One major concern when crafting our bespoke wooden window frames is the 'movement' of the timber that we use in construction. Typically timber falls into one of three categories – large, medium or small, movement – which determines the amount that the wood will move when it absorbs moisture from the air. This can cause problems such as warping and cracking depending on whether the wood becomes too wet or too dry.
Although we can take steps to minimise the impact of water absorption, through various practises such as drying the timber and treating it with coats of paint and varnish, wood is a hygroscopic material and will always seek to reach equilibrium with the moisture content of its environment. As such we use the technique of multi-layering in order to compensate for the wood's natural tendency to expand and contract.
In this practise at least three layers of timber are glued together with their grains set in opposing directions. This not only reinforces the strength of the wooden frame, but helps to counteract the swelling of wood as it takes on water.
As timber becomes more humid water begins to fill up the cavities between its cells, thus causing these cavities and the timber to expand. When this expansion occurs concurrently in layers of multi-layered wood, which have their grain in opposing directions, the moisture movement of the water is evened out, thus preventing the warping that you would otherwise find in single layered timber constructions.
This is by no means a new technique and has been employed throughout the ages to create wooden structures that needed to be particularly resistant to potential water damage. For years multi-layered timber has been used in the UK to create bridges, roofs, stadiums and other high-demanding span timber structures. In fact, throughout Europe it has been used to create door and window frames for a long time as well, though the technique is just now being utilised in the UK for its longevity and sturdiness.
The advantages of using this type of engineered timber are many fold, though top of the list is its potential in terms of design. Multi-layered timber is effectively man-made, it retains the natural product's positive qualities including aesthetic and ecological sustainability, whilst accruing the advantages of being far more reliable and easy to work with.
The timber can be designed to meet application specific requirements far easier than solid wood can be, and so window frame designs have become smarter and intuitive, without having to account for the twisting and warping that will occur in solid wood designs. This means that we can create more intricate and spectacular bespoke wooden window frames, which not only work around the environment they are placed in, but also offer an increased guarantee of durability.
Many clients who come to us often find themselves at the threshold of refurbishment, looking to renovate their house for the first time. Understandably at this point they don't much of an idea about what it is they want to do, let alone how they're going to do it or with what. One question that we ask of those looking to fit new timber windows to their home is whether they are looking for hardwood or softwood.
“Hardwood.” Comes back the puzzled answer, “who wants windows made of softwood?”
This is a common misconception, for not all hardwoods are hard, nor softwoods indeed soft (though this is generally true), and really the choice comes down to personal preference rather than durability. Balsa wood, for example, is an extremely light-weight wood, though it's considered to be a hardwood. Their, albeit confusing, terminology instead comes from the trees that grow them.
Hardwoods comes from the broad-leaved deciduous trees that typically lose their leaves seasonally, such as ash, birch, cherry and mahogany. Whereas softwoods are derived from coniferous, needle leaved, evergreen trees like fir, cedar and pine.
As such, it is important to understand the different uses, and the pros and cons of these types of woods before you place your order.
One of the first questions you need to ask yourself is whether your budget permits for you to use hardwood. Typically more expensive than softwood, mahogany will set you back more than pine for a list of reasons. Hardwoods normally takes longer to grow, and so incur larger costs before they are even felled. Once ready, the trees are themselves harder convert into a saleable product due to the density and strength of the wood, thereby accruing larger labour costs. Furthermore, these trees are affected by the seasons, and their cost can be altered due to adverse weather conditions and a poor crop.
Softwoods, on the other hand, are far more sustainable, quick to grow and easy to deal with. This is why, for instance, you will find a lot of the lumber used to build your house is pine as opposed to cherry wood.
The next question should be, what is it for? Generally hardwoods are more durable, and less quick to decay that softwoods. Leave some oak outside alongside a plank of pine and you'll find that the pine will begin rotting far sooner, which ought to mean that hardwoods should be used for outdoors furnishings. However this is somewhat of a misnomer, as most modern day wood treatments and paints will get around this issue, rendering some softwoods as good an option as hard for windows, garden furniture, etc..
This doesn't mean that all woods, hard or soft, can be used for window frames. The light and weak balsa wood doesn't suit windy areas and so isn’t used in the UK, whereas a softwood like Redwood can provide a cheaper and just as good alternative when dry and treated.
The final question is one of aesthetic. How do you want it to look? Darker in colour, woods like oak, larch and sapele have a deeper, richer and more lustrous appearance compared to their softer counterparts, with less visible annular ringing. Pine and spruce are instead much lighter, with more knots and growth rings, which can add a certain character to your home furnishings. In this regard it comes down to what you want to create visually, with a rubbed down softwood offering a starkly different scene to a dark, varnished hardwood.
It is extremely important for the timber used in window frame construction to have been acclimatised before the frames are put in place. Timber that is too wet or too dry can cause a range of problems, from minute aesthetic issues to important safety concerns.
The reason for this is that wood is a hygroscopic material. This means that, much like the potatoes you will have experimented on in school, the timber will try to absorb or release moisture until it is at equilibrium with the humidity of the environment.
This isn't because wood just likes to soak up water like a sponge, but rather because water is a large chemical constituent of a growing tree. When wood is wet and untreated its water content chemically-bound within its fibres is typically around 25-30% - the water fills up and bulks out the cavities between the cells. When the wood is dried, this water is lost and so these cavities close up, causing the fibres to contract and the timber to shrink.
Drying of timber for window frame construction is undertaken for two principal reasons:
Wet woood that is kept at a high humidity for extended periods of time without treatment is likely to suffer from mould, causing not only a health hazard but weakening structural integrity and causing decay. Generally the moisture content of wood is reduced to below 20% in order to avoid this issue, as well as the problem of staining.
Wood that has not been dried to the appropriate range fitting for its environment (typically 12-14% in the UK), will shrink after it has been put into service. As it does so this will cause what is known as 'movement' in the timber, which can cause issues if the grain of the wood is not dead straight.
Many woods are classified as lrage, medium or small 'movement' timber. Where small movement timber is used in more humid and wet conditions in order to minimise the issues that can arise with expansion. The most prevalent issue caused by movement is the warping of the wood, which distorts the aesthetic of the timber, causing your window frames to look ugly and out of shape. Expansion of the wood through soaking up too much moisture can also cause the windows to jam in place, rendering them useless.
If, however, the timber becomes too dry (a rarer issue), cracks can occur, causing not only visual deterioration but reducing the strength and load bearing capabilities of the window frame. This can mean that the wood becomes weakened, with the potential for the glass to fall out or be broken – a major concern for manufacturers. As such, we ensure that all of our wood has been dried to the appropriate range for British weather conditions, negating any risk of movement or the issues that movement can cause.
Whilst a major concern with old single glazed windows is that they simply let in too much noise, there is a shining problem with energy efficiency that they have also inherited. Often new double glazed, energy efficient windows, will offer a marked 30% increase in heat preservation compared to the old brand.
Poorly constructed, or often times simply old, doors and windows will let in drafts causing heat loss during the winter months. Whilst stop-gap options such as draft excluders can help curb this issue, the only sure fire way to deal with it is to get replacement windows.
The outmoded single glazed unit used to be this country's staple; from the ubiquitous bay-windows of Victorian era houses to the two-up two-down terraces. Most new builds are instead fitted with double glazed for a variety of reasons:
- The technology required to construct double glazed windows has advanced and costs have fallen.
- They offer significantly greater guarding from noise pollution.
- They offer a far larger reduction in energy loss.
To give you some figures, let's consider a typical house in the UK. Replacing single with double glazed windows you can expect a saving of, on average, £170 on the heating bill. This is not only cost efficient, meaning that there's extra money in the kitty every year, but also goes some way to lowering your carbon footprint: in terms of emissions, this saving off-puts around 680kg of carbon dioxide per annum.
Double glazing units achieve this by maximising their insulating efficiency - by creating the optimum space between the two panes and filling it with heavier gases such as Xenon, Argon and Sulfur Hexafluoride (though the latter is a large contributor to greenhouse emissions and is best avoided). If the space between the glass is too large, this allows for convection currents of the room to pass into the insulating gas, and eventually for heat transfer out of the building. Too thin and the heat is lost via diffusion between the panes. Alternatively vacuum filled, hermetically sealed double glazing units are manufactured that eliminate heat loss due to convection, though this technology brings with it its own problems such as increased stress across the glass and costs.
When buying double glazing the main thing to be aware of is the Window Energy Rating (WER), which is a scale that runs from A (the best) down to G. Although double glazing with an A rating will be considered to offer optimal heat insulation, most windows with a rating of C are considered to be energy efficient, with the better rated only offering slight increments in energy efficiency.
One drawback that might put some off replacing their single with double glazed windows is the aesthetic. Everywhere we go we see the white uPVC frames that most homes have installed. These cheaper frames won't suit the look of many houses and may interfere with the décor. However this needn't be a concern as aluminium and bespoke wooden frames are also available kitted out with energy saving double panes that will better suit individual tastes.
Timber products that face the outside world, i.e. windows and external doors, suffer the worst that the environment can offer. They have to be resilient to changes in temperature, weather conditions and infection. As such, it is very important to consider what products you use as an outer cover for your timber.
Externally exposed wooden window frames that are not protected with a finishing coat will weather badly inducing the timber's colour to fade, causing aesthetic damage, though the problems aren't just skin deep. Timber that isn't treated to face outdoors conditions is susceptible to damage from mildew and UV light amongst other things.
There are four main options to choose from when considering what product to treat your wooden window frames with. They are: preservatives, paints, varnishes and exterior wood stain. Depending on the product and the desired effect all these products have their pros and cons, though we strongly advocate the use of water-based paints in the final finish.
Most oil based paints and preservatives that you buy will be high in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are employed to keep the paint in a stable state whilst not in use. These VOCs generally evaporate at room temperature giving off a strong smell as it leaves the paint to dry. When airborne they can accelerate the rate at which nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere react with UV rays, catalysing the creation of photochemical smog and low-level ozone. Unlike many other outdoor coatings, water-based paints are virtually VOC free, thus minimising the effect of the industry upon the environment.
In addition to its environmental impact, water-based paint is also more beneficial to the timber you are covering. With varying humidity naturally occurring within wood, timber often expands and contracts day to day. Oil based paints are less malleable and so don't react too well to this movement.
Water-based varieties instead move more freely and also allow the surface beneath to 'breathe' more easily, preventing water retention that can harbour mildew which will cause the timber to rot from within. This is extremely beneficial in harsh weather conditions, and will ensure a lengthier protection on your timber window frames. Importantly, however, you must remember not to paint over oil finishes with a water-based alternative, because as the coat below expands and contracts, it will crack and blister under the new coat, rendering it useless.
Some may argue that you cannot get the same finish with a water-based paint as you can with oil, however as regulations have been tightened on the use of VOCs in the industry, a lot more time and money has gone into developing water-based alternatives which will provide the same required finishes as their more harmful predecessors.
Stained glass has a rich and colourful 1000 year history. Whilst many people may think of it as a bright and illustrious material that fills the hallowed halls of Churches with pretty pictures marking the life of Christ, this doesn't take into consideration the incredible amount of artistic and scientific craftsmanship that has to go into creating such pieces.
Stained glass is made in a variety of ways, though these predominantly fall into two categories:
-Glass that is died in production by the inclusion of metallic salts in the manufacturing process.
-Glass that is painted after manufacturing, which are then fused to the surface in a kiln.
Early examples of stained glass are found way back in ancient times, the earliest of which is a fragment of blue glass infused with iron oxide found in Mesopotamia, which dates back to around 1400BC. There are also many examples of stained glass found from during the times of the Roman and Egyptian empires, some of which are stored in The British Museum. One such piece is known as the Lycurgus Cup, a 4th-century Roman creation made of dichroic glass (a glass that shows a different colour when a light is passed through it).
An expensive process, stained glass wasn’t something normal people could afford to put in their homes and it became a spectacle and the mark of affluence. As far back as 350BC, churches began using stained glass as a way to visually depict stories from the Bible, with their contortion of light demonstrating the incorporeal elements of morality and spirituality. This reached the height of its popularity as an art form in the Middle Ages as it became a simple and effective way for the Church to spread to teachings of Christ to a mostly illiterate clergy. Impressive examples of which can be found in Canterbury Cathedral, where the ornate and large windows of Gothic era architecture allowed for larger installations.
The growth of stained glass carried on throughout the Classical era. However, when the English Reformation took place due to Henry VIII’s desire to divorce his wife, and the Church of England broke away from the rule of the Pope, many of these incredible windows were destroyed. Coupled with the King’s dissolution of the monasteries due to their connection with the Roman Catholic Church, and Oliver Cromwell’s injunctions, which saw the destruction of all images that were ‘idolatrously abused’, centuries of fine glassworker’s hard graft were mercilessly smashed. As such, many traditional working methods were lost to the annals of history.
This remained the case until the early 1800s, when resurgence of interest in the medieval church ushered in a revival of Gothic architecture. Following suit, the demand for stained glass windows, and its traditional methods of manufacturing, returned bringing in a new dawn of stained glass which spread throughout Europe.
Finally stained glass became a major art form and moved out of the churches and into the forefront of artistic endeavour. In the 20th and 21st centuries it became the plaything of artists and, through techniques such as gemmail (where the glass is overlapped allowing for greater subtlety in the colour), was experimented with by famous Abstract artists such as Piet Mondrian. Since then its popularity has grown, with even 3D sculptures made from the stuff. So tell us what you think. Has stained glass shaken off its old, traditional ties? Can it be cool and modern?
Though uncommon nowadays, owing to the fact that we’ve discovered that the chemical is poisonous, lead glass was once a common material used in the construction of many things from liquid vessels to windows throughout the ages. Empire to empire, lead glass was used in various forms for its decorative properties.
The inclusion of lead oxide in the manufacturing of glass has a tripartite effect on its production.
- First of all it raises the refractive index (RI), meaning that the resultant product basically produces a sparkling effect, as seen with Diamonds, which have a very high RI. Through exploiting crystal cutting techniques, manufacturers can create some stunning effects.
- Secondly, it lowers the working temperature meaning that its production requires less time and energy, with its working temperature only around 800°C, compared to some glasses which have a working temp of over 900°C.
- Thirdly it lowers the glass’s viscosity meaning that it’s easier to mould, allowing it to be used easily for enamelling.
Now this all sounds very scientific, and I suppose it is, but the interesting fact is that lead oxide was first used in the production of glass way in Mesopotamia. A small fragment of the glass, dyed blue, was found in the region of Nippur (an area now in modern day Iraq), which has been dated to 1400BC. There is also mention of a recipe for a lead glaze, which itself dates back to the Babylonian era or around 1700BC. However, before we get too excited about our genius ancestors, there is debate as to whether they were consciously using lead as a primary fluxing agent.
Much later we see that iron oxide is used in glass production in Han era China. Slow on the uptake, it is believed that the Chinese were taught of the uses of iron oxide as colouring agent by Middle Eastern glassworkers travelling along the Silk Road. As time went by, glass was manufactured more and more as industry developed. Across Europe it eventually came to be known as vitri Ijudaici or ‘Jewish Glass’ during the Roman period, due to the writings of Heraclius and owing to the fact that it was mostly made by Jewish workers.
Then latterly, in Medieval Europe, we see lead glass being employed extensively as the base for many coloured glasses such as stained glass windows amongst others, where the colouring of the glass was as an imitation of precious stones. It was no longer just a Jewish industry and, although there was still a rich Jewish heritage to the process, its manufacture was relocated to Venice, from which it gained high esteem throughout Europe.
Eventually a young English business man called George Ravencroft business man brought glass manufacture to the industrial scale in the 1600’s. It flourished in England until a harsh taxation was put upon the selling weight of glass, restricting profits and lining the pockets of the British government. This then lead to lead glass manufacturers creating far smaller, more intricate products, often with hollow stems – products we know nowadays as Excise Glasses. These techniques were developed throughout the 20th century and into the 21st when Fredrick C. Carder and Thomas G. Hawkes of Corning began manufacturing Steuben Glass. To this day, but to a lesser degree, lead glass is still used in decorative and industrial applications.
Image by justinwkern
Pollution has become a major global problem ever since the Industrial Revolution. We have been burning gasses and producing chemicals at a noxious rate for over a century now and it’s becoming more and more evident that this is extremely detrimental to our health and the planet’s future. We need only look at the pictures of smog from China to realise that something is going desperately wrong, and see that something has to give!
Well, we’re trying to push forwards as a company with the green movement very prominently in our minds. As such we’re trying to take every step to curb our effects on global pollution and reduce our carbon footprint. From our sourcing of materials to the way we can affect air quality in your home, our fight against pollution begins from the ground up.
Typically pollution is caused by industrial chemical reactions and is blamed on the following chemicals:
- Sulfur Oxides (produced by burning fossil fuels and by volcanoes)
- Nitrogen Oxides (most notably Nitrogen Dioxide, is formed by high temperature combustion and in the manufacture of explosives. Reacting with Sulfur Dioxide produces acid rain)
- Carbon Monoxide (the product of incomplete combustion of materials such as wood, coal and natural gas)
- Volatile Organic Compounds (Methane and other Hydrocarbons; Methane is produced by farming and many other industrial processes and is a major contributor to rapid global warming. Hydrocarbon VOCs can catalyse the creation of low-level ozone, and sustain the life of Methane in the air)
These are only a few examples of pollutant chemicals, there are many others including Persistent Free Radicals, Radioactive Pollutants and Ammonia which also contribute a great deal to global warming and creating an unsafe environment.
It’s very easy to blame large manufacturing companies and their plants for the creation of these chemicals and their effects on the atmosphere. After all, it is their industrial processes which will contribute the largest amount to air pollution. What many people ignore is that these chemical plants are trying to keep up with global demand for products, and in doing so having to manufacture things in a way that creates an incredible amount of pollution.
With this in mind, we should all be thinking about our spending habits, the products that we actually buy and the amount of fossil fuels that we burn. Global warming is very much an imminent danger and it means that we must now do something about it before it’s too late. We have already gone some way to reducing pollution by limiting the amount of CFCs that we produce industrially, but there are many more harmful substances we are releasing into our atmosphere at an alarming rate.
With the Kyoto Agreement on its long road to reduce greenhouse emissions and the Gothenburg Protocol limiting pollutant production in the EU, things are certainly on the right track regarding changes in the way we approach pollution. It’s a sad fact that much of the world is behind us on this matter and we can only hope they will realise the damage they are doing soon!
Image by Mikael Miettinen
Unfortunately we don’t live in a world in which we can leave our doors unlocked and our houses protected. Whilst we don’t want to scaremonger, as the threat of a break in is relatively low, it is always a weight off of your shoulders knowing that you house is as secure as it can be.
One way of ensuring this is by using security glass in your window frames. Found throughout many service industries such as jewellers and banks, this glass is smash resistant and often bulletproof. Whilst this may not be particularly pertinent for your household security, it is worth understanding the properties of the glass and what it can offer.
Often applied in areas where the glass is required to undergo a fair bit of stress, and where shattered glass might cause injury, toughened glass is tempered in such a way that it causes the glass to crumble into chunks as opposed to sharp shards. Found in shower doors, architectural doors and tables, this glass’ outer surface is compressed during its creation, whereas the inner surfaces are filled with tension. However due to the tendency of this material to shatter upon impact, it’s not generally considered the securest of glassed. However, toughened glass is also used in the manufacturing of…
Practically impenetrable, this type of glass is manufactured by combining two or more types of glass, with at least one hard and one soft. Typically this involves using alternating layers of a polycarbonate thermoplastic and laminated glass, with the polycarbonate plastic retaining a refractive index similar to that of the glass. As per the example above, toughened glass is generally employed in the design, as its tempered qualities allow it to withstand greater forces of impact.
Where a single, unprotected pane of toughened glass it likely to shatter, those layered with plastic will retain their shape when confronted by small projectiles. The glass itself flattens the bullet upon impact, whilst the plastic absorbs the rest of the force, thereby preventing penetration. The thicker the glass, the more reliably it will stop a bullet from penetrating, and as such bulletproof glass can often by up to 3 inches thick.
Whilst most homes won’t require bulletproof glass, there are other levels of security offered by treated glasses which have a thicker than normal vinyl interlayer between the panes.
As standard these types of glass typically provide a minimum of twice the amount of resistance of normal glass. So where a standard laminated glass may shatter after five blows with a hammer, security glass would take at least ten blows, by which point the intruder ought to be suitably intimidated. With developments in technology and the production of these units, this type of window security is becoming more and more available, affording the average citizen better protection.
Image by Wes Reimer
Thermal Low-E glass (short for low-emissivity), is a type of special energy efficient glass which is designed to prevent heat loss through windows. A coating on the glass creates an invisible layer which reduces the amount of heat transferred out of the window, as well as by reflecting the heat back into the room.
These panes can contribute dramatically towards savings on the heating bill, as we already discussed, and could offer the average homeowner savings of around £170 on their annual costs of heating.
Typically, most old glazing units will not contain this glass, and are as such leaking money, not to mention their contribution to your carbon footprint. The installation of Low-E glass can go a long way towards bringing down the amount of carbon you use in a year, in some cases causing a reduction of over 600kg.
So how does Low-E Glass Work?
First we need to understand what thermal emissivity (TE) is. Consider a spectrum; on one end we have a blackbody which has a TE of 1, and on the other a perfect reflector with a TE of 0. Everything on this planet will fall into this spectrum, dependent upon the amount of heat it either reflects, absorbs or emits. Take a brick, for instance, whose TE is 0.9. We consider that it absorbs and emits about 90% of the heat that it comes into contact with, whereas it reflects only 10%. We then consider the brick to have a thermal reflectance (TR) of 0.1 – as the combined value of the TE and TR must combine to make 1.
So from this we can see that a brick would make a terrible window, not only because you can’t see through it, but because it will mean that most of your heating will be lost. Surprisingly enough, the average uncoated window has a TE of 0.91, even more than a brick, which translates to a 91% loss of heat that reaches the window.
Low-E glazing combats the naturally high TE of glass by utilising one of two methods.
- Pyrolytic CVD
Fluorinated tin oxide is deposited on the glass during the float glass stage of manufacture, and whilst the product is at a high temperature. This is also known as online or hard coating.
- Magnetron Sputtering
This process involves the depositing of thin layers of silver and metal oxides such as tin and zinc within the glass, by way of a very large vacuum. Also known as offline, soft or vacuum coating.
Whilst the actual creation process is incredibly complex, the science behind it is fairly simple. The inclusion of these oxides within the glass panes reduces the size of the wavelength allowed to travel through the glass. Infrared energy, which is the main transmission of thermal energy, is kept on its side of the glass, and so the room remains warm, whilst the smaller wavelength of visible light is able to pass through without any problems.
Image by Emyln
Many people will know of stained glass and the majestic windows that have been created with it throughout the ages. From the hallowed churches displaying the testaments in full coloured majesty, to the advent of modern stained glass and its application as an art form, it always adds another dimension to what otherwise would be just another window. Perhaps not suitable for every frame in your house, these panes can add an artistic flair to conservatories, doors, bathrooms and more.
What most people don’t know is that this is just one type of decorative glazing available to them, so we thought we’d give you a handy little breakdown of the types of decorative glass that exist.
A glass that has either been sandblasted or had caustic chemicals applied to it in order to create a pattern, you often see etched glass in saloon bars from the 1920s with their frosted caricatures of patrons. Recently this technique has been used with most abstract ‘sensibilities’ in mind, where artists create free flowing designs that ease out of the glass. You’ll often find this type of window in bathrooms and other areas where privacy is a requirement.
Though not as common nowadays due to the fact that we’ve found out lead is toxic, leaded glass has many decorative traits that can work beautifully in a modern home. With the inclusion of the metal in the potassium silicate glass, the refractive index is considerably heightened, meaning that the finished product will noticeably sparkle. Stained glass can also be leaded, with the addition of lead often used to change the colour of the glass. Nowadays this type of glass is often made by adding chemicals such as titanium dioxide and zirconium dioxide, though it is still often regarded as leaded.
Bevelled glass is traditionally made with thick panes which have been had their borders, or decorative elements cut at an angle. Cut like this, the glass produces a prism effect when sunlight streams through it, creating a rainbowed spectrum as well as highlighting the glass work. This type of decorative glazing looks fantastic in doors and cabinets, offering a high end, polished finish to the piece.
Created by incorporating glasses which have been fired at different temperatures, fused glass combines them together in order to add different shapes and textures to the finished glazing. With the three different styles creating really quite varying effects, this type of glass can create a really stunning and artistic finish quite unlike any other decorative glazing. Employed extensively by artists, if you want something truly individual for your home, we’d recommend you use fused!
Image by Amandajm
As the winter kicks and screams its way through February, and your bones are chilled, well, to the bone, the last thing you want to come home to is the a freezing cold house. It's around this time that you start to notice those little cracks under doors and nooks that allow a whispering draught to torment you at night.
Whilst in the summer draughts are a welcome addition, allowing ventilation into your property, when uncontrolled they can be a real nuisance and waste a lot of energy. In fact, it is estimated that drought proofing will actually save you on average between £20 and £50 a year.
This isn't even taking into account the fact that draught free homes are comfortable heated to lower temperatures, enabling you to turn down your thermostat – potentially saving you another 10% off of your heating bill.
So the question is, how can you draught-proof your home?
There are some simple steps to take, and whilst you can make general little improvements there are also some larger improvements that will safeguard your property for years to come. Simply put, the best way to draught-proof your house is to install improved windows and doors, which can not only keep the heat in, but the costs of heating down. However, there are still plenty of little things that can be done to improve conditions.
Quite often old casement and sash windows warp and contort over the years leaving audible gaps between the frame and the sill. The installation of brush strips between the sashes and and sill will go some way toward combating this, though this is only a temporary fix. You can also get a range of rubber strips which you can fit yourself to act as a buffer between any gaps. Installing new sash windows made with a multi-layered hardwood is a more permanent solution, which will not suffer from the timber movement that many older designs do.
External doors are the next biggest contributor to draughts, and there are a range of products that you can install to help with gaps around and under the door. There plenty of screw-on kits which form a second seal around the door, though these can be unsightly. Alternatives can be found in internal draught excluders which either fit under the door, or just inside the frame which will also go some way to keeping warm air in.
Keyholes and Letterboxes:
Pivoted covers on both internal and external keyholes, whilst the installation of strong spring mounted letterboxes as well as sturdy brush units also prevent air passing through the actual door.
Skirting and Floorboards:
Either through poor installation, or over years of use, gaps can form between floorboards and the skirting. There are some very good flexible sealants on the market which can plug these holes, and which often stand the test of time.
Double glazing is everywhere, and unless you have been living under a rock you will know all about its energy efficiency and capacity to reduce noise pollution compared to older single pane windows. What you may not be aware of is the fact that triple glazing is now an affordable option when building or renovating your home, and can offer a marked improvement upon standard and even advanced double glazing units.
Similar to double glazed windows, triple is formed of three separate panes of glass, more often than not of low-e standard, separated by an inert gas like argon and heat insulated spacer bars. The difference lies in the insulation properties of double vs. triple glazing.
In modern double glazing units the energy efficiency (u-value) averages out around 1.6, whereas in triple glazed windows you can expect a u-value of about 0.8, meaning that triple glazing is doubly efficient. In places like Scadinavia where every step towards a thermally insulated property is a necessary one, triple glazing has now become the standard due to its ability to keep heat inside the home.
However, the benefits don't stop there, as glazing also offers a considerable improvement in noise reduction. A property, measured in decibels, which denotes the reduction of noise between partitions, the Sound Reduction Index (Rw) of a double glazed unit is often around 32dB, whereas with a triple glazed unit you can expect an Rw of 41dB. This is a 30% increase and will offer markable differences in areas where noise pollution is a real problem, such as near airports and busy motorways.
So Should I Switch From Double Glazing To Triple Glazing?
The short answer is perhaps not. Whilst triple glazing will offer you a clear increase in heat insulation and noise reduction, they can be fairly expensive and, in terms of payback on energy bills, it will be a while until you see a return. That said, there are certainly tangible, if not monetary benefits to changing your windows
Triple glazing will reduce your energy consumption and thus your carbon footprint, which is something that I would recommend everyone does. Also, if noise pollution is a real concern then I would recommend replacing double glazed windows with triple, as the difference is certainly noticeable.
Another benefit seen from installing triple glazing is a reduction of cold spots in a property. Where the higher u-values of double and single glazed units creates a differential in temperatures between the windows and the wall, triple glazing goes a long way to reducing this.
Image by Solipsist
Window ironmongery is also known as 'window furniture', though of course it's not the process of attaching a 3 piece suite to your casements, but rather the small little add ons, flushes and flights of fancy that can turn your windows into something uniquely individual.
We often include ironmongery into our bespoke window designs, taking into account the setting and aesthetic of the building in order to ensure a continuity in image across the property, though we often have clients asking for specific fixings, or our advice on how what type to use. So we thought we would give you a little break down of the differences one might expect from different ironmongery for windows available.
The most affordable stuff on the market, uPVC fittings including hinges, handles, window stays and latches. They will certainly do the job, but the simple fact is that you aren't paying for quality, but rather functionality here. With plastic fixings you are losing a degree of strength in the product that will make your windows less secure and look cheaper.
Though plastic can look fairly sleek and modern, you are also pretty much restricted by this design with plastic ironmongery basically reserved for uPVC windows. Leading brands include Mila, Eurosafe and Rola, all of which provide adequate products at affordable prices.
Providing a pricing middle ground in window fixings, brass ironmongery is very popular and commonly found as handle fixings on casement windows. Brass is also used for a range of products including hinges, escutcheons, stays and latches. An alloy of zinc and copper, brass is strengthened by their fusion and is treated to be resistant to any corrosion meaning that they are very strong and durable fixings.
Regarding design, brass is a material that practically exudes class. It forms a mellow infusion with light and varnished timbers and creates a sense of finery when accompanying white-finished wood windows. That said, brass doesn't always suit the aesthetic of stone walled cottages, or unique heritage properties which are still drenched in their history.
The traditional. Ironmongery is an art form that has been in development since 1200BC, so it's no surprise that iron window fixings are still regarded as the upper echelon. This obviously comes with a larger price tag. Though cheaper iron fixings are available, you are losing out on the real richness of hand worked iron when you plump for them.
Sturdy, corrosion resistant and intricately designed, this is a style that will bring refinement to any property of window (save uPVC...). Iron fixings will require regular maintenance to ensure there are no issues with jamming, corrosion or distortion, though a little oiling every now and then ought to suffice.
So there you have it, our small breakdown of ironmongery available for windows. I think perhaps my bias towards true iron fixings may have come out there, but what can I say? In my opinion it looks the best!
Image by Elliott Brown
A great deal of older buildings still have their original single glazing units intact which may suit the aesthetic of the property, but can be a real pain year round, especially in winter when you will be pouring money into heating your house only to have it float away with the winds.
The obvious solution is to install double glazing in order to cut down on your heating costs and stop those pesky draughts getting into your property.
However, this can be a real chore in conservation areas and listed buildings. So before you start thinking about getting some bespoke replacements manufactured, it's worth knowing about the bumps that you can face along the road.
Double Glazing in a Conservation Area
Undertaking work on your property in a conservation area requires that all plans go through the Local Authority for approval, which can be a tricky process indeed.
The thing about conservation areas is that they are named as such in order to protect the aesthetic, architectural or historical interest and uniqueness of a building or collection of buildings. Anything done to change their visage is a big no-no, and practically impossible to get around.
Changing the rear of the building (if generally unseen), can be fairly straight forward, but the front is a different matter altogether. Re-fittings of double glazed sash or casement windows need to exactly match the dimensions, design and finish of the current units, which can be a tricky task given that the inclusion of double glazing almost always makes the unit deeper and larger in order to support two panes of glass.
It's also worth noting that if your property stands alone, you are in with a better shout of getting approval, as it will not affect the general look of the neighbouring buildings if the window designs are slightly different. Getting double glazing installed in conservation areas where your property is part of a terrace or a flat within a larger property is even more difficult, though not entirely impossible.
Double Glazing in a Listed Building
This is a similar process to that of the conservation area, except that for listed buildings of Grade I and Grade II* status, English Heritage will have to get involved as well as the Local Authority. This makes the whole process an even larger headache, as English Heritage are even greater sticklers for detail.
That said, it's not impossible, but it will take a long time and you better be prepared for the long haul fight. You will need to submit technical drawings, application after application and go through negotiations with both the Heritage organisation and the Local Council in order to get approval.
Replacement window designs are scrutinised to the millimetre, and are thrown out if they don't submit to the existing windows dimensions.
So What Can You Do?
Well, you can try. The reality is that listed buildings and conservation areas are all well and good, but when they become unlivable due to energy costs and the cold, they cease to function as anything other than four walls and a roof.
The Local Authorities and English Heritage are becoming more acceptant of the fact that although cultural heritage needs to be preserved, modern living also needs to be taken into consideration.
Regarding the actual replacement designs, we at Hugo Carter use ultra-thin glass and smaller glazing bars in order to manufacture replacement windows that have been approved in the past – so it can definitely be done.
The other (far cheaper) option is to install secondary glazing within the property. These aren't, however, as effective at reducing noise pollution, increasing thermal insulation or reducing energy bills. They're also ugly, and whilst this can't be seen from the outside, it can be from within.
If you want to know any more – or have any questions about how Hugo Carter can help you with these issues, just get in touch! A member of our team will be glad to help.
Images by Roger Jones
I’m a lover of all things to do with design. Whether that’s the architraves on our new timber window system or the engine within a Mercedes-Benz. I enjoy looking at not only the beauty of the model, but understanding how and why it was created in such a way. There’s something about the sleek and highly tuned body of a car that I greatly admire, and which I have been known to fork over a fair bit of cash to own myself. In the last few years I have seen this love affair of mine coupled with another of my passions – energy efficiency.
Large automotive companies have had to develop cars that release less CO2 into the atmosphere, and have come up with some really inventive ways of manufacturing vehicles which are still as powerful as their gas guzzling counterparts, but with a view on sustainability and a reduction in carbon emissions.
Perhaps the first of its ilk, the Smart Car has been much maligned for years, with people referring to it as a dodgem and dismissing it as a flimsy toy car. However, I see it in a totally different light. In my opinion, it’s a well thought out design bred on the functionality of running a car in the city. Capable of fitting into small spaces, it requires far less petrol than conventional cars and turns sharply down the narrow lanes of city back streets. Now with an electric range on the market the Smart fortwo electric drive, which produces no CO2 emissions whatsoever, it’s, for me, one of the best solutions on the market for those who need a run around in the city.
The Smart Car and the Prius aren’t the only ones on the market to do this of course, with innovative measures such as BlueEFFICIENCY from Mercedes Benz having revolutionised the fuel injection system to cut emissions.
Of course, the car companies wouldn’t be doing this off of their own back – or I don’t imagine they would at least. This change in attitudes has come down to the European Emissions Standards, which deems that only cars with a certain standard of fuel efficiency, and with low exhaust emissions, can be traded within Europe. One of the largest markets in the world for automobiles, this has caused a huge knock on effect in the global market, forcing companies across the planet to change the way that they approach ecological car design.
Much like the European Windows Energy Rating system (WER), which grades a window’s energy efficiency depending upon how much heat it retains, it’s good to see that Europe are once again on the cutting edge of green energy production and carbon emission reduction!
Image by Mariordo
Acoustic windows are the total solution to the problem of noise pollution. As opposed to other stop-gap solutions, such as secondary glazing, acoustic windows target sound reduction on every single level, ensuring the best results possible. Whilst lots of articles on the subject tend to give off a wealth of figures about the results you can expect, I thought I would take a few minutes to just speak about the technology behind the systems that provide the noise reduction.
Acoustic Insulation and Mass
The acoustical insulation of a building is directly related to its mass. Most building will have dense enough walls that they can be ignored in regards to sound-proofing, with the building’s glazing being the determining factor.
Thickness Of The Glazing
As with the walls, the mass and density of the glazing is pretty much the most important factor. Sound propagates through pressure waves, travelling best in air where the less dense construct of the gases allows it to travel with ease. On the other hand, dense solids dampen the sound because the particles cannot move as freely. Therefore the panes in acoustic windows are thicker than the average in order to dampen the sound waves.
Though it doesn’t stop there. Due to a phenomenon called natural resonance, acoustic windows actually utilise two different thicknesses of glass in order to ensure optimal sound proofing of a range of frequencies that you will naturally encounter in your property.
Space Between The Panes
Creating larger air spaces between the two panes is optimal as it means that not only does the sound have to travel a greater distance, but that it has to do so at a different density from the glass. This further distorts the sound wave, causing it to lose energy and stay out of your home. However, many windows can’t offer a great deal of space without becoming cumbersome and unattractive, instead plumbing for a middle ground between aesthetic, functionality and soundproofing qualities.
Acoustic Window Frames
The frames in acoustic windows are often manufactured with three different types of wood, this not only helps prevent swelling off the frames, but through using different densities of wood you can achieve a similar effect to using different thicknesses of glass.
Between the frame and the glass, sound absorbing spacers are employed to prevent any unwanted noise pouring through, and spring loaded shutting mechanisms provide a flush fit that keeps sound out.
These are lining materials which will be fixed onto the glazing itself, and offer around 1-3dB of noise reduction.
The most important factor when constructing soundproof windows is that you avoid any gaps! They must be crafted in a way that pays extremely close attention to fine detail. A hole in the frame representing just 1% of the total window area will actually let in an excess of 10dB of unwanted noise!
Still want to know more about how our acoustic windows work? Then take a look at our windows online or get in touch!
Image by Arpingstone
With the width of single glazing, vacuum glazed windows offer the same thermal insulation as their double glazed counterparts. The question is, how?
How Does Vacuum Glazing Work?
Unlike Dyson hoovers, which frankly no-one apart from Jeremy Dyson understands, the mechanics of vacuum glazing is really rather straight forward. Instead of using air or other combinations of gas between the panes of glass, vacuum glazing instead employs a layer of nothing. With there being nothing between the glass, there is nothing to transfer the heat between the panes, and so it can’t go anywhere. Heat can’t go anywhere - room stays warm.
Of course, it’s still possible for heat to be transferred through the actual frame, though this is the same with double glazing. Rather, the use of microspacers, a low emissivity coating and specialist sealants ensure optimal efficiency.
The Differences Between Vacuum Glazing and Double Glazing
In terms of energy efficiency, there are practically no differences. Vacuum glazing provides the same level of thermal insulation at a 0.2mm gap between panes as double glazing possibly could. So there’s no trumping there.
Instead, the incredible advantage of vacuum glazing lies in its relative thickness. Where most double glazing units will come to around 24mm, and possibly more, vacuum glazed units are around a third of the size at 6.5mm. This remarkable fact means that vacuum glazing is ideal for those who are looking to update their windows from single panes in conservation areas or listed buildings.
As we all know the regulations on changing anything about your property in one of these areas can cause a massive headache, and often this smallest details, such as the exacting dimensions of your windows and their frames, cannot be altered. With a much smaller thickness, it becomes a whole lot easier to design like for like replacement window frames which can accommodate the vacuum glazing, offering four times greater thermal efficiency compared to single pane units.
Other Advantages of Vacuum Glazing
Aside from the size difference, vacuum glazing also offers improved acoustic insulation. They will increase the value of the property itself, and with the energy saving you experience, will reduce those ever increasing heating costs!
Image by Hans
Look along any street these days and you are sure to see uPVC windows and doors on most houses, as they are both energy efficient and very low maintenance. Aluminium frames are also very popular of late, meaning that traditional timber windows are not as prevalent as they once were—until now that is. With the advent of new engineering, multilayered timber can be equally as efficient as modern materials.
What is multilayered timber?
In comparison to traditional single-layered timber, multi-layer sections of solid timber are compressed together. They form a veneer that stops the frames from moving, making them structurally sound and weatherproof.
The Benefits of Using Multilayered Timber
Timber is once again being considered by people looking to insulate their home and make it more energy efficient. For those torn as to what materials to choose when buying windows, we take a look at some of the benefits of having timber doors and windows.
The settling time required for engineered timber is significantly shorter as it can be dried in a kiln, making it easy to make. The cost is also reduced, as there is no requirement to source whole pieces of timber as multilayered is made up of good-quality sections of wood.
Multilayered timber is constructed by placing the grain of one section of the wood being layered in the opposing direction, to the grain of the previous piece. Any defects in the wood are removed before construction and the glue used is stronger than the wood itself.
The layering of the wood in alternating grains not only makes the frame strong but actually makes the finished product look aesthetically pleasing.
The alternate grains reduce the chances of the timber warping or changing shape and provide great stability to the frame. The finished product ensures the home stays warm and has long-term efficiency.
Any waste from making multilayered frames can be recycled. It has been shown that using this type of timber leaves 25% less waste than making traditional frames that require large pieces of wood. The timber used in Hugo Carter frames is sustainable and carbon negative, having an overall positive effect on the environment.
Eco-conscious people will delight in the green credentials of using multilayered timber, instead of modern materials, as it is engineered with the environment in mind. Not only is the multilayer timber kind to the planet, your home will be more energy efficient, so you can relax in your warm home knowing that the energy bills will likely be reduced and that you are safe and secure.
Read more about our multilayered timber over on the Hugo Carter timber products page.
When it comes to ensuring that your home truly is a castle, noise reduction windows are one way of bringing peaceful days and silent nights, but how do they compare in regards to double and single glazed units?
We decided to do a little investigating!
Well, it sort of goes without saying that noise reduction windows will offer the greatest reduction in intrusive noises. With possible reductions of up to 50dB in our high performance range, it’s pretty redundant even comparing the two. However, if decibels mean nothing to you, we’ve created a handy little tool that can help demonstrate what a 50 decibel reduction sounds like:
embed the sound file
Click here to hear how this sounds compared to single and double glazed units!
Whilst modern single glazing installations aren’t half as bad as you might imagine them to be with regards to heat loss, they are half as bad as double glazed units which boast at least double the thermal efficiency value. In terms of money saved on your bill each year, A Grade windows installed in a detached property can save between £120-£160 on the cost of heating.
In these regards, noise reduction windows offer the same thermal efficiency as the highest standard of double glazing.
Oft overlooked by many people when it comes to their properties, windows are a considerable point of entrance for would-be thieves!
Single glazed windows, unless reinforced (which they often aren’t) are extremely fragile and easily breakable.
Double glazed units are far sturdier than their single counterparts, but again, unless they are reinforced can certainly be compromised.
Our high performance windows on the other hand, as they are laminated and constructed of thicker glass, are practically unbreakable. If they are hit with enough force they will crack, but will stay in place and prevent entry into the property.
Have any further questions about how else they compare? Let us know in the comments below and we will be happy to help!