Timber sash windows are a stunning part of our architectural heritage in South Devon. They’ve been part of our built environment since the eighteenth century, so we see them in Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian form – as well as more recent examples. Eventually, like all timber windows, sash window refurbishment or restoration may become necessary. Read on to learn more…
Timber sash windows are a tried and tested window design consisting of a timber sash box (sash case) holding one or two sliding sashes that move relative to each other.
To achieve their characteristic look and performance, sash windows feature a sophisticated arrangement of timber parts. These include top, bottom and meeting rails, stiles, jambs, sills, profiled sash horns and sash bars (‘muntins’ or ‘sash guts’) around glazing, scotia mouldings, and precision-made parting beads and staff beads.
Professional joinery skills
Don’t forget the joinery skill that goes into sash boxes. Making sure the moving parts move smoothly demands millimetre-precise gaps. Then there’s a largely-concealed system of sash weights, pulleys, cords and stops…
Okay, so we’re here to discuss sash window repair and restoration, but the point is that traditional sash windows are clever pieces of joinery, with lots of potential for deterioration. If you’re fortunate, problems may be as minor as superficial sill rot. But it could be worse…
Why do sash windows need restoration?
Take this sophisticated joinery, add decades of exposure to the elements and maybe throw in a bit of neglect. The potential for deterioration is great. Here are some things we often see when we’re called in to discuss sash window restoration:
- Rotten timber components.
- Loose corner joints due to glue deterioration.
- Expansion of sash boxes.
- Moisture ingress and timber swelling.
- Sticking sashes.
- Rattles and gaps.
- Broken sash cords.
Of course, the key to looking after sash windows is doing the right maintenance at the right time. It’s a good way to minimise the need for extensive repair or restoration. But what’s involved when restoration becomes unavoidable?
How do you restore a sash window?
The first stage of restoring sash windows, before we do any joinery or get the two-part epoxy resin out is to understand the window’s condition.
- Timber condition.
- Draught proofing.
- The state of sash cords, weights and pulleys.
- Condition and function of window furniture such as lifts catches and security fixtures.
- Paint (or other finish) condition.
With that done, we can get to work on the sashes and, if needed, sash boxes. Where possible, just as we’ll always try to restore sashes instead of opting for complete window sash replacement, we’ll avoid replacing whole sash boxes if possible.
With judicious use of timber repair systems and traditional joinery, we’ll aim to keep as much of the sash window and its joints as possible – and with them, your window’s character.
Occasionally, we do minor repairs on-site. However, we usually work in our sash window workshop. Unlike many property maintenance companies, we’ve got an in-house joinery repair shop with a dedicated spray booth. This gives us full control over restoration – from removing localised timber decay, stabilising wood and making repairs, to applying preservative-primer, preparing restored joinery for finishing and spraying it.
With joinery restored, we turn to draught-proofing with the installation of suitable draught-exclusion (typically EPDM or brush pile). We rarely use self-adhesive weatherproofing for sash windows. Instead, we prefer properly installed high-quality perimeter seals fitted into precision-routed grooves.
Sash cords, weights and pulleys
As part of restoring and refurbishing sash windows, we clean and prepare running faces where sashes and sash box meet. Next comes thorough inspection of the counterbalancing mechanism (chords, weights and pulleys), and adjustment or replacement as required, before setting up the now-smooth-running sashes in their sash box.
Sash window furniture
As for timber sashes and sash cases, we’ll adjust and reinstall as much existing window furniture as we can. It’s all part of keeping as much as possible of a window’s character.
Sometimes, we’ll need to replace locks, catches or lifts. If so, we’ve access to a wide range of replacements in traditional and contemporary styles to keep the look and feel of your windows.
Upgraded security fixtures
Window restoration may present opportunities to upgrade fittings – particularly security fixtures. For instance, it may be possible to replace traditional Fitch fasteners with more screw-down Brighton fasteners. We can also discreetly install security pins and security restrictors, and screw-attach timber parts such as internal staff beads or the upper sash’s front cheek. We’ll always advise on how to do this sensitively while keeping your windows’ character and pleasing conservation officers.
Wherever possible, we restore sash windows instead of replacing them. However, if restoration is the right option, rest assured that our bespoke joiners have all the equipment and skills to do this.
You might even consider upgrading to thermally-efficient slimline double glazed wooden sash windows – but that’s another story, for another blog post…
How much does it cost to restore a sash window?
Lastly, some thoughts on the cost to restore sash windows. We don’t publish menu prices. It’s not because we’re hiding anything. Far from it, because openness and transparency underpin everything we do. It’s because, as with all custom-made joinery, the scope of repair or restoration work varies so much between projects. We want to make sure our pricing is fair for everyone – that’s why we need to assess every project individually before pricing it.
Every project is different
On one sash window renovation job, window timber might only need minor repairs – perhaps done on-site with high-performance epoxy resins. Another time, we’ll find that sash decay (and maybe even their sash boxes too) has progressed much further. In that case, we’ll do extensive restoration offsite in our workshop – perhaps even involving making of new sash boxes.
Experience with Devon’s heritage properties
This is before we even consider draught-proofing work, repair or upgrade of fixtures and fittings, and your preferred finish. Whether the property is listed (or in a conservation area) also has implications for work needed. Rest assured that we’ve extensive experience working on Devon’s heritage properties – and with local building authorities and conservation officers.
The best approach really is for us to assess the wooden sash window repairs and restoration needed, suggest a solution, explain our reasons for the proposal, then offer clearly-priced alternatives.
The benefits of sash window restoration
Whether it’s a couple of windows or full-blown restoration of a houseful of box sashes, the result is a clear transformation that you can see and feel.
The integrity of the window will be, well, restored. The window will work as designed. And it will be newly draught proofed, which saves money and makes your home comfier. What’s more, if we’ve upgraded locks and catches it’ll be more secure too.
And as we mentioned earlier, because we’ll never replace a window that we can cost-effectively restore, you know that as much as possible of your window’s original character will be retained.
That’s timber window restoration with integrity for you. Now let’s talk about your timber sash window restoration.