Sirens at three O'clock in the morning and drafts coming from somewhere, windows can be the bane of an otherwise beautiful house. With new advances in the technology behind them, noise reduction windows have become far more economically viable, and have shown clear signs of reducing not only noise, but energy consumption.
There are plenty of treatments that you can add to your windows in the form of films, and noise reducing curtains in order to block out the racket from the street. The thing is that these only offer stop gap solutions; no one wants to be sat inside on a sunny day with the curtains drawn, just to stop the sound of cars entering their house. The best, long term and all-round solution is to replace the windows themselves.
So how do they work? Sound travels in a pressure wave, so when it hits a window pane it causes the glass to reverberate. When both panes (in a double glazed window) are the same thickness, they reverberate at the same frequency and thereby only go some way to ensuring noise reduction. When the panes are of a different thickness, the glass will vibrate at different frequencies, thereby further distorting the noise level and preventing sound pollution in your home.
Buying these windows can be a confusing process, as many companies offer a range of products and will amboozle you with jargon and slogans. One issue that may be thrown up is the benefits of triple vs. double glazing. Whilst it's obvious that single glazing loses out to double, is the same true for three panes? The simple answer is no, not always. If the double paned windows offer a complete air tight seal, then the triples cannot improve upon this. The next issue which arises is thermal insulation. Whilst three panes can offer greater insulation, double glazed windows will offer the same prevention of heat loss if:
- They are coated the panes are coated in heat-efficient coverings.
- Buffered by more energy efficient gases between each sheet of glass.
- The pane-spacers contain no metal.
And as such the doubles may in fact offer greater thermal insulation. If, however, your greatest concern in the amount of noise entering and leaving your house then triple glazed windows may in fact be the way to go. The thing to pay attention to in this case is the STC (Sound Transmission Class) of the window, where single pane glass offers a typical value of 27 on the STC scale, whereas soundproof windows over a dual pane window deliver a typical value of 40DB.
Furthermore, noise reduction windows ought to be evaluated in regards to their energy efficiency. With reports confirming that you can save up to £170 a year on energy bills, windows with a rating of B or higher are a must have. This can not only lead to extra money in your bank at the end of the year, but can offset your carbon footprint by, on average, 680kg every 365 days.
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.
If there’s one thing that the UK does better than anywhere else on the planet, it’s country cottages. Our rolling dales and stark countryside landscapes just wouldn’t be complete without the dotting of these tiny buildings throughout. They’re like seasoning; we have the salt of the white, more modern builds – and the cracked black pepper of older stone architecture.
Just a quick search in Google turns up a plethora of rentable properties in remote locations across the length and breadth of the UK. Many tourists, homegrown and foreign alike, choose to spend a weekend away in a remote location, guarded by the safety of a country cottage. They envisage nights wrapped up in the warmth of a blanket, sat by an open wood burning stove as the wind and rain howls away outside.
And here we come to the keyword. Outside. For the issue is that many old cottages will suffer from the same problem. Left exposed to harsher elements than seen in the cities, the window and door fittings will often suffer from problems to do with the swelling and shrinking of the wood. Rattling frames, penetrating draughts and, even worse, rain entering the property, can turn a cosy cottage into a snivelling nightmare.
Only recently I went to stay in a cottage down in Devon. It was beautifully serene, right on the coast. The interior was lavish and modern. Perfect. It was only as we cracked open the Merlot at night, ready to watch the flames lick at the wood, that we discovered the timber bay windows were warped allowing a tremendous gale to pour in from the sea. Bitterly cold it went some way to marring an otherwise fabulous weekend.
More often than not the insides of these otherwise unassuming buildings will be furnished exquisitely. From a rustic style complete with exposed wooden beams, to the more modern minimalist approach, their charm is always individual and precious. It is a shame that some properties will allow poor and cheap window installation to depreciate the property’s valuable characteristics.
A good, fitted, multi-layered hardwood frame would have suited that place in Devon down to the ground. The old style bay windows could have been enhanced with some beautifully finished timber frames that would have highlighted the interior’s use of dark Walnut wood flooring.
Perhaps many cottage owners worry that they won’t be able to get windows that will fit their old properties, what with their un-standard dimensions. And perhaps that is true of some companies, but I’d like to think that we go out of our way to make sure that we can help everyone, however we can. The last thing we want to see is a beautiful countryside cottage let down by inferior workmanship.
Image by: Leshaines123
Sustainability is something that I personally care a great deal about. We are, as a species, extremely voracious in our consumption of the world’s spoils but, for the most part, are pretty reluctant to give back.
With global industries turning out millions upon millions of products, from kettles and keychains to chewing gum and chicken feed, we are consuming far more energy and natural resources than the planet can produce. Unless the dinosaurs were themselves running multinationals manufacturing toys for the young’uns, this is something that has not been seen before, with our prolonged jaunt into sapping the soil a worrying walk into lands unknown.
We have no clue what our actual impact is on the planet, with many scientists conflicted by the argument of global warming and our effects on the environment. As far as I can see it, it’s a simple matter of give and take. If we’re going to procure our resources, we need to find a way to do so with minimal damage to the environment and local ecosystems.
One such way we have found to do this is by planting a tree for every order that is placed with us. We see it as a way that we can give back and show thanks for the natural resources that allow us to have this fantastic business.
It’s always been a passion of mine to work with wood. From early childhood I would knock things together, from rapidly dilapidating skate ramps in my mother’s back garden to rickety shelving units. It simply made sense for me to follow my passion and embark on a career with timber and construction.
However, it was when I began studying architecture in college that I was turned on to the fact that as an industry professional you ought to have a firm grasp on your environmental impact. Since then I’ve become a champion of sustainable and conscientious wood use.
So, as I was saying, we plant a tree in Bisham woods for every order, ensuring that our future, not only as a business, but as a society is secured. Trees provide us with far more than just beautiful timber for our bespoke window frames and we want to show the ancient woods, that our ancestors once roamed in, some respect.
Image by PavelP
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.
Last year we finally saw the introduction of strict EU regulations (the EUTR) on the import and consumption of illegally harvested timber. With illegal logging constituting around 30% of the global market, and the EU accounting for around 35% of timber consumption, this has lead to a massive increase in timber production within the European Union, as it's the simplest way of combating illegal logging and safeguarding your company from breaking regulation.
The EU Timber Regulation, in conjunction with the EU Voluntary Partnership Agreements, two parts of the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), passed the bill through European court, which sees the responsibility for ethical timber consumption passed down to those companies and individuals who import the products into the EU.
In order to comply with these new regulations all companies that deal with either raw timber or finished products must have access to the supply chain of the timber. These documents must contain information on the tree species, the origin of the wood and the compliance of the wood's logging within the nation of origin's national laws and regulations. As set out in the regulations, those importing the timber must exercise 'due diligence' or otherwise face legal action against them.
Whilst this may seem like a massive headache, the FELGT have made it a lot simpler for consumers to verify the veracity of the products they are buying with their own FLEGT licensed timber, which has been verified as legal down the production chain. Other certified timbers, such as that certified by the Forestry Commission, whilst almost certain to be of legal in origin, still require 'due diligence' on the part of the buyer.
Of course, the easiest way to get around this is to actually buy timber produced in the EU, which simply must fall under the EUTR. And it would be ridiculous to overlook the sheer quality and amount of timber that is produced by the EU nations.
I mean, here's a staggering fact for you: forestry and other woodland areas constitutes around 41% of the EU member states' land area. That's approximately the same area of land as is occupied by the agricultural sector – a whopping 179 million hectares. Although the recession in 2008 put a damper on the industry, there has been a resurgence in timber production since 2012, with Sweden leading the charge producing 68.9 million m³ of roundwood alone. This was closely followed by France, Finland and Germany which individually produced over 50 million m³ of timber. The UK falls way behind with only 10 million m³ produced, which is still significant when you consider the size of the country.
I for one am very pleased with the introduction of these regulations. I can't bear to see the planet's rich forestry being carved up for pennies.
Image by: David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliot
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.
Our line of bespoke soundproof windows is one of our most popular especially with our London based clients who are often kept awake by overhead planes, traffic or nightlife. Whilst it’s great to live as close to the city as possible, the reality of noise pollution is a genuine struggle and we’re delighted we can help by installing a total solution.
However, we do get a lot of inquiries from people asking just how much of a difference soundproof windows make. The fact is that noise and sound levels are a complicated science based on a logarithmic scale which can be really quite confusing if you’re not mathematically minded. So the question is, what difference can you expect from installing soundproof windows?
Measured in decibels, sound is a pressure wave that propagates through the air. Don’t worry, this is as scientific as we’re going. The more power in the wave, the louder the sound.
The decibel scale, like the richter scale, increases as a multiple ten. If you say a sound of 10 dB has a power value of 10, a sound of 20 dB has a power value of a 100 - it follows that a noise of 30 dB has a power value of 1,000.
Still a little confused? Our noise reduction explanation below should help:
As you can see from our soundproof windows infographic, installing our total solution guarantees a whopping reduction in noise pollution of at least 1000%, often offering far greater reduction based upon the bespoke system installed for your property.
There’s not really any better way to demonstrate the effectiveness of noise reduction windows than to show them in action, so have a quick look at the video below in order to truly understand the effects of soundproof windows on a busy London street.
Staggering, isn’t it? The hum drum of inner city life becomes inaudible and a stillness permeates through the property. If you suffer from the nuisance of noise pollution we can genuinely say that there isn’t a better product around to deal with the problem.
If you’re interested in finding out more, get in touch with us and we’ll arrange a free consultation!
Also, why not download a FREE copy of our catalogue by simply clicking on the link below!
Image by Arpingstone
What Are Soundproof Windows?
A revelation in noise reduction, soundproof windows are the total solution to the problem of noise pollution in London. Tackling every aspect of intrusive noise, soundproof windows utilise the following in order to make your property peaceful and serene:
laminated glass to dull sound waves
the space between panes is optimised to reduce noise
timber frames are specifically designed in order to prevent noise pollution
secure fittings ensure there are no gaps in the frames/no reverberations
With a totally scientific approach to preventing unwanted noise in your property from the very beginnings of design, their sole purpose is to ensure that there is no sound penetrating from the outside world.
How Does Secondary Glazing Work?
A solution for noise reduction, secondary glazing is a system that can be put in place in almost all properties and most window designs. Fitting into the original frame design, secondary glazing solutions effectively just place a secondary window frame unit within the property in order to create another barrier between the sounds of the world outside.
Creating another barrier helps to dampen the sound waves, especially when the thickness of the secondary glazing unit is different to that of the original units, secondary glazing basically just adds a layer of sound insulation.
Soundproof Windows Vs Secondary Glazing
In order to give you the best overview of the products, we’ve laid out the most important factors to consider and how each solution fares in regards to not only sound proofing but other factors too.
The most important factor first. Soundproof windows provide better sound reduction. Hands down. Designed from the ground up to reduce sound, and tailored to the individual property’s specific noise problem and providing a holistic solution, quite frankly there isn’t a better solution for reducing intrusive sound.
That said, secondary glazing does provide noise reduction. It will absolutely noticeably make your property quieter, just not to the same degree that soundproof windows can.
Installation Of Noise Reduction Windows
Soundproof windows are a bit messy in this regard. You will need to entirely replace your original window frames which is a fairly long process. That said, employing a proper soundproof windows company will mean that the job can be completed in only a few hours (depending upon the size of the project, of course).
On the other hand, secondary glazing units can often be put in place on your own. This will take as long as you take over it, but alternatively there are a wealth of companies which will come and install their own secondary glazing units at your property. This means you get to keep your original windows in; no mess, no crew required if you don’t want them.
Of course, installing yourself does mean that you can get things wrong and nullify their effects, and the benefits of hiring an established firm will outweigh the few pounds you will save. And so we come onto…
The Cost of Soundproof Windows Vs The Cost Of Secondary Glazing Units
No prizes for guessing what wins out here. Well, ‘wins’ is perhaps the wrong word. Secondary glazing units are far cheaper than the former, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
If you’re on a shoestring budget and have a heinous problem with noise pollution which is keeping you awake at night, then secondary glazing will most certainly help and will most certainly reduce noise. Even more so if you decide to install the secondary panes yourself.
Soundproof windows are on the opposite end of the spectrum. They are expensive solutions, but that’s clearly not a bad thing. They are expensive because they provide the best solution possible; they are tailor made for your property. In fact, they will actually add value to your house because it means that those who you may sell it on to will not have to install the windows themselves!
Thankfully both soundproof windows and secondary glazing units will offer you a degree of thermal insulation. Hooray!
Creating an additional barrier between your inner sanctum and the world outside, secondary glazing creates another buffer between cold air, reducing heat loss through the window panes themselves.
Soundproof windows, due to their very nature; the fact that every single element of the frames are insulated from any possible gaps in their frames, offer far greater thermal insulation than secondary glazing.
In fact, soundproof windows offer double the thermal efficiency of second glazed units. Double… which means double the savings on your bill too!
Issues With Soundproof Windows
The main issue with soundproof windows is that quite often they will require planning permission due to the radical nature of the transition. In conservation areas this can be even more of a headache due to the need for like for like replacement windows, though expert manufacturers can create solutions which will pass even the strictest of local councils.
Issues With Secondary Glazing
Cleaning secondary glazing units is rather a pain. You effectively have to clean two separate window units and this can be kind of awkward depending upon the space you have.
Due to their design, secondary glazing often caused a great deal of condensation on the primary glazing unit. This is another pain to wipe down due to the fact that you have a sheet of glass in the way.
DIY units are often not sealed very well which means that they become pretty much redundant.
The Conclusion. Which Is Best?
Well, quite frankly it depends upon your circumstances. If you don’t have the budget to replace the windows in your property then secondary glazing will go some of the way to reduce noise pollution as well as improve thermal efficiency.
If you do have the budget, you simply have to install soundproof windows. They add value to your property and provide a total, lasting and holistic solution to the problem. They will reduce noise pollution far more than secondary glazing and look far more elegant. Secondary glazing encroaches into your room whereas soundproof window frames will fit snugly within the aesthetic of your property and look gorgeous.
Download Free Noise Reduction Brochure
Image by Smabs Sputzer
The swathe of uPVC windows being fitted in period buildings reached such an alarming peak a few years ago that the English Heritage took to the streets in a country wide campaign to stop the influx of plastic double glazed windows. Whilst you would have heard a great deal of support for keeping the period look of the building, with the original timber windows, there was a large, growing voice advocating the use of uPVC.
So the question is, is placing uPVC windows in conservation areas really wrong?
Well, the short answer is yes! But why?
uPVC is the cheaper solution and, really, we can’t expect everyone to afford the installation of bespoke oak windows in their homes. Therefore, for those who are suffering during winter at the cruel hands of single glazed wooden frames, it seems like the best option.
Yes, they will save on your heating bills, but at the same time there are other, even cheaper, solutions which will achieve the same result. What are they? Well, buying or even just closing your heavy curtains will show a dramatic increase in heat insulation, as will the installation of draught proofing strips. These are far cheaper than installing those plastic frames - though, of course, perhaps not as long lasting.
The secondary option is to install secondary glazing. Sure, we’re not very happy with what secondary glazing does either - they’re a little cumbersome (stealing sill space) and often not the prettiest, but they will ensure you can keep the original aesthetic of your period windows whilst offering very good insulation as well as noise reduction. If money is the object then these units, which you can often install yourself, will do what you need for a low cost.
The Green Cost
Sure, they are cheaper to install, but why are they cheaper? It’s because their manufacture and production doesn't cost as much - and why’s that? It’s because uPVC is a bi-product of the petrochemical industry, and has a whole heap of nasty chemicals added to it in order to stabilise it and make it fit for purpose. Unlike their timber alternatives, plastic frames will not harmlessly biodegrade, meaning that landfills will be laden with those unwanted window frames for aeons. Like most things, if you’re saving money on something, you’re incurring costs elsewhere, and in this case it’s the environment!
The Aesthetic Cost
Perhaps not the most important, but ironically the most protected reason is the aesthetic cost. Houses in most conservation areas will require like for like replacements - uPVC is quite simply out of the question. And whilst this may seem like a flimsy argument for those who want to just install cheap double glazing, it’s very important for us to protect our architectural heritage and the, frankly, quite ugly dulled white of plastic frames does nothing but detract from our otherwise beautiful buildings.
So what’s your opinion? Do you think the English Heritage and the insistence upon using more expensive timber frames in conservation areas is something that hurts those that can’t afford it, or is it a necessary cost for both conservation and the environment?
Image by Stephan M. Höhne