Preserving Historic Sashes

Heritage and tradition are important, and the loss of traditional windows poses a threat to this aspect of history. The difficulty with preserving windows is that they are easily replaced, relatively speaking. Especially with the push to make buildings more energy efficient, if we’re not careful then traditional sash windows could become more and more scarce in the future. Plastic is coming in force. Plastic windows are already everywhere.

Windows profoundly affect the appearance of a building. This is simply a fact. Look at any listed building – they will have lovely sash windows. Or some other kind of timber windows. Sash windows are an important part of history, and it is testament to their aesthetic and functionality that they still remain part of the industry today. However, a lot of the time, especially with large new builds, it would simply be impractical to install sash windows due to time and cost.

Instead, we go for cheaper, mass produced alternatives such as cheap casement windows. While this is to be expected, the point is that as we move ever closer towards greater industrialisation, there is the danger of sash windows becoming less and less common.

We hope this doesn’t happen as we think there is huge historical value in sash windows and what they represent about the technological development of an industry. Our sash window repairs in London team have put together some reasons why we think it’s important that they stay popular for years to come!

Quality

Sash windows are a symbol of quality. They were the product of engineers trying to best balance aesthetic and function within the boundaries of the technology at the time. We always think of the 17th and 18th century as primitive as technology has developed so much. However, incredible minds have existed since forever, so there is no reason why their windows designs could not be top notch.

The limited glass technology, meaning it was difficult to produce consistently even large panes of glass, meant that the smaller panes were broken up by glazing bars. Hence, leading to “eight over eight” in the Georgian era and “six over six” in the Victorian era. These looked stunning and became symbols of status in affluent households and areas.

Glazing bars would separate the small panes of glass as creating large panes was so difficult. However, glazing bars still exist. They look excellent and many people want to keep them on their windows. It gives your windows another feature. 

Not only are they beautiful to look at, but the ability to slide panes independently made it easier to keep rooms cooler in hot days via convection currents. They don’t stick out, so are very safe, and they are easy to clean.

With many properties in London being so close together, having the sliding function was a no-brainer. It allowed people to get air into their property while still being able to open a window completely. Casement windows (which open outwardly) would not have worked. There simply would not be room enough for them.

Old Wood

Modern timber simply isn’t of the same quality as old-growth timber that was what was used in centuries gone by. Until mass production came along, most wood harvested could be from trees that were centuries old.

The density and strength of old-growth wood is such that some very old sash windows still remain today. With some small repairs, they can retain their original form. For windows centuries old, this is quite something. The wood is allowed to mature over time. When you slice open these old sash windows, you notice something completely different to the new, even excellent modern windows.

The thickness and density of these really old windows is far greater than these new windows. Hardwood like that will not be created ever again as far as we can tell. Having these old sash windows really does something for the value of your property. They are rare and irreplaceable.

Most modern wood is from tree farms, where the goal is to go from planting to harvesting in the shortest time possible, around 10-20 years. This rapid growth means the wood is very soft, and while easy to manufacture and implement, leaves products of lower quality that will have a shorter lifespan and require more maintenance. Old-growth wood is much harder to come by nowadays, and is very expensive and therefore often impractical.

We now have modern PVCu as an option for sash window frames that, while they don’t feel as authentic as wood, offer excellent thermal insulation, relatively low cost and long lifespan.

Recognising how we got here

It is very easy to take the modern technologies we have for granted. While we should absolutely take advantage of these luxuries afforded to us by great minds of times gone by, it is important to recognise how we got to this stage. Technology can only improve by building on and improving on ideas of the past in order to produce a better result.

Old sash windows are a product of this attempt to make life easier and better and we think it is important that they stay an instantly recognisable part of the culture. Thankfully, thousands upon thousands of sashes still exist throughout the country.

Repair over replace

Repairing, upgrading old traditional sash windows is one of our favourite things. It’s impossible not to appreciate the quality, and very often it is possible to repair and restore, rather than replace.

Modern resins, for example, can fill in cracks in the wood where it has worn away, giving the frame back its original appearance. Even where the sliding mechanism has worn, we can still, more often than not, restore the sliding back to its original smoothness, thus preserving the original design and mechanism.

We have a huge respect for history and we hope sash windows continue to be recognisable and important, even in a modern and industrialised world. Thank you for reading and check us out on the social media links below.

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