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What is a sash window?

A sash window, hung sash window, or sometimes also called a box sash window, is made of one or more movable panels or "sashes" that form a frame to hold panes of glass. They are often separated from other panes, sometimes called 'lights' by narrow muntin bars. Although any window with this style of glazing is technically "a sash", the term is used almost exclusively to refer to windows where the glazed panels are opened by sliding vertically, or horizontally in a style known as a "Yorkshire light", sometimes called Yorkshire sash windows, or more commonly sliding sash windows. Sash windows are common in Europe and former colonies including the United States, Australia and South Africa, and many developing nations. Robert Hooke, the English scientist and inventor, is credited with having come up with the design of the sash window. The oldest known examples of sash windows were installed in England in the 1670s, for example at Ham House, in London.

Where are sash windows usually found?

The sash window is often found in Georgian and Victorian houses. The classic arrangement has three panes across by two up on each of two sashes, giving a "six over six" panel window, although this is by no means a fixed rule. Many late Victorian and Edwardian suburban houses were built in England using standard sash window units approximately 4 feet, or 1.2m in width, but older, hand-made units were often bespoke and could be made to measure in any size.

How do sash windows work?

To facilitate the operation of the sash windows, the weight of the glazed panel is usually balanced by a heavy steel, lead, or cast iron sash weight or counter-weight concealed within the window frame. The sash weight is connected to the window by a sash cord or chain which runs over a pulley at the top of the frame, although spring balances are sometimes used. Sash windows may be fitted with simplex hinges, which allow the window to be locked into hinges on one side while the counterbalance on the other site is detached, allowing the window to be opened and used as a fire escape, or simply to facilitate cleaning.

What is the difference between a sash window and hung sash window?

The name "hung sash window" is more commonly used in the United States, and typically refers to a double hung sash window, with two sashes that can move up and down in the window frame. This brings the advantage of creating a natural cooling system because hot air is allowed to escape through the top opening of the sash window, and cooler air can enter through the bottom opening. A single hung window has two sashes but normally the top sash is fixed and only the bottom sash slides. Triple and quadruple hung windows are used for tall openings, and are often found in churches in the New England region of the USA.

What are sash windows typically made of?

Construction traditionally used softwood, and units were generally single glazed; although double-glazed sashes are available it is more common for single-glazed sash windows to be replaced with top-hung casements when double glazing is retro-fitted. Some top-hung double-glazed sash window units are manufactured to give the appearance of sashes.

Traditional problems with wooden sash windows include rot, swelling or distortion of the woodwork, rattling in the wind brought on due to shrinkage of the wood, and problems brought on by careless application of paint. Box sash windows with their traditional sliding sash design and timber construction have stood the tests of time. However, due to neglect or wear and tear, many sash windows are left inoperable or rattling, and draughty at best.

The sliding mechanism makes timber sash windows more vulnerable to these problems than traditional casement windows. Sash windows are relatively high maintenance, but offer advantages in return, both aesthetically, and because of their adherence to laws relating to period properties, older houses and buildings, and natural resources etc. It is also possible with certain sash windows to clean all the glass from within the building by sliding the two panes to different positions. A significant advantage of traditional style sash windows is that they provide efficient cooling of interiors during warm weather. Opening both the top and bottom of a sash window by equal amounts allows warm air at the top of the room to escape, thus drawing relatively cool air from outside into the room through the bottom opening.

Should I buy traditional timber framed sash windows, or modern upvc sash windows?

The style of home that the sash windows are intended to glaze, and the budget available for that glazing, will be the biggest factor influencing any decision to use PVC or wooden sash windows. If the sash windows are to be used in a period home, then frankly a lot of the time the planners will only allow traditional materials such as timber. However, if the sash windows are for a home that is not listed or subject to other planning restrictions (such as living in a conservation area) then uPVC (or PVC-U as it is also known) can be a viable low maintenance alternative. Generally speaking, the price of uPVC sash windows will also be less expensive. That said, it should be noted that sliding sash windows – no matter what the material, are usually more expensive than the more common casement style windows.

Can modern sash windows replicate all the features of traditional sash windows?

Modern uPVC vertical sliding sash windows can replicate the traditional features of wooden sash windows, with the added benefits that uPVC provides. Optional traditional “extras” may also be added to some uPVC sliding sash windows. Modern uPVC vertical sliders have been engineered to accommodate the vigour of everyday life, while at the same time being simple and easy to operate. The main difference between a uPVC sliding sash window and the more traditional timber box sash window, apart from the material, is the means of holding the sashes in position. Instead of weights, pulleys and a cord, a pair of sophisticated spring and spiral balancers has taken over the sash retention. The traditional glazing bar arrangement may also be replicated by concealing the glazing bars within the double glazed unit, or by surface mounting the bars onto the external faces of the double glazed unit. Modern PVC-U technology and craftsmanship means no painting is necessary and required maintenance is almost zero. Each window can be fully double glazed for improved thermal insulation, lower fuel bills and greater noise reduction from outside. If your problem is that the windows are in good condition but need more effective sound and heat insulation, then an excellent solution is secondary glazing which, because of its design, is almost invisible.

In many cases, PVCu windows mirror the original timber sliding sash windows in every important detail and so can act as a direct replacement for the original timber frame. These uPVC windows are often available in a variety of finishes including white, cream, brown, mahogany, light oak, rosewood, cherrywood, and other woodgrain and wood effects, along with a variety of other coloured finishes. Alternatively, a woodgrain on white option would help you achieve the look of traditional hardwood frames on the outside, while also keeping the clean lines of brilliant white frames on the inside.

The timber sliding sash window of today has been much improved and upgraded compared to those of say 100 years ago. Double glazing is almost always fitted as standard, often including options such as Pilkington K Glass and Low E Glass. In addition, modern high security locking is readily available. One of the biggest advantages of timber sliding sash windows is the ability to replicate any period design feature if you wish. This of course does require the services of a specialist joinery company and is rarely a cheap alternative.

Who are these sash windows for?

Sash windows have traditionally appealed to both the aesthetic and functional requirements of architects, developers, planning authorities and preservation societies, while nowadays sash windows have also permeated into the realms of joiners, builders, landlords and DIY'ers, either for use in their own home improvement projects, or also for use in domestic, new build and other residential property projects such as barn conversions, as well as for more commercial applications where they are used by companies in places such as factories, offices and restaurants. This is due both to the expansion of the DIY market, and the evolution of sash windows into a product that is now available in a self build kit form for DIY installation, and can be used by the general public for self installation in do-it-yourself home improvement projects.

How much do these sash windows cost?

Price can be affected by many factors, for example; the size and type of the sash windows or casements that you would like to replace, the level of service you choose, the age of your house, and any obstacles to be overcome by the installers, such as structural difficulties. Un-plasticized polyvinyl chloride or UPVC sash windows have clear benefits, which means you may want to buy the product for your house. UPVC sash window prices depend on several factors but it is mainly dictated by quality of the product and who makes it. Of course quality may at times equate to high price, but that doesn’t mean that quality will always come with a high price. Also, you need to understand the nature of the type of UPVC sash window you are purchasing so knowing the price of the product won’t come as a shock. If you are aiming for customised UPVC sash windows, then be ready to pay higher price. Customisation is not cheap especially if you have unique concepts that you want to manifest in your sash window. The benefit of having that unique and one of a kind UPVC sash window is generally costly. Ready made UPVC sash windows, those straight out of the factory, have good qualities too. While general UPVC sash windows are not unique, there are still a lot of people who don’t find having the same sash style of their sash window a big issue.

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