Listed property windows and doors should not be replaced.
The quintessential English wooden door and window has been part of our architectural treasure chest for centuries. Built to last quite a few lifetimes and proven to do so quite effortlessly if maintained, it has become apparent in the last 40 years that the perception of their value to period properties has been lost.
Due to a proliferation of new joinery manufacturers and the seeping in of a “throw-away” culture within our communities, it seems that this dark cloud has also penetrated a previously fiercely protected heritage industry. Listed properties are changed due to the new owners’ desire to achieve a higher level of comfort within properties where smart alternatives could accomplish the same results without leading to structural replacements.
I visit hundreds of properties, and it is with sadness that I’ve seen a sharp increase in local conservation officers allowing the replacement of original windows and doors. It is difficult to determine whether this is due to lack of knowledge on the part of some ill-informed officers or stems from a broader cancerous epidemic saturating our perception of what is worth keeping and what is possible as alternatives to replacement.
New modernisation techniques and repair processes have allowed conscientious specialists the ability to provide listed property owners with efficient solutions to their window and door qualms without going to the fatal option of replacement.
It would be comfortable to focus on what the authorities would allow us to change and accept this as the answer. We push the boundaries of what we believe would solve our concerns and see what they’ll let through. I have two significant concerns about this attitude.
Firstly, it concerns me that conservation officers aren’t more confident in disallowing change for the sake of change. My sincere thoughts are that they are overwhelmed by the number of applications and cannot correctly give each the attention it deserves. This is a discussion for another time…
Secondly, I am unsettled by the thought that owners are being “sold” the deception that new is always better or that items are beyond repair.
We, as listed property owners, cannot blame anyone else than ourselves for this occurrence. It seems like harsh words, but the fact remains that we are custodians of the original features of our listed properties. We can turn the tide on a culture that could risk extinguishing the fire that still burns so fiercely in our beloved country.
I consult on a daily basis with listed property owners on their concerns surrounding their original windows and doors. The stark reality of an increase on misguiding information being given to them – on which plans and applications are based – is quite noticeable. The options presented are limited to those that are fleeting – in my eyes representing a temporary balm that would only provide a limited or short-lived relieve to the ailments that trouble the owners or, on the opposite end of the scale are permanent. However, these “permanent” solutions are almost always based on the perception that new is better.
Is new always better? Are a few extra degrees of warmth or a minimal increase of pounds in the bank at the end of each month worth the destruction of an original window or door? I think not. From experience in the quality of some replacements, it has also become apparent that new could be so pathetic that the removal of the original items should be viewed as an atrocity.
My suggestion is for listed property owners to thoroughly research all potential solutions to their windows and doors with a strong acknowledgement of why they bought a listed property in the first place – to own a piece of history and act as a custodian for those that would have the pleasure of owning such property in the future.
Find an expert that has the knowledge and willingness NOT to “sell” you any solution, but provide you with objective information as to what is possible and what is required. I believe you would be surprised as to how many alternatives to replacement exist if you delve deeper. Take the time to make an informed decision. I think the windows and doors have deserved that.