Many period properties (as well as some modern ones) were built with wooden windows, but in more recent decades, replacing them with UPVC ones has been popular.
If, like me, you’re a big fan of wooden windows and less keen on the plastic variety, this can be a home improvement too far, so has wood been unfairly given a bad press?
Now it’s true that wooden windows do need to be maintained - once varnish or paint chips, cracks or flakes off, the wood is vulnerable to the elements. This can lead to rot and if left untreated for long enough, rot will start eating away at the wood, which can be terminal.
UPVC windows can also deteriorate over time, to the point where they look dated, discoloured and shabby, and while they can be painted, most people don’t. Wooden windows can at least be repaired easily.
Wood is often the only choice available when installing new windows in a listed building, and usually the preferred choice on ‘designated land’, such as conservation areas (ask your local council if in doubt).
In some areas, replacing wooden windows with UPVC ones will devalue your home, while in others, fitting double glazing, which traditionally meant UPVC windows, is advisable, although, of course, wooden windows can be double or even triple glazed.
UPVC windows are generally cheaper than wooden ones and they’re not necessarily period imperfect - you can get UPVC sash windows, for example.
If you can afford them, wooden windows offer better value for money because they last longer - many 19th century houses still have the original sash windows. Similarly, modern wooden windows are a great long-term investment. Window frames made by members of the Wood Window Alliance (WWA; www.woodwindowalliance.com), for example, have an estimated service life of 60 years or more when well maintained, which compares very favourably to UPVC.
Wooden windows are also more weather resistant than you might think.
For windows in exposed conditions, such as coastal areas, or where maintenance access is tricky, some WWA members offer ‘enhanced’ products, including modified or aluminium-clad wood. These windows have a service life of 80 years or more and typically only need to be maintained every 10 to 30 years.
WWA windows carry some of the best warranties in the windows sector - service-life warranties are typically 30 years for durability, 10 years for the ironmongery and insulated glass units, and eight years for the paint.