How to turn a lovley old house with solid walls into a warm efficient home




I know that many hold dearly to the idea of wooden windows for old houses. I admit they can look lovely, but I also know that they are a pain to maintain, and once they have deteriorated to a certain point they are past the point of no return. Fed up with seasonal sessions of using filler on my rotting softwood windows I decided it was time to have new ones fitted.

With fuel costs and efficiency a much higher priority than it once was, I did what many would consider unthinkable, and began to research UPVC windows.

Old house, renovation, eco, home, green dealThe windows in the house were not only in terrible condition, but were a real mish mash of sizesans styles. Some were wooden and a couple were metal frames.

Some windows had large stone cills, some had cills created from roof tiles and some had no cills at all. It was also apparent that certainly for some of the windows the brickwork had been altered to allow for larger windows


double glazing, draught proofing, renovationIt was obvious that although all the windows were very old, none of them were actually 'original' to the house at it was first built in 1804. I decided, therefore, that my task was to find a set of windows that looked attractive in the building, did a pretty good job of keeping the cold out and warm in, and needed precious little maintenance. I decided that this style of Georgian window suited the house well, and I liked the large stone cills, which though in terrible condition would look good repainted.

double glazedI have seen many old homes ruined by the fitting of terrible windows. Often these are UPVC, but I have seen some really bad wooden windows too. I felt sure that UPVC designs must have improved over the years, but had some set ideas about things I did not like and would not accept.





bad window, double glazing, eco The windows above show some of the things I do not like.

Uneven pane sizes. When a double window has only one opening casement, the non opening side had large glass panes.

Internal 'mock' Georgian beading. Being sandwiched within the double glazed unit sounds like a great idea. They are much easier to clean, but not a good enough representation of beading for my liking.

Simple chamferd frames. A beaded frame (Ogee or the like) looks less heavy.

Flimsy plastic window cills.


In an attempt to address the lack of ventilation problem modern windows are commonly made with a small trickle vent in the frame. I have always considered it madness to pay for expensive windows with very efficient seals then fit a vent. Alas, the problems of poor ventilation are such that even Building Regulations demanded such vents be fitted. (or alternative ventilation)

When I ordered my new windows I specified that I did not want any trickle vents (I think they are ugly as well as madness). Instead, I had a plan to fit a whole house Mechanical Heat Recovery and Ventilation System. I have a friend that fitted such a system many years ago when they were pretty much unheard of in this country and it has provided a house with a constant supply of fresh air with minimal heat loss, so I had no hesitation in including such a system into my design.

trickle vent, ventilation, eco, green dealNot being aware of what was available, I called in several UPVC window companies to see what they had to offer. It is true that none of the large well known window companies really did anything I was happy with. They all offered a 'Georgian' or period style that got close, but the sales guys were all too desperate for a sale and not terribly interested in my concerns. 

Eventually I found a local window fitter that did some research for me and came up with several profiles to look at.

He suggested that the windows have two casements, not one. One could be fixed shut, but it meant they would be symetrical. There was also the option of externally fitted beading. It meant I would have to clean each little panel individually, but the overall effect was much more pleasing than the internal beads.

We also discussed the cills, and he told me he could get a stub cill. This is a short cill to fit under the window and allow for drainage. He could then install stone or concrete cills underneath to act as the main windowsill.

double glazing, colour, Georgian windowFinally he also told me that UPVC can now be coloured. This was great news for my wife, who hates that the internal face of the windows was always brilliant white, as this limited her decorating options.We could have the internal faces of the windows as an ivory colour.

Eventually we decided to take the plunge. I ordered eight windows to fit into the front and side of the house. I ignored the windows in the back of the house because I still had big plans brewing for an extension.

concret cills, windowThe new windows had a beaded edge to the frame. The insides were also ivory, not white (though this did add quite a bit to the price). The addition of a small stub cill under the window meant that the window drainage channel would not be blocked, but it was fairlly unobtrusive and allowed for a stone or concrete cill to be a strong feature of the window.[/col]

Double glazing, upvc, georgian, eco UPVC georgian window barsMock Georgian window beading was fitted to the face of the glass both inside and out. A faithful represebtation of the original lamb's tongue beading would not be possible in UPVC or wood becasue of the added thickness of the double glazing, but I think these did a pretty good job. One of the new windows. Only one casement opens, but because two casements are fitted it means the window is symetrical and does not suffer from differnt size glass panes in each side.

The frontage with new porch, door and windows. I quite like the fact that all the windows are slightly different sizes. It took much deliberation, but in the end I am happy with the decisions we made. I think the front is sympathectic to how it was, but now looks smart. Importantly, with high spec double glazing, a fully draught selaed door and a protective porch, I have taken quite a step toward improving the efficiency and Eco credentials of the house.

Before and After

old house, renovation, eco, green
house renovation, new windows

© Christopher Thompson