Kya de­longchamps en­cour­ages the restora­tion of the en­dan­gered and highly sym­met­ri­cal, pe­riod sash win­dow

Irish Examiner - Property & Interiors - - Interiors -

IHAVE a pref­er­ence for solid wood win­dows and it must be said, at­trac­tive alu­minium clad frames with tim­ber in­te­ri­ors are seiz­ing a mar­ket pre­vi­ously dom­i­nated by the no main­te­nance won­ders of UPVC. De­fend­ing the nat­u­ral beauty, eco­log­i­cal strengths and cur­rent af­ford­abil­ity of the wooden hearted, the same de­fence slams the con­ver­sa­tion closed like a tightly en­gi­neered, five point lock­ing case­ment — ‘wood doesn’t last’.

Un­pro­tected by the dreaded ‘Min­is­ter’s List’ (af­ford­ing pro­tec­tion to build­ings deemed of ar­chi­tec­tural merit), and some­times even when known to be on the list — cen­turies old wood sashes are still be­ing ripped out and re­placed with the cheap, flat faces of tilt n’ turn dou­ble glazed plas­tic.

Home-own­ers lit­tle re­alise that apart from the loss of the frames, the rip­pled, hand-made glass it­self may be orig­i­nal to the build­ing and ir­re­place­able.

UPVC ‘real’ sashes are an aes­thetic im­prove­ment, with the pro­file and per­ceived depth to de­ceive the eye. Hav­ing lived in a range of rat­tled win­dowed vin­tage freez­ers, I com­pletely un­der­stand be­ing fed-up with dou­ble lined cur­tains and cling film­ing over the orig­i­nal sashes from Oc­to­ber to March.

Oh, the pe­riod joys — stick­ing frames, the nib­bling wildlife, rot, ivy push­ing its claws through, flies breed­ing in the sash hous­ing and pop­ping out in droves to die on the sill —– been there.

A modern UPVC win­dow of­fers a high re­sis­tance to wind and rain pen­e­tra­tion, com­mon to tra­di­tional sashes — even in poor shape. How­ever, UPVC is main­te­nance free be­cause once dam­aged it can­not be main­tained. Wood sashes from as early as the 18th cen­tury can be re­paired, even de­liv­ered back in some cases as dou­ble glazed units that slide like silk. Real wood win­dows win hands down for their low em­bod­ied en­ergy, and, given ap­pro­pri­ate de­tail­ing and fin­ish­ing, they will need lit­tle at­ten­tion for the first 7-10 years.

Steel paned win­dows com­mon in the 1950s were truly freez­ing, with cold bridging, sharp peel­ing oil paint and warp­ing open­ing sec­tions. Hap­pily, they are now gain­ing favour for restora­tion — rare, cher­ished sur­vivors.

Michael Quirke of Con­serve-a-sash based in Kil­gar­van, has worked on dozens of her­itage projects in­clud­ing 250 sash win­dows in the South Pre­sen­ta­tion Con­vent in Cork. Clients gen­er­ally come to him on foot of a con­ser­va­tion or­der to sat­isfy a grant ap­pli­ca­tion.

“We al­ways en­cour­age ren­o­va­tion over re­place­ment,” he says.” Only 4% of the tim­ber in the 14 month’s work at South Pre­sen­ta­tion de­manded re­place­ment”. You have to like a man still ex­cited by the mys­ter­ies of the Golden Ra­tio of 1:1.6 rooted in a 300BC for­mula, cru­cial in 18th cen­tury ar­chi­tec­ture.

Ver­ti­cally op­er­at­ing York­shire Light slid­ing sashes, some with two mov­ing panes (dou­ble hung), oth­ers with one fixed panel, have been iden­ti­fied in plans and in Dutch masters’ paint­ings. from over four cen­turies ago. Some­where in the late 1600s be­tween Hol­land and Eng­land, a win­dow op­er­ated by counter-weights, braided cot­ton ropes and pul­leys set in side hous­ings (box-case) was de­vel­oped be­tween architects and car­pen­ters, most likely for a great aris­to­crat’s home. In Vic­to­rian cot­tages the top pane was of­ten shorter than the bot­tom, but the pro­por­tions were still lovely even with just four panes per win­dow.

To­day two six win­dow pan­els (12 in all), with three panes across is the most com­monly seen sash win­dow in orig­i­nals and pre­tenders.

UPVC sashes do not re­quire box cases as they are light enough to op­er­ate with­out coun­ter­bal­anced sash weights, springs and pul­leys, and of­ten open out and in to ac­com­mo­date the fire reg­u­la­tions and to al­low com­pres­sion seals to work more ef­fec­tively. Styled as sashes these case­ments can achieve en­ergy ef­fi­cien­cies of up to 1.0WM²K, re­quire no paint­ing and come in a choice of tex­tured and tint fin­ishes.

The price of restor­ing or re­plac­ing a sash win­dow in hand­crafted tim­ber will be ex­pen­sive, out-srip­ping the pa­ram­e­ters of qual­ity glaz­ing in other ma­te­ri­als such as alu­minium clad or even cop­per.

Many firms of­fer a sur­vey ser­vice, of­fer­ing choices from draught-proof­ing through restora­tion to full re­place­ment. There will be cases, where restora­tion will be eco­nom­i­cally im­pos­si­ble, but the win­dows can be per­fectly matched with a new be­spoke win­dow per­fectly copied from the orig­i­nal join­ery and de­tail­ing.

If the win­dows are in good con­di­tion but the room is per­ceived as cold, low-in­ter­fer­ence draught-proof­ing may be the answer.

Take a look at the ex­cel­lent video by the team at Sash Win­dows in Sandy­ford in Dublin show­ing a large sin­gle glazed sash be­ing draught, noise and rat­tle proofed with new cut grooves and brush pan­els at sash­win­, un­der draught-ex­clu­sion.

Beyond this, re­pair work to el­e­ments of the frame (in­clud­ing the del­i­cate sash horns, rails, beads and ar­chi­traves), re­pairs to the boxes, to­gether with the in­tro­duc­tion of slim pane (7mm-12mm) dou­ble glaz­ing, will ut­terly trans­form its heat per­for­mance, op­er­a­tion and looks.

Michael Quirke ex­plains that the in­tro­duc­tion of dou­ble glaz­ing has other prac­ti­cal im­pli­ca­tions. ‘Slen­der Ge­or­gian win­dows made be­fore 1780, un­der 1 ¾” deep can­not take stan­dard dou­ble glazed panes, even the vac­uum cen­tred Amtico Spa­cia units.”

Early Ge­or­gian win­dows were made to be flush with the outer wall: “Re­plac­ing wood sash win­dows, com­pared to modern PVC win­dows is far less com­pli­cated, as there’s a frame in­side the win­dow, and gen­er­ally no re-plas­ter­ing re­quired.

“Nonethe­less, the job is skilled and highly labour in­ten­sive — and con­se­quently ex­pen­sive. I work in mor­tise and tenon not fin­ger joints.

“Any win­dow with dou­ble glaz­ing will be twice the weight, so we re­place the orig­i­nal cast iron weights with lead weights and re­bal­ance the win­dow.”

Plant-on (as­tra­gal) bars can be added to hide dou­ble glazed in­tro­duced to old win­dows, but again, this should be care­fully done for any pe­riod build­ing to ring true – po­ten­tial sav­ings, but still ex­pen­sive. Win­dows that can­not ac­com­mo­date boxes to the side, can be re-fit­ted with pre-ten­sioned springs for op­er­a­tion (ask about spi­ral bal­anced slid­ing sashes). Michael main­tains that chang­ing the orig­i­nal frames for new dou­ble glazed, hard­wood frames is the most ef­fec­tive way of dra­mat­i­cally up­grad­ing di­lap­i­dated sin­gle glazed win­dows with the least amount of dis­rup­tion.

If your home is a pro­tected struc­ture, or you re­ally just don’t want to go down the UPVC route, The Ir­ish Ge­or­gian So­ci­ety can give ad­vice on the re­pair of im­por­tant win­dows, and it’s worth get­ting in touch with the Con­ser­va­tion Of­fi­cer of your local author­ity for help and ref­er­ences to suit­able firms to carry out work on your old beau­ties. If you have a win­dow of any date or de­sign in a bed­room you know you couldn’t pos­si­bly get out of in the event of a fire, get ad­vice and have it al­tered. ■ Michael Quirke of Con­serve-a-sash, con­


■ Pe­riod win­dows may be grant el­i­gi­ble un­der the Built Her­itage In­vest­ment Scheme. Con­tact your local coun­cil for in­for­ma­tion.

Solid word framed win­dows are mak­ing a come­back. Even wood sashes from as early as the 18th cen­tury can be re­stored and con­served.

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