Sash windows look great in the home, lending an old English feel to the place. It is a special feature of the house that many people look after to keep it in good shape rather than replacing it with another type of window. Sash windows have that sort of appeal. However, like all types of decor items that come from an older era, sash windows tend to be in need of refurbishing and updating to bring them up to date, making them look much more modern and giving them some functional detail like making them more energy-efficient, as older designs tend to be less energy efficient.

Sash windows

Sash windows comprise of huge movable panels, called sashes. The frame, usually made of wood or metal (in rare occasions), holds these sashes together in place. Bars known as glazing bars keep the panels of glass separated from each other and it is this distinctive arrangement that gives sash windows their unique looks and charm. Hinges fitted on sash windows allow them to close and open easily.

Common issues with sash windows

With the passing of time, sash windows fall prey to several problems which necessitate a repair or refurbishment to improve its condition. Common issues that befall sash windows include rot in the wooden frames and sashes, some form of swelling and curviness of the underlying woodwork that leaves the glass unseated or in a precarious position, imbalance due to the distortion of the wood leading to instability in the wind, and so forth. It is also very common for the sliding mechanism of the sash window to fail over time, or for the painters to unknowingly paint the mechanism, leaving it permanently shut.

With such problems that plague sash windows, the question of refurbishment or repair arises, and homeowners must decide to choose the appropriate agency or repair personnel to get it fixed.

You might also want to check out: Two common sash window issues you can repair on your own

Refurbishments for sash windows

Some problems in sash windows can be difficult to spot, like timber decay which happens inside the woodwork. However, even the most derelict, run-down, ill-maintained windows can be brought back to their glory days with a bit of good refurbishment work. The reason for the longevity and durability of older sash windows is the fact that they were built from a very durable form of timber known as heartwood, which is of very high quality. It is precisely for this reason that this wood needs to be retained as much as possible to ensure the longevity of the sash window.

Let us look at some common ways to be refurbish traditional sash windows: transforming them to modern-day standards while still retaining its old-world charm.

Replacing sash cords that have failed

Sash windows hang from cords that are connected over a pulley system that connects again to a group of weights concealed behind the hollow ends of the window casing. The cords can break at any point in time. Therefore, you should replace old cords, especially for heavy windows. In order to replace the cords, the sashes need to be removed from the window first. Afterwards, it will ensure that the mechanism of the sash window will last for a very long time. A professional skilled in woodwork, known as a joiner, should perform this job to ensure proper handling.

Repainting sash windows

The original paint may start chipping and eroding from sash windows as they age, due to exposure to external environmental elements. The norm is to fix the paint on sash windows once every five years – the reason being that if the paint is replaced before any significant damage has occurred, you will spend a lot less time getting the windows prepped for the paint job than if you will have to repair it later.

Make sure that you have a qualified professional on-hand to do the work, as it can be quite hard to do it yourself without messing up the windows. Make sure that the glass portion of the windows are sealed before attempting to paint the wooden portion of the window, as it can be near impossible to rid glass panels of paint stains, especially if they have a chance to dry.

Upgrades for sash windows

Sash windows can also be upgraded in order to help them become much more efficient, as they weren’t designed with energy-efficiency in mind in the early days.

Wooden shutters

The use of a wooden shutter in conjunction with the sash window helps increase the energy-efficiency by preventing heat loss. These also aid in providing extra security to the building, acting as an added layer of protection to the sash window. Unfortunately, they have gone out of vogue in the present design trends, and as such, they would require a good bit of modern design treatment to ensure that they look good in the present day. Removing the extra layers of paint from an old shutter may bring it back to its old glory. Treating old shutters that have suffered from wooden rot is also a great way to bring back some life into it.

Secondary glazing

Another way to increase energy-efficiency from old sash windows is to add a secondary layer of glazing to them. The way that this can be done is to fit the secondary glazing to the window using a side hanging glazing, or by using horizontal or vertical sliding windows to add this secondary layer. The benefits of adding a secondary glaze layer to old sash windows include reduced heat transfer, reduction in dust and pollutants entering the room, as well as additional soundproofing layer for the room.

These upgrades make refurbishing sash windows a good, cost-effective option to bring them back to their former glory.

This article was written on behalf of Fix a Sash by Pieter Boyce. Pieter has an intense passion for English Architectural history and has been specialising in the conservation of original wooden windows and doors for decades. His exceptional knowledge of timber windows and doors, both listed or non-listed, is attributed to his hands-on approach to learning all aspects of the complete restoration of original features as well as having personally surveyed thousands of items throughout his long tenure as a head surveyor for one of the largest window and door restoration companies in the UK. He now runs a boutique wooden window and door consultancy and fervently champions the retention of original windows and doors. To learn more of Pieter’s services, visit his website at