house in July, which I think might have affected our judgement somewhat. It was quite warm, no frost, reasonable amounts of sunshine, and we spent quite a lot of time outdoors. But as the days shortened and temperatures dropped, we realised just what a problem the windows were going to be.
The first problem was their lack of insulating properties. The three box sashes in the bays take up most of the wall which is a big surface area from which we were losing a lot of heat (and money). The next problem was the lack of sound insulation, which after moving from a modern flat was particularly noticeable. Anyone walking past the house whilst talking sounded like they were in the living room with us and I can only presume the opposite was also true! Another big problem was the safety and security issue, because glass making over a hundred years ago was not up to modern standards and our paper thin glass would smash with just the slightest of knocks. Add to that the horrible condensation that would build up every day and even drip down the walls causing damp patches, it really was something we needed to fix.
Image Credit: Sofa.com
Our options were ranging from a bit of light titivation, maybe the Botox equivalent for windows, to a simple eye lift, right through to the full facelift option. We had three realistic options. The first was to renovate the existing boxes and sashes, sanding the paint work and repainting, adding some beading strips to help insulate but keeping the original glass. This was an appealing option because it was the cheapest and would give a good cosmetic result. But it wouldn’t address the issue of the thin original glass and lack of sound and heat insulation.
Our second option was to keep and restore the original boxes and replace the sashes with new hardwood double glazed sash panels. This would keep the appearance of the windows and help to insulate the house, but would never be quite as good at insulating as modern uPVC windows. The downside of this option is that it was the most expensive, and wooden windows require more maintenance than uPVC. And so the third option was to completely replace the windows with modern uPVC windows, which can be made to look very similar to original sash windows although many open outwards rather than slide up to open. This would provide the best insulation with some compromise on aesthetics.
So after a lot of number crunching we decided to go with option two, the eye lift! We really wanted to keep the original windows, and we found a really enthusiastic team of carpenters who were as keen as we were to maintain as much original wood as possible. They came and measured our windows and after about 4 weeks they came back for just two days to restore the original boxes and insert the new double glazed sashes… and we were thrilled with the work they did. We are now much warmer, the house looks much smarter from both inside and out, and the condensation is gone. I am now looking forward to some warm summer days when I can happily slide the sashes open and be reminded of the great craftsmanship that went in to making the windows in the first place.
With the windows looking good we now need to decide on some suitable window dressings, instead of the flimsy temporary solution we have at the moment, and I hope to bring you our progress on that in a future post. But for now, with new 21st century double glazed sashes sitting happily in 19th century hardwood boxes, we think we have done the right thing by our home, giving it back the good looks of its youth, and allowing it to see clearly again at last!