Timber windows – see the light

Jonathan Hey of Westbury Windows and Joinery offers some tips on getting your windows right and explains the benefits of choosing timber

When building your own home, even with a big budget, every pound counts. Deciding where to spend your money can be a headache. Paying for premium quality windows and doors may not be something you had planned to do. However, it is important to remember that they are one of the most important features of any building – not just in terms of aesthetics but also considering the long-term performance of your new home. Getting them wrong can be an expensive mistake.

Clear vision

It’s important to have a clear vision of how you want your house to look when its finished and don’t rush to specify your windows without consideration. Contrary to popular belief, a window is never just a window – it has the power to make or break the architectural integrity of your new home.

Well-designed windows will suit the building’s style and proportions. If your aim is to create clean lines within contemporary architecture, sliding sash windows or leaded lights probably aren’t right for you. However, if you’re trying to achieve Georgian grandeur, heritage design should be top of your list.

Timber window manufacturers offer flexibility in the detail that cannot always be achieved using other materials. Products can be created with sharp edges and detailed mouldings that can be difficult (and expensive) to replicate with plastic or aluminium.

In all cases, you should consider the sightlines of your windows and doors, co-ordinating window sill, glazing bar and door panel levels to create cohesion and maximise kerb appeal.

Luxury of light

Window fenestration is not only about how your property looks from the outside. It also has a direct impact on the lifestyle you will lead within those walls.

Most people naturally gravitate toward lighter, brighter spaces within a home, so areas that haven’t been fully considered, and are dark as a result, may become redundant in time.

Consider how you wish to use each space and how much light will be required for you to enjoy that space to the full. Investing in getting this right to begin with will mean you won’t want to make expensive alterations further down the line.

Minimal maintenance

Your main concern is probably maintenance and, with that in mind, you should look for a material that requires minimum effort yet continues to look good and perform well for decades to come.

The timber window industry still suffers the repercussions of a poor reputation acquired in the 1970s. At that time everyone wanted white PVCu, regardless of their property’s architectural style, because post-war wooden windows had been poorly manufactured with cheap softwoods and had fallen victim to rot over the decades.

Nowadays, however, a better understanding of timber and timber technologies means long-lasting, low- maintenance, wooden windows are accessible to all. In particular, modified high-performance timbers have proved revolutionary.

Accoya is a modified wood that is water resistant thus giving it extreme dimensional stability, and Class 1 durability that exceeds traditional hardwoods. It doesn’t warp, twist or swell so your windows and doors will continue to open and close smoothly for years to come. It also means that the paint coating lasts for approximately 10 years before it is likely to require a new coat.

Seeking sustainability

Accoya is also environmentally friendly. More and more self-builders are taking sustainability into consideration when building their homes so specifying the project ensures you are being eco- friendly without compromising on quality and longevity. It has achieved gold standard ‘Cradle to Cradle’ accreditation meaning it has no impact on the environment throughout its lifecycle.

High performance

Energy efficiency is also an important factor for the more environmentally conscious self-builder, with whole product U-values as low as 1.0 W/m2K achievable using timber.

You should also ensure that your products are weather tested, provide good sound insulation and are secure. Any good timber window manufacturer will share with you their certification as proof of independent product performance testing. For example all Westbury products are tested by a third party UKAS-accredited laboratory, PAS24 security tested and Part Q compliant (a necessity in any new build home), ensuring peace of mind for customers.

British-made

Using a reputable company based in the UK means you are paying for the product and its craftsmanship rather than import charges. It’s also more likely that they will offer an installation service. Should there be any issues with your order, they can be resolved quickly and effectively, with replacement items delivered to site far sooner than they would be if sourced from abroad. It’s always a good idea to visit the manufacturer showroom (and workshop facility if possible) to see where you’re investing your money.

A sound investment

While this is not an exhaustive list of considerations, it is a good starting point to ensure that you are choosing the right product for your home, and to make sure you’re well informed when dealing with potential suppliers.

While ticking all of these boxes may cost you a little more money upfront it will certainly save money and time in the future as using a high-quality, low-maintenance guaranteed product will continue to add value to your property and convenience to your lifestyle.

Jonathan Hey is founder and chairman of Westbury Windows and Joinery