‘Done well, new windows will usually increase your property’s value,’ says Dave Barrett, group managing director of A&B Glass, who set up the Better Fitters Code of Practice for local window retailers. ‘But expect it to be a significant investment and one that will warrant a lot of thought and research.’
It’s important to be clear why you want new windows. Perhaps it’s for aesthetic reasons – new windows and doors can transform even the most tired property, adding significant kerb appeal. Maybe it’s for security reasons – good windows offer heightened security, often with six-point locking and heavy-duty hinges. Or you might be changing your windows to improve the thermal performance of your home. Here are the answers to key questions about window replacements.
Real oak casements by Jeld-Wen
How do I know what style of window will suit my house?
‘Deciding on the right style can be a minefield – from sliding sash, casement and flush casement to tilt and turn, top-hung openers, and everything in between. There are more and more styles available and companies out there who will provide almost any colour you can imagine,’ says Dave. ‘Take note of the style windows in your neighbours’ properties and consider whether you want yours to be in keeping with the majority of your street. Then get some advice – take a photo of your house into a window showroom and ask to see some different styles of windows which would suit your home.’ You’ll know you’ve found a good window retailer if they are full of suggestions that are above, below and on budget.
If you have a traditional house, Dave advises looking for someone who shows a genuine interest and understanding about period properties and who describes the ways in which the new windows will enhance the character of your home.
If you live in a listed property or conservation area, your options might be limited by planning permission, so contact your local authority to see if you’re restricted to a certain style of window, says Mike Ward, managing director of Jeld-Wen. ‘It’s key to assess the character of your property and what window solutions will enhance its beauty whilst providing plenty of light, energy efficiency, and heat retention,’ he adds.
Once you’ve chosen a style, the next big decision is colour and you’ll need to decide if you’d like the same frame colour outside as inside, explains Dave. Once that’s sorted, you can choose the finish: either smooth or a woodgrain effect. Then you’ve got all the accessories to think about – the handles, peg stays, locks, the shape of the windowsill and the different styles of ventilation, right down to the pattern for bathroom privacy glass and the colour of the ‘spacer bar’ in between the double or triple glazing.
Other considerations include which windows need to be designated fire escapes and, if you’ve got young children, you might want to restrict the opening of some windows, adds Dave.
The last thing, which is becoming increasingly popular, is the option for ‘easy clean’ windows – if you want to, you can wave goodbye to your window cleaner with windows that slide towards the centre of the frame to give easy access for cleaning.
What materials should I go for?
With the availability of increasingly impressive modern materials, there is no clear winner when it comes to wood, uPVC and aluminium. They all have their pros and cons and it will usually come down to personal taste and budget.
‘One industry that has come a long way is the uPVC window market,’ explains Dave. When they were first launched, ‘plastic’ windows weren’t able to deliver an aesthetic that suited every homeowner. The early styles were limited and many people experienced discolouration or fading as time went by. Now, however, those early generation uPVC products are being phased out in favour of high-quality products that will stand the test of time and still look as good in 20 years as the day they were installed.
‘The style and colour choices of uPVC windows is almost unlimited, with many designs also now available for customers looking for something that emulates the natural appearance and woodgrain texture of traditional wooden windows. With uPVC, you can achieve great aesthetics at affordable prices, with all the benefits of modern materials – low maintenance, durable, high security and excellent thermal performance.’
‘Wooden frame windows have traditionally been associated with high levels of maintenance in terms of regular re-painting/ varnishing and preservation to avoid warping and rotting. But over the last few years, advances in manufacturing processes have begun to close the performance gap between man-made materials and timber.
‘Many homeowners enjoy having windows made from a natural timber product, a sustainable building material that can add a touch of luxury with subtle design features,’ explains Dave. A significant appeal of timber is that it can be updated easily with a fresh coat of paint or stain. A down-side of timber windows in days gone by were the draughts – many people still believe that wooden windows won’t offer particularly good thermal performance, but that’s far from true with modern windows. Timber is a naturally insulating material and both softwood and hardwood windows are available with high performance double or triple glazing.
Mike adds, ‘If you’re replacing period windows, the material has to be appropriate to that era and will usually be wood. If you are looking for the ultimate timber choice, oak windows are incredibly desirable and will immediately create a very high-end finish. For a more affordable alternative, opt for softwood timber frames that can be customised in a wide range of colours, designs and specifications. For those who are also concerned about their environmental impact, timber offers a way to be carbon neutral, as well as using a material that’s fully recyclable and biodegradable.’
Aluminium windows were popular in the latter half of the 20th century and are making a real design comeback. ‘The appeal of aluminium is its versatility,’ says Dave. ‘It can be finished to retain a metal appearance, but equally it can be designed to look like wood. It sounds strange, but aluminium windows are becoming really popular amongst owners of traditional homes because they can offer an authentic-looking wood finish. The downside is the cost – aluminium is an expensive building material.’
What do I need to consider before ordering new windows?
It’s so important to find the best tradespeople for the job, and a recommendation from friends and family is usually the best option. Dave adds, ‘In the absence of a recommendation, finding a reputable company that belongs to a professional association or national network can often be the safest solution, for example the Certified Installer Network, which I set up in an attempt to raise standards for homeowners across the country.’
Look for an installer who can show you examples of previous work in your area and when you talk to different retailers, make sure they’re telling you about the latest technologies and products which are easy to operate and maintain – find someone who leaves you feeling fully informed and confident to make decisions
Mike adds, ‘If you’re planning on ordering your windows far in advance, one thing to bear in mind is to leave time to finalise the building design or aperture size so you can account for them in the final order. Once you have specified or ordered your new windows it won’t be simple to make changes and can be confusing to both the homeowner and the supplier, so it’s important to be certain about your design and measurements prior to placing the order.’
You then need to make allowances for lead times, particularly if you have a made-to-measure order.
Do I need double or triple glazing?
Triple glazing is perfect for anyone looking for a warmer, quieter and more secure home and there are triple-glazed windows out there with an energy rating of A++.
‘As regulations tighten around wall insulation, windows are often the weak spot in thermal performance,’ explains Dave. ‘When homeowners go to the trouble of insulating the walls, roof and floor of a house, if the thermal efficiency of the glazing is ignored then inconsistencies can occur and result in cold spots throughout the house. Triple glazing is seen by many people as a way to invest in ‘future proofing’ their home. My advice if you want to go for triple glazing is to find a unit size which is a minimum of 44mm overall, because that’s what we know is required for triple-glazed windows to deliver tangible benefits over double glazing.’
‘It’s a common misconception that timber windows are always single glazed,’ adds Mike. ‘But that’s not the case anymore; modern timber windows are supplied with double or triple glazing and offer a full range of benefits just as other counterparts. As well as being more energy efficient, it offers improved acoustic performance, which may be important if you live in a busy area.
Do wooden windows still require lots of maintenance?
‘No, but that’s a common misconception,’ says Mike. ‘A simple wash down twice a year using soapy water will easily help to extend the life of timber windows.’ For pigmented-coated systems in white or pastel colours, the suggested redecoration cycle is from five years in an extreme climate through to 10 years in a sheltered or partly sheltered location with a moderate climate. For stain and lacquer coating systems, the cycle could be from two to six years.
How long should my new windows last?
Most uPVC windows will last over 30 years, aluminium 45 years and wood more than 60 years, advises Dave.
‘If specified and fitted correctly, your windows will last many years,’ says Mike. ‘We provide various quality and performance guarantees on Jeld-Wen products, from 10 years against manufacturing defects or double/triple glazing failure on factory glazed windows, through to 30 years against rot and fungal attack on oak and hardwood timber components, and 40 years on softwood.’
‘Protect your investment by establishing with the retailer you choose what types of insurance and guarantees are in place,’ adds Dave. And find out who is behind the guarantee – it may be a 20-year guarantee, but if your chosen retailer goes out of business then it will become worthless. The best thing to look for is an insurance-backed guarantee, only then can you have complete confidence.’