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Sash windows flaking, warping, or sticking?

Restore, or Replace?

Should you replace your sash windows or should you try to restore them? More and more people are starting to appreciate the significant beauty and architectural value in their original sash windows.  Replacing vs restoring is one of the most common dilemmas. Often, the sash windows in your home have served their purpose for the past 100 years or more, so we expect some level of wear and tear. Whilst there is no right answer to this dilemma, the option of restoring often makes the most sense. Unless the windows are beyond repair then it might be an idea to source some labour and basic materials for a full replacement, then they can be transformed back to their original condition.


There are two main issues in window restoration. First is being able to source the mechanical parts of the window which are required to ensure it functions properly. The second main issue to consider is getting the window to be as draught-free as possible to improve energy efficiency. Mechanically speaking, old windows operate with a simple design of a top and bottom sash. Each sash is then counterbalanced with a pair of steel sash weights. These weights are hidden on each side of the window, and attached to a sash cord/chain. If you are in the process of restoring and repairing your sash window then you may need to change the cord/chain, and this can be harder than it sounds.

If you remove your sashes to replace cords or chains, don’t miss the chance to make repairs and do some basic maintenance to the sashes themselves. It’s a great time clean or even repaint the sash! Another thing you should think about doing whilst the window is dismantled is weather stripping. This will help to make the windows operate smoothly and more importantly cut down on draughts and costly heat loss. Since the window is composed mostly of moving parts, you need to allow space for movement whilst weather stripping and/or making repairs. On the other hand, too much space can allow excessive heat loss, so it is a fine science to achieve best results. You should be aiming for the timber staff & parting beads to be able to move freely, yet with a snug fit.

There are a number of locations on the window that can be tightened up during the weather stripping process, the most popular and longest lasting weather-stripping material is some version of spring bronze. It comes in a roll, is cut to size, and is installed in the window frame so it is snug against the sides of the window sashes. However that can be quite pricey! There are also cheaper, easier to install vinyl versions, but these tend to be less permanent, therefore depending on your budget you can choose to install either.

Sash windows were designed to be serviced and repaired generally every 12 to 15 years, therefore you must realise this isn’t a onetime fix, it will mostly likely need to be done again, but not often!  Your windows need to be fully serviced, which will involve them being dismantled, eased, adjusted, re-aligned, re-corded and re-assembled, and have a brush pile draught sealing system installed. Not only will this improve their smooth movement, it will also guard against rattling and draughts, therefore if you are wondering about the condition of your windows it’s always best to get someone who specialises in sash windows to take a look.


Many people may not know that you can actually replace the original glass with double glazing and still keep your sash windows. Remember to double check with your local council whether it’s ok to replace your glass, as your property may be protected or even grade listed because of the original sash windows. Double glazing your property’s windows whilst also preserving its original period look can maximise future value, as a lot of modern families are after the authentic look but not at the cost of sky high heating bills that come with sash windows which haven’t been draught proofed.

In nearly all cases original period features, such as architraves and mouldings can be maintained throughout the process, and it can even make the window operation smoother with both the bottom and top sashes. Not only this, another plus of replacing the glass with double glazing, is that due to the type of installation that has to occur, the window will then meet current 2011 building regulations in terms of heat loss and energy efficiency, keeping heating costs low and making property more appealing to potential tenants or buyers. With prices around £500 per window it certainly isn’t cheap! However, it can mean your home will be more economical and it may save you money in the long run. Are you thinking about replacing your original antique sash windows with new PVC windows in modern designs? There are pros and cons to both sides, so it’s crucial you make the decision that is best for you. Many people view sash windows highly as they feel they contribute significantly to the character of your period property and once removed these hand crafted windows are lost forever along with the appearance of your property. On the other hand, other people argue that they are unattractive, un-economical and they have too much upkeep. All are fair reasons, making your decision of replacing or restoring even harder.