Do I Need New Windows?

Spanking new windows can give your home an instant makeover, improving its kerb appeal and making it warmer and draught-free indoors, too. But it is a costly investment and one you don't want to get wrong. Our guide takes you through the dos and don'ts of new windows, from working out if you need them in the first place, to what material to go for.

By Kerry Young

Replacement Windows: A Guide

Do I Need New Windows?

It's an expensive job, but there are many reasons why you may want to replace the windows in your home. Swapping ugly windows installed by a former occupant for sympathetic new ones can transform a 'blah' home into a 'wow' one, and if you don't have it already, double glazing will cut your energy bills, reduce traffic noise, improve security and boost your home's green rating.

Or maybe your existing windows have simply seen better days, with sticking sashes, draughty casements or rotten frames. Obviously it is cheaper and more environmentally friendly to fix up an existing window than replace it, plus if you live in a period property, original windows are a huge asset, so deciding to replace the windows is a big step. Whichever direction you go in - repair or replace - doing nothing is not an option if they are falling apart.

Windows that are salvageable will soon become only fit for the tip if you don't fix them soon, and if you wanted to sell, rotting windows won't endear the property to potential buyers. According to Richard Hair of the NAEA (National Association of Estate Agents), on the average home, even cheap new uPVC windows are a more attractive prospect to buyers than windows that are in need of attention (although you may not necessarily recoup the cost of installing them).

Original Wood Windows

Original wooden windows still do the job in buildings that are hundreds of years old, so with the right care they should last a lifetime. They need to be regularly painted or weather-treated to protect the wood from the elements - once this has been allowed to slide, rot can set in pretty quickly, so if your windows have flaking paint or varnish, do something about it sharpish.

The type of wood used in older properties (more than a century old) tends to be of a better quality than modern wood windows and so ironically is more likely to be worth repairing than a much newer window. A bad sign is if recently applied paint starts to blister - this is an indication that the wood underneath is wet and rotten and may be past repair. A professional will be able to assess the level of rot using a damp meter (or a strategically gouged screwdriver!) and let you know if the window can be repaired. Call on the services of a local joiner to assess the state of the frames and sort them for you.
Replacement Windows: A Guide

Sash Windows

Original sash windows are found in many Victorian and Edwardian homes, and are an attractive feature much beloved of buyers. However, their mechanism is prone to problems and unloved windows with broken cords, stuck top sashes and improperly weighted sashes can make the windows unusable. Nonetheless, they are usually fairly straightforward to fix - even for a DIYer - and there are a rash of sash window specialists who will make yours fully functioning for you - check out your Yellow Pages. They can also draught-proof the original window, so no more icy draughts.

uPVC Windows

While uPVC windows are hardwearing, they do have a finite lifespan - uPVC that is faded, yellowed or become brittle, and units that mist and fog up are pretty much unrepairable. If you have uPVC windows that are reaching retirement age (this depends on the quality of the product but the most optimistic estimate is up to 35 years), then replacing them is your only option. Many people of course just hate uPVC and choose to replace them with wood, but this is a financial gamble if you are hoping to make the house more saleable.

Steel Windows

Metal windows have not been feeling much love for many years - they can be a bit cold and damp and have a vague association with grim post-war council housing - but in some properties, such as Art Deco style buildings for example, or modern loft apartments, they look fabulous and completely appropriate. The old Crittal-style steel windows are in danger of extinction as so many have been replaced over the years, but these types of window are actually very hardwearing and can be fixed up to improve their performance. You will need to get in touch with a specialist company though - contact the Steel Window Association. Old-style metal windows are single-glazed, so you will need to replace them if you want double glazing.

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