Repair of wooden windows

By , May 9, 2016 3:49 pm


Windows need to perform an essential function and, if they are not working well or do not meet current comfort standards, it is too often thought easier or cheaper to replace them rather than to overhaul, repair or upgrade. Replacement should only happen if there is no conceivable alternative and in practise there nearly always is. Traditional windows can be re-fitted, operation can be overhauled, draughts can be stopped, finishes can be redecorated; and neatly designed internal secondary glazing can be fitted to improve thermal and acoustic performance.

Self-finish PVC-U replacement windows often look harsh and bland against old buildings and they can also create a sealed environment which can lead to mould and damp. PVC-U windows are often marketed as maintenance-free and cheaper alternatives to timber windows. However, a new independent study has concluded that timber windows perform better and are 14-25% cheaper than PVC-U with the same specification, considering their overall life cycle.

PVC-U products are initially cheaper, but are very liable to damage and usually come in very chunky designs. With their often bright white colour, they stand out rather than integrate and degrade when exposed to sunlight. The study concluded that the typical lifespan of a PVC-U window is only 18 years and they require 8 times more energy to make using non-renewable resources – of which only 3% can be recycled; 82% goes to landfill and 15% is incinerated releasing toxic chemicals.

In comparison, wooden windows have strong environmental credentials, they are thermally more efficient and can be repaired. Original oak window frames from the 17th century still exist in some of the oldest houses in the Parish.

Regular maintenance extends the life cycle of timber windows, but if neglected their condition can rapidly progress to a state beyond repair. The physical and environmental cost of replacement is best avoided, but if absolutely unavoidable then quality workmanship and good design are very important. The new windows should always match the original design and the timber used should be certified by an independent body, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings has a free advice line and many useful pamphlets and books that you can order ( This information is very useful, whether you have a house that is medieval or one built in the 1930’s.

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