Window Locks, latches and fasteners are three terms you may have come across. But not everyone is sure exactly what they mean. If you’re a property owner, it’s essential you know the difference so you can make an informed choice about installation or repairs. Read on for a comprehensive guide to locks, latches and fasteners on sash windows.
The importance of window fasteners
There are a number of reasons your windows’ locks are important as a homeowner. First and foremost is security. If the locks on your sash windows aren’t functioning properly it can leave your home vulnerable to people breaking in. Unprotected windows can be levered open by burglars without too much attention being drawn.
But these locking mechanisms also hold aesthetic importance. Sash windows aren’t like bland, regular windows. They have a unique, authentic appearance, which is a big part of their appeal. To uphold this unique appeal you need to ensure any accessories match your windows’ style too.
Are problems with sash window locks a call for replacement?
If you are having problems with your wooden sash window locks or fasteners, you might be considering a window replacement. After all, if a window doesn’t open and close properly, what good is it? Think again. Full window replacements are completely unnecessary for a problem as small as a faulty fastener.
While uPVC windows may require expensive replacements, wooden sash windows can have any damage isolated and repaired. Other parts of the window will be restored to ensure problems don’t recur too. Whether it is a problem of decay, mismatched accessories or a non-functioning fastener, repairs are the answer.
Locking mechanisms prone to problems
While the three terms – lock, latch and fastener – are often used interchangeably, they do have their own specific meanings. A lock is a locking mechanism that requires a key to function. While this seems advantageous, it’s actually an unnecessary measure for windows, where more suitable alternatives like fasteners are available.
Locks can diminish the aesthetics of original sash windows, but they are also susceptible to problems. They are generally found on uPVC sash windows. And like most features of uPVC sash windows, they are prone to breakage without any particular damage or duration to blame. It isn’t uncommon to hear of uPVC windows becoming jammed because of a broken locking mechanism.
Fasteners and latches
So locks aren’t all that great. What is the solution? Fasteners are a traditional method of closing and securing windows that don’t have the seemingly planned obsolescence of uPVC locks. One type of fastener is the latch. By definition, a latch is made up of a catch and a lever. And this is exactly how they work on windows.
With sash windows, the lower sash is usually pulled upwards to open the windows. When the windows are closed, the top panel of the lower sash and bottom panel of the upper sash will meet in the middle. Attaching a latch to both of these panels – a catch on one and a lever on the other – enables you to fasten the two together when they meet, which securely holds the window closed.
A popular latch for sash windows is the fitch. Fitch latches have a spoon shaped lever with a hook catch. As the lever is turned inwards to the catch, it pulls the windows together to create a closer seal. Usually made of brass, these latches provide a simple solution to securing windows and can be easily repaired if any damage is incurred.
Another latch style is the quadrant latch. This is made up of an arm lever and a horizontal catch. By swinging the arm across into the catch, the two sash windows are secured together effectively. Quite often, the quadrant arm has a finial design on the end, complementing the classic style of the window itself.
Unlike the other two styles, Brighton fasteners do not operate as a latch. A threaded screw is pushed through catches on both window frames. With the second catch also threaded, the screw must be twisted in. This creates a tight seal between the windows, as well as a tight closure of the fastener itself.
Which type do I need?
The type of fastener you need for your wooden sash windows depends on a few factors. Your sash windows’ structure can sometimes dictate which fastener is appropriate. Certain sash window styles are narrower than others, which could mean a particular fastener doesn’t fit comfortably on both frames.
This is the same for the style and age of the windows too. Having a fastener that doesn’t match the window will damage the looks of your sash windows, but might also not function properly. As a rule, it is usually safe to stick with the type of fastener your sash windows have always had.
In some cases, however, they may have been incorrectly installed in the first place. The best way to determine which locks you need is with advice from a sash window specialist.
Damage to sash window fasteners
While they are generally a failsafe option, there are a few ways in which sash window fasteners can become damaged. These issues can lead to difficulty opening and closing sash windows, or may even result in non-opening windows.
One issue arises from painting sash windows. Unprofessional painting of sash windows can result in problems with the fastening mechanisms. How? DIY or decorative painters may paint over parts of the fastener while painting the frame of the sash window.
This may seem a trivial problem, but it can stop the latch working. With paint dried on, the lever might no longer slot into the catch or the screw on a Brighton fastener could become jammed. To avoid this occurring, ensure your wooden sash windows are painted professionally by sash window specialists.
There are also some instances where sash window locks and fasteners can be compromised as a result of damage to the window frame. The bottom panel of each sash is one of the areas that is susceptible to decay over time. Any condensation or water ingress will gather and sit on the bottom panel of the sash. It could eventually penetrate the timber through flakes in the paint or gaps around the fastener itself.
Most fastening and locking mechanisms are attached in part to the bottom panel of the upper sash. If this panel becomes decayed, it can lead to the fastener loosening or even breaking off. So what do you do? Fortunately, this issue is easily repaired. The bottom panel can be repaired or even replaced to remove the wood decay and eliminate any locking or fastening issues.
Repairing the window is one thing, but work also needs to be done to stop the problem reoccurring. A professional sash window repair service will ensure windows are fully protected by resealing and repainting after eradicating wood decay. Sash window fasteners will also be reattached properly, so there is no possibility of them needing further work.
How can we help?
Fortis & Hooke specialise in repair and restoration services for wooden sash windows. We can also replace sash window locks and other fittings. We strive to provide an alternative to needless period window replacement, with a passion for retaining heritage. Across many years of experience, we have developed tried and tested methods of repairing, restoring and renovating original sash windows without affecting their heritage and style.
If you have a sash window lock or fastener that isn’t working like it should, don’t just accept it. Our expert surveyors can assess the problem and recommend a suitable, cost-efficient course of action. Whether it’s a quick latch replacement or a panel restoration, our expert carpenters and joiners will ensure your repairs are comprehensive and long lasting. Get in touch today to book your free, no obligation survey and quote.