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Window Buying Guide

Window Buying Guide

Finding the perfect windows for your home can be a daunting task – new windows need to deliver on a wide range of requirements to keep you safe, warm and comfortable for many years to come. That’s why we’ve decided to use our 50 years of research, design and development experience to help you purchase wisely.


What to look for in a new window

Anybody who is yet to buy a window could be forgiven for thinking that one window is pretty much the same as another.

There's more to choosing a window than meets the eye. Not only do you have to decide on the window style that will suit your home, but frame material, type of glazing and opening options are all important elements to consider before buying a window.

We believe that in helping you understand the more technical aspects of glazing, we can help you make the right decisions, leading you to windows that will help keep you safer, warmer and happier for many years to come. That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive guide to help you understand everything you need to know about windows.

New window requirements

Everyone’s needs, tastes and requirements are different, but the ideal window should offer the following benefits:

  • Be easy to maintain and clean
  • Let in a good amount of light
  • Look good and be aesthetically in-keeping with your home
  • Be highly secure with multi-point locks and mechanisms
  • Have glass that can’t be removed from outside of the home
  • Have a high energy rating (A+32 is currently the highest) to reduce energy bills
  • Be made-to-measure, therefore fit perfectly into the aperture of your home
  • Keep out draughts
  • Not move or rattle when the wind blows
  • Long lasting guarantees that cover all areas of the window (not just the glazing)
  • Add value to your home

Everything you need to know about windows

 

Buying new windows is an investment, but if you buy the right window you will only have to fit it once.

  • Materials

    Modern window materials & new technologies

    Historically, windows were made using timber frames. Steel windows came into use in the early part of the 20th century, followed by aluminium in the post-war period. But as good conductors of heat, metal windows easily let heat escape from a home. uPVC windows were introduced in the 1980s as a more energy efficient type of window, and remain the most popular window material to this day.

    The modern uPVC window has been in development now for over 40 years. During this time, a great deal of effort has gone into creating something that not only looks fantastic, but also performs to the highest security, performance and environmental standards now expected by the EU and UK Governmental regulations.

    Advances in manufacturing technology means that modern windows offer better performance than ever before. Whichever material you choose, your new windows are likely to beat your current windows for security, strength, energy efficiency and lifespan.

    Timber windows

    Offers the lowest thermal conductivity. Classic looks, but is most expensive.

    Timber is the highest performing material in terms of energy efficiency, as it is a natural insulator that absorbs and retains heat. Timber windows are seen to be most attractive, but natural materials such as wood require more looking after to keep them at their best.

    Timber frames can be made from both softwood and hardwood. Softwood is faster growing and more plentiful, so it's cheaper. Hardwood grows slower and is more durable, so tends to be more expensive. Modern timber frames are engineered to be stronger, meaning they will not warp or bow, and can also be treated to resist rot and fungus.

    The added beauty of timber is that it can have a stained or painted finish, and it is the only material that can be repainted a different colour at a later date, so personalising the look of your home becomes even easier.

    Make sure you choose sustainably sourced timber windows that are approved by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC).

    Light OaK Timber

    uPVC windows

    Long lasting and low maintenance, offering high performance at affordable prices.

    uPVC is often touted as a miracle material Mfor windows that ticks all the boxes for any project. The truth is that uPVC is a good all-round material that makes smooth and stylish frames that will never rot, flake or rust. uPVC windows are still among the most energy efficient available, and – with excellent double glazing – can achieve up to an A+12 Windows Energy Rating.

    uPVC is a popular choice for windows as it offers fantastic value for money, although for some it may lack the unique charm of other materials. However, it is now possible to buy uPVC windows designed to emulate traditional timber frames, to such an extent that it can be difficult to tell them apart.

    It used to be that you could have any window, as long as it was white. Now uPVC frames are available in a range of colours, guaranteed to last a lifetime with extensive guarantees against frame discolouration. Many windows also now contain lead-free uPVC, which is an important environmental and health factor.

    White uPVC window

    Aluminium windows

    Slim frames let the most light in. Stylish exterior is ideal for modern properties.

    Aluminium windows are used in structural glazing and other commercial construction projects due to its strength. In domestic properties, this allows for a much thinner window frame and a larger glass surface area, letting more light into the room.

    As a metal, aluminium is a natural heat conductor, letting heat pass through easily. Aluminium windows feature a thermal barrier in the frames, which reduces heat loss through the frames. In the last 10 years, thermal barrier technology has improved massively, and aluminium windows can now achieve almost the same high energy ratings as uPVC windows.

    Aluminium windows are also extremely weatherproof and low maintenance. Unlike other metals, aluminium does not corrode, so window frames will not rot, flake or rust. It used to be that you could have aluminium windows in any colour as long as it was silver, but not anymore! A powdered coated finish allows a wide range of colours to be chosen for the frame – including non-metallic colours.

    Black aluminium window

    Composite windows

    ‘Super windows’ that offer the benefits of many window materials combined.

    Composite windows combine the benefits of different materials, to offer the best strength, security, energy efficiency, aesthetics and lifespan.

    One popular option combines the craftsmanship and detailing of timber windows with the benefits of the uPVC material. Another option is aluminium-clad timber, for a low maintenance and weatherproof window that offers all the charm of a classic wooden window from the inside.

    Which material should I choose for my new windows?

    Deciding on the best window material for your property can be a challenge. The good news is that window engineering has advanced considerably in the last 15, 25 or even 50 years since your last windows were installed – meaning that you will definitely notice the benefits of upgrading your windows, no matter which frames you choose.

    With improvements in window design, traditional differences between materials are slowly disappearing. You can now get uPVC windows that are virtually indistinguishable from their timber counterparts, as well as stylish aluminium frames that look exactly like uPVC windows, only slimmer.

    That being said, some materials still suit some properties better than others:

    Traditional houses

    Houses built before the 20th century would have originally had wooden windows, and still suit these today. Countryside cottages, 1930s semis and Victorian terraces are examples of period properties where timber windows are perfectly suited. With sliding sashes or period detailing, modern uPVC windows can sometimes replicate these styles, but for a truly authentic feel, there’s no replacement for timber.

    Why not try timber casement windows with Georgian bars or sliding sash windows?

    Suburban housing

    Properties in housing developments built from the 1960s onwards tend to have white uPVC windows. Replacement uPVC windows are a great choice to retain this timeless look, and they can be customised with a variety of frame colours to add a unique touch. If you’re looking to maximise light in your home, such as in a basement flat, aluminium windows are a sleek alternative.

    Why not try uPVC casement windows with two colour frames, or slimline aluminium windows?

    Modern architectural

    For that stylish ‘Grand Designs’ look, there’s no better choice than aluminium. Used in structural glazing, aluminium is a strong material that can hold larger glass units – letting in large amounts of light. Aluminium frames are almost ‘flush’, meaning they sit flatter than uPVC frames and have neater lines – ideal for angular designs.

    Why not try aluminium casement windows?

    Of course, these are only suggestions and you can choose almost any type of window for your home. If you need more assistance, ask your advisor for more suggestions tailored to your property.

  • Glass

    Window Glass & Glazing Types

    Originally, windows only had one job, and that was to let light into a building. The first windows were made with pieces of crown glass held together by lattice leading. Soon after, the invention of thinner and flatter plate glass led to larger squares of glass held together by wooden glazing bars.

    Float glass was invented in the late 1950s, allowing for the quicker production of large, flawless glass sheets. This helped spur on the development of more advanced glazing. Double glazing became the norm from the 1970s onwards, as energy efficiency, comfort and security became more important to homeowners.

    So how does double glazing work? And why are more panes of glass better?

    Glazing options

    Single glazing

    Does a job, but offers limited sound insulation, security and energy efficiency.

    A surprising number of houses in the UK are still only single glazed. Windows can be one of the greatest sources of heat loss in a home, and one pane of glass is not sufficient to retain heat. Complaints about old single glazed windows include: cold spots near the window, draughty frames, freezing cold house and noise pollution from the outside – all problems that will disappear by upgrading to new double glazing.

    Installing single glazing is still a requirement on occasion where planning or conservation regulations apply. Along with timber frames, single glazing helps a property retain its period look. Another way to improve insulation under these circumstances is to install secondary glazing.

    Double glazing

    The minimum standard for new windows and the most popular choice.

    Double glazing is one of the most effective ways to improve the insulation of a home, creating a warm and comfortable living environment.

    In a double glazed window, two panes of glass are joined by a spacer bar, and the gap between the panes traps warm air, slowing the escape of heat from a building. In addition, the best windows introduce an inert gas such as argon gas in this space, which further limits the movement of cold air.

    In the UK, all new buildings must include at least C rated double glazed windows as standard, but many companies are offering double glazing that can achieve an A or even A+ rating.

    Triple glazing

    Safer, quieter and warmer windows.

    Triple glazing contains a third pane of glass, creating an extra cavity which traps warm air and reduces heat loss through the sealed unit. Triple glazed windows are better at retaining heat generated within the home, whilst reducing overheating in summer.

    A common misconception about triple glazing is that the improvement in thermal performance is due to the extra pane itself. However, it is more about the types of glass and coatings used, the gas filled sealed unit, and also the distance between the panes.

    Is triple glazing really any better than double glazing? Ultimately, triple glazing provides next-level heat and sound insulation. It is up to 35% more effective than double glazing for thermal efficiency, and reduces outside noise by up to 35 decibels.

    For some properties, triple glazing isn’t high priority, but it’s recommended for houses next to busy roads, train lines and under flight paths, or in typically colder areas.

    Quadruple glazing

    Ambitious, but a step too far?

    Some firms have tried to introduce a fourth pane of glass, but there is currently very little demand in the UK to develop quad glazing.

    Colder countries such as Canada and Switzerland are already using quadruple glazed windows, but the UK doesn't plunge to such low temperatures that it would justify the need for thicker windows.

    In some cases, a good triple or double glazed window can be as thermally efficient as a brick wall. Also, the cost of quad glazing is likely to outweigh the thermal benefits that an extra pane will bring.

    Secondary glazing

    A practical alternative to double glazing for conservation areas

    There are instances when it is not possible to physically replace a window as you may live in a listed building or conservation area, for example. Despite this, you may very well feel you’re getting too much noise or cold air from outside.

    Secondary glazing is an additional window installed directly inside of the existing window frame. It can help your home achieve thermal, security and soundproofing benefits, whilst remaining invisible to the outside.

    Types of glass

    It’s not all about the number of panes of glass – new technologies have been developed that make window glass stronger, shatterproof, clearer and quieter. Consider which types of glass would be best suited to the requirements of your windows.

    Low E glass

    Invisible reflective coating

    Low emissivity glass has an invisible, thin coating applied to its surface that reflects heat. It is strategically placed on the inner pane of glass to help keep heat indoors, helping to maintain a comfortable temperature.

    Low iron glass

    Clearer, allowing for more light

    Windows that contain low iron glass are noticeably clearer. They allow a higher level of light to pass through compared to older glass types, which sometimes have a slightly green tint. 

    Security glass

    Thicker glass, laminated or toughened to enhance security.

    Security glass is available in a range of sizes and thicknesses depending on your security needs. Typically, laminated glass is 6.4mm thick (compared to 4mm for standard glass), and contains a thin plastic interlayer that prevents the glass from smashing. Toughened glass is up to five times as strong as ordinary glass of the same thickness.

    Security glass is used as an outer pane in a double glazed unit, adding an extra layer of security to the window as a whole. Toughened glass must also be used for fixed lights in side panels to doors, as well as in windows close to the ground.

    Sound reduction glass

    Outstanding levels of noise reduction

    Sound reduction glass windows contain an inner pane that is 6.4mm thick supported by an outer pane that is an incredible 10mm thick. Together, they provide excellent sound insulation. A thin and lightweight solution to noise problems, silent windows are a powerful alternative to triple glazing.

    Coloured glass

    Enhancing the character of your window and home

    Add coloured shapes, patterns and bevelled designs into the glass itself. Decorative glass looks beautiful in top hung fanlights – the top sashes of casement windows – as well as feature windows in halls and stairwells. Coloured glass is similar to stained glass windows, but it doesn’t require leading to hold the glass together.

    Leaded glass

    A new version of an old classic

    Stylish strips of lead are a purely visual benefit that can be added to your window in order to make it more aesthetically pleasing. There are a range of leaded glass options that suit both modern and traditional houses, including square and diamond designs.

    Obscure glass

    Maintains privacy with distinctive character

    Obscure glass creates a ‘cloudy’ effect, enhancing privacy by blurring out your home’s finer details to passers-by. Also known as privacy glass, there’s a variety of textures available, such as leaves and flowers, as well as grainy patterns.

  • Design

    Window Styles & Designs

    Window styles tend to be named after the way they function, and although window companies give their ranges different names, they’re usually self-explanatory. Casement windows open outwards, sash windows have sashes that slide up and down, and tilting or turning windows usually open inwards or flip around for ease of cleaning.

    Most people opt for casement windows – these are the simplest to operate and suit nearly every home. However, some houses will require different window designs, depending on the project.

    Casement windows

    Casement windows have emerged as the most popular window style. They can be hinged on the side to open left or right, or hinged to open upwards. Extremely versatile, casement windows can be designed to suit a range of properties – with over 250 frame designs. Modern technology means they are very secure, with multiple locking points along all sides of the frame. 

    Dual turn windows

    Dual turn windows combine classic casement windows with modern pivot technology. They work by pulling the window down and inwards to open, turning the window on a pivot to fully reverse the sash. This is useful for cleaning both sides of the window with ease, as well as allowing optimum airflow on a hot summer’s day.

    Tilt and turn windows

    Tilt and turn windows possess a dual hinge arrangement that allows the windows to tilt inwards using a hinge at the bottom, as well as opening inwards with a side hinge. Tidy and efficient, these windows have been designed for flats, apartments and other upper storeys, providing secure ventilation and an easy way to clean windows from the outside.

    Sash windows

    Sash windows are among the most traditional window styles. Historically made from timber, sash windows can now be made from uPVC, for a classic window design that fulfils more modern day performance requirements.

    There are several different styles of sash window available, modelled on designs from the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods. Sash window designs vary depending on the era, but tend to have a thicker frame depth and a deep bottom rail.

    Sash windows traditionally operated on a pulley system of cords and weights, allowing users to lift the sliding windows open and shut. Modern sash windows tend to use a metal rod or ‘spiral balance’ to slide the window open. This device is smaller and so allows for a larger glass area, letting more light enter the room.

    Tilt sash window

    Tilt sash windows have the appearance of a standard sash window but as well as sliding, one or both of the sashes tilt inwards for easy cleaning. Tilting sashes have the attractive appearance of the traditional sash window, but are more practical for the modern home.

    Georgian windows

    Georgian bars can be added to either casement or sash windows to add a touch of traditional charm to your home. These bar details can sit internally or externally – internal glazing bars sit between the glass panes and keep your windows easy to clean, whereas external bars sit on the surface of the glass.

    Another option is diamond or square leaded glass designs – these patterns are applied to the outer pane of double glazed units and are available in many widths and colours.

    Custom shaped windows

    Windows don’t have to be rectangular, and actually bespoke shaped windows can give your home a unique edge. Every good window company will make your windows to measure, and arched, round, angular and apex windows can be easily custom made. 

    Fixed pane glass windows

    Often referred to as a ‘picture window’, fixed windows do not open, and so are installed purely for letting light into a space, or to showcase the outdoors. Fixed pane windows don’t just have to be rectangular. Circular or hexagonal portals are popular, as are lancet and other shaped fixed lights in high or hard-to-reach places.

    How to choose a window style that's right for your home

    Many people decide to replace their existing windows like-for-like, but with so many window designs, frame styles and other decorative features, there could be a better window out there to your home.

    First, think about the window’s functionality – standard casement windows are well suited to most projects, but if ventilation, security or maintenance are a concern, it’s worth checking out other styles.

    One way to make sure your house looks top class is to ensure that each individual window appears balanced in its own right. We call this ‘window framing’ – choosing a symmetrical window will enhance the aesthetics of your property and create a lasting impression.

    Whichever window style you choose, you can complement the look by customising with decorative glass, Georgian bars, and customisable fixtures and fittings.

    Combining window styles

    Houses often incorporate window sets made from different configurations. Many of these window styles can be combined to create a row of windows, such as sash windows fitted together to create a bay window, or a bow window constructed with Georgian style windows.

    The same applies when choosing windows for a conservatory – it’s possible to design any glazing project that takes your design and usage considerations into account.

  • Frames

    Window frames

    Understanding how windows are made is an important part of understanding what makes a good window. Window frames are an important part of the window – not just structurally, but because different materials and finishes impact on the energy efficiency, security and overall appearance of the window.

    How are windows made?

    Window frames are constructed by taking long lengths of ‘profile’, cutting them to size, and fixing the ends together to create a rectangle (or other shape!). Different materials are fixed together in different ways – timber windows can be ‘joined’ together with interlocking sections, whereas uPVC and aluminium frames are welded or fused together under high heat.

    Some uPVC and aluminium windows are ‘mechanically joined’ to replicate the same process as a wooden frame, giving a more classic look. Better quality uPVC windows are now made using a ‘smooth welding’ process, resulting in a seamless and more polished finish.

    Timber window frames & joinery

    Timber windows are made by fitting together solid lengths of wood that have been pre-cut and styled by machine or hand. Good quality timber windows are made using engineered wood that has been layered and compressed to increase the structural stability of the frame. Timber is naturally insulating, and the frames don’t require any other materials or parts.

    uPVC window frames & chambers

    You might think that because timber frames are made from solid pieces of wood that all frames are created in this way, but it’s not the case. Timber is a naturally insulating material, but uPVC windows work by trapping air in pockets within the frame, reducing thermal conductivity and stopping heat from escaping.

    These are called ‘chambers’ – the more air chambers a window frame has, the more energy efficient the window can be. This is because each chamber provides an additional barrier for the heat and the cold to contend with. The outerframe and the sashes can each have a different number of chambers, but numbers can range from a 3-chambered frame to a highly energy efficient 9-chambered frame.

    Aluminium window frames & thermal barriers

    You might have heard that aluminium window frames are ‘cold’ and not as energy efficient as uPVC. Well, the problem with older aluminium windows was that the profile could only be ‘extruded’ in one piece, meaning window frames used to be made entirely from metal – the worst material for letting the heat escape!

    Over the years, advances in manufacturing led to windows being made in two parts, allowing for a polyamide thermal barrier to disrupt the transfer of heat. Like uPVC windows, aluminium frames also contain energy efficient chambers. 

    Window frame styles

    If you have a keen eye for detail, you’ll want to choose the right frame styling and detailing for your new windows. Windows can have clear, sharp lines or a softer, curvier outline depending on whether you choose bevelled or ovolo frames.

    Another popular design choice is windows with ‘flush’ sashes, meaning that windows sit completely flat, with minimal frame depth. You might want to choose flush windows if you want to replicate the flat façade of traditional timber frames, however these windows do not offer the weatherproof qualities as regular frames. At the other end of the spectrum, ‘stormproof’ windows are designed so that the sashes overlap the frames, to protect against the elements.

    Period features

    Like fashion, window styles have changed over time, and there are certain features that can tell you what era a window belongs to. Georgian windows are overlaid with astragal bars that divide the sashes into six over six panes, Edwardian sash windows sported sash horns, and 1930s windows use arched frames to give a property its style.

    Good window companies understand the differences between different historical window styles and can advise you about which period features you should consider, which is especially important if you live in a period property.

    Previously, you could only expect to achieve fine detailing with timber frames, but it’s now possible to replicate this style using modern uPVC or composite materials. Some uPVC frames are manufactured with a ‘woodgrain effect’ finish, which emulate the texture of timber.

    Window seals

    Window seals, or gaskets, sit between the frame and the glazing to stop air leakage and water ingress, resulting in a fully airtight and weatherproof window unit. Gaskets keep your home warm and dry, saving your frames from becoming damp and rotting. It can be easy to overlook the importance of good quality seals, but they really do help the all-round performance of a window.

    Gaskets are pre-fitted to windows before installation, and with modern windows you won’t need to add any additional draught excluding seals.

    Three types of seal are needed to make a window fully weathertight:

    • Window opener seals help support the window all around its edges
    • Outer weatherproof seals prevent water from getting in from the outside
    • Inner weatherproof seals keep the window airtight and keep draughts out of your home

    Rubber vs. Q Lon window seals

    Until very recently, window seals were thick, black and rubbery, and stood out starkly against white frames. Seals have slimmed down since then, and are now more discreet. They also offer better insulation and contribute to a much higher energy performance.

    Seals are available in either rubber or a material called Q-Lon. The difference is that rubber tends to flatten once it is subject to repeated pressure, altering its shape and ultimately hindering its performance. Eventually, rubber seals can collapse, and this is one of the main reasons why older windows fail after a number of years.

    Q-Lon seals, however, have a compression recovery of 99%, meaning they will spring back to their original shape every time. They are also available in a range of colours, which really improve the overall appearance of the window set.

  • Furniture and fittings

    Window furniture & fittings

    Sometimes it’s the smallest features that make the biggest difference to your window. Whether you’re after a sleek modern look or a sculptured classical appearance, the right frame styling, handles and other accessories creates a superior level of authenticity.

    Handles

    Window handles come with key locking as standard and are usually available in a range of colours and metallic finishes to match the frame colour. Handles used to have a ‘spur’ that wedged the sash shut, but this feature is less common now that key-handles are available.

    Sash window furniture

    The key to achieving an authentic-look sash window is in the furniture. Small metal hook pulls sit at the foot of the sash, with sash fasteners locking the window together. Traditional weights and pulley operated sash windows also require a hook on the wall in order to fasten the cord.

    Different eras have different fashions, and it’s no different with sash windows. Professional window companies will know which sash window fittings are meant for your new windows.

    Traditional ironmongery

    Modern windows can be made to look exactly like their traditional counterparts, right down to the furniture. Ask for traditional style handles, such as monkey tail or tear drop handles. Windows can also be decorated with peg stays – the period version of modern-day friction stay hinges – that keep a window casement open at the angle you want.

    Locks, hinges & hardware

    Your window will be constructed with different hardware depending on the materials and how you want the sashed to operate. The important thing is that your window company is using quality locks, handles and hinges that will keep your window operational for years to come, and will not fail.

    Check that your windows are British Standards Institute (BSI) accredited for quality and have been tested to PAS 24:2012 enhanced security levels.

    Of course, there are other ways to accessorise your new windows – these include different frame colours (including two-colour frames), decorative glazing, and period features such as sash horns and Georgian bars.

  • Security

    Window security

    Installing secure windows in your home is important on a couple of fronts. Firstly, strong frames and locks can protect your home against intruders, significantly reducing the risk of break-ins and burglaries. Secondly, restrictive window openings can create a safe environment, opening just wide enough to ventilate a room without the risk of falling out.

    The best way to compare windows’ security is to research their credentials. Windows must achieve the British Standards certification PAS 24:2012 – the minimum security standards required for residential properties. As of October 2015, all new build homes must be fitted with double glazing that achieves PAS 24:2012 in order to be Document Q compliant.

    Some windows also boast ‘Secured by Design’ accreditation, an initiative to reduce crime through secure glazing, backed by the UK Police. 

    Internally beaded windows

    Window glazing is held in place against the frame with a small strip called a ‘bead’ which runs along all the edges of the window sash.

    Early uPVC windows had the option of external window beading, but this has largely been dropped due to security concerns. Window beads used to be a lot weaker and offered an easy opportunity for burglars to simply peel them away and remove the glass.

    Most windows nowadays have internal glazing beads (on the inside of the window), which is the most secure option.

    Multi-point locking

    There are many more options regarding locks than you might have first thought, offering varying levels of safety and security.

    Technically, a window with just two locking points can be considered “multi-locking” but the more points that a window can be locked, the more secure it is. There isn’t a standard number of mechanisms, but if you can find a window that has eight or more locking points, you have yourself an incredibly secure window.

    Bi-directorial locking adds a layer of complexity in the frame that prevents the intruder from being able to jemmy your window out of place.

    Key lockable handles

    All modern window handles are key lockable, which makes it infinitely more difficult for potential intruders to simply wriggle your windows open. It also adds an extra safety feature for top storey rooms accessible by children and vulnerable. It is recommended that you leave your key inside the lock, however, so you don’t need to look for it in case of an emergency.

    Hinge-side security brackets

    Some uPVC window frames incorporate tough, interlocking brackets that secure the outside of a window sash when fully shut and locked. This means that if an intruder tries to lever the window on the hinge side, the brackets will prevent them from being able to jemmy the window out of place.

    Egress hinges

    Used for fire escape windows, egress hinges allow a casement window to open fully outwards in order to provide a fire escape.

    Opening restrictors

    Opening restrictors limit how much a window opens, either by connecting the sash and the frame via a cable, or by fitting key-lockable restrictors that allow windows to open no more than a couple of centimetres wide for ventilation purposes.

    The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reports that 4,000 children under the age of 15 are injured falling from windows every year – something that could easily be prevented by using window restrictors.

    Lockable ventilation & night vents

    Windows have the option of leaving a small, 1-inch gap when closing, locking them ‘nearly closed’. This is also known as the night vent position, and many people use this as a means of ventilation. However, leaving a window on the latch is far less secure than shutting a window fully, and can present an opportunity for a potential burglar to prise open the window.

    New windows can be provided with ‘trickle vents’ instead, which provide background ventilation without compromising the security of your home.

  • Insulation

    Energy Efficient Windows

    You’ve paid for your heating – it’s the job of your double glazing to keep the heat in your home. Improvements in energy saving technology is arguably one of the most significant developments over the past few years, not just for the environment but for home comfort and money savings, too.

    Up to a third of a home’s heat is lost through single glazing, and on average upgrading to energy efficient windows can save around 20% in energy use. Thermally efficient windows are at least double glazed, with low emissivity glass, and an inert and non-toxic insulating gas like Argon between the panes.

    Combined with energy efficient frames, new double glazed windows can achieve up to an A+12 Window Energy Rating (WER), and triple glazing can achieve up to A+32. Upgrading your windows could save you up to £450 on household bills every year.

    WER rating

    The British Fenestration Rating Council (BFRC) created the WER rating (Window Energy Rating) in order to simplify how effective a window is. The rating system offers grades from A-G (with A being the best). If the window is rated higher than an A it will be followed by a number, and anything above an A10 becomes A+. In October 2015, the BFRC introduced the A++ rating for windows that achieve higher than A+20. The highest rating currently available within the UK is A+32.

    The WER rating is made up of three key elements: U value (low heat loss), solar gain and air loss through ventilation.

    1. Thermal efficiency (U value)

    A window’s U value is the technical way to measure heat loss through a type of building material, such as a brick wall or tiled roof. U values are calculated by the equation W/m2k, which measures heat loss in watts (W) per square metre of material, when the temperature (k) outside is at least one degree lower.

    The lower the U value, the better the insulation provided by the material. Single glazed windows have a typical U value of 4.8-5.6W/m²K, which means that around 5 watts of heat are lost per hour, for every square metre of window. Modern double glazing can achieve a U value as low as 1.4W/m²K, and triple glazing is even more energy efficient, reaching 0.6W/m²K. This is lower than the U value of an external wall!

    2. Solar gain (G value)

    Solar gain is another factor that can boost a window’s energy rating. Not only are windows now designed to stop heat escaping, but they can also let heat in by capturing the sun’s rays. The idea is to capitalise on solar radiation as a natural or ‘passive’ form of heating, reducing the dependence on carbon energy to heat your home in the winter months.

    The factors that influence the solar factor are the number of panes, the type of gas between the panes, and also the type of coatings added to the windows, as they dictate whether the glass absorbs or reflects the heat. It is measured by the G value, on a scale between 0 and 1, with a high number indicating high solar gain.

    Contrary to what you might think, solar gain windows do not always lead to overheating – the UK has a relatively cool climate and relatively little sunshine, so overheating is rarely a problem! For rooms where sun streams in during the afternoon, it could be worth considering upgrading to triple glazing – the level of solar gain is actually less than double glazing, due to the extra pane of glass and cavity.

    3. Air leakage (L value)

    Air leakage occurs when there is a weak point around the window frame, such as the seals. Most modern windows are fully airtight, and should have an air leakage factor or L-value of zero (0.00W/m²K).

    Air leakage is not to be mistaken with ventilation. Ventilation is a controlled system, letting in small amounts of fresh air to reduce stuffiness and improve air quality, whereas air leakage will compromise the energy efficiency of your window.

    Sound insulating windows

    Upgrading to double or even triple glazed windows also has the benefits of improving sound insulation in your home. The effect is like as moving a road that’s just 5m from your home another 100m away – this means a quieter and more relaxing living space, free from the noises of traffic from roads and flight paths.

    The same factors that increase a window’s energy efficiency also work for noise cancellation: more panes of glass, Argon gas to fill the cavities and airtight seals work together to give you more peace and quiet! You can even get ‘silent sealed units’ with double-thickness glass that can cut noise down by up to 36 decibels.

    Can’t install double glazing in your property? If you’re restricted by conservation planning rules, secondary glazing can also help to reduce the noise from outside filtering into your home.

Questions to ask before you buy new windows

Now that you know what makes a good window great, we advise you have a think about your design preferences, the project requirements and the impact on your home, before actively seeking to buy.

To help narrow down your search, ask yourself the following questions:

Q: How do I know if I need a new window?

The lifespan of a window depends on the quality of the product and workmanship. A well-made and well-fitted window won’t have to be replaced for decades.

Warning signs for needing to replace a window are:

1. Misted windows due to blown double glazed unit (failure of glazing seals)

2. Timber frames have warped or started to rot

3. Plastic has perished, is peeling or discoloured

4. Windows rattle, or let in draughts and the cold

5. Sashes don’t open or close properly

6. Broken hinges, handles and locks

Another reason you might like to upgrade to better performing windows is if you want to improve your home’s insulation, for example.

It’s common to experience these problems if your windows are over 20 years old. Sometimes it’s possible to repair a window, but like a car, replacement parts will only delay the inevitable – at some point the window will need to be replaced.

Had your windows replaced recently? Alarm bells should be ringing. If you’re experiencing these problems so soon, it’s likely that the window is faulty or has not been installed correctly. It’s worth checking to see if you have an active warranty (most companies offer a 10 year guarantee) or get in touch with your double glazing installer to see if they are able to rectify the problem or replace the damaged unit.

Q: What colour scheme will help set my home apart?

The majority of windows are replaced like-for-like, and for many this means choosing white windows. However, modern windows are available in the largest range of colours to date, and you’re not limited by the material you choose any more: uPVC windows are available in natural wood colour frames, aluminium windows come in contemporary blacks and greys, and both can be ‘dual coloured’ for a different frame colour inside and outside. Heritage tones are surging in popularity, including Chartwell Green, Cream Woodgrain and Anthracite Grey.

If you need more help choosing a colour scheme for your windows, ask your advisor for advice tailored to your property.

Q: How important is window security?

Up to a third of burglaries in a home occur through a window. This could involve smashing the glass (single glazed windows are particularly easy to break), removing external frame beads to simply lift the glass out, or levering open the sash. A window is only as secure as its weakest part – ensuring the frames, hardware and glazing all work together to prevent entry is fundamental for your home’s security.

Good windows have multi-point locking, a key lockable handle and strong frames and hinges. A simple way to check for enhanced security credentials is by assuring that they have been certified to PAS 24:2012. Another tip is to hide your valuables from view with curtains or blinds!

Around 15% of burglaries don’t involve any kind of forced entry, with intruders climbing through an open window or door. It’s important to remember to keep windows shut and locked when you’re outside of the room, but if ventilation is important, consider tilt-in windows that only leave a small opening.

Q: Do I have an obligation to retain the look of my property?

If you live in a listed building, conservation area or your house has a restrictive covenant, you’ll need to follow certain guidelines to ensure your new windows are “in-keeping” with the surrounding area.

Houses in conservation areas are subject to ‘Article 4 Directions’, which restrict the work that you can do to the outside of your property, without first getting planning permission. If this is the case, it’s often simpler to find a company with previous experience of getting windows accepted in conservation areas. Ask your window company for details of previous projects that have been accepted by Planning Officers.

Other than these legal necessities, it’s up to you what style, colour and glass designs you want for your windows!

Q: How do I find out if I live in a conservation area?

Conservation areas are in place to protect architectural and historical buildings or places of interest, and are more common for properties built before the turn of the 20th century. However, it’s always worth checking before going ahead with a home improvement – homeowners who go ahead without planning permission may be required to pay again for a more sympathetic upgrade.

You can find out if you live in a conservation area by contacting your local planning authority (LPA), and you can find out if you have a restrictive covenant by checking the title deeds for your home.

Q: Should I go for a traditional or contemporary design?

Unless your house has a legal obligation to retain its appearance, it’s your choice. Many people choose a traditional design to fit with their home’s appearance, but in some circumstances modern, slim frames can actually enhance the aesthetics of a property.

Get inspiration by browsing picture galleries and searching for similar properties to your own. If you’re totally stuck or need some advice, get in touch with a home improvement expert who can help you choose windows that suit your home.

Q: Which window material is the easiest to maintain?

Modern, high performance windows should last for decades to come, needing only minimal maintenance. Some window parts now come with lifetime guarantees, meaning that you will never need to worry about plastic frame discolouration or misted windows.

uPVC and aluminium frames are practically maintenance-free, and only require cleaning occasionally by wiping down the frames with a damp cloth. Timber windows can be cleaned in the same way, but will also need to be recoated using microporous paint or stain every couple of years, when necessary. 

Q: Can installing new windows save money on energy bills?

One way to make your house more energy efficient is to upgrade to better glazing. Single glazed windows lose a house up to a third of its heat through the panes, meaning if you still have single glazing, you could save a small fortune – up to £450 every year – just by upgrading your windows.

Of course, the potential amount you could save on heating bills depends on the energy rating of your current windows, and how well they’re performing. The Energy Savings Trust has a useful guide which has worked out these savings for you, as well as an energy savings calculator to see where else you could improve.

Q: What is the energy rating of my new windows?

Energy ratings for windows are often calculated by two different systems – Window Energy Rating (WER) and U values. WER ratings are presented on a simple A++ to G scale, to make it easier to compare windows across the board. U values make up part of this rating, and they are the technical way to measure heat loss.

You can ask your window company for both these specifications when deciding on a new window – they should be able to show you an ‘energy licence’ for the product. Average double glazing achieves around a C rating, but superior windows can achieve up to A+12. Triple glazed windows can reach a high of A+32.

It’s worth noting that the energy efficiency of a window is only as good as its installation – a poorly fitted window with gaps around the edge can leak heat and create draughts. That’s why it’s important to choose a company that makes your windows to measure, so that they fit the aperture perfectly, and properly seal the perimeter.

Q: What kind of guarantee do the windows come with?

It’s important to make sure your new windows are guaranteed for a number of years after installation, for your peace of mind in case something goes wrong. FENSA Registered Businesses, such as Everest, must give a guarantee or warranty that ‘covers the cost of completing rectification work in respect of defects for a period of 10 years’.

Better windows often come with better guarantees – look for a double glazing company that offers more comprehensive cover, including guarantees against foggy glazing, discoloured frames and faulty parts. Some companies even offer lifetime guarantees, with the option to transfer the warranty across to future home owners.

Make sure that you’re provided with the relevant documentation and information for how to claim in the rare case that you may need to.

Q: Are timber windows sustainably sourced?

You can tell if the timber in your new windows is sustainably sourced by selecting windows that receive FSC accreditation – approved by the Forestry Stewardship Council. Window frames are made using wood from a responsible source, i.e. trees that grow quickly and in managed forests to slow the impact of deforestation and reduce the impact on the environment.

European Redwood is an example of a plentiful softwood that is used in window construction, and is approved by the FSC, for an environmentally sound window.

Q: Are your products CE marked?

CE marking for windows essentially means that all windows from the same manufacturer are of a consistent quality, and is a necessary accreditation for all products made and sold in the EU. Make sure that you choose a double glazing company that installs CE marked products – they should display the logo in their literature and double check the product by looking for the logo both on the inside of the frame and the sealed glass unit.

Q: Is it possible to make custom shaped windows?

Any good double glazing installer will survey your property and precisely measure up for new windows before giving you a quotation, meaning that every window or glazing product you buy should be made to measure your home. Most installers can make or order windows in any size and shape, depending on building regulations, including circular, arched top, apex or triangle shaped, or angular windows. Simply ask your local representative during your design consultation.

Q: How do I know if a window company is any good?

1. Accreditations

There are many industry renowned federations and bodies who take great efforts to ensure that the best window companies are easily identified. The main ones to look out for are GGF, BFRC, FENSA, Conservatory Association, TGO and BBA. Click here to read more about each accreditation.

2. Experience

A long trading history and good reputation are good indicators of a stellar window company. Focus on the company’s reviews and satisfaction ratings. Ask to see examples of recent work, including customer testimonials and installation pictures, to make sure they are confident with undertaking similar projects to yours.

It’s also worth asking about the professional experience of the team – does the company have dedicated and experienced advisors, surveyors, installers and project managers?

3. Recommendations

If you’re stumped about where to start, talk to people you know and trust about any personal experiences they may have had. That will give you a good idea of the level of service that different businesses offer.

Q: How do I get an opinion from an expert I can trust?

Friends and family are a great starting point when getting advice about buying windows, and TV, magazines and the internet are limitless sources of inspiration. But nothing beats seeing the options laid out in front of you, with samples so you can get a feel for the windows themselves.

Before you buy, see if any of the companies you like offer a no-obligation consultation service. If they do, there is nothing to lose by arranging an appointment, which will give you some face-to-face time with an expert. 

Q: Do you install where I live?

Narrow down your list to companies who actively install in your area. Not only will this save you time in your search, but you can be confident that they have experience with similar house styles.

Q: How long will the installation take?

Typically, you can expect to have your new windows installed about 4-6 weeks after ordering, but the wait time is different with every company. This can be due to a variety of factors, including manufacturing complexity and arranging any planning permission, as well as popularity of the company and seasonality. As long as the company is responsive and communicates at every step of the process, it is the sign of a good service.

The time it takes to install a window depends on how many windows and other home improvements you’re having installed at the same time. A single window can take anywhere from 3 hours to install, to a day for a full house of windows. Your window company will be able to give you an estimated installation time when booking the installation date. 

Q: Does the window company offer aftercare, such as call outs and repairs?

Even if you’re confident you’ve chosen the best glazing company and best quality window, it’s good to know that you can call on your installation company again at any time. Whether you want advice about looking after your windows or troubleshoot any problems, it’s a relief to know the full service is available to you.

Ask about their aftercare service, and whether they offer callouts and free repairs if anything goes wrong. It’s unlikely you’ll need to use such services, but it’s a shrewd idea to check beforehand.

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