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Heartfelt plea not to remove sash windows

(168 Posts)
Rooners Sat 09-Aug-14 10:43:49

I thought this might just persuade a few people but it seems such a desperate thing, now, with nearly everyone being told by their surveyor or just persuaded by popular trends to replace beautiful old wooden windows with UPVC.

I've been looking at Rightmove and elsewhere SOLIDLY for about 9 months now, and we are only just exchanging contracts this week on a place so I kind of know the scarcity of houses with original windows.

There are SO few. sad

People are often not aware of the quality of craftsmanship that went into them - or the high quality of wood that you just cannot get these days, even if you use a high end replacement sash company to make brand new ones to match - and assume that they will not last, will be high maintenance, and that the UPVC ones will be superior.

It's really sad but the thing is, UPVC windows have built in obsolescence - they will eventually get black mould or staining on them, which can't be cleaned off, and will generally last around 50 years as opposed to a hundred or two hundred years with properly maintained wooden ones. All it takes is a coat of paint every year or three, and they really do look so much nicer on an old property than plastic ones.

I am biased as I have a background in antique restoration - if someone tried to sell me a Victorian doll and it had had plastic eyes put in instead of hand blown glass ones, I would reject it out of hand.

Houses not so much as there is so little choice these days, and you're goingto find it hard to find something totally original but it just amazes me that people don't realise it lowers the value of the house quite often.

In places where the windows have well and truly fallen apart then fine, of course you need to replace them, and wooden ones cost an absolute bomb so all sympathies with going with what's affordable.

But I think people are being conned frankly into paying for something that supposedly 'improves' your home when in fact it's chipping away steadily at our architectural heritage, to the point where in a few years there just won't be any proper old windows left, and houses that have them, well maintained, will cost a premium.

No offence intended to anyone, anywhere, except for UPVC salesmen and anyone else who profits from this baloney smile

mumminio Fri 15-Aug-14 23:58:24

Any recommendations for companies in London area who repair/replace sash windows, and do a good job for a fair price?

peggyundercrackers Thu 14-Aug-14 13:09:02

internal doors are quite easy to come by but external doors are much harder to get, ours is about 7ft 8 tall and just a touch under 4ft wide - were victorians really that big? - I would love to go to Magnet rocky and get one of those... we were quoted £3k+VAT last time someone would give us a quote (5 yrs ago now), needless to say its been patched up for the time being.

sacbina Thu 14-Aug-14 09:49:33

I've got 5 x 6 panelled doers which I've tried to give away, sell for 99p, no bloomin takers. taking up valuable space. had to be replaced with fire doors

anyone want some doors in west London?

Rooners Thu 14-Aug-14 08:28:26

Wonky grin We've got one of those as well - they are brilliant aren't they? I'm going to miss it so much.

Where we're going has a 3ft front door which is still lovely, though shabby and it doesn't seem to hang quite right. I've got one second hand that was less than £200, but will want the glass replacing as it has the wrong number on it smile that'll be another couple of hundred at least, but I've found a man who makes panels in the original way so they are basically a new version of the old ones.

This is our replacement door.

wonkylegs Thu 14-Aug-14 08:14:20

I wouldn't dream of replacing our front door. Mainly because it's 4foot wide, solid hardwood with original mouldings & weighs a ton - our joiner who has rehung it and provided us with more sympathetically hidden draught seals says they would quote several thousand pounds to replace it. Thankfully it's in fab nick and just required a bit of TLC.
It's main advantage is that moving furniture through it is very easy grin

Rooners Thu 14-Aug-14 08:11:59

Good point about investing in a house and I can see why people don't. If i didn't love where I was, I wouldn't invest much in it.

I've invested in our rented flat because I love it and have been happy here for 6 years - we're only moving because we can buy somewhere at last.

But I haven't restored the windows obviously. I have replaced a horrible warped, 80s 'stable door' in the kitchen that did not fit, with a pitch pine, perfect fit, Victorian glazed one which cost me £1.42 on ebay. It actually shuts and the other one didn't.

Just goes to show - and also, I've just bought two 6 panel interior doors from a local charity warehouse for a tenner each, to replace internal doors in our new flat that have been removed in the past.

So you can get this stuff if you want it, for a pittance. Finding old sash windows is very hard work in contrast, as people just chuck them in a skip.

It's sacrilegious imo.

TensionWheelsCoolHeels Thu 14-Aug-14 00:00:43

Peggy, you've reminded me of the replacement front door I had installed - I'd been quoted £2.5k for a wooden door that would have a replica of the original style, but had to go with a cheaper option (still wooden, still styled to be more traditional but it's as flimsy as hell) and it just highlights how squinty my whole flat is. There is a huge slant in the door frame which is accentuated by the panelling on the door. My hall has a running slope to the left as you enter, and while the internal doors are all 1950s replacements, you can still see the weird angles the door frames have & only 1 door out of 5 actually closes.

The transient nature of the home owners in my neck of the woods means that 10/15/20 years for UPVC replacement windows are seen as an acceptable (and in many cases a desirable) option because you are dealing with large, difficult to heat, rooms with high ceilings & draughty fireplaces. No one hangs around long enough to worry about possibly getting 200 yrs use out of more traditional, well maintained windows or doors.

ObfusKate Wed 13-Aug-14 23:39:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

rockybalboa Wed 13-Aug-14 23:37:43

Our door just came from Magnet. Victorian style 4 panel hardwood door. Job done. Doesn't need to be any more sophisticated than that!

peggyundercrackers Wed 13-Aug-14 23:31:45

The big issue with doors is a lot of Victorian doors are quite big and heavy and it's very difficult to get someone to make a new door to the same size. 9 out of 10 times no one will make a door to the same size and if they will they wont give you any kind of guarantee/warranty because of warping or guaranteeing the existing frame will be fine with the weight of the new door. That coupled with buildings that don't have 2 straight walls in them it's extremely difficult.

rockybalboa Wed 13-Aug-14 23:25:41

Agree. We are Victorian terraced and I paid a lot to replace the nasty 70s metal framed windows with wooden sashes. They are indeed an absolute fucker to paint and keep maintained with fresh paint but some of the upvc monstrosities round here have to be seen to be believed. I put front doors in the same category. Must be wooden, must be 4 panel (ideally not glass) or I get the rage.

peggyundercrackers Wed 13-Aug-14 23:20:37

Rooners when the old windows came out it was only an old house, in the 60s people were modernising their houses... Architectural features like panel doors, cornices etc were done away with in favour of smooth doors, smooth cornices, smooth fireplaces or no fireplaces with central heating. Looking after Architectural features and keeping houses original looking is quite a modern thing - the phase will pass once again though and these features will once again go out of fashion... Everything goes in circles!

pluCaChange Wed 13-Aug-14 20:47:43

The trouble is that commitment to maintenance, though. If people are not going to live somewhere longer than 5 years, they may well not bother maintaining wooden windows, and then their plastic decision leaves them apparently quids in. It doesn't even have to be as dramatic as "flipping": just, for example, for a family, moving for a primary school catchment, then moving for a secondary school (relying on the sibling rule for younger DC). I know not every property decision is driven by DC, but school admissions are a meaningful schedule-setter in a market. The road near us, next to the highly-rated primary, has grown a garden of estate agent signs: aiming for the January admission date!

Short-termism also applies if the owners don't live in the property (LLs), so get no benefit from any beauty.

PigletJohn Wed 13-Aug-14 19:51:48

Opinions differ. In an old house I prefer original, or if necessary restored or repro features. I dislike plastic doors and windows for several reasons.

I am impatient with people who go for plastic because they think it would be cheaper. It would also be cheaper to wear a plated ring rather than a gold one, or to put a tarpaulin over your house instead of tiles.

I do realise that most of us don't have unlimited funds, but good wooden windows and doors can last 200 years or more with simple care and routine maintenance. If plastic ones last 20 years you should be gratified.

ObfusKate Wed 13-Aug-14 19:43:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ObfusKate Wed 13-Aug-14 19:39:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ObfusKate Wed 13-Aug-14 19:38:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Honsandrevels Wed 13-Aug-14 19:14:39

The previous owners of our Victorian house had most of the sash windows restored. They don't rattle at all and although I'm sure upvc would be warmer, they look a thousand times nicer. Upvc, even sash ones, have a modern sheen to the glass which marks then put as upvc a mile off.

The person who suggested it was a class issue, my v proper, staunchly middle class mil prefers all things fresh, modern and upvc over run down and old (her opinion of our house!).

Rooners Wed 13-Aug-14 18:14:54

Peggy, I can completely understand what you did and why you did it. I think you did well to even consider what they looked like, and replacing the replacements was a charitable act in itself.

You sound like you have markedly improved the house. I'm grateful to people like you. It's those who take OUT perfectly serviceable original sash windows (like your house's previous owners) that I find it difficult to understand.

peggyundercrackers Wed 13-Aug-14 13:28:06

we have an old Victorian house and back in the 60s someone decided to remove the mullions out of the windows and replace the two sash windows with one huge swivel window which was 8ft x 8ft in 4 of our rooms and they did some strange building work with the other windows where they blocked the bottom of the windows up with wood to raise the level of the sill. we already knew we wanted to go back to sash windows when we looked at the house as the windows which had been there since the 60s were finished and the ugliest things I have ever seen.

we got a few people in to give us a quote on changing the windows over, the first few quotes were for wooden sash windows and just to replace the windows not including the frames/boxes or the stonework required to put the mullions back or the paintwork for the windows we were quoted between £26-£30k - there was 14 windows. Once we started digging more though we found the sash boxes had also been removed and there was no weights, sills were completely rotten etc. etc. the price went up another 10k - there was no way we were going to spend £40k replacing 14 windows... We had the relevant stonework carried out and then put in PVC sash windows and it cost us about £7k for the windows alone. we bought the windows direct from supplier and had our own joiner fit them - we haven't looked back since - from the street 30mtrs away you would never know they weren't wooden windows.

although we live in a conservation area the rules didn't really matter to us as the windows were not original so we could not be forced to put back to original.

its all well and good saying do this, do that but its not always financially viable to do these things - in our case replacing the windows with wooden sash windows would not have added £40k to the price of the house so it makes no financial sense. As someone else mentioned up thread its a house first and foremost not a museum piece.

Rooners Wed 13-Aug-14 08:36:15

Woozle thank you for a great post that makes a lot of good points.

I agree that the construction is totally different in the UPVC versions - also I've read about quite a lot of issues people have with UPVC ones jamming, getting stuck etc so they aren't like a better version of the wooden ones, or something - UPVC isn't suited to this design really.

It can be made to be fairly good but will never be as strong - it's like trying to force a material with totally different properties into a design that works superbly in the original material.

Like trying to build your furniture out of UPVC. Plastic dining table anyone? Plastic kitchen cabinets?! It would be ridiculous.

Woozlebear Tue 12-Aug-14 14:26:27

Totally agree op. I'm lucky that we could afford to get new timber sash widows in the last house we renovated, but I really felt that since we could we had a historical, aesthetic and environmental duty to. Plastic ones cannot be maintained, and dont last long and are entirely unsustainable materials. Our new sashes were beautiful, heavy and solid and the house was warm and quiet with them. I now have a house with original sashes and they are beautiful but horrid - rattly, noisy, draughty. Will replace but only with like.

Loads of people round me say they want to but can't afford to, but then buy a spanking new range rover.

Personally I don't agree that any plastic ones look good. I've looked at brands approved in conservation areas and they still don't have Brighton fasteners and even if the horns are continuous - ie not a separate bit of plastic stuck on that discolours at a different rate and has a visible join- then the wrap around trim is a different material and looks horrible within a few years. Plus you always have the draught proof strip visible. They're a fundamentally different construction from timber sashes.

I also think if you can possibly afford them, getting plastic instead is a false economy as they only look clean and new for about 5 years and any dents or knocks can't be filled and painted. They'll never last a lifetime.

A lot of people also seem to think that you can have 'sashes' or ' wooden windows' OR double glazing. As if its a choice. Any new window HAS to be double glazed now.

I know a good company in sw London if anyone is looking.

Isabeller Tue 12-Aug-14 11:47:47

Thank you Rooners, will follow that up. I could probably do at least one windows with perspex & velcro. smile smile

drspouse Tue 12-Aug-14 05:49:05

We have replacement sash windows (double glazed). Some are now half sash or fake sash because full sash were even more expensive.

We probably won't recoup the cost when we move, sadly, though as we're now in a conservation area (brought in after we did the windows) hopefully any new owners will appreciate them.

Rooners Tue 12-Aug-14 05:42:46

Look here - they may be able to help.

It doesn't matter if it is rented, as long as you can obtain the agent's/landlord's permission in writing.

Don't know if Coldbusters is still going but they change the name every couple of years, it's the same idea.

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