Sash windows were the standard method of window construction in Britain for 250 years. From the late-1600s builders employed this popular model in architecture of all modes, from poor houses to palaces.
Renowned for their aesthetic beauty, sash windows lend a home an air of old-fashioned refinement.
The timber-framed sashes (the wood and glass frames) are attached to thick cords that run through a pulley system. Heavy weights hang in boxes in the side frames. These weights balance the sash so that the window, if opened, stays up. It is an elegant system that (when operating correctly) is graceful and avoids the need for hinges that can become faulty.
A maintenance nightmare
Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever owned a house with this type of window joinery knows, sash windows can be a maintenance nightmare.
Homeowners who purchase older houses often find that windows are suffering from a series of common ailments.
- Broken sash cords
- Rotting timber
- Deteriorated mortar around window
- Moisture soaking into surrounding walls
- Flaking paintwork
- Rattling and movement
- Window does not open or will not entirely close
Victorian properties are prone to these problems. A skilled tradesperson can repair minor defects or refurbish small areas with new timber. If more severe deterioration has occurred, the windows may need to be replaced in their entirety.
There is a temptation for homeowners who are replacing windows to choose more resilient materials, such as metal or plastic, for their new frames. This is a matter of controversy with advocates of preservation who argue that it compromises the aesthetic quality of a property.
This process can be complicated further if the property lies in a local authority conservation area or is a listed building.