Design details in windows

01Have you noticed that the Victorian and Edwardian builders would regularly build row upon row of houses with many distinctive design embellishments? Builders would offer their signatures through all kinds of design details. There would be classical motifs imitating much larger and grander houses; soffits and barge boards would have ornate designs, particularly in the gothic style; and gables would be surmounted with pointed wooden finials for no better reason than they looked splendid.

By comparison, the functional mass production of modern building methods means that most of the embellishments have been removed. You will still see some ornate designs in brick work on a modern house, but nothing like the range of stylistic additions of 100 and more years ago.

The same was true of windows where there would be niceties of design built into the wooden sash and casement frames and these might have been surrounded by special stone-clad frames or mullions. It all signified a great deal of care and pride not only in the building process itself but as a statement about the people who bought and lived in these houses.

04At Select Windows we cannot claim to be able to produce a range of windows, whether in wood of PVCu, that can offer such a variety of individual designs. But we are very keen on matching styles to suit houses, whether period or modern and we would also explain that the complexity of former design in terms of style has today been translated by complexity of function. A modern window is not only a framed means of admitting light and offering views from a house; it is also a barrier against intrusive sound, a means of ensuring and maintaining thermal integrity; and a design feature in the house too. It’s a complex piece of modern engineering.

However, you might notice on our website that some of our porch and bay window structures have all of these functions and can also include some very distinctive design elements too, particularly in the way windows relate to roof structures and designs.

It is quite possible for the best of modern window technology also to offer great design possibilities. We can show you how.

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Is leaving our doors unlocked a thing of that past?

burgleHere in the UK it’s safe to say its natural instinct for us to lock our doors, weather we’re going out or going to bed. However it’s also become increasingly normal to lock them after entering the house, even if lots of people are home. You might consider this a normal thing to do, yet the older generations will know that this wasn’t always the case. Some of our older relatives might tell us about the ‘good old days’ when they didn’t fear thieves or murderers, leaving their doors unlocked. But these days it seems to be a thing of the past to leave them unlocked.

Does it make a difference if we do lock them though? I’m sure many people have forgotten too, noticing the next day and feeling relieved that they weren’t robbed. It’s a bit strange to think the only thing stopping you from getting burgled is the locked door. If someone ones planning to rob you, a locked door is usually not going to stop someone from trying to get inside. It could be better to be cautious though, especially if your area has burglaries. This is more understandable since there’s a reason to be fearful, yet it’s becoming more normal for people to lock their doors even in a low crime area.

burgOn the other hand even people in higher crime areas like New York, have been found to leave their doors open still. A lot of us have also heard about how in Canada they leave their doors open, due to the low crime rate. Canada’s a big place though so it’s hard to generalise. But locked doors might actually stop someone breaking in altogether. It also means your insurance will cover you if you get broken into. Police say it’s a good idea, since reports state that on average 30% of burglaries were ‘no-force’ (Again this depends on the area). This means a door or window was unlocked making it easy for them to enter.

Whatever you decided to do about locking your doors, just remember locking them doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be burgled. But it will make it harder for someone to break in.

A wall of glazed doors

01 (1)You might have noticed that what we call bi-folding doors – a wall of doors that quite literally turn an inside space into an open air portal – are relatively new on the scene. In various forms they have been around for quite a while but it is only the benefits of advanced design and technology, including the way we have been able to narrow the profile of these large glazed doors, that make them so effective in today’s homes.

For this reason, we are often asked to install bi-folding doors on orangery or conservatory extensions to the house. What better than to have a sun room on a sunny day where you can literally walk unhindered from the house to the garden? The doors fold back unobtrusively and easily to one side revealing a large open space. In the winter time, when they are closed, they offer the advantages of the view of the garden and bags of extra light but they are extremely secure and energy efficient.

Equally, these doors can be fitted directly to the back of a house, for example, as an interface between the kitchen or dining room and the patio or garden. When they are open it is as if there were nothing there and when they are closed they offer all the security, energy efficiency and good looks of modern glazed patio doors.

So bi-folding doors are fast becoming the not-so-secret answer to how to create a sense of openness and space. They can add value to the home and they can be adapted for all sorts of practical uses.

When you call us to discuss that all-important project of building a new conservatory or orangery – or you’re thinking of getting more light into your kitchen – bear in mind that we can readily accommodate bi-folding doors in the chosen design; and we have substantial experience as installers. You can see examples on our website or visit our showroom.

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A little maintenance really works

45So often we mention that our windows look after themselves, have guarantees that stretch happily into the future and that you need worry little about them. We mention also that a little washing with warm water will keep them sparkling and in good trim. Well, here’s an opportunity to explain more.

What you might notice on houses with plastic windows, if you don’t wash them, is a build-up of fine moss which can cause discolouration. This can occur all over soffits, fascias, gutters and on the trim and sills around the windows. It is not difficult to prevent or remove, particularly if you keep on top of it with regular cleaning. Twice yearly is recommended but even doing it once a year really thoroughly will make a long-term difference and prevent deterioration in the look of the UPVC or PVC surfaces.

01The next question is how – on a typical two-storey property – do you adequately and safely clean your gutters, fascias and soffits? First of all we do not advise that you use a wobbly ladder. A&E departments around the country are too often dealing with falls from ladders. Better to hire a mobile scaffold tower which is easy to erect and provides a solid basis to work from when you are at roof level. A 5.2 metre tower is usual for a typical two-storey home.

To do the cleaning you might use either a lobby brush which has long compact bristles enabling you to push in behind the gutter and into tricky corners, or a brush on a water-fed pole. It is best to use a hose to wet down the surfaces first, just with tap water and let that soak for a few minutes before tackling with more water and the brush. It pays to use a cupful of hard surface cleaner or what is called traffic film remover (TRF) in your bucket or water sprayer. There are various brands of these available – your local DIY merchant will advise you. Finally, rinse it down with a hose again and let the results speak for themselves.

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When a problem becomes an opportunity

boardIt is perhaps too easy to resist lifting out heads to see a clearly creeping deterioration of the fascia boards all around our homes. We’re also aware that those gutters are in a poor state – better to keep one’s head down.

But we truly know that the longer we leave it the more the damage. When the paint peels off the damp gets in and with that comes vermin so that gradually the whole structure of the fascia board and soffit can become infested and rotten. It is not a matter of if this happens – but when.

A short-term answer to the problem, which too many people take because it is relatively cheap, is to fit capping boards over the rotten fascias rather than having the old timber completely removed and replaced with PVCu fascias. The problem with the capping approach is that the old timber is still there deteriorating even more, year on year. Eventually the nails loosen due to rotten and infested wood and the fascia becomes loose and unsecured.

The alternative, and recommended approach, is investing in a new UPCu fascia, complete with soffit and guttering. The whole system requires no painting – only the occasional wash with warm water – and it will last for many years. You can have different colours including wood-imitation finishes and the system is quick to install, highly robust and aesthetically very pleasing – particularly compared with rotten wood and old paintwork.

If you make the decision to overhaul your fascias and gutters in this way you will add to the value of your house; future buyers are very canny about the state of windows, gutters, downpipes, fascias and soffits. They know a problem and expense when they see one. So this is one very practical way of converting a problem into an opportunity: you safeguard the value of your house, improve its look and stop deterioration in its tracks.

Talk to us about PVCu fascia, soffits and guttering. We’re here to help.

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PVC-U equals flexible technology

02Not many years ago people living in period or even imitation period homes sometimes turned their noses up at the prospect of replacing their old-style wooden or aluminium windows with modern versions made of the eminently versatile, energy-efficient PVC-U material. They felt that these modern intruders were only crude imitations of the real thing and, despite the difficulties with restoring and maintaining the original windows, many preferred to stick with these.

Times have changed mainly because of the developments in PVC-U technology which now make it possible to produce slim-fitting, highly robust windows which truly look the part and which will do justice in an older period house as much as in a new one. In our last blog we looked breezily at the history of windows – perhaps we should offer a snapshot of the history of PVC-U to bring us completely up to date.

It was as recently as the late 1970s and 1980s that PVC-U windows were introduced into the UK from Germany where they were originally developed. The early German profiles were designed for tilt/turn windows which were mostly bulkier than the timber profiles of the casement windows that they replaced. With the UK taking an interest the PVC-U windows developed to produce slimmer profiles which more closely emulated UK style windows and gave improved performance.

Nowadays, thanks largely to the many developments in plastic extrusion technology, original types of windows can be matched very closely with shaped and sculpted beads, horns on sliding sashes and other features. Added to this, special foils can be laminated on to the surfaces of window profiles to give a range of colours and finishes; and long-lasting surface coatings have been developed to offer a wide range of colours.

You might think we’ve never had it so good, particularly with the introduction of triple-glazing which has brought exceptional energy efficiency performances, while maintaining slim but robust profiles. When you order PVC-U windows from us, we are offering free triple glazing with the system. Just call to discuss, visit our showroom or ask for a quote.

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A Breezy History of Windows

nice windowsThe nature, purpose and aesthetic of modern windows is far away from those of yesteryear.  It is extraordinary to think that the window revolution is comparatively modern – and that’s just the use and manufacture of glass. The rise of PVC-U is but a moment in time on a wider scale of progression.

What, then, are the keystrokes in the history of windows?

Our ancestors were quick to realise the ventilation and light benefits of an opening in the wall but they also needed some means of protecting from intruders while keeping the heat in and the weather out. Archaeologists have discovered that early windows used in the Bronze and Iron Age mostly involved a kind of wooden shuttering but also the use of scraped and fully stretched animal hides, similar to drum skins, which were made both translucent and waterproof by dipping them in oil.

The Romans used small panes of cast glass in their most important buildings having discovered the optical value of mixing silicon with manganese oxide. We then have the Dark Ages, which leave us with the presumption that glass was not widely used in any domain, certainly in Britain. From the eleventh century, however, two forms of glass blowing and spinning were adopted as the prevailing techniques for glass manufacture and used for centuries. The optical quality was generally inconsistent and much of this glass, still existing in some church buildings, was used in small leaded window panes within the larger openings.

Full-scale glass manufacture involving rolled and drawn glass to produce a consistent thickness and finish didn’t get under way until the 19th century and further glass drawing processes were developed in America during the First and Second World Wars. Then in the 1950s, Britain introduced the next major leap forward which was the invention of the float process. This is where molten glass is poured across a surface of molten tin; the glass spreads and flattened and is drawn off in a continuous ribbon. The process enables large panes of high quality glass to be made and is still used today.

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