Windows don't last forever, and the time will come when every home could do with some new windows.
Modern materials such as PVCu and aluminium mean that windows can often have a very long lifespan before presenting problems.
But many of us still live in homes with wooden windows, often cheaply manufactured and installed as part of an 'estate' build by workers skilled in other trades.
Signs that windows are reaching the end of their lives are when they start to cost you money to repair and maintain.
A string of bills for sealing up draughts and the soaring costs of heating, especially during the cold winter months, are a sure sign that your windows probably need replacing.
But there are a few things to consider before placing an order for fitting replacement windows to your property.
Apart from giving your home a new look, replacement windows can cut your energy bills dramatically. Double and triple-glazed windows may cost more initially, but they will soon start saving you money as your heating bills come down.
Modern window frames are also much more efficient at retaining heat than old solid wooden frames. Even metal windows that are generally not very efficient at keeping in the heat can have special cavities incorporated to improve their thermal performance.
Windows on south-facing walls may benefit from a clear low-E coating which will allow in the light while reflecting solar heat, helping to keep your rooms fresher in summer. It's essential to establish exactly what you want from your window before deciding on a replacement.
Removing the old window and replacing it with new can cause mess and inconvenience. Hopefully, your window installer will have plenty of experience and will take proper precautions to ensure to cause as little trouble as possible.
But there are still things you can do to help, and here are some pointers. Make sure that workers can transport materials to the site easily. Paths can be cleared of clutter and outside areas made accessible.
Workers may need room for ladders, bricks, cement and other materials. Installers will need room outside to place the old frame and somewhere to keep the replacements. Flowerbeds and lawns may need some protection if they are not to get trampled on.
To make a new window installation as trouble-free as possible, make sure to clear out the whole area. Remove all curtains and blinds, their fixings and fittings too, so there is nothing to get in the way when the window installers arrive.
Take down any wall mirrors, wall prints or paintings in the vicinity to ensure they are not knocked or damaged accidentally. This also obviously includes any plant plots or ornaments that currently grace the window sill. It may seem obvious, but it is amazing how long workers can be standing around waiting for the worksite to be cleared before they can start.
On the inside, floors and carpets will need some protection, and furniture may need to be covered with protective dust sheets. It may even be better to relocate any valuable items of furniture to another room.
The style of windows can be a decisive factor in home design. One of the first things to notice when stepping into a room is the quality of the light. Some places feel open and airy, while others can feel dingy and dim.
Window style and design are a high priority when considering the exterior facade, but how it affects the interior is important. It is worthwhile to put some time aside to consider how the light will fall throughout the day, the views outside, and at what time of the day the room is likely to be used.
This is particularly the case with fitting wide bifold windows installed to maximise the light. Be aware that super-wide windows can lead to overheating. Lots of glass does not inevitably result in a more comfortable room.
Other things to consider are whether you are opting for a classic traditional look or aiming at a modern contemporary style, the frame construction material, the efficiency of the glazing and the price. For older, period homes, the choice may be limited to timber casement windows. With modern homes, the emphasis is often on the sleek, minimalist look of aluminium.
Windows come in all shapes and sizes, but most fall into the following categories with advantages and drawbacks to each of them.
These are traditional open-out windows that can come in various flavours, from single pane modern to small panes designed to copy Georgian patterns. The main advantage is cost, as they are usually made in modular sizes to standard designs. The most common is the side-hung casement hinged at the side for easy opening, but they can be top or bottom hung or even pivoted on a central hinge.
Tilt and turn windows
While casement windows open externally, tilt and turn windows open inwards. They can be fully opened sideways or titled from the bottom to partially open. The main advantage here is versatility, high flexibility with ventilation and security in that they need not be opened fully. They are handy in smaller rooms.
Sash windows are typical in traditional homes. They don't use a hinge to open but are composed of two windows that slide over one another. They provide excellent ventilation, particularly when side by side as one can be opened at the top and the other at the bottom to create good airflow around a room. Traditional sash windows are made of wood, but modern materials help avoid the drawbacks of warped sashed getting 'stuck'. Composite sash windows with wood inside and aluminium outside have become very popular.
Bay windows project outwards from the wall in a bow shape to improve lighting and ventilation. Box bay windows have flat sides and a flat frontage, while bow bay windows are curved. Bay windows these days are usually made from UPVC, mainly due to the lower prices. They have the advantage not only of allowing more light but of creating extra space in the room.
The main materials for windows these days are wood, plastic and metal with composite windows variations on all three.
Timber windows are the popular choice for traditional and period home. It is thermally efficient but comes with a maintenance overhead. Softwoods are cheaper and can be stained or painted, but they do need looking after. Hardwoods have a tighter grain and will last longer but come at a higher price.
Aluminium is the metal of choice for modern homes. They offer slim sightlines and make maximum use of the glass. They can be manufactured in a range of colours and are virtually maintenance-free, but they are more expensive, and metal is a poor insulator.
Plastic windows made of PVCu have been the main material for replacement windows in recent years. Combining cheapness with low maintenance, they are often the most effective option. But they have limited aesthetic appeal and can be costly to repair.
Composite windows have become increasingly popular, mixing different materials to get the advantages of all. They are often made of solid timber with a 'coating' of aluminium and PVCu. They are very long-lasting and relatively low maintenance, but initial costs can be high.
With an estimated 25-30% of heat lost through the windows of the average UK home, thermal efficiency is a vital consideration when deciding to replace your windows.
These days, the whole window's thermal efficiency (not just the glass) is rated from A to G by the BFRC (British Fenestration Rating Council).
Double and triple glazed windows can offer extra layers of insulation but come at an extra cost. The energy savings are estimated to be from £100 to £120-a-year for a typical detached home.
Many people consider having replacement windows installed but are put off by the high cost. But it often turns out to be far less expensive when you factor in the money saved by having energy-efficient windows installed.
The following factors should also be considered if they apply to your home. If your current windows are more than 20 years old, you should think about replacing them, and if they don't have double glazing, you should think about it seriously. Other factors include having windows that don't open or close properly, do not have up-to-date window locks or those that are ill-fitting or draughty.
Always consider window replacement not as an expense but as an investment. Not only will you be repaid by greater comfort and lower heating bills you will also be adding to the price of your property should you ever wish to sell.