Altering your listed windows
Wooden windows are a feature of any listed property. They provide a certain character that cannot be matched by modern windows. I certainly believe that each window tells a story and provides me with enough information to determine its age and history. They could be genuine to the original home, or they may have been altered or replaced in response to decay or changing fashions.
Limitations on listed windows
I truly appreciate the fact that listed properties have limitations set upon them to ensure the original windows are not replaced unnecessarily. If your house is listed you should seek advice before making changes to the windows. If your house is in a conservation area restrictions may also apply. It is, therefore, crucial to get expert advice when making any decisions that could change the windows in any way.
Why retain historic windows?
Original wooden windows have so much value it is difficult to make a list of elements to consider. I love seeing the original cylinder glass in old sashes. The imperfections give the windows so much character. Window glass was an expensive, hand-made product until the mid-1800s. The imperfections in old glass make them very attractive. Due to their thinness, they do break quite easily, so any original panes should be kept as they are rare.
The well-seasoned timber used to make these wooden windows should not be underestimated. Even some softer timbers were quite hard due to the time they had to mature. The modern timber companies use for windows is not as durable as these old timbers. Most of these windows have survived decades. I struggle to see why anyone would think that a new window could provide more longevity.
The mouldings around window frames have changed over time. This can help to date the window and the house. Sometimes these have been painted over quite badly, but a good restoration process should resolve this issue.
Hand made to perfection
Historic windows were hand-made by craftsmen. Thinner, lighter glass meant that frames and glazing bars could be slender – providing a beauty that has provided joy to all that would have lived in your home. I can only imagine the time it would have taken to make these sashes by hand. The workmanship is stunning. A newly manufactured sash could never provide the same charm. The importance of historic windows, with their wide range of styles and ages, can vary. But evidence of craftsmanship, the survival of old and rare material and detailed design are all of value.
Made to fit the house
Original windows were made to fit the house. The houses were built to last centuries – and they do. Why would any new window fit the character of the house better than the original windows? Even the old “like for like” excuse tends to disturb me as there is no plausible way to ever have a “like for like” replacement. Nothing is like the original windows and nothing will ever be like the original windows.
Renovation is better than replacement
Very few specialist wooden window restorers still exist. The “fast fashion” trend seems to have infiltrated the wooden window industry – ensuring that the cheap but cheerful new window joiners make a mint.
Unfortunately, the lack of competency has already made a noticeable impact on the number of original windows being ripped out for no good reason.
If you are considering any work on your listed windows – make sure you take the decision seriously. There are alternatives to replacement. Repair and restoration are always better than replacement.
When gathering quotes on your windows ensure you explore all avenues. New windows are not perfect. I have surveyed thousands of windows and I take more time exploring newer window condition than I would do for original windows. They just tend to rot and prove problematic.
If you take anything away from this article, I hope it would be the following:
1. Original wooden windows are awesome.
2. New windows are mostly dreadful.
Short, sweet and honest.
About Boulton & Boyce
Boulton & Boyce specialises in listed property window and door conservation. We produce specialist reports on listed window and door condition and provide our clients with clear and useful recommendations. This ensures our clients have the tools to know what to ask for when refurbishing their precious fittings, empowering them not to be sold a solution that does not suit their listed windows and doors. Contact us today for a free initial telephonic consultation.