They say windows determine the character of a home, and they can undoubtedly make a significant difference to the look and feel of any property.
Whether you are planning to upgrade your existing windows, renovating a property or even thinking about a new build, windows should be a key consideration.
Before you even browse the window catalogues, there are some crucial decisions to be made.
Windows are subject to a lot of wear and tear resulting from wet weather, freezing temperatures and strong winds.
They do, of course, last for years, but when they start to deteriorate, they can quickly become a costly burden, letting in water and letting out heat.
Technology in window manufacture has rocketed in recent years with considerable improvements in robustness and energy saving.
We cover some of the features you need to think about when shopping around for new window installations.
New-build homes will need planning consent, and that may require you to install a particular type of window frame, especially if you are in a conservation area.
Renovations to existing properties may also need the planning go-ahead if the alteration materially affects the property, such as in the installation of dormer windows in the roof.
Replacing existing windows or installing double glazed windows will not usually require planning permission but it is worth checking with your local council first.
New house building standards are aimed at improving energy efficiency, and window design and manufacture plays its part.
Replacement windows are subject to strict standards on thermal efficiency and regulations may also apply to ventilation and safety.
If the original window acted as a fire escape route, the window replacement would probably have to perform the same function. Large windows longer than 800mm must be of toughened safety glass, and so on.
You may need to produce the necessary certificates of Building Control approval if you decide to sell your home.
The most efficient way to ensure compliance with window regulations is to use a FENSA registered window installer. This body was set up to approve installers.
Replacement windows are now available in many materials but mainly in plastic (PVCu), metal (aluminium) and timber (wood). Each has its advantages and drawbacks.
Wood is the traditional window material as it is relatively cheap, a good insulator and with aesthetic appeal. However, it is expensive to maintain as it requires regular repainting and can rot if neglected.
The main advantage of PVCu is that it is very durable, needs no maintenance other than the occasional clean with soapy water and offers reasonable insulations. Drawbacks are they tend to be more expensive, and people don't find them as attractive. Technological development in recent years, however, has resulted in coloured and woodgrain finishes that make them much more appealing.
Metal frames are mostly aluminium or steel. Robust and long-lasting they need very little maintenance, but they are a relatively poor insulator so many are manufactured with 'thermal breaks', but this tends to make them the most expensive option.
Modern windows come with many kinds of window glass options. Most these days are double glazed as this improves sound and heat insulation enormously.
Tinted glass is available in various colours, including green, blue, bronze and grey. They can look attractive but offer no particular advantages, and they can cut down on the amount of light they transmit.
Safety glass is either toughened or laminated. Either treatment makes them more challenging to break. Laminated glass will crack instead of shatter while toughed glass breaks into tiny beads.
Low-e glass has a virtually undetectable coating of metal oxide which lets in heat and light from outside but seals it inside and cuts down heat loss.
Other types of glass include self-cleaning glass and triple glazing where window panes are sealed with a mix of gases to provide extra insulation.
Windows these days come with a standardised energy rating or WER score. It replaces the old U-value and G-value ratings and applies to the whole window, both glass and frame.
The WER score is a measure of the total energy flow through the window and, just like electrical goods, gives it a rating from A to G with A the best and G the worst.
Replacement windows will need a minimum WER rating of C while windows for new properties usually require a B-C score.
Installing windows is not really a job for the amateur; there are many pitfalls. Apart from planning considerations, the novice can be faced with everything from measurement difficulties to delays in delivery.
There is also the choice of window styles such as casement, sash or title and turn. This is covered in another article.
If you hire a window installer to fit your windows then make sure they are FENSA registered like Select Windows Systems to ensure you have safe, secure and well-fitted windows.