Sash Windows – A buying guide

Sash windows have been around since the 17th century and are an integral part of British architectural history. They have retained their charm even after all these years and any renovation or new construction that involves Victorian, Georgian or Edwardian architecture does well to consider incorporating them.

Best suited for the damp British climate, their design allows for efficient ventilation, whilst minimising the chance of rain entering. With regular and proper maintenance their lifespan can be increased; they can last generations and the aesthetic value that they add to a facade has yet to be surpassed by other styles. However, choosing the right sash window for your property is not as simple as walking in and out of Asda; you need to consider a few key points before making the final call.

Here are a few things that you must keep in mind before you go sash “window” shopping (pun intended):-

  • Choose windows for the right period

    Vintage properties were built with painstaking attention to detail. The materials used and the design selected weren’t random; they were the result of a well thought out and a well-researched process. Therefore, when restoring period properties, or building new properties in a similar style, you must keep in mind the era to which the property belongs.

The number of panes in a sash window is an important factor. In Georgian architecture, “six over six” configuration was used, whilst the “two over two” configuration leans more towards the Victorian side. The Venetian style, which consisted of a central sliding sash with two fixed panes and the Queen Anne Revival style, which had several panes in the upper sash, but only one or two in the lower one, are other styles to consider.

The Gothic revival periods often used arches instead of rectangular sashes, whilst the Yorkshire sash of the period tends to have horizontally sliding, although many different configurations existed during that time.

  • Restoration vs Replacement

    Renovators often make the mistake of replacing the original timber sashes and replacing them with new ones. Timber often lasts a long time if properly taken care of and wherever possible, existing timber sashes should be repaired, waterproofed and coated with varnish to enhance their life. If the windows are too damaged to be repaired or have disappeared completely, you can purchase authentic replacements from companies that manufacture them.

  • Choose the right material

    If the building being renovated is a listed building or is located in a Conservation Area, then timber is the first and only choice for traditionalists. Plastic sashes cost less but it is simply not possible to achieve the same aesthetic and functional effects that wood provides. Wood is a highly durable and an effective insulator, and, when correctly maintained, it can last a very long time.

The myth surrounding wooden sashes is that they’re high maintenance, which isn’t entirely true, as with proper upkeep cracking, paint flaking and structural decay can be prevented.

PVC is also used as an alternative to wood. It comes in a wide range of colours, but the most commonly used colour for PVC sashes is white. Certain paint schemes can bring about a photo-effect wooden finish on a PVC sash.

The major advantages of using PVC are low maintenance costs and increased energy efficiency, but PVC cannot be recycled. Being far cheaper than timber and more durable than plastic, PVC can be an attractive option that lasts, but it is difficult to repair. A combination of materials is best suited in certain situations where better, longer lasting sashes can be constructed by using composite materials – timber on the interior and aluminium on the exterior. This retains the classic wooden look on the inside and creates a stronger, low maintenance and all-weather structure on the outside.

  • Extent of repair or restoration required

    While you may be tempted to go for a DIY (Do It Yourself) strategy, an analysis of the extent of repair required is essential in deciding whether you should carry out the repairs yourself or call an expert. A seemingly easy repair might damage the entire structure and rob the building of precious heritage if done incorrectly. Enlist the services of an expert if you are not confident about doing it yourself.