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Old houses have become an incredibly popular investment and living choice for young couples and individuals in today’s housing market. Instead of looking to purchase a new house or apartment, renovating an older property has become a new trend. Purchasing an old house to renovate can be a time consuming but extremely rewarding experience. However, it can sometimes be difficult to source the needed materials or experts to complete the work that needs doing. Perhaps even your strict budget means you would prefer to do a lot of the work yourself. This can leave many people wondering exactly how to fix a certain component or restore a certain feature, as resources can be limited. Read on to discover restoration projects you can do on your old sash windows!

You might also want to check out: Sash window restoration project: costs and considerations for restoring your windows

History of the sash window

Through the years, certain fashions and designs can circle back into mainstream popularity, and characterful features like bay windows, exposed rafters, and shutters are now back. Another popular feature that can be seen today are sash windows. Sash windows can be found in properties from the Georgian and Victorian periods, and occasionally some later properties from the Edwardian era may likely feature sash windows.

How does a sash window work?

The mechanism for a sash window consists of a weight and pulley system. The window usually consists of one or two movable glass window panels (sashes), which may be combined with a fixed sash that usually sits at the top of the window frame. The window can be opened by sliding the movable sash upwards and the heavy counterweights, concealed within the window frame, will hold the movable sash in place. The two sashes are usually separated by a glazing bar or muntin, which is a simple moulded piece of wood. The muntin will often feature a lock which can stop the movable panel from sliding upwards and open.

How to restore your sash windows

For a first time DIY novice, restoration and repair of a sash window can seem like a daunting task and may take time and familiarisation of the mechanism to ensure success. We have provided a complete step by step guide below on how to safely restore your old sash windows, to give them a new lease of life and allow them to function smoothly for future generations to enjoy. But first, please check out our safety tips.

Safety First

Lead is an unfortunately common feature in the paint of older houses. When working with any features in the home, particularly painted sash windows, it is best to follow the following safety rules, especially if any young or vulnerable individuals could be in the house.

  • Isolate the area you will be working on. Place plastic sheets on the floor to collect any dust or debris.
  • Misting the window area before working will help to reduce the number of contaminants that are released into the air.
  • Wash your clothes in a separate wash after working and consider using overshoe covers so the rest of the house is not contaminated.
  • Wear goggles and a respirator suitable to the contaminant you are working with. Ensure it fits snuggly and completely covers your mouth and nose.
  • Ensure your hands are thoroughly washed after working and before consuming any food or drink.

Restoration procedures

1. Preparation

It is best to clearly identify the issue before commencing a repair, for example, do both weights need to be rehung? This will determine the necessary materials to complete the restoration. It may also be beneficial to your process to clean the sash window before beginning to remove any dust or debris that could hinder your progress. Also consider photographing or marking your progress, as this will help in the final stage of putting the window back together.

2. Identify if a knock-out panel is present

Some high-end sash windows may feature a knock-out panel that can give you easy access to the weights on either side of the window without removing the window trim. You may need a sharp tool to run along the edges of this panel as the paint may make it difficult to remove. Sometimes, small nails also hold them in place. If your window does not feature a knock-out panel, you will need to skip straight to step 3.

3. Remove the window trim, stops, and sash

Gently begin to remove the trim and stops using a painter’s tool. Remove any nails or screws and begin to gently apply pressure to completely remove the trim from around the window frame. The next item to remove is the bottom, movable sash.

The parting stops can now be removed. These can break on occasion, depending on the age and condition of the window. Damaged stops can be replaced with standard window trim from a local supplier. The final stage is to remove the top sash.

4. Assess the window and clean as necessary

Attempt to ascertain any internal damage caused by age or moisture. On occasion a window frame may be warped, this can be checked with a level. If a window is not perfectly square it can affect its functionality, so it is usually recommended to adjust and level the frame as necessary.

Now it is time to clean any internal debris or dust. The build-up of old paint can alter the functionality of a window so it may need to be sanded.

5. Replace any needed components

If any glass or panelling is damaged now is the time to replace it. Replacements can often be found in old salvage or lumberjacks’ yards, and even online. Glass can be cut to size if needed and affixed into place using a glazing compound.

6. Paint and/or stain

Now is the time to repaint or stain the window frame wood. Ensure any exterior part of the window is painted with suitable exterior paint.

7. Pulleys and ropes

Broken pulleys are one of the main reasons a sash window may need fixing. Rope can be replaced with cotton, as nylon cords have a habit of catching in old pulley systems.

8. Putting it back together

The final stage is replacing each component to its rightful position. This stage will be made easier if you have made notes or taken photographs.

Restoration of old sash windows may seem like a very complicated task, and it admittedly takes some skill to execute it perfectly. You may opt to check out professional services for your ease of mind. However, if you are on a tight budget, these tips will guide you for a proper restoration of your old sash windows!

Pieter Boyce - Wooden Window and door specialist

Pieter Boyce
Wooden Window and Door Specialist

This article was written on behalf of Fortis & Hooke by Pieter Boyce. Pieter has an intense passion for English Architectural history and has been specialising in the conservation of original wooden windows and doors for decades. His exceptional knowledge of timber windows and doors, both listed or non-listed, is attributed to his hands-on approach to learning all aspects of the complete restoration of original features as well as having personally surveyed thousands of items throughout his long tenure as a head surveyor for one of the largest window and door restoration companies in the UK. He now runs a boutique wooden window and door consultancy and fervently champions the retention of original windows and doors. To learn more of Pieter’s services, visit his website at www.boultonboyce.co.uk.

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