A big lesson for restorers: I’ve seen a number of restorations where the owners have paid minute attention to the last detail of plaster, pointing, paintwork and original guttering. And then ripped the original windows out, to replace them with modern double- or triple-glazed ‘copies’. This is almost invariably to the detriment of the character and appearance of the building.
on even the closest-matched of our windows, there’s a 2-3cm discrepancy in dimensions
Don’t forget that the windows are the eyes of the building and few things have such a dramatic impact on the visual character of a place than the windows: the finest building with crude uPVC windows becomes a mere yobbish travesty of its former self. With listed buildings, this is even more important and much consideration should always be given about just what could and should be done.
Of course, that temptation is always there: the top reasons for replacing old windows are comfort and energy efficiency, followed at some distance by reduced maintenance.
This was the area that occasioned much head-scratching – the house was entirely single-glazed, with 21 original sash-framed windows and much of the original glass. We did consider conservation-grade individual double-glazing panels but rejected that on the grounds of cost, aesthetics and a reluctance to lose the original glass. Secondary double-glazing was not seriously considered due to its ineffectiveness and gratuitous ugliness. So we replaced cracked and broken panes with conservation glass and have had all window frames and sashes restored and renovated. Because the originals were of high-quality, slow-grown baltic pine, only a few required replacement of cills or stiles. We then commissioned insulating wooden shutters for the windows, to the same Arts and Crafts-inspired design that we used for the kitchen and cupboard units. These provide insulation in both summer and winter – in high sun, by keeping the south-facing shutters closed, internal temperature is maintained within +/- 3°C of the design temperature.
Five new roof lights in the main wing of the property are modern cast iron replicas of period roof lights, albeit with low-E, self-cleaning double glazing. These provide light to the living areas and to the attic space, their positioning designed to provide a cross-draught to extract rising hot air during the occasional Scottish summer.
Internal window boards were replaced with custom-made oak and elm to match the other commissioned fittings.