Choosing replacement windows: things to consider

When choosing replacement windows there are many options to consider but don’t overlook important issues relating to Building Regulations, Planning, fire safety, means of escape and management of condensation.

Plastic or wood?  Fixed or opening?  Side hung or top hung?  Or even traditional sliding sash? When choosing replacement windows these are only some of the options to consider.  But there are important issues relating to Building Regulations, Planning, fire safety, means of escape and management of condensation which can easily be overlooked.

When choosing replacement windows:

  1. Check the installer is FENSA registered and obtain a FENSA Certificate to confirm compliance with Building Regulations. Keep a copy to pass to your buyer in the event that you sell the property.
  2. Consider matching the existing style, especially if only some of the windows are to be replaced.
  3. Try to choose a style which will maintain the character of the building.  This is particularly important for older properties. Think about the position of opening casements, and whether they should be top hung or side hung.  
  4. Have handles which can be locked in an ajar position.  This will aid security particularly at ground floor level, and and will make it safe to leave windows open slightly overnight. 
  5. Have trickle vents fitted into the frames to aid ventilation, reduce condensation and mould. The small additional cost will help comfort within the home.  
  6. Ensure that windows can be opened sufficiently and are of sufficient size to allow escape in the event of a fire.  This is particularly important for windows to upper rooms.  
  7. For flats, check the terms of the lease. In some instances windows will be the responsibility of the individual flat owners and in others they will be the responsibility of the Management Company.  
  8. For flats in blocks constructed with cavity walls, ensure the required cavity barriers/fire stopping remain in place to ensure the safety of residents within the block.

So when choosing replacement windows, don’t simply make your choice by appearance alone. Your final choice may be a compromise after considering all relevant issues.

buying and selling a house

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Avoiding condensation in your home

The key to avoiding condensation is to reduce the amount of moisture, help your home stay warm and let your house breathe. 

The key to avoiding condensation during winter months is to adequately heat and ventilate your home.  There can be a temptation to keep windows closed during cold weather to save on heating bills, but a lack of adequate heating and ventilation can lead to excessive condensation.  Condensation doesn’t only occur on window panes, it can form on any surfaces which are cold enough, including  walls and even within furnishings.  Condensation can also lead to mould which is not only unsightly, it can also be a health issue.

It is particularly important to let your house breathe during cold weather when condensation is more likely to occur.

Condensation doesn’t only occur in the living spaces of our homes, it can occur in any voids which are unventilated including roof spaces, floor voids and disused chimney flues.  If roof insulation is provided at ceiling level, ensure the roof space is ventilated.  Also, make sure vents are provided to floor voids and disused flues.

Some houses are more prone to condensation including:

  1. Those with low levels of insulation, eg, to some 1960s homes.
  2. Older properties with solid walls.
  3. Large windows, particularly if they are single glazed.
  4. Those with metal framed windows.

With some buildings heating and ventilation alone may not be sufficient to reduce condensation.  Improvements may be necessary such as:

  1. Provision of additional roof insulation.
  2. Replacement of single glazing with double glazing (ensuring the new windows have opening casements and trickle vents).
  3. Provision of cavity wall insulation (following an assessment for suitability).
  4. Provision of thermal board to solid walls (modification may be required to electrical sockets and/or switches).
  5. Provision of insulation to any cold bridges, eg, window reveals.

Tips to help your house breathe and reduce the risk of condensation and mould include:

  1. Provide heating.  Keeping the heating on at a lower setting for longer periods will help to heat the building itself (in addition to the air in the rooms), will provide a more comfortable environment and will reduce condensation. Avoid turning the heating on for short bursts as this will only heat the air and not the building itself.
  2. Open windows when cooking and after taking a shower or bath.
  3. Don’t dry clothes on radiators or clothes airers.
  4. When windows are replaced ensure that they have trickle vents to aid background ventilation and make sure they can be locked in an open position if needed, eg, overnight.
  5. Check insulation levels in the roof/s and upgrade where necessary.
  6. Where roof insulation is provided at ceiling level, ensure the roof space/s are ventilated.  Where additional  insulation has been provided make sure eaves vents are not blocked.
  7. Avoid the temptation to block vents such as those to floor voids and to disused flues. 

See also https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/blog/dealing-damp-home

In a nutshell, the key to avoiding condensation in your home is to reduce the amount of moisture, help your home stay warm and let your house breathe.

buying and selling a house

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