A window of opportunity

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CHANGING your home’s windows can make a big difference to how it looks. It can also affect how warm, noisy and light your home is, so there’s more to it than just aesthetics.

Window frames are made of three main materials: wood, UPVC and metal. You can also get composite frames, which are plastic or aluminium over a wooden core.

Wooden windows look great and are the best choice for period properties, but they require the most upkeep.

You often have to paint new wooden windows because they’re supplied unpainted, and you’ll have to keep on top of wood rot and chipped and flaking paint over the years, as well as completely repainting the frames from time to time.

Metal, UPVC and composite windows require little maintenance in comparison, so they’re an easier option, but they don’t last forever.

Past-their-best UPVC and metal windows aren’t pretty, and the seals on double glazing can wear, so moisture gets between the panes. While modern versions of these windows are much more attractive, they, too, could look dated one day.

When it comes to the glass, swapping single glazing for double or triple glazing can make a big difference to your energy bills.

The older the windows are, the less energy efficient they’re likely to be. Original sash windows, for example, are notoriously draughty, but it’s possible to get double-glazed UPVC or wooden sashes, so you have both the traditional look and the mod cons.

You can also get all sorts of specialist glazing, even self-cleaning glass, which is perfect for hard-to-reach windows.

If you live in a listed building, changing the windows can be an expensive and complicated business.

You may need listed building consent from your local council’s conservation office and you’ll probably have to replace the windows on a like-for-like basis, so the appearance of the building isn’t changed.

Councils are also concerned about the appearance of buildings on ‘designated land’, which includes conservation areas and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

If you live in one of these, ask the council about what you can and can’t do when it comes to changing your home’s windows.

Also, you may need the freeholder’s permission to alter the windows if your home’s leasehold, so check the terms of the lease.

All new windows must comply with building regulations, which are especially concerned with replacement glazing and how energy efficient it is, as well as ventilation, safety, means of escape in the event of a fire, etc.

You can fit the windows yourself, or get a builder to do it, but the work will have to be inspected by your local council’s building control department, who’ll charge a fee. As long as the windows comply, they’ll provide you with a completion certificate, which you may need when you sell your home.

Alternatively, you can get the windows fitted by an installer registered with a competent-person scheme, such as FENSA or Certass. This is usually an easier option because they’ll ensure their work complies with building regulations and will provide the completion certificate.