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There are quite a few different types of windows out there. You may have heard the term sash windows and may not understand what these are and if you have them. These are a classic type of windows that were used in the construction of older homes. Read on to learn everything that you need to know about sash windows as well as what to do when you need to repair or restore them.

What are sash windows?

Sash windows are windows that are made of one or even more movable panels known as “sashes,” which form a frame to hold the panes of glass. These window panes are typically separated from the other panes by glazing bars. Technically speaking, any window that has this type of glazing can be a sash. However, this is a term that is most often just used to describe windows where you open the glazed panels by either sliding them horizontally or vertically.

Classic sash windows

Some of the oldest examples of the classic sash windows that have survived were installed in England sometime in the 1670s. An excellent example of this is the Ham House. You can often find sash windows on Victorian and Georgian house styles, with 3 panes across and 2 panes on each of these sashes. Later Victorian and Edwardian houses were built with sash windows that had a different configuration of panes.

Sash window design

Generally, sash windows are created in the double-hung style, meaning that there is 1 sash that is positioned above another sash. The lower sash can slide up and down until it is almost parallel with the window’s upper sash. For older windows, the upper sash is commonly fixed to the top and won’t move, while you can easily move the lower sash. Newer sash windows are often able to have both sashes move as needed. This can be good for people as it poses less of a safety hazard for young children if they can just open the upper sash and not the lower sash.

The window sashes are very important to the function of the window. Sashes make the windows more durable. It will prevent sagging and warping that can affect your window. It is important that the sashes are always in good repair to ensure that your window works well and lasts longer.

Common problems with sash windows

There can be a lot of problems that you may come across if you have the older, timber windows. You may notice that the hinges have started to rust or there are some other issues with the hardware. Sometimes the sash cords end up broken. These are some very common problems that can be very easily fixed.

Rotting of the frame

Another frequent problem with old timber windows is that they will inevitably rot. Rotting happens because of the moisture that it retains during the harsh weather. If left unchecked, moisture can cause the frame of your window to weaken and will make the window less energy efficient. This can be why regular maintenance and restorations are so important for extending the lifespan of your windows.

Less energy-efficient

Timber windows can be less efficient, especially as they get older. When you restore your windows, you can make it more energy-efficient. This can be a great reason to go through the restoration process rather than just replace your windows entirely.

Poor functionality and deterioration

As time goes on, another problem that you may notice is that the windows are sticking or has difficulty opening and closing. A common cause for this issue is that the timber swells up due to moisture. This could be a problem for the various parts of the window, which is why a professional should look at the problem to find the root cause of it. It could be as simple as the frame, or a more complicated issue like inner or outer lining. There are things that you can do if there is swelling in your window frame. If the window is painted, you can peel off the paint until you get to the wood. Then, you need to let the wood dry out. It could take a few days before it completely dries. A professional can help you with this and repaint it so that it looks as good as new.

The corner joints can get loose, causing some distortion in the window. Between the moisture and the cycles of expanding and contracting, this can lead to deterioration over time. By ignoring this problem, you can end up with moisture getting into the interior of the frame. This can end up leading to a much more expensive problem to fix. If you notice this problem, you should get this repaired as soon as possible.

Old hardware issues

As previously mentioned, hardware like the hinges can be a common problem that you need to deal with. The hinges can become corroded over time due to either the moisture in the window or just because of how old the window is. Again, this can be a simple fix of just replacing the hardware without having to deal with a more costly repair.

Poor maintenance

Lastly, not ensuring that the proper maintenance has been completed on the windows regularly can result in several problems. If these classic windows are not maintained and painted regularly, you could end up with windows that look broken down and aren’t as functional anymore. Just a little maintenance on a regular basis can extend the lifespan of your window for many years to come.

How to maintain sash windows

There are things that you can do that will help keep your sash windows in great condition before having to restore them. In this section, we will discuss some of the most important reminders when maintaining your sash windows.

Keep it clean

One of the most important reminders is to take the time to keep your windows clean. Using paper towels to clean your sash windows will do nothing but move the dirt around your window and creating static that will only attract more dust and grime on your window. The best way to clean your sash window (or any window) is to use an actual glass cleaner with a microfiber cloth. You should clean your windows at least once or twice a year, though you can clean it more often as needed. It is recommended that you don’t clean the windows when it’s sunny out as this will cause the cleaner to dry too quickly, which can lead to streaks on the window.

Repaint every few years

Repainting your windows are also very important to maintain them. Ideally, you will want to repaint (or have these windows repainted) every few years. The windows should be cleaned before you paint them. The paint will not just improve the aesthetics of your window, but it will also help to protect the wood from the elements. This will prevent the deterioration of the window.

Maintain insulation

You also need to be sure that you maintain the insulation on your windows. People can lose up to 26% of the heat in their home through their windows. The gaps around the glass can allow cold air in and let the warm air escape through the window. This will lead to discomfort during extreme temperatures and can cause a significant increase in your energy bills. Using spray insulation or rubber seals can help you insulate your window.

Get ahead of the problem

An important aspect of sash window maintenance is getting ahead of any problems. Check your windows regularly to make sure that there is no rot on the windows. This is a common problem with timber sash windows. Regular maintenance means that you should check for rot regularly, resolving the issue before it can spread and cause even more damage. The rot can penetrate deep into the wood. This problem ruins the structural integrity of the window and makes the window look unsightly. Through regular maintenance, you will be able to notice the rot when it’s just a superficial. This can be an easy fix that you can even handle yourself. You just need to clean it up with a damp cloth to remove any debris. Afterwards, apply a wood hardener to strengthen the wood. If it’s more extensive, you will likely need to get a professional to help you.

Oil regularly

Oiling your windows is something that you will need to do regularly to ensure that they open and close properly. You can use either oil or wax, then rub it into the frame, hinges, and any of the pulley and interior features. This prevents your window from sticking. Using silicone can help you oil a window that is already stuck since it doesn’t leave any sticky residue and is colourless. Before you oil or wax your window, you will want to clean it off so there is no dirt or debris.

Make it energy efficient

Older windows will start rattling eventually. You will get draughts. This does happen but these are things that you can easily fix. Using a weather-stripping material, you can make some quick fixes to your sash to make them more energy-efficient. This is something that you can do on your own as the rattling and draughts start. Eventually, you may need to get the help of a professional to ensure that this issue gets permanently fixed.

These are just some of the things that you can do for regular maintenance on your windows. Maintenance is important because this will extend the lifespan of your windows, allowing you to enjoy their classical elegance for longer.

Benefits of sash windows

There are benefits to having sash windows for your home. Sash windows are traditional to many classic UK homes, becoming the iconic look for older architecture. In this section, you can see some of the amazing benefits of having sash windows for your home.

Timeless and elegant

Sash windows have existed for centuries, becoming a design that people love for their homes. Newer sash windows offer better security, energy efficiency, and noise reduction, but you want to keep the traditional look that you currently have. These are windows that look amazing and help you retain the architectural integrity of the home. They add value to your home as well as an aesthetic appeal that you can’t get with modern sash windows.

Option for double glazing

A reason why people love new versions of the classic sash window is that you get close to the classic look of sash windows, but you can get all of the benefits of having new ones. However, what you may not know is that you can get double glazing done on your traditional windows. These can be installed right on the original sash on the window, giving you the modern feel without having to replace the classic windows that you love.

uPVC vs. Timber

The hardwood traditionally used for these windows are much better quality than the uPVC materials. While you can get new wood sash windows to replace your current ones, it can cost up to 10 times more for the wooden version. Even worse, the wood used to make windows now isn’t the same level of quality that you would find in the classic sash windows. There is also the problem that uPVC can turn brittle and yellow after about 10 years, as well as the fact that uPVC is a porous material that can retain pollution. This isn’t an environmentally friendly material.

Retains classic character

One reason you probably purchased your historic-looking home is that you loved the antique architecture of it. If you make changes to the appearance of your home by changing the windows, you could negatively impact the character of your home. To retain the classic character, you will want to restore your wooden sash windows instead of replace them. Curb appeal is important, and these windows help you retain that elegant curb appeal you fell in love with.

Should I repair or replace my sash windows?

There will come a time where you must make the important decision of whether you will replace or restore your sash windows. There are some pros and cons to both options, but ultimately it will be in your best interest to restore your sash windows. The biggest reason for that is because this will generally be the most cost-effective choice. It is also an environmentally friendly choice, reusing materials rather than needing new materials to be manufactured. In this section, you will learn about why it is better to restore your old sash windows.

Sash window material

Common repairs to sash windows can easily be done by specialists who have experience working on these classic types of windows. After most of these repairs, the windows will generally last another 15 to 20 years. You also cannot beat the quality. The older timber windows are made from materials that are significantly better quality than the uPVC windows that are manufactured today. Sash windowsills are a common fix that is easily done. You may be concerned that the sash part of the window will be difficult to repair, but it is simpler than you think it is.

Efficiency of current window

Some people think that they need to replace these windows in order to get the energy efficiency that they want for their home. However, you can restore your antique sash windows to make them more energy-efficient. Some sash window draught-proofing systems can be installed on the window’s original sliding sash. There are full draught-proofing systems easily hidden so that you would not notice them and retain the stunning beauty of your classic window. This is a perfect solution to save you money and make your home a more comfortable place. These draught-proof systems can last a minimum of 10 years. Draught-proofing a window is much cheaper than the process of replacing them.

As you can see, it is much better for you to just restore your sash windows than it is to replace them. You can retain the classic beauty of your home while also saving money to get the comfort you want in your home. It will also be more cost-effective to restore your windows and with the right restoration company, you will get the benefits of the modern windows with the quality and beauty of the original windows.

Finding the right sash windows restoration company

Whether you want a restoration company that can handle the small repairs needed for your sash windows or you need a complete restoration on your windows, it is important that you find the right company to help you out. There is a lot of care required when handling these older windows, which makes it especially important that you hire the right window restoration company. In this section, you can learn some of the best tips on how to choose the best company to restore your sash windows.

You might also want to check out: Beyond reviews: finding the right company to restore your sash windows

Research on companies

It is important to do your research before you settle on a restoration company. You can start by looking at reviews to see the various experiences that other people have had with these companies. Start selecting some options from the best reviews. However, your research doesn’t stop here. You can ask your friends and family if they have heard anything about window restoration companies, to get their opinion as well. Look at the companies to ensure they have all the proper licensing and insurance. These are things that help you narrow down the companies.

Once you get about 3 or 4 different companies that you have in mind, meet with them. This is not only so that you can get an accurate quote for the project that you need to get done, but it also helps you get a real feel for each of these companies. Look for someone that you feel comfortable working with and who openly communicates with you. Open communication is very important when handling these types of projects.

Know their experience and skills

One of the most important things for you to look at is their experience. You don’t want to hire a new company with little experience in these older windows, as inexperience can lead to an increased probability of mistakes happening. This could cause your windows to get damaged. Instead, look for a company that has a great deal of experience with sash window restorations. Ask them how long they have been doing this and stick with a company that has a lot of experience in handling these projects. The more experience they have, the better the results will be.

Plan a budget for costs

You should be aware of the costs of the project. It can be very tempting to choose the cheapest company, but this could be a bad choice. Sometimes you get exactly what you pay for, which can pose some problems. You run the risk of sacrificing quality, so if there is a quote that is much lower than the others, you should be concerned about it. By understanding the average costs of the project before you get quotes, you can get a better idea of what’s reasonable for the job. This will help you avoid the issues that come with budget window restoration jobs.

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

Ask the right questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You want to make sure that you are choosing someone who has the knowledge and experience to get the job done well. Asking questions also helps you to better understand the process and what you need to get done to restore the natural beauty of your windows. It is a good idea to ask to see the portfolio of the work they’ve done so that you can see samples of their previous work. Talking to the contractor is the best way for you to get to know them and decide if they are the best team for the job.


Sash windows that come original to your home are gorgeous features. Over time, they may not function as well as you would like but a reputable sash window restoration company can bring these windows back to life. You could get newer versions, but you will lose the classic character and old school quality that comes with old timber sash windows. The restoration process is a cost-effective and greener solution that allows your home to keep its character while you get windows that feel new. Restore your sash windows and keep your home’s character and charm!

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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